Tag Archives: Education

Women, Men, Leadership, School and Poor Logic

Oh goodness do I hope this comes out right. I really don’t want to misrepresent what I’m thinking and end up offending people.

I can be a pretty harsh critic when I want to be. (Good way to start because I can only offend myself and this likely isn’t surprising to anyone who has spent more than 20 minutes with me.) I like to think that I’m getting better at letting things go, but considering where my baseline was set it may be a little while before I’m at a point that could be considered socially acceptable.

That being said, the one thing that I just can’t shake is poor logic. Especially when it’s someone who is publicly talking out of both sides of their mouth, which I guess is why I have such a love/hate relationship with politics.

The reason for the hesitation at the beginning of this post is that I think I have a sound argument about how logic was misapplied in a situation, but the argument is related to a contentious subject and I don’t want to appear to be criticizing the conclusion itself. Only how it was reached in this particular situation.

Just to get it out there, the point that was being made is that women shouldn’t be underrepresented in leadership positions WHICH I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH. There is no good reason the numbers are where they are and only an idiot would argue with the hard facts, which are clearly out there.

Now that you know my unwavering stance, please don’t tar and feather me. This is only a criticism of an individual and how they reached that conclusion.

I was listening to the radio and the guest on the show was a researcher who was speaking about his body of work, which consisted of comparing school grades of boys and girls as far back as about 50 years. In his study the evidence is clear that girls outperform boys in school.

I haven’t seen the study, but that’s ok. I take his word for it.

He then went on to draw the conclusion that it’s clear that women should be at least equal to men in terms of leadership positions and the fact that they’re not is because men control the “entire system,” which I would concede that there is truth to that statement. I do think, however, he didn’t do a good job of linking his research to his conclusion.

Here is what I would like to have heard about:

First, and what is likely the most fundamental thing, is that there should be mention of a proven correlation between a successful leader and good grades. Controlling the study shouldn’t be hard, just separate the data by gender. Are the females with better grades more likely to become leaders? The males?

Without that link then they are just two sets of data that only have one proven thing in common: They compare genders. That’s like saying that on average girls get better grades than boys, which explains why more women than men are capable of childbirth. Both are factually true, but not necessarily related.

What bothers me even more is that “the system” is to blame for women being underrepresented in leadership roles, but is completely omitted as a possible explanation as to why girls outperform boys in school.

I’m not saying this in order to detract from the accomplishments of girls in school, nor men in leadership positions. All of the above have had to work to accomplish what they have, by-in-large. It may also be worth mentioning that so far my life has charted as being pretty typical of an average female. I did well in grade school and am definitely not in a leadership position.

It may be worth exploring the idea that as much business may be an old boys club, maybe education is a young girls club? Considering the influence of women in education, who make up the majority of teachers and the large majority of early years teachers (where a student’s relationship with the school system is established) there is likely a case that as much as women in later years are inhibited the system, boys are in the early years.

All of this to say that the systems need to change. The same way that a woman should never be told that men make better leaders, boys should not be constantly reminded that girls are better students. We should acknowledge that there are different styles of both leaders and students, none better than the other, and it’s these differences that makes working together (at school or in an office) worthwhile.

So to reiterate:

Women underrepresented in leadership – BAD

Boys being told they’re not smart – BAD

Sloppy or outright deceiving research – VERY BAD

Just in case I haven’t said it enough, I hope that I’m not coming off as some sort of misogynist. If you look at the women I have had the good fortune of dating and/or have had friendships with, you can definitely see I’m a big fan of strong women.

All that being said, I know that I have no right determining how people react to this and if there is something overtly offensive I want to know and apologize in advance.

Yale’s New Old Thinking

As promised, here’s the post about Yale B. School’s recent decision to institute forced curve grading.

To start out, I have to say that I’m typically not an “everyone can win” type of person. As I’ve said before, there is plenty of merit in the lessons that can be learned from losing. In this case, however, I believe the framework of there being “winners” and “losers” is baseless and ignorant.

It is my belief that Yale is wrong in their decision for a number of reasons. Now to outline a few…

Firstly, this is a gross misuse of statistics. Just because if given a significant enough sample size, most of the time students’ scores fall on a Bell Curve, doesn’t mean that the concept should be forced to be applied to classes that are not large enough to be statistically significant.

It’s like saying that if your first born is a girl then your next will be a boy. Sure, roughly half the population is female and the other half male, but in a sample size that small, statistics are of no consequence to the individual.

Second point, which I think is the most important, is that knowledge is not limited and/or a finite resource. That is to say that if you learn something, there is nothing preventing me from learning the last thing. It doesn’t even make it more difficult!

So everyone in a class could, conceivably, do very well or very poorly en mass. In a forced curve system, however, this isn’t reflected because all grades are assigned relative to one another. This can make grades misleading, as they are not reflective of actual understanding of the subject, but how well an individual understood compared to his or her classmates.

I think this decision just follows along an older post of mine: That schools don’t treat MBAs as earned degrees rooted in knowledge. They are seen as titles bought and competed for, which I think is absolutely wrong.

MBA grads, or any grads for that matter, should be respected for what they learn. Not forced into arbitrary competitions. Especially in this day and age, everything that I read about is trying to encourage teamwork and supporting one another in business, not fostering inner-office competition. Either those on the ground who are saying this are wrong, or the post-secondary world really is that out of touch.

Education Needs an Overhaul

As it seems to happen, by chance I’ve had more than a few conversations about different aspects of education over the past little while. Not only that, but my recent post about MBA schools not respecting MBAs and the B School at Yale’s decision to force a curve has wound me up to the point that I have to post something.

Education is broken at all levels and needs to be rethought.

I’ve long thought that the restrictive nature of the majority of my childhood education (memorize and repeat) was not conclusive to the the best learning experience to most people. While I was lucky enough to blessed with a pretty good level of recall, I couldn’t imagine what it was like for my peers with different learning styles.

What I want to focus on more is the post-secondary education system, because I think we’re at a breaking point. We need to rethink the structure of a good amount of what is taught in universities and how relevant it is outside of an academic setting.

The first conversation was with a friend who enlightened me about the realities of a post-doctorate. Essentially, many to most of those who are attempting to earn their PhD would like to work in academia, but there are too many graduating and not enough professors retiring, so there is a job shortage. Since there is a shortage, newly-minted PhDs need to stay relevant in their field by research and publishing papers, so they hope to get a post-doctorate position. Hired by a school for a 2ish year contract to research and write, in the hopes of a number of publications.

Being someone who has less than no interest in attempting a PhD at this point, I didn’t know anything about this and the conversation was shocking. Hearing someone speak of earning a PhD in the same flippant nature I would mention my bachelors degree was definitely a surprise.

Not only that, but I instantly started feeling bad for all the PhDs that “don’t make it” so-to-speak. Who earn their degree after a decade or more of hard work, only to find out that there are no jobs for them at schools and therefore they need to do a complete 180 and find a job in industry. Which may be hard because they have spent their entire adult life narrowing their level of expertise to a fine point that may not have much “real-world” application. No offense meant to any PhDs.

The other conversation was with a friend who expressed frustration that people in his field graduation from a fairly rigorous university program, without any skills to actually do the work that they went to school for. In his mind, his company has to do all the training, anyway. In this case the university education is a barrier of entry, but not a indication of skill.

Although these examples are very different, I think that they arise from the same issue: Universities being out of touch with the other 99% of the world.

Contributing to academia at the lowest cost is the goal of most universities, therefore all schools are filled with academics. Those academics write for other academics, while the majority of graduates work in industry and would greatly benefit in learning a few less high-level theories and more practical applications.

I have no regrets pursuing my degree, but from where I’m sitting right now certain vocational schools may have been a pretty good option. Not only that, but I can honestly say that there are very few times that the theories I learned from textbooks have ever come up in one of my jobs.

I think that universities still have a place in society, but there needs to be more of a focus on correctly educating those who don’t plan to continue on with higher-education. And for those who do, some more hope at a job would be nice.

Come back on Thursday to see what I have to say about that Yale thing…

Losing Is As Important As Winning

I have played sports virtually my entire life. My parents were both athletes and put a high emphasis on it. Not at being the best there is, but ensuring we participated to the best of our abilities and were always involved in something.

For better or worse (I think mostly better) the person I am today is largely influenced by what I learned playing sports. In my extremely biased opinion, there are many real-world lessons that can be taught through the context of athletics. What’s more those lessons are served in mini form and are simple enough for a developing child’s brain to grasp. Kids playing sports is a good thing.

There has been a movement in sports that I have seen since my time playing. Looking back I seem to be fortunate enough to be essentially the last generation unaffected.

It’s a sweeping change that is robbing kids of a valuable lesson. It’s a lesson that everyone learns eventually but is much easier to swallow as a kid, when it’s related to a game, rather than as an adult and it’s life altering.

The lesson is how to lose.

The recent push to stop keeping scores may come from the right place (which I can only assume is not hurting kids’ feelings), but as the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved in good intentions. While that may seem a little extreme, proponents of this methodology truly may want to stop and think about what this is teaching the athletes.

First lesson is that achieving your goals doesn’t matter. What happens when one of the players score in these “fun” games? I can only assume nothing and then they are told just to go do it again. Talk about demotivating.

Second lesson is that everyone is treated equal. That isn’t even true if you want it to be. Rather than learning that practicing to improve your skills and putting in effort can increase your chances at success, they learn that everyone wins no matter how good you are or hard you work.

The third lesson that I’ll go into is they are learning to expect praise. The supporters often say that it’s more important to build the self-esteem of the kids. What’s better at building self-esteem than winning? And what’s a better motivator than losing?

Looking back growing up, I had a variety of experiences on different teams. There were championships and seasons where we lost practically every game. I was a bench-rider and a go-to person. There were teams that got along and others that didn’t.  Regardless of the year, I learned something.

Since apparently movie quotes are my thing now, this whole situation reminds me of one from The Incredibles.

The main villain Syndrome is a brat (likely because when he was a kid his soccer team didn’t keep score) and doesn’t like some people are super. His plan is to make super powers accessible to everyone, because, “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”