What does this say about accuracy and error correction?

April 27th, 2007

I have to think about this more, since it’s too easy to make a superficial judgement. Anyway it’s a neat story. And if, like me, you suffer from perfectionism, good advice in general:

A ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of the work they produced. All those on the right would be graded solely on their works’ quality.

His procedure was simple: On the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the quantity group; 50 pound of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on quality, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an A.

At grading time, the works with the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.

It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work — and learning from their mistakes — the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of clay.

From Penelope Trunk.



  1. Yes, but isn’t churning out pots more like controlled practice than free speaking? Nice metaphor anyway.

    TEFLtastic blog- http://www.tefl.net/alexcase

  2. Perfection is the enemy of good.

  3. I think this is a very practical story!!! You will never learn to speak english by studying it. Eventually, you need to speak it. In the same way you will never be able to perfect a technique by study but by practice.


  4. Great story. I love this philosophy. Of course I’m suspect that part of the reason I’m a fan of this approach is because it validates a life lived learning by doing rather than thinking too much.

    Either way – I like it.

  5. Source for the story?

  6. Stephen, I read this on Penelope Trunk’s blog on Yahoo! that I linked to in the original post. Evidently she heard it from Alexander Kjerulf, who was discussing the book Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles.

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