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October 24, 2004
Ticking the boxes

Last week I completed my Digital Photography for Beginners course. We spent the last two of the five days learning about Photoshop, that is to say, how to turn your camera into a liar.

On the final morning I participated in an educational ritual about which I am hearing more and more. This is called: "Ticking the Boxes". In my case there were no actual boxes, but the ticks were all present and correct.

What this means is that a piece of paper asks you if everything in the lessons has gone as it should, with the right things being taught, all according to the plan, and all of them learned, also according to the plan, and you reply: yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, etc.

Two of the ticks were not totally correct, namely the final two (although now they are correct). This was because we had yet to perform those final two items of educational advancement. But Sir said put a tick anyway. If one were to take the form literally that is to say as an organ for discovering the truth rather than as an empty ritual the final two ticks should have been delayed until the end of the afternoon. But what kind of an idiot would do a thing like that? Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick.


Knowing what I now know about the evils of Photoshop, I realise that you are just going to have to take my word for it that this is what the form I filled in looked like after I had filled it in. But do, for that is how it looked.

In my case the lies I told with ticks were so tiny as to be nigh on invisible, and reality immediately caught up with them. But I am told by others that often, when the boxes are all ticked, the lies told are monstrous. The ticks have no connection whatever with what really happened. But nothing but complication and confusion is caused by telling the truth on these forms by not ticking them in all the places where ticks go, and anyone who does is instantly self-branded as a trouble-maker.

Everyone in the system, from the lowliest school cleaner up to the Minister of Education, and on up to the very Prime Minister himself, knows that the information gathered in this manner has only a random relationship to the truth, but all agree to pretend that the ticks in the boxes do indeed describe reality.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:22 AM
Category: Sovietisation

One of the basic rules of university education is that if you make the course difficult and challenging and the exam hard and (heaven forbid) if you fail people, you will get ticks in the boxes saying negative things at the end of the course. Of course, course coordinators actually know this, so the situation is once again as you describe above.

Comment by: Michael Jennings on October 24, 2004 08:46 PM

I don't kow what the most education-pyschologically correct way of saying this is, but, can you see the little ripples around the lines and print in your picture? They might be a sign that you are being a touch overenthusiastic with your newly-learned photoshop sharpening skills.

Comment by: Alan Little on October 25, 2004 10:31 AM

Wouldn't it be better if they asked those taking the course to do a project and assess learning outcomes on the basis of the project? Along with the learner including a report on what exactly was done during the project.

Michael-How I wish your rule was true for my university. Our workload is terribly heavy, and exams are tough.

Comment by: The Wobbly Guy on November 2, 2004 04:47 PM
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