Social impact measurement: time to admit defeat?
Friday, April 12, 2013
Albert Einstein’s great breakthrough came when he put known measures to one side. The notion that time and space were regular and linear was entrenched in science, and had led to an impasse which prevented it from making sense of the universe. By seeing that time and space might flex led to the Theory of Relativity, and led Einstein into a realisation that philosophical steps must be taken if breakthroughs were to be made. This philosophical context for his science led him to see that “not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”.
My wife and I recently took our children out of their local primary school to travel in the former Transkei for seven weeks. We thought that this would be a wonderful experience for them, experiencing life on the road in a completely different culture. Their school was programmed to see it differently. Its Ofsted rating could be adversely affected by the absence, and by the prospect of a six-year-old and four-year-old performing slightly less well in their assessments. The scientific culture of measurement risks so narrowing the concept of education that the system becomes unable to see any benefits (which cannot be directly measured) of such a trip.