Part history, part biography, part call-to-action, The End of Average isn’t your average non-fiction book. Then again, there’s no such thing as an average non-fiction book, nor, according to author Todd Rose, is there an average person. So why compare people to averages?
Most of us of a certain age (say, older than 30, maybe even younger) are products of a system that sought to evaluate, sort, and assign us based on our abilities compared to an average. The problem is two fold: the “average” is artificial, representing no living person, and the average is a distillation of many different abilities lumped together and labelled with an otherwise meaningless “grade.” So a person who is good at Math (A) but bad at English (D) has the same average grade as someone who is bad at math but good at English. We say those two people are of the same class.
In fact, the very instruction given to those two people was probably based on the way an “average” person learns, which is why the one was evaluated “bad” at math and the other “bad” at English. Rose, and all of the research he quoted, claims that there are better ways to teach.
And it’s all very compelling, and as a new father, a subject I am keenly interested in. I, myself, did not have the best experience in high school (oh, I “excelled,” but that was despite my teachers’ best efforts). I have every intention of taking a large role, if not the largest role, in my son’s education. That there are institutions are developing ways to personalize learning for the individual is, frankly, inspiring.
Rose discusses not only education, but job recruitment and performance as well. Companies from small startups to behemoths like Google and Microsoft are shifting their focus away from treating employees according to efficiency-based averages and allowing for more individualization, which has led to increased innovation, employee satisfaction, and a stronger bottom line.
The End of Average is not very long, somewhat repetitive (not necessarily in a bad way) and well supported with a long list of references. A quick, informative, good read.