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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Steal this Column

Who doesn’t love constant assessment? Despite the endless fits of whining you’ll likely hear from your ill-prepared peers during the next few weeks of midterms, the answer is nobody. Everyone has their own way of showing it, but deep down inside we all share that desire to grade, or be graded by, someone other than ourselves.

I’d be willing to bet that at least some of the people reading this have spent countless hours clicking the refresh button on SmartSite’s grade book, hoping the page has somehow been updated in the last five minutes (honestly, who wouldn’t post exam results at 1:57 a.m.?). Others out there might get their fix through music, book or restaurant reviews, giving someone else’s opinion of whatgoodmeans to them.

Our society’s fascination with assessment sometimes rises to the point of creating ridiculous and arbitrary milestones simply to provide the public with another opportunity to go thumbs up or down on a certain issue.

Perhaps the most applicable example of this assessment addiction will come tomorrow with the passing of President Obama’s 100th day in office. Media attention towards this apparent politicalmilestonebegan buzzing back in January, within hours of Obama taking his oath of office, but the notion that it possesses any real significance remains dubious at best.

Before I set myself up to receive a barrage of angry e-mails from disgruntled, or perhaps just lonely and bored, history majors I should state that the 100 day milestone does have a small amount of historical value.

Any presidential history buff will tell you that the 100-day standard first got its start back in 1933, when FDR tore through the halls of Congress atop a white horse and began beating back the Great Depression with a deluge of legislation that was destined to redefine American government. Wait … thats how it happened, right?

While it’s true that FDR, along with other presidents such as LBJ and Reagan, had a rather active first 100 days in the White House, the truth is that the standard is an arbitrary and illegitimate creation of the media, put in place simply to give some poor sap a semi-interesting topic to cover in late-April.

Now, with Obama set to pass that all-important 100-day milestone the media is doing what it does best-jamming the airwaves and headlines with half-baked conjectures about the productivity of Washington’s new man.

Leading the charge in this week’s Obamarama was TIME magazine, which has, for the sixteenth time since last January, felt it necessary to put the president on the cover. The article itself hails Obama’s opening days asstupendous,and talks about a future that will leave an impact close to that of FDR’s. It has to make you wonder is anyone’s actually buying this stuff?

Honestly, does anyone really believe that the presidents first 100 days in office can actually provide an indication of how the next three years and nine months will go for the country?

Keep in mind that about eight years ago President Bush was enjoying a 62 percent approval rating at the end of his first 100 days, dwarfing the mere 55 percent that President Clinton possessed in April of 1993, and almost equaling Obama’s current numbers. At the same time there was talk of how Bush’svision for the presidencywould almost certainly take America to new heights. Eight years later the nation is wrapped up in two foreign wars and dealing with an economic meltdown while the White House staffers desperately flip through the dictionary, searching for the definition of the wordirony.

Like it or not, the world we live in puts instant gratification at a premium, and this extends to our constant thirst for assessment. We want to know that things are going well atthis moment, but ultimatelythis momentpossesses a very small fraction of the time we spend here, or in this case the duration of Obama’s presidency. In my opinion, it’s best to let these arbitrary milestones pass by without getting too worked up, and get back to those chances for assessment that really matter … like those midterms you’ve been putting off.


JAMES NOONAN loves to be assessed. Do him a favor and grade him at jjnoonan@ucdavis.edu. You know he can’t sleep until he gets his fix!


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