[April 12, 2018] When I was working on my college degree, I heard the story about a small group of students who were admitted to Navy ROTC and yet none had the proper grades. It was a clerical error but they were allowed to stay and, to everyone’s surprise, all but one finished. At that point, I concluded that it is hard to measure leadership and overall success in a written test.
“But the person who scored well on an SAT will not necessarily be the best doctor or the best lawyer or the best businessman. These tests do not measure character, leadership, creativity, perseverance.” – William Julius Wilson, American University sociologist
I was having dinner several years ago with a number of family members in celebration of a new baby. Good times were had by all but one thing stuck out for me. One young lady, sitting across from my wife and I, who was to graduate from High School that month bragged about how smart she was and how she planned to get her doctorate degree in education before she turned 25.
What she failed to do, however, was graduate from college. It wasn’t her mental skills that were challenged; she performed well in academics. What stopped her from graduating was her inability to “relate” to students where she did her student teaching. Now, this is reported to me second hand but from what little interaction I had with her that makes a lot of sense.
This incident, like so many I’ve run across, demonstrates that leadership cannot be measured in a test that we take with a pencil. If you want to be a teacher at any grade level then you must demonstrate some leadership and some connectivity with your pupils. She eventually found a job programming computers and she is happy.
Attempting to measure leadership or any other social skill using paper tests is foolhardy. Yet, colleges and other advanced educational opportunities continue to repeat this mistake over and again. Good leaders should be wary and not make the same mistakes.1
- English Professor William Deresiewicz has written on similar subjects and has come to the conclusion that college students have become “profoundly unintellectual.” Students, he noted, were interested in getting good grades but lacked the passion for anything involved in pursuing a career that didn’t make them lots of money and fame. Those students believed that grades were everything but those grades themselves failed, of course, to measure student character, passion, and moral fiber.