Have you ever thought about what mediocrity actually means?
The official definition of mediocre is “moderate or low quality, barely adequate, inferior”. In other words, the best that a mediocre person can ever hope to achieve is average.
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Mediocre people have embraced that they are not special. And that they offer nothing more than anyone else does.
Would you like to live in a world like this? A world that offers little or no incentives, and yawns at superior performances?
I contend that the United States is heading toward mediocrity at a blinding speed. If you take a moment, the signals of mediocrity are crystal clear. What troubles me the most is that I am not convinced that the majority of Americans want to be mediocre.
Here are five (5) powerful signals that mediocrity is taking over our culture.
1) Rules Lead to Mediocre Results
When I used to work in the corporate world, my group created procedures for testing drug products. When we collaborated with the laboratory, they were very concerned about the wording in the procedure.
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In other words, they wanted the instructions to be black and white — with no gray areas. This was surprising to me because I have always believed that most of life’s issues are in the gray area.
As time went on, I learned some detrimental things about the rules of a business organization. While they give guidance to employees, they breed mediocrity. Employees will follow those instructions at all costs and rarely ever question them. This is because people get fired for not following them.
Employees also become apathetic towards company rules in general. This is because management usually doesn’t let employees have a say in writing new procedures. It becomes an “us vs. them” situation, which means they will only do the least amount of work — nothing more.
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Then as time goes on and managers start tweaking the procedures, what happens? Yep. They create more rules and the workers follow them without questions. This is exactly how bureaucracies are born, and we already know how inefficient they are. Mediocrity is actually a compliment for bureaucrats.
2) Merit Doesn’t Matter
It used to be that when you demonstrated the aptitude and experience for a job, you stood a good chance of getting that job. This is not the case anymore.
A few years ago, there was a rash of essays and articles that claimed we shouldn’t hire candidates based on merit. Say what??
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Most of the time, when I disagree on an issue with someone, I understand why the other person feels the way they do. For instance, when two people disagree on the death penalty. One person believes that life is most important while the other person believes that law enforcement is most important.
Yet, when it comes to not using merit for hiring candidates, I cannot relate at all to that kind of thinking. And it is not clear to me what criteria they plan to use for hiring — if not merit.
Are they going to draw names from a hat?
They claim hiring by merit hurts the chances of minorities to land the job. How is this not an insult to minorities? Why not invite only minorities and then pick the best among them — based on merit?
3) Performance of American Students Dropping
We have all heard about this. American students used to be the top performers in the world — not anymore.
Even though Americans spend more on education, they keep falling behind. This is because our educational system is becoming more and more mediocre. Students are being rewarded for average results.
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For years, academia has been begging for more students to enter STEM fields of study. But these requests are falling on deaf ears. It is a shame how so many students are turning down the opportunity to enter these high paying careers.
This tells me that today’s students see themselves as mediocre. They are content to settle for less because they are taught to feel this way. And they only do what is necessary.
4) Reduction in Testing
Another trend we are seeing in the United States is a reduction of testing in our public schools. My first question is how will teachers know if students have learned anything? How will they know if the student is ready for the next grade level?
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Yes, I know that this is a reduction in testing, not an elimination. But I also know what will come next after the first test reduction — more reductions in the future.
Pretty soon, there will be no tests. I have seen this movie too many times.
Would you like for your surgeon to have gone through schools without any testing? How about your airline pilot?
For years, we have heard over and over how our students are graduating at very low reading levels — some are even illiterate. And earlier, we discussed how the academic performance of American students is dropping every year.
So how is reducing the number of tests going to help resolve these societal problems?
Shouldn’t we advocate for more testing?
5) Identity Groups
In an attempt to be more inclusive, we place people into groups so that they can be treated fairly. While the most prominent type of grouping is by race, there are countless ways to group people.
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While the intentions for grouping are honorable, it results in all members of a given group receiving the same treatment. This means that the most capable person in the group is treated the same as the least capable person.
This type of treatment erodes motivation over time because there is no incentive to achieve excellence. And when the motivation goes away, a sense of mediocrity becomes the norm for the entire group.
The Mediocrity Paradox
Now think what will happen when each of the above factors continues to grow every year in the future. How can mediocrity not be the result?
Perhaps the interesting thing about mediocrity in America is the paradox it creates. The intention of these factors is to create more opportunities for more people.
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It is believed that such a society would maximize excellence because of the increase in diversity. In reality, it actually suppresses excellence because overachievers are not incentivized. They are not encouraged to promote their natural talent and skills.
Unless the above factors are addressed, America’s status will continue to drop on the global state. And all of us will perish in mediocrity.