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“Ontic” Versus “Ontological” Measurements

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Measurement and Its Discontents is by Robert P. Crease and was just published in The New York Times.  It views the idea of “measurement” in historical and philosophical terms. He describes two different kinds of measurement. On is “ontic,” which identifies “how big or small a thing is using a scale, beginning point and unit. Something is x feet long, weighs y pounds or takes z seconds.”

The other is “ontological.” He defines it as involving “less an act than an experience: we sense that things don’t ‘measure up’ to what they could be.” Crease shares a number of examples, and also cautions against the danger of making “ontic” measurements into “ontological” ones, citing measuring teaching ability primarily through student test scores. He asks:

Are the tests administered by schools making students smarter and more educated, or just making us think we know how to evaluate education?

A wise question, indeed…

And one that can also certainly relates to my recent column in The Washington Post about grading character traits

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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