In which I reflect on dentistry and assessment

My wife has this week had to go to the dentist, for some root canal work (ouch). As she was bemoaning this, I reflected on how I am very grateful that dentists don’t operate like teachers have to. I’m not that brave when it come to dentistry, so just thinking about makes me shudder!

So, what happens? You have tooth pain, you go to the dentist, they sit you in the chair, poke about a bit with a variety of medieval torture implements, ask “does this hurt?”, and make their assessment. All what we’d expect. Yet if they were teaching music (or many other subjects, I guess, I just don’t have the data), they wouldn’t do this at all. Oh no.

What they would do under those circumstances is decide what treatment you need based on what the flowchart would tell them. They wouldn’t need to poke about in your mouth, they would simply notice that last time you had a filling in your tooth Number 4, so this time you would need a filling in your tooth number 5. Because that’s what the dental flightpath-chart says. They can only give you a tooth 5 filling, and nothing but a tooth 5 filling, as deviation from the norm is inadmissible. No matter that you have raging toothache in your number 6 tooth (I have no idea if these really exist, but go with it!), or chronic gum disease, or, worse still, nothing wrong with your teeth at all, the dental flightpath-chart says you must have a No. 5 filling, and so a No. 5 filling is what you get!

In this situation the dentist could not possibly challenge the flowchart, as they would be accused of professional inadequacy, or incompetence, and probably have their salary progression docked.

A far-fetched analogy? I don’t think so. I heard recently of a musically able (whatever that means!) kid who was given a level 4b, and when the school was challenged by the parent was told this was because they needed to make progress, so they couldn’t have too high a level, as that would limit the amount of progress they could make. Errr? Well, yes, I suppose if you are only 1 metre from the finishing line of a marathon you don’t have as far as to go as someone at the starting line, but even so…!

Does this all sound Kafka-esque? Well, yes! But it’s going on all over the country.

So, do we want our dentists to assess like our teachers? No way! It’s so plainly illogical as to be stupid. So why do we put up with such daft assessment methodologies in music foisted on us by clueless SLTs?

Happy holidays!


About drfautley

Professor Education at Birmingham City University, UK.
This entry was posted in Assessment, Music Education and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to In which I reflect on dentistry and assessment

  1. Janet Hoskyns says:

    Thanks Martin, you’ve yet again opened up a channel for funnelling tooth decay and other gummy angst! I hope your dentist is not a reader of your blog or alternatively has a sense of humour, but here is hope wanting to win against adversity, uncertainty and all the things that music should help us to deal with.

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