Friday, March 6, 2015

THIS is WHY Standards Are so Very VITAL

Image result for Joyce Craig Philly firefighter
Philadelphia, PA Firefighter Joyce Craig

From Philadelphia, PA. comes the continuing investigation into the first death of a female firefighter on the Philadelphia Fire Department. (

This past December 9th, Joyce Craig’s Unit responded to a cellar fire, where FF Craig was separated from her Unit and lost. When they recovered her she was suffering from severe smoke inhalation and burns.

During the initial investigation veteran firefighters described it as "a perfect storm of things that went wrong," including an inexperienced ladder crew took 18 minutes to respond.

Moreover, it appears that FF Craig was paired with another female firefighter, described as, “an inexperienced young firefighter who struggled through the Fire Academy.” That woman, sources said, “is related to a highly placed member of Mayor Nutter's administration.

Some degree of human error is common in all highly stressful situations, like fires and the more skilled, dedicated, experienced and fit a Unit is, the better chance they have of overcoming some mistakes. Also, more experienced and well-trained crews tend to make fewer mistakes.

The view today that “anyone can be trained to be “skilled,” tempered by “experience,” equally “dedicated” and “fit” is simply a lie.

It is a beautiful lie...“that we’re ALL the same, if we’re just left to be free to be you and me.”

Of course NONE of that is true. Not only are their wide differences in aptitudes and abilities between unrelated individuals, there are often wide disparities in aptitudes and abilities between immediate family members!

Much to the chagrin of standardized test bashers, the SATs have long been established to correlate with the grades one can expect in College. Interestingly enough, the SATs, far from under-predicting success in College for African-American applicants, actually slightly OVER-predict for that group.

Yes, basic standardized exams (NOT opinion surveys and subjective vehicles called “exams”) turn out to test for precisely the traits they’re designed to test for.

For the Fire Service, the better physical condition the applicant is at the start, the better that person’s chances are to excel down the line. It is so difficult as to be nearly impossible for a modestly fit applicant (one who meets the minimum standards) to “catch up” to the applicant who starts off significantly more physically fit. Generally fitness levels drop as we age.

Likewise, ALL firefighting skills have to be learned, through countless drills, classroom activities and constant and repetitive reading and re-reading Fire Department materials. Traditionally, such jobs required a High School diploma for a very specific reason – that standard (a 12th grade reading level) was considered the bare minimum requirement for someone to come in, read, digest, fully understand and integrate the copious amount of written information new recruits must process to learn the job.

Today’s “pass/fail” physicals with the “passing bar” set so low many 60 y/o’s could walk through them and with written exams that were calibrated to grammar school (7th & 8th grade) reading levels, having been successfully sued, prompting many Municipalities to adopt virtual “opinion surveys,” or a percentage of “subjective questions,” to circumvent the previously NON-rigorous (grammar school reading level) written exams, have, in effect, eliminated necessary basic standards on a fatally flawed presumption that people are generally “all the same.”

The idea that much of this has been done in the name of “championing African-Americans,” SHOULD BE insulting to that group...and it is, to some. As surely as I KNOW that there are often wide differences between individuals, I am equally certain that there are very poor and high quality applicants from every group. When viewed from that vantage, disparities between various ethnic groups and genders are natural and expected.

I see it in my own household. My wife (Dionne) was raised in grinding poverty in Kingston, Jamaica, but through doing well on that nation’s rigorous standardized testing procedures, she was able to attain a Charted Accountancy (the CPA in the British system) and when she came to the USA, promptly attended Baruch College, completed a degree in accounting and passed the rigorous 4-part CPA exam, yet another standardized exam that has notoriously had a distinct “disparate and negative impact” on African-American applicants.

Numbers mean nothing in rating the effectiveness of such procedures. UNTIL proven otherwise, I’m certain that the CPA is at least as accurate a predictor of accounting aptitude as the SAT is of College academic aptitude. Likewise, traditional, graded physical exams would almost certainly make it MUCH harder for females to compete with males for certain physical occupations, but so long as one, or more passed, the standards themselves ARE proven to be “attainable” by an applicant from any given group.

With the abandoning of traditional, basic standards, said to say, we can probably expect the fate of FF Joyce Craig to a much more common thing in the years to come.

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