Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Oregon is the New Florida State

Last week, I mused that Florida State's awful performance in the Rose Bowl both a) raised concern about TCU's banishment (especially given their utter flattening of Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl) from the first college football playoff, and--more importantly-- b) demonstrated that our hopes for standardized testing of students are probably misguided.

This week, Oregon's collapse also proves B above.  Oregon is this week's FSU, by which I mean that data and the statistical manipulation of the same will show that Oregon would do far better should they play Ohio State again.  This was what the data showed last week about FSU's mauling by Oregon.

While it may be "fun" to muse over the data in this way, we have to admit that such parlor games are highly speculative.  We have to actually play the games to see what would happen, and when we do play them, we grant to them a finality and definitiveness--by definition--of meaning.  Ohio State won, they are the national champions, and any claim that Oregon is actually a better team that just happened to lose is merely speculative.  We grant to the single data point called "the championship game" a supreme authority that, though it is really only proof of who won that night, bestows the distinction of accomplishment that lasts all year--until the next champion is determined.

In short, we invest a lot authority in what really are one-shot, or one-time, games.  For college football, we can accept the snapshot as the final outcome, for football is a game, without much relevance (unless you're talking about Alabama) to much else.

Is such reductionism really a good idea when it comes to thinking about and evaluating students?  By so much emphasis on the standardized test, we are saying "Yes" to that question.

Just say, "NO!"

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