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… of thy deficiency?

BadConsultant is a complete, total adherent to strength-based working and how organizations and cultures either amplify or erode the chance to do what you do best

[and boy-oh-boy is there a lot to see]

in fact, you might call us a strong believer


Just this last week, we had an insight into how alarmingly early the die can be cast. Our 4-year old BadConsultant intern recently got her first pre-Kindergarten progress report – 6 pages of skills and behaviors that had been deemed as appropriate for her age group and that were assessed by a knowledgeable adult.

We’ll stop right there

[because our teeth are grinding]

6 pages. 6 pages!

Of how much our little intern does or does not look, sound and act like every other child in the pre-school.

[don’t mention the D-word in our vicinity right now]

OK. Breathe. Let’s continue.

We’re not going to even get into assessment by a knowledgeable adult. Not because we doubt the teacher’s abilities, but because they have little room for manoeuvre within the system.

Which had 5 ratings. From top to bottom:

  • C: Consistently demonstrates skill or concept, has developed mastery
  • W: Is working on a skill of concept but is inconsistent in its demonstration
  • I: Is beginning to show interest in a skill or concept but is inconsistent in its demonstration
  • NE: The skill or concept in [sic] not evident at this time
  • NA: Not applicable; subject matter has not yet been introduced

Stop. Read that list again. Got it? OK, let’s go…

Stevie Ray Vaughan played the guitar. Eddie Van Halen plays the guitar. Matt Bellamy plays the guitar. BadConsultant has been playing the guitar for more than 35 years but doesn’t come close to being able to do what the greats can do. ‘Mastery’ is NOT a subset of ‘Consistently demonstrates’.

According to this oxymoronic scale, the only gradation is in how much the kid is unable to do something – essentially, “just how deficient is your child?”

Let’s move down the list.

And ask a simple question – what exactly is the difference between W and I?

[aside from 18 letters in the alphabet – yes, you can count on your fingers if you want]

When exactly does ‘beginning to show interest’ become ‘working on’, given that the net outcome is inconsistent demonstration? And, while we’re on the subject, when do we ever stop working on a skills or concept… Oh, wait a minute, that would be the search for mastery and, as that is just a subset of C we don’t really need to worry about it, do we?

We really must have trained our educational establishment to be able to differentiate levels of incompetence.

We won’t even comment on the NE grade – save to say that the spelling error in the original is irony at its crystalline best.

Finally, we have the NA indicating that the child can only learn or be assessed upon material that has been introduced. In other words, “your child doesn’t learn or express interest unless we tell her to”


The littlest BadConsultant intern likes to tell stories, likes to sing and dance, to get a laugh out of anyone who is paying attention. She’s as funny as it gets. Her imagination is weird, though

[we don’t know who she could possibly get it from]

and listening to her free play is like diving down the rabbit hole with Lewis Carroll. She introduces subject matter that adults find hard to follow.

How can that be assessed? And… er… Who can assess it?

So, here BadConsultant sits, far from a competitive parent, simply looking for those early signs of strength to be nurtured and cultivated in the face of the dreadful negativity of the weakness-inspired modern educational approach.

And gets 6 pages of C’s. What is BadConsultant meant to say?

“Well done, darling… you are competent! Although you may have developed mastery, the main thing is that you aren’t even working on something!”

Hardly the stuff of energy, positivity and love is it?

Do we really need to draw the parallel between this weakness-based approach and the performance management systems in most modern organizations?

If education serves to prepare the child for work

[an ‘if’ that BadConsultant is beginning to challenge more and more as the years go by]

then this is how society breeds its automatons.

And BadConsultant sits here wondering how many parents would receive those 6 pages of C’s and rejoice in the conformity it represents

[‘scuse us, an unpleasant shiver just went down our spine]

content that their kids aren’t slipping into the quagmire of deficiency assessment, aren’t falling behind, aren’t learning anything that won’t help them succeed in the culture of averageness.

And how many of those parents are managagers?



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