Data Love

I wonder how much of our scrabbling for metaphors to make sense of our profession is in fact symptomatic of the great chip on our shoulders: we fear that we are not, nor are likely to become professionals.

A professional must master an array of practice and apply such lore realtime amid a blizzard of variables.

We do that.

We are often at pains to borrow terminology, especially from the sciences, to validate our doings. At the other end of the spectrum, we use emotion-laden rhetoric to appeal to the hearts of colleagues, legislators and the laity.

And then we smash both languages together and utter new, grotesque hybrids – crashing science into our hearts and destroying both.

“I have a passion for data.”

A professional balances heart and head: the felt and the observed. Doctors and lawyers, like teachers, are increasingly subjected to managerial practices that will make data-fiends of them. But does a doctor nurse a death rate? Does a lawyer display a percentage of successful case completions outside her practice? How crass!

Does a teacher love data?

Many of us come to love results in a Stockholm Syndrome kind of a way: as a captor with which we identify in order not to spiral into a bitter madness. We are encouraged, with our very livelihoods, to make a bedfellow of data.

But should a teacher love data?

Use data, by all means. Bend it and turn it to the purpose of something that you really love.

But don’t make an end of data, please. Whilst we have our little tiffs on the subject of the purpose of education, let’s agree not to confuse results with purpose. Data is an end that will eat itself – and take you with it.

It’s not for nothing that we keep data in cells.

A professional has no passion for data: for data is one tool in a vast armoury that must nurture a mind towards its mysterious fruition: like a guide on a journey to a distant, uncharted constellation.

Put your passion closer to that nebula, and you’ll see stars.

(And a few more starred A’s. But let’s leave those in our journey’s wake.)


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