Paul Willis: Hymn To The Goddess Of Assessment

(After Algernon Charles Swinburne)

Thou hast conquered, O pale Statistician;
these halls have grown grey with thy breath.
We are stung by your sins of precision,
we are maimed by your numbers of death.

Percentiles must ever define us –
and rubrics, and outcomes, and graphs.
As for humor, like Thomas Aquinas,
the goddess of gloom never laughs.

Of beauty, she knows very little;
of holiness, less than a drop.
The pale one, she flusters with spittle,
she wipes every tear with her mop.

All subjects are tidy before her,
all loops closed up tight as a noose;
all professors must bow and adore her
for efficiently cooking their goose.

Thou hast conquered, O pale Statistician;
we are waving our sad little flag
of surrender before thee, our mission
subjected to each niggling nag

and reminder of next year’s report,
and the next, and the one after that.
O pale one, a day in thy court
is like thousands in Hades. Feed fat

on our souls whilst thou can, in ascendance
rule over our Destinies sure,
but beware of the Furies of vengeance,
beware what we cannot endure.

For the tide of belief and opinion,
the waves of relief will portend
the demise of your awful dominion
and bring your embarrassing end.

So quail, O pale Statistician;
thy bureaucracy’s weight will implode.
We will none of us bear imposition,
we will none of us carry your load.

We will free ourselves from your restriction,
we will enter the Land of the Blessed.
We will teach without strange interdiction;
we will sing, we will joy, we will rest.