Education, Freedom, Citizenship, And Vocation

This morning was a morning of reading articles discussing education. In an article entitled “The Diploma’s Vanishing Value” Jeffrey Selingo argues that a Bachelor’s degree may not be worth it, but community college can bring a strong return. He argues that at the four year level where you get the degree matters. He dollarizes the diploma to make his point, which graduates are making the most money? I am appalled by his logic. Dollarizing education to determine its value is extremely shortsighted and incorrect.

I would agree with the author that people should follow their passion. Instead of studying a topic they have no interest in, they should explore the technical skill or academic topic they are interested in. However, the purpose of education is not just about salary.

We have forgotten the value of vocation as we pursue the almighty dollar. This is why I am a huge proponent of offering a business education at a liberal arts institution. The purpose of a liberal arts college education is multifaceted. First, it is about educating someone to be a liberal thinker. This does not mean they will pursue a left of center way of thinking, but a logic that includes recognizing the importance of freedom and how to be a citizen of a free country. Donald Kagan, retiring professor from Yale, described what liberal education is and its role in the creation of citizens. “Democracy is one of the rarest, most delicate and fragile flowers in the jungle of human experience. It relies on free, autonomous and self-reliant citizens. These types of citizens aren’t born – they need to be educated.”

Business students are known for being focused. Often this focus leads to the exploitation of business processes for inordinate personal gain. They cheat, which means they are not being good citizens. This is why I think a liberal education is important to business students. It helps to broaden their focus. In other words, it helps them to see that they are in the business of making a difference.

Education involves a technical aspect too. Whatever the topic is there are certain concepts and ideals that should be understood. How do you read a Balance Sheet? How do we clearly write a paper? What do we need to know about Sociology or Science? Education helps us to understand core concepts of each discipline.

Education also allows us to identify possible career paths. By studying multiple subjects it helps us to see which subjects we like or dislike. This helps us to figure out what we want to do with our lives. This is what is meant by vocation.

One thing that academic institutions could do a better job at would be connecting its students with agencies with students. To help the students network and mingle with the employers within the major areas of study is critical, which is why I think an organization like ENACTUS is so important.

So Jeffrey, don’t just try and dollarize education and tell me one is better then the other. Education is much bigger than a dollar bill. It is about freedom, citizenship and vocation.

And that is my thought for the day!

Advertisements

Good Leadership, Bad Leadership, and Whistleblowing

Right on the front page of the WSJ, there is an example of good and bad leadership. After reading both articles, I then began to think about what to do when leadership is not performing well. I wanted to write down some of my thoughts on the subject.

Assad, the Syrian leader, has allegedly used a chemical weapon on his people. As I think about the severity of that comment, I am overwhelmed. The leader of a country has used a gas on his own people. Not a water hose, or strong arm police tactics, but a chemical agent that can kill. The United States government has stated, “to varying degrees of confidence,” that this has occurred and Syrian leadership has crossed the red line. The US is not the first country to note that Assad has done this evil deed. Israel, Britain, and France have already stated that Assad has violated the red line. I do appreciate our caution on this matter, because if the red line has not been crossed and we proceed militarily will we create another Iraq and Afghanistan? I seem to remember we went into another country looking for WMD, and came up empty-handed.

The so-called good leadership was illustrated in a picture right under the article dealing with Syria. For the first time in history five “surviving” Presidents were photographed together. The event was the opening of 43’s new library in Dallas, Texas. I say this illustrates good leadership because these men led a democratic nation through some very difficult times, and we survived and thrived. Obviously, each of these men had their issues. Carter was a one term President. Clinton was impeached. 41 was caught looking at his watch during a debate, implying he had something better to do. 43 left office with a very low approval rating, and 44’s approval rating has plummeted too. Individually these men were leaders of varying degrees, but as a system the US system has generally worked well. It is because we the people can elect our leaders, we have a voice; one we should never abdicate.

That brings me to my next thought. In this country we have the ability to vote our political leaders out if needed. But what do we do when we are in a business and the leader will not listen, continues to make bad decisions, or in an environment of collaboration continues to leader in a militaristic manner that does not create a team? Do you blow the whistle? I say yes, but knowing full well that it may cost you, the Whistleblower.

My favorite Business Ethics writer is a man named Richard DeGeorge. He states that when three criteria are in place then it is permissible to blow the whistle. First, if the harm that is occurring is serious and considerable. Second, you have told the appropriate people within the chain of command. Three, the people above have not dealt with the situation. If these three characteristics are in place then it is permissible to blow the whistle.

DeGeorge adds two more elements; if these are in place then it is morally obligatory for the person to blow the whistle. I will call this characteristic four. Fourth, there is documented evidence that an impartial observer can look at to determine your assessment is correct. Five, making the information public will ensure the problem is dealt with.

Going over your boss’s head and blowing the whistle is a serious step. Many times the person who blows the whistle is damaged. They lose their job, black listed, etc. However, sometimes it is critical to the long-term health of the organization. Many times a leader, like Assad, becomes leader for life. This motivates these leaders to think they have a mandate to do whatever they think is right. They become the standard of morality. This is why our government has chosen term limitations. This will ensure a better plan of succession.

Good leadership and bad leadership is a reality in organizations. Obviously bad leadership in our businesses does not include real chemical attacks, but metaphorically bad leadership can do the same thing. Their actions destroy the creativity of and vitality of employees, in other words kill the organization. Good leadership is inclusive, one that encourages idea generation and freedom of thought. Bad leadership needs to be exposed, even at the cost of the person who exposes it. The group will be better for it.

And that is my thought for the day!

Legacy

As much as I want to write about Boeing this morning, I am drawn to a different topic. Boeing has navigated through some pretty murky waters to announce a $1.11 Billion profit. Although revenue declined, profit increased, which is an indicator that McNerney is doing his job. He is running an operationally sound company. The battery situation has been solved and they will start delivering 787’s again. Keep that pension coming gang.

But the story I am thinking about this morning concerns former President George W. Bush. His library in Dallas opens this week, and both former President Clinton, and President Obama will both be in attendance. Several articles on CNN, in the WSJ, and in the Columbian were discussing the legacy of Bush. I still remember when 9/11 happened and Bush appeared on television and he had this look of panic on his face. Shortly thereafter during another appearance, the look of panic was replaced with the look of resolve. I think that will be something I will always remember about his Presidency.

The article that got me thinking about legacy this morning was written by Karl Rove. I am not a big Karl Rove fan, but this article was interesting. He explored W’s character. President Obama also alluded to Bush’s character when he stated that he knew that Bush loved America. I think all American Presidents love America, they just disagree about what America needs to further its interests.

First, I agree with Rove when he states that Bush was not flawless. None of us are perfect, and as such we all make mistakes. I am in the midst of a bit of a conflict right now, and my tendency is to want to vilify the person I am in conflict with. I even made a comment about the person that I did not believe they had the best interests in mind for the people affected by the events that have transpired. I have come to the conclusion that is not the case. Pretty vague huh!

The virtues of Bush, according to Rove, greatly overshadowed his flaws. So what are those virtues? Obviously Bush cared about the safety of Americans. He was deeply committed to the moral commitment of improving people’s lives. However, he may have agreed to immoral actions associated with interrogation methods, such as waterboarding, but his concern for American safety trumped the moral nature of actions used to obtain the information.

All of us thought Bush was a bit arrogant. I love his comment about his strut. “Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which is Texas is called walking.” I think that is hilarious. Rove discussed this in his article this morning, “Critics saw arrogance, but those around him experienced something different; a man with enough self confidence to encourage people to say what they believed, especially when they differed from his.” That is being a good leader.

Was Bush a perfect President? Nope, not even close! Will Hillary when she is elected (this is supposed to generate thought, not an endorsement) in 2016? Nope! Is Obama a perfect President now? Nope! However, when it comes to terrorism he is becoming more like Bush all the time.

The legacy of a President is discussed, debated, and decided years after they leave office. “In his biography of Harry Truman, David McCullough wrote that CBS newscaster Eric Sevareid ‘would say nearly 40 years later of Truman, I am not sure he was right about the atomic bomb, or even Korea. But remembering him reminds people what a man in that office ought to be like. It i character, just character. He stands like a rock in memory now.”

Can we say that about Bush? No, it is too early. We haven’t debated it enough. There will come a time when we will make conclusions about number 43.  This raises a personal question about legacy. What will people say about me when I am gone? I think character is a critical in the equation. Knowing what I believe and acting in line with that belief is important. I think treating people with respect is important. Doing a good job is important. All I can do is do my best, and others will decide about my legacy – good or bad. Just like everyone else.

And that is my thought for the day!

The Salad Bowl

I don’t know why we continue to use the metaphor “Melting Pot.” Melting Pot assumes we melt together into some common product. I would rather use the phrase “Salad Bowl” because we are in the same bowl, maintaining our individualism, but serving a common purpose; assimilation to the bowl, but maintaining a sense of difference.

As I work with college students, my sense of fulfillment heightens as I learn how to deal with the differences of each student. Physical (Black, white, Latino), emotional (mature, immature), and cognitive (engaged and not engaged) differences motivate me to teach in a better manner. On our campus we are a fractal representation of our larger society. Each of us are different, but we come together for a purpose.

Gerald Seib discusses this in the WSJ this morning. He has a regular column entitled Capital Journal. The title of this morning’s article is “A Test Idea of Melting Pot.” His point involves maintaining a resolve in the midst of challenges to the maxim on which our country was founded. He begins his article by describing the two brothers responsible for the Boston bombing. Then he states, “the brothers have become the latest to strain the proposition that America is a great country precisely because it is a melting pot bringing together people of all races, ethnicities, accents and experiences.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, and his argument that this event may stress our resolve, but it will not undo the very idea on which this country was founded.

The actions taken by people after this horrific event, display our resolve. Each time some horrible attack occurs on our shores we come together as a people to support one another. The Boston bombing was no different. America is a great country. Why do I feel like I want to break into a song, “Proud to be an American.” All joking aside, it is times like these when I am truly proud to be an American.

Yes our country is changing. The white population is declining; between 2000 and 2010 the white majority has declined from 69% to 64% of the population. The census report for that time period tells us that the Hispanic population has grown 43%. Religious preferences are changing, morphing from established religious understandings to more of an ethereal spirituality. As Seib states, “These changes frighten many Americans, especially at moments like these.” And I have some real concerns about our understanding of spirituality, due to its eternal consequences. But, there are many benefits within a pluralistic society.

I for one am being pushed beyond my limits of comfort, but it is a good discomfort. It is causing me to grow. I am resolved to an America that represents what is stated on the Statue of Liberty,  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” As a Christ follower caring for the marginalized is my job.

And that is my thought for the day!

Lessons From ENACTUS Regionals

It has been a while since I have entered something in my blog. It seems appropriate that I write about my experience with the ENACTUS team in Seattle last Friday. Every year our team competes in Seattle against other schools. The last two years we have won and gone to Nationals, but this year we didn’t I’d like to take a few minutes to reflect on the experience.

The competition in Seattle involves a team presentation, highly scripted, describing the activities we had accomplished over the school year. The WPC ENACTUS team has a motto, “In the business of doing good.” Our students use business skills to teach children, start businesses, and support people less fortunate. Our team then puts together a multimedia presentation that describes our program to a panel of judges from major corporations.

Our team did a good job, but it was not good enough to win this year. Our year is done, and now we are planning next year. Part of this planning includes time to reflect on what needs to be learned from the experience. I am going to focus on four areas: the advisor, the activities we have done, the presentation team, and the presentation itself. The reason for this is to learn how to better prepare for next year.

The order of evaluation will be different than what I listed above. The team of students that presented did a fine job, but they could have done better. They will need to assess why they did not do as well as they could have, but there were, in my opinion, several highlights. Watching the students, I am encouraged by what I saw. However, we need to work on the strength of the script, in other words how we describe our projects.

The presentation detail needs a lot of work. We did not tell our story very well. It seemed to me the detail was stale, and lacked passion. It is not that the students did not have passion, but the Prezi, which was the software we used to create the presentation did not tell the real story. We missed an opportunity because we did not frame our story within an entrepreneurial expression.

The activities that we did this year were good, but we need to make sure our projects are inline with the criteria established by ENACTUS. It appears the rules have changed and we have not changed with it. We need to look at how the activities impact our community. But that is the advisor’s job.

The strongest criticism that I have concerning our performance on Friday is reserved for me, the advisor. I made several mistakes during the preparation for this event. The first mistake is not making sure the team knew exactly what the new criteria was for the competition. I should have sat down with the team and reviewed the detail, so they knew what the judging criteria was. How can a team be successful if they don’t know the requirements? Second, I did not check to see how they were doing and what they needed as they prepared.

We came back on Friday a bit discouraged, but the question is, what do we do with the discouragement? Do we let it get us down? Does it destroy us? Do we give up? None of us are heading in that direction. Each one of us are planning on improving. I am going to work with two long time advisors to try and become a better advisor. We are going to work at creating better projects. And next year we will not wait until the last minute to create a presentation.

WPC ENACTUS will be stronger next year. I have no doubt.

And that is my thought for the day!

Lessons From Jackie Robinson

I really don’t remember Jackie Robinson playing baseball, but it appears he was done playing in the early 50’s. I do remember reading about him, and I had one of his trading cards. I used to have a shoebox full of cards for my favorite players. Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Willie Davis, Sandy Koufax, and Warren Spaulding. My favorite player was Sandy Koufax. I was a left-handed pitcher in little league, just had too much of a temper to be any good.

Jackie Robinson was not only an amazing player, but he changed society. I teach at a small college which states that it believes in diversity. There is a real consistency between what the college says it believes and what it does, and I love it. My students bring a rich diversity to the classroom that is stimulating. Jackie Robinson had brought a rich diversity to baseball that was and is wonderful too.

Why Jackie Robinson? With some many incredible black players at the time in the Negro Leagues, why did Branch Rickey, President of the Dodgers, choose number 42? Chris Lamb explores this in today’s paper, and I for one found it very interesting. Branch Rickey was a man who believed in God, which I did not know, and he wanted to break the color barrier in baseball. To do this, he knew he had to find the right man for the job. Lamb states that Rickey asked Robinson, “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough to not fight back.” Rickey read a passage from the book, Life of Christ, where Jesus tells the disciples to turn the other cheek. The rest is history.

Organizations today are concerned about change. But they need to learn from number 42 and Branch Rickey. Choosing the right people to be involved with the change and lead the change is critical. Things that I didn’t know about Jackie Robinson was that he grew up in Pasadena. His mother taught him to believe in God, but due to the racist environment of the time had some problems. The Rev. Karl Downs was used by God to make faith real to Robinson. As Lamb states, “Downs became the channel through which religious faith finally flowed into Jack’s consciousness and was finally accepted there.” It became a “pragmatic way to negotiate the world.”

Not only was Branch Rickey a believer who would not attend baseball games on Sunday, but he also was pragmatic. He helped Robinson see the power of non-resistance that would eventually become the mantra of Dr. Martin Luther King. This mixture of faith and practice was expressed in a comment Robinson made in an interview. “In a 1950 interview, he [Robinson] emphasized his faith in God and his nightly ritual of kneeling at his bedside to pray.” Robinson stated, “It’s the best way to get closer to God, and a hard hit ground ball.” Faith and practice a great mix.

Character, faith, and leadership are elements needed in organizations today. Yesterday in one of my classes we discussed the CEO of the Chicago Tribune who was fired from and his job due to running the paper into the ground. He was a sleazeball who liked to pay women $100 to show their breasts.

This CEO’s unethical leadership destroyed an institution, while the faith and nonresistance of Robinson saved another. I know what I will be doing from now on.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

Annette Funicello And Margret Thatcher

Women have an important role to play in this world. Only a woman can bear a child. All mothers are women and subsequently have a huge impact on their children. My mother had a lot to do with who I am today. Two women died this week, and both of them were influential in my life, just at different times.

As a child I enjoyed watching the Mickey Mouse Club. Clean values displayed by wonderful characters. I have to admit though; initially I liked Darlene more than I liked Annette. I spent many hours watching how these young people would do the right thing no matter what the situation was. For 1959 it was amazing stuff.

A little later is when I decided that I liked Annette. In the 60’s movies such as Beach Party came out, and the boomers were exposed to Little Stevie Wonder and Dick Dale and his Deltones. In these great movies good always won, but even the bad guy, Eric Von Zipper, was really not that bad. These movies were fun, and helped me to be the freewheeling guy that I was and still am.

Now we need to get serious. Another woman had a huge affect on the way I think. Margret Thatcher, according to Paul Johnson, “had more impact on the world than any woman ruler since Catherine the Great.” Those words are grandiose, but in my opinion true. Her idea of Thatcherism was “and is pragmatic and empirical.” The question in my mind is, what is Thatcherism?

Thatcherism is a political conviction leading to low inflation, a small state, and free markets. Others have describe Thatcherism as including ideals such as “Free markets, financial discipline, firm control over public expenditure, tax cuts, nationalism, Victorian values (self-help variety), privatization and a dash of populism.” Others have tied her ideology to classical liberalism.

There does seem to be a connection of Thatcherism to Libertarianism. Libertarianism is a political philosophy that holds liberty as the highest political end. Thatcher however was a monetarist. This involves the role of government in controlling the quantity of money in circulation. It is concerned with the macroeconomic effects of the supply of money. It also is concerned about a central bank.

Thatcher fought labor unions to get the concessions needed to ensure the UK would stay solvent. This is the same battle that many of our governors and mayor are fighting today. When cities have overpromised what they can provide in a pension, politicians are practicing fiscal irresponsibility. This is what Thatcher fought against, among other things.

Mrs. Thatcher RIP, you deserve it.

And that is my thought for the day!