Friday, January 8, 2010

Crap Detection

Recent college graduates fail to realize the promise of their education; a job.

Robert Galbraith / Reuters
Christine Chase, 24, searches for a job on her computer in her apartment in Campbell, Calif. Chase was laid off from her contractor job at AT&T in the Silicon Valley in August.

This problem is worldwide as this story will show.

Graduates scream foul when their degrees prove worthless. When this happens, you see educational institutions scramble to reform their product mix to appeal to new recruits. Then they are accused of being no more than Vocational Ed shops.

A feature in the NYT Saturday
addressed the issue and interestingly, had the audacity to suggest ten areas that look good to the writers, for job prospects in the future. The problem with these predictions is that they have no more chance of being accurate then the options that were offered 5 years ago to students who are now unemployed graduates.

The institutional response to students' demands for relevance results in one of the sorrier aspects of the process; the total abdication of any presumption that there is someone who actually knows more then the students about what it is that a student might need to know. Students may chose not to take philosophy courses but then where are they to learn ethics, values, or moral behavior?

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that economic collapse also affects the University and in tough times something has to give.

The Humanities always suffer in times like these. Courses that don't appear to have any market value are dropped. At UC Berkeley, a campus roiling in controversy, the very unpopular President Mark Yudoff commenting on students protesting raising fees, dropped classes, and reduction in admittance, said; "despite the outcry, I still don't have any money." There may be structural forces at work here. There always were for blacks, browns, and women. Now the crisis of the world's economy is being felt at the previously solid middle class level. In the words of Ananya Roy, also of Berkeley, "We have all become students of color now." If the conventional degree is proving worthless then what are students' alternatives ?

Harvard can afford to keep their wits about them and there is no pull back from their insistence on a core curriculum requirement or a new General Ed studies program. Theirs is a model of required study within the Humanities.

But for all of that, it is important to note that the Harvard graduates' record of integrity of late leaves a lot to be desired. Investigators were all over graduate Jeffery Skillings ( CEO, ENRON) for example, trying to draw out how he missed picking up ethics, or a conscience while a student. For those who might have missed it, the tapes documenting the behavior of that firm are here. It occurs to me that the unstated premise of the Business School curriculum is "how to get the suckers to part with their money".
Now we have a new set of graduates who have brought us the end of the world as we knew it.

If the best and the brightest are not being educated to be responsible leaders then it seems to me that the rest of us need a set of skills to survive them.

I am developing the following course offerings for non credit.

The Art of Crap Detection:
For academic applications consider a guide by Nathan P. Gilmour

For the more pragmatic needs of our students we have courses in:

They know nothing: experts who aren't and how to identify them.

Resistance: how to deflect the marketing strategies developed by the graduates of business schools.

NASA: Why you won't be selected to go and why you shouldn't pay for it.

Money: Folds neatly under the umbrella of Crap Detection.
No one knows a thing about how to invest for wealth.
Jobs: The myth of the nobility of work
Money Management:
Investing: How to read a 10K
What is a public stock company (what is shelf registration, what is dilution)?
How to cover your nut. What is your nut?
The truth about debt management. When is cash king? When to leverage up?

Effective consumerism: What's the better value; one 6.5 oz can Tuna @ 69 Cents, 12 oz can same brand tuna 1.60?

Group: Ending the myth of the rugged individual
Why sharing information is not cheating
How to give a dinner party

Reproduction: baby making, child care
Sexual behavior
Stimulant management
Urdu (a list of languages and the numbers who speak them)

We will keep you up to date on course development and how you can obtain lesson plans.

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