Assessing Assessments

CAM00021Near my home are intersections with marked crosswalks that we often use. While we wait, drivers often push past painted lines even though they’re legally required to stop for pedestrians, who in Illinois have the right of way at all crosswalks, even unmarked ones, which are designated as the spaces between ends of sidewalks on both sides of streets.

So many drivers push past that I’ve caught myself waving thanks to the ones who actually stop although I usually wonder why. Part of me thinks that these drivers are merely doing what they’re obligated to do. Another part of me believes that they deserve recognition because they’re doing something so many around them do not.

Where should expectations come from? Should these represent universal standards for performance or behavior? Or should they reflect more relative norms? The former suggests transcendent ideals while the latter invokes more local expectations. The first might be obligation, and yet the second might be more realistic.

I often ask these same questions in other situations, such as responding to my teenagers’ behavior or evaluating my students’ submissions. Am I upholding absolute standards or recognizing relative performance?

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