Grading and ‘Idol’

“American Idol” reveals “a veritable hunger for realistic evaluation,” writes Christopher Ames on Chronicle of Higher Education.

Time and time again, contestants in the early episodes of this year’s season whine obviously off key and then insist they are highly talented — in spite of the judges’ protestations. Most of those kids have not learned how to sing, but they have mastered the self-esteem and “attitude” so valued in our culture. The persistent dynamic of these episodes is expertise putting down untalented braggadocio.

In a world full of people rating themselves highly, audiences seem to long for the enforcement of standards of taste and judgment.

“Idol” reflects a shared belief in genuine standards, writes Ames, a college provost and dean. There is such a thine as “in tune.” Expertise is respected. In addition, “the auditions reveal that individuals are often not good judges of their own ability.”

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  1. Bill Leonard says:

    C’mon, folks, it’s a TV show.

    The finalists, winners (and especially, losers) bring to mind childhood memories of the old Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour during the early days of TV.

    If the contestants we see are the finalists, what were the local and regional contests like? Performers doing bird calls? Guys playing the saw?

    I’m reminded of an apochryphal exchange from the Ted Mack show, circa 1949:

    “Gee, how’d I do, Mr. Mack?”

    “Johnny, you’re a real amateur.”

  2. From the article:

    —-Indeed, the dramatic moment that follows each audition mirrors the dynamics of classroom grading, putting that familiar but anxiety-producing situation into bold relief on millions of television screens. Each judge delivers a verdict, up or out, and some explanatory comments.

    Is Christopher Ames out of his mind?

    Is that how he grades students?
    Up or out?

    It is an interesting idea — there are 33 of you in this classroom — and only one of you will get an A — one I think I’ll avoid, at least for now….

  3. Wow. I’d be willing to be that the first prof – tenured or not – that goes “Simon Cowell” on one of his or her poorly performing students – will be looking for a new job OUTSIDE academe. (They might also be looking for a way to remove tar and feathers.)

  4. argh. “bet” not “be”

  5. I wonder what woke Christopher Ames up?

    It’s not like the desire for ranking/evaluation is all that deeply hidden. J.D. Powers, Rotten Tomatoes, Consumer Reports, the Olympics, every last sports competition from T-ball to the Superbowl exist to determine location in the pecking order. It’s only in the artificial atmosphere created by a monopoly that evaluation could be a shocking idea.

  6. Well, here’s another thing I’m tired of hearing about — I’m incredibly tired of hearing about self esteem!

    There is no self-esteem in schools now; there hasn’t been for years.

    What we have now is character education.

    Character education is the opposite of self-esteem.