28 March 2006

Snapshot of My Browsing

From The Guardian Unlimited, one of the many trenchant U.K. publications, comes this Simon Caulkin article about management-as-mismanagement, as described and dissected in Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense, by Stanford professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton.

Here's a pithy quote:

So why don't managers make judgments on evidence, as doctors at least try to do? The book pinpoints a number of factors, many of which come down to the human factors economic theorists carefully exclude. They overestimate power, fail to cut losses, underestimate cost and difficulty, and ignore the lessons of failure. They put too much faith in superficial impressions and repeat what worked in the past. Or they fall back on unexamined but deeply held ideologies. (An unqualified belief in anything, except the likelihood of being wrong, is a certain predictor of tears ahead.)

...If only the facts matter, it shouldn't matter where they come from. That undercuts the traditional justification for hierarchy: that the boss knows best. Facts force the boss to choose between being 'in control' and being right. Many choose the former.
(My emphasis added.)

Moving right in My Opera tabs, I found this: School & College, a Special Report by the Council for Higher Education. Subtitled Expectations for Our Teachers Are Misplaced, the report highlights three cogent points about education schools, those that turn out new teachers. The points are:

1) "Education schools are blamed for admitting weak students who will become poor teachers, ill equipped to prepare their students for higher education. But they cannot raise the quality of the population entering the education professions. They can't attract top college graduates to the teaching profession, even if they were to commit all of their resources to doing so. The real problem is that teaching pays low salaries, has low status, and offers poor working conditions. Education is not a competitive choice for the nation's most able young people, for whom law, medicine, and business — fields that pay median salaries two to four times as large as those in education — are far more appealing." (Ditto about the emphasis.)

2) "Education schools are asked to turn out "finished products." That makes no sense. Teaching is one of the few professions in which brand-new professionals are expected to know everything on the first day. Schools take them and immediately place them alone in a classroom and say, "Teach." Yet upon graduating from medical school, new doctors are not rushed into the operating room and asked to oversee open-heart surgery. Instead they go through an internship and a residency, gradually gaining knowledge and experience under the guidance of experienced practitioners. New lawyers who join a law firm do not enter a courtroom right away to serve as lead counsel in a murder case, but work for a partner and get experience and increasing responsibility. New journalists are not assigned to interview the president, and the new M.B.A. is not asked to direct a corporate division." (Yep, Me again.)

3) "Education schools are expected to rescue failing school systems. They can't... No urban-school system in America has ever been successfully turned around. It makes no sense to expect an education school to do what other educators, specifically trained for this purpose, have been unable to do. If after seven years, an urban school system has not made substantial progress, it is not time for the local education school to close its doors. It's time to fire the superintendent." (Me.)

One more jump to the right: From one of My new favorite sites, Real Simple, comes this haunting question: How do you make time for yourself? I never had much of a problem with that, but many of Us do. The truly fulfilling Life has time to dedicate to one's own concerns, to meditate and ponder, to relax, do nothing, smile alone, to stretch or curl up, to let the sun shine on your face or let the wind bring you distant scents, to laugh within and without, read about worlds you'll never experience or those you wish to relive, to hug a child as the only thing to do in the whole wide world... Hug yourself the same way. Find the time for yourself, in your own way.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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