Statistical Failure

I completed my M.B.A. in 1981 at the Rotman School of Management (as it then was not known). During the course of my studies, I wrote a statistics mid-term and ended up getting quite concerned about it. I couldn’t understand many of the questions, let alone provide answers.

Prior to handing the mid-term exams back, the professor indicated a range of marks from, say, 95 to around 14, where the M.B.A. pass was 70. We all wondered who that poor soul could be with a mark of 14. We were soon to find out.

The professor handed the exams back in reverse numerical order, as soon became evident. I wondered when I would receive mine. I was soon to find out.

The professor had one exam left in his hand. I was the only student to not yet receive a paper. He let the paper fly through the air to my desk. As it landed, I jerked back. The cancer of failure. The public predicament of being The LOWest of THE LOW, with no way to fake it –“Yes I did poorly, but I certainly feel for that unknown person with the 14”. At the class break, people literally pointed in the hallway–“How did HE get in here?”

I stayed for the balance of the class, in a state of shock. When I got home, I did the most logical and understanding thing–blame my then girlfriend for my failure. She later became my ex-wife (“You haven’t changed!”). No surprises there.

My doctoral dissertation, completed in 1993 at the Schulich School of Business (as it then was not known), involved case studies. No surprises there.

My students never receive their exams in reverse numerical order. No surprises there.

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About brucelarochelle

Practising Lawyer and Part-Time University Instructor (Accounting, Commercial Law, Organizational Behaviour); Part-Time Federal Tribunal Member. Non-practising Chartered Professional Accountant (Chartered Accountant and Certified Management Accountant).
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4 Responses to Statistical Failure

  1. V says:

    In some countries–for example, India, when I was in high school–marks used to be spoken out loud by the teacher, after reading the name of each person. Some say it gives a motivation to the student to do well next time, to avoid public humiliation

  2. It seems pretty cruel to single you out that way. I wonder if he was a Harvard prof? My MBA Marketing prof was such. At the beginning of class, he looked for someone who avoided his gaze, to start the class; he also humiliated the unready. Perhaps the goal was motivation, or maybe fear. I learned a lot from him, because I loved Marketing. Many felt much more negatively.

    However, as a professor, I try to never to single anyone out. Score the prepared and let the unprepared fall behind, unremarked.

  3. On July 3, 2012, Neil Remington Abramson commented further, as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

    I was singled out in a Ph.D. methods class for asking if we would be studying phenomenology. He had mainly causal modeling and stats stuff in mind. He tortured me for that for weeks. However, I had about 3 stats classes before the Ph.D., and my dissertation was based on stats and confirmatory cases (Harvard method). I did all stats 15 years before taking 3 classes at the Vancouver School of Theology, to get a handle on phenomenology and hermeneutics – what I try to stay on these days.

  4. On July 4, 2012, Neil Remington Abramson commented further, as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

    It was Ph.D. Research Methods, taught by Don Barclay. The irony was that it was the most useful class I had re analyzing and publishing. Never would have got tenure without Don’s class!

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