This week our department has evaluators from ABET visiting. ABET is the “Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABET). Every 6 years, they visit our department — we invite them and pay their expenses — and they look over the extensive documentation we prepare during the intervening 6 years, and evaluate whether we are doing for our undergraduate education what we as a department, college, and university say we will do. As far as I know, nobody enjoys it.
But does that mean we should not do it? There are other cases that perhaps nobody enjoys: Going to the dentist comes to mind. For 6 months we brush and floss each day in preparation for the evaluation. Then we go to the dentist, where our teeth are cleaned properly with a sharp tool, and inspected for underlying damage that we call “cavities”. If there are cavities, they represent failures in our daily process of brushing and flossing. Yes, we then need to go through the pain and expense of fixing them, but the evaluation allows us to identify the problem and correct it before it causes further damage. We don’t like it, but it’s good for us.
Now here are two critical questions: 1) In what areas of life do each of us need to set up periodic evaluation processes, to do a proper cleaning and identify and remove “cavities”? 2) What daily process will we establish so that we are ready for this evaluation? If we are going to imagine great dreams and win great victories, in what areas do we need periodic accreditation, either from ourselves or from a team of external evaluators?