January 15, 2019

Macabre Constant

This is an entry in Bernard Werber's awesome Encyclopédie du Savoir Relatif et Absolu, which groups all eleven of his books, like The Ants, We The Gods, and Third Humanity, as well as some additional material.

It is a compendium of a lot of interesting facts, theories, thoughts (and includes a couple recipes as well), and is simply a fascinating read!

Due to the fact that these bite-size entries in his encyclopedia discuss so many varied topics, I find it also is a great source of inspiration for future stories... That's right folks, if you guys can read French (for the encyclopedia is currently only available in the author's mother tongue, or in Russian, I just found out), you may be able to find out which items I may end up using in one of my next series ;)

Here's an entry I found interesting in terms of how our society tends to organize itself...which, imho should change, but the question is: How?

(translation by yours truly)

The Macabre Constant

The name "macabre constant" comes from the researcher André Antibi. This lab director for educational sciences at the university of Paul-Sabatier in Toulouse posits that, in a classroom, the teacher has to have the following distribution among its students: 1/3 good students, 1/3 average students, and 1/3 bad students.  (My note: This is similar to grading on a curve)

What would one say of a teacher who didn't attribute a grade below B?(1) That s/he's too indulgent. For a teacher to be credible, s/he has to have 1/3 of her/his class be considered "bad students." Under societal pressure, the teacher therefore becomes a selector despite her/himself.

In a 2000 survey done on teachers and professors, 95% admitted that they felt obliged to establish a certain percentage of bad grades. However, this "macabre constant" that creates a selection based on failure, ends up making its victims lose confidence in themselves, and even discourages these students entirely. (My note: Sometimes wrongfully so. Besides, shouldn't a teacher/professor be evaluated instead on how well s/he successfully imparts knowledge instead?)
Mandelbrot set detail

André Antibi proposed, to avoid it, another system, the EBCC, or the Evaluation By Contract of Confidence (2), which consists in verifying whether the student has acquired the requisite knowledge.

One can find this principle, that rules there should be 1/3 winners, 1/3 in the middle, and 1/3 losers, is also applied outside of the scholastic system, to all human groups, as if it were necessary to have a third world, emerging countries, and industrialized countries, to keep humanity balanced.

Likewise, inside each nation, we find again this division in thirds: the poor, the middle class, and the rich.

And just like with Mandelbrot's fractals, this three-tiered scheme is reproduced indefinitely. Even in slums (just like within the middle classes, or with those in power), this distribution can be found again.

Despite all Utopian equality that's been attempted (anarchists, communists, hippies, ...), this principle of the macabre constant keeps coming back, as if it were inexorably linked to our species. 
The measure of any victory can only be undertaken based on the defeat or failure of a group of individuals designated as "losers."

Income Inequality in the USA (March 24, 2014)
From demographicpartitions.org

(1) Note that this is technically France, where the grading is out of 20, with passing grades going from 10-12, depending on the school system, so the author, B. Werber, actually said "didn't grade below a 12."
(2) In French, it's EPCC, or Evaluation par contrat de confiance.

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