“I am not a number,” from The Prisoner.
It’s one reason why the most impressive data we used at the schools I’m most familiar with were the results of interviews with alumnae conducted years after they left us. But even that only helps us if we’re open to hearing what they say. For the possibility—however unlikely—that we may be wrong about this or that has to be uncomfortably confronted—over and over. Sometimes it’s small things and sometimes it’s the big ones. It’s this that I hope good schools do for both their kids and their staff—because this habit of what I call “skepticism” is what democracy rests on. The “data” that are the most powerful are not all the proxy data—like test scores—which we have been inundated with. What we need to be listening to are the real experiences of our students and our graduates, and over time their impact upon the larger world as well.
Thomas J. Mertz