Later On

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One Ohio School’s Quest to Rethink Bad Behavior

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Katherine Reynolds Lewis writes in the Atlantic:

In education, initiatives tend to roll down from above. A district buys a new curriculum, or gets funding for a new program, and principals receive their marching orders, which they in turn hand down to teachers below.

That’s not the case at Ohio Avenue Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio.

The 19th-century corniced brick building is perhaps an unlikely home for experimental methods of nurturing children’s developing brains. The surrounding streets are lined with abandoned buildings, pawn shops, cash-advance outlets, and dollar stores. A large house with a boarded-up door sits directly across from the school’s playground. In Ohio Avenue’s zip code, half of the families with children under 18 live in poverty, as compared with 25 percent across Columbus and 17 percent nationally, according to census data.

Many of Ohio Avenue’s children have brushed against violence and other traumatic experiences in their short lives—abuse and neglect, a household member addicted to drugs, homelessness, to name a few. At schools like this, a small dispute can easily turn into a scuffle that leads to an administrator or school-safety officer corralling the kids involved, if not suspending them. But Ohio Avenue is trying to find another way: Every adult in the building has received training on how children respond to trauma. They’ve come to understand how trauma can make kids emotionally volatile and prone to misinterpret accidental bumps or offhand remarks as hostile. They’ve learned how to de-escalate conflict, and to interpret misbehavior not as a personal attack or an act of defiance. And they’re perennially looking for new ways to help the kids manage their overwhelming feelings and control their impulses.

Ohio Avenue struggles at times with managing students’ behavior, and some teachers have embraced the schoolʻs approach more than others, which itself can cause some tension sometimes. Meanwhile, it’s impossible to draw conclusions about the direct relationship between these efforts and student results. But educators say the positive changes that have accompanied this model are encouraging enough to continue experimenting with it.

“If the focus is on what the adults are doing, that’s where you get the bang for your buck. We can control what the adults do,” explained Olympia Della Flora, the school’s principal, when I visited this spring. “How are [the children] going to learn a positive way of dealing with conflict if we’re not the ones showing it?”

We were standing in Ohio Avenue’s vestibule talking with Tony Schwab, a kindergarten teacher. Schwab had just told us about a disturbing incident: Three of his students had clustered on his classroom’s tile floor. One laced his hands behind his head and knelt; the other two then copied him. All three soon had their foreheads on the ground. They were, according to Schwab, practicing how to avoid getting shot in the event of a confrontation with police.

“Three 5-year-old boys teaching each other how to stay alive,” said Schwab, who’s been a teacher for 15 years. “I’m still shocked. It’s rough.”

Possible police aggression is just one of the realities that make life challenging for this group of kids. Della Flora cited one child whose mom was in the hospital having recently had a stroke; he kept fighting at the slightest provocation. Another had just arrived at Ohio Avenue after being placed in foster care. Not only was he attending a new school and living in an unfamiliar home, he was also being deprived of his usual medication because his biological mom still had his prescription. Lastly, Della Flora recounted two fifth-grade boys who’d recently gotten in a punching match in front of a girl. Instead of running for help, the girl—who’d witnessed domestic violence—froze.

Despite the poverty and violence students experience, Ohio Avenue is making academic strides. The school received an A for progress on most of its recent annual report cards, which measure students’ growth based on past performance as part of the state’s accountability system. Meanwhile, its nearest neighbor, Livingston Elementary, received F’s on its two most recent report cards. Ohio Avenue’s approach to helping children cope with trauma could help explain why its students have performed so well.America’s schools have long relied on punishment to handle discipline issues. In the 1990s, suspensions and expulsions soared due to the rise of “zero tolerance” policies that harshly punished students even for minor infractions such as swearing or chewing gum. Still, over the past decade, policymakers have started to sour on punitive discipline. Studies found that punishments fall disproportionately on African American children and those with disabilities—even when accounting for parents’ education, income, school climate, and other demographic factors. In recent years, districts have begun to discourage and even ban suspensions and expulsions, with at least 22 states and the District of Columbia changing their laws to this effect. These efforts led to guidance from the Obama administration in 2014 that compelled schools to minimize suspensions and ensure they don’t fall disproportionately on certain groups.

But schools have in some cases struggled to adjust to this new direction. An analysis of Philadelphia’s ban on out-of-school suspensions by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, for example, highlighted the initiative’s mixed outcomes and concluded that top-down mandates that allow for little flexibility at the school level can have unintended consequences. In Philadelphia, researchers found that the new policies not only failed to improve achievement for previously suspended students and to reduce the number of low-level “conduct” suspensions in the long term, they also correlated with more racial disparities in punishment rates at the district level.

It’s in part because of experiences like this that discipline has become the subject of one of the most polarizing and entrenched debates in education: Opponents of the Obama guidance argue that it has handicapped schools from ensuring schools are safe and productive learning environments; proponents assert the rules promote equity and prevent educators from resorting to punitive discipline practices that are ineffective at best and pernicious at worst. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 May 2018 at 5:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Education Department Unwinds Unit Investigating Fraud at For-Profits

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Corruption writ large, and the public seems not to care.  Danielle Ivory, Erica L. Green, and Steve Eder report in the NY Times:

Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.

The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.

During the final months of the Obama administration, the team had expanded to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators who were looking into advertising, recruitment practices and job placement claims at several institutions, including DeVry Education Group.

The investigation into DeVry ground to a halt early last year. Later, in the summer, Ms. DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor.

Now only three employees work on the team, and their mission has been scaled back to focus on processing student loan forgiveness applications and looking at smaller compliance cases, said the current and former employees, including former members of the team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from the department.

In addition to DeVry, now known as Adtalem Global Education, investigations into Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corporation, which also operate large for-profit colleges, went dark.

Former employees of those institutions now work for Ms. DeVos as well, including Robert S. Eitel, her senior counselor, and Diane Auer Jones, a senior adviser on postsecondary education. Last month, Congress confirmed the appointment of a lawyer who provided consulting services to Career Education, Carlos G. Muñiz, as the department’s general counsel.

The investigative team had been created in 2016 after the collapse of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges, which set off a wave of complaints from students about predatory activities at for-profit schools. The institutions had been accused of widespread fraud that involved misrepresenting enrollment benefits, job placement rates and program offerings, which could leave students with huge debts and no degrees.

Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, attributed the reduction of the group to attrition and said that “conducting investigations is but one way the investigations team contributes to the department’s broad effort to provide oversight.” She said that none of the new employees who had previously worked in the for-profit education industry had influenced the unit’s work.

She also said the team’s deployment on student loan forgiveness applications was an “operational decision” that “neither points to a curtailment of our school oversight efforts nor indicates a conscious effort to ignore ‘large-scale’ investigations.”

Aaron Ament, a former chief of staff to the office of the department’s general counsel who helped create the team under President Barack Obama, said it had been intended to protect students from fraudulent for-profit colleges. “Unfortunately, Secretary DeVos seems to think the colleges need protection from their students,” said Mr. Ament, who is now president of the National Student Legal Defense Network.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, also criticized the team’s new direction. Ms. DeVos has taken a number of actions to roll back or delay regulations that sought to rein in abuses and predatory practices among for-profit colleges — actions that Ms. Warren and other Democrats have said put the industry’s interests ahead of those of students. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 May 2018 at 9:26 pm

Why So Many Gifted Yet Struggling Students Are Hidden In Plain Sight

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Anya Kamenetz reports at NPR:

Scott Barry Kaufman was placed in special education classes as a kid. He struggled with auditory information processing and with anxiety.

But with the support of his mother, and some teachers who saw his creativity and intellectual curiosity, Kaufman ended up with degrees from Yale and Cambridge.

Now he’s a psychologist who cares passionately about a holistic approach to education, one that recognizes the capacity within each child. He recently edited a volume of experts writing about how to reach students like himself: Twice Exceptional: Supporting And Educating Bright And Creative Students With Learning Difficulties.

I spoke with him about ways schools and teachers can help these twice exceptional, or “2E,” students thrive. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

So these are students with exceptional, far-ahead-of-the-curve intellectual ability, but who also struggle with a learning disability or difficulty. And as the authors talk about in the book, these students are found all over the place — in special ed, gifted, and in general education classes, too.

That’s right. The disability can be masked because they are functioning so high, or their disability may dominate, or each can mask the other.

Why is this group of students flying so under the radar?

Society still has this false dichotomy of, you’re a superior human being or a weak loser with bad genes. This is a loss of a critical resource — students who don’t graduate, don’t pursue higher ed, become unemployed.

What do you mean by learning difficulties?

I want to be quite inclusive. You have the learning disorders — ADHD, autism, dyslexia — but I wanted to actually expand it to mental illnesses, like kids at risk for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression — a really serious issue in our world today. We need a framework that incorporates them into this more positive psychology movement where we see greater potential.

And on the other side, you also have an expansive definition of giftedness — talk about that.

I talk about the 4 C’s: capacity, competence, creativity and the fourth C is commitment — a higher purpose or a cause or a personal project that you believe in over the long term, like social activists. This is important because you shouldn’t have to have a certain threshold on an IQ test to be able to make the world a better place.

The subtitle talks about bright and creative students with learning difficulties. Why do you single out creativity there?

I think we haven’t fully come to terms with the fact that sometimes the things that we value in education, like expertise and intelligence and knowledge, conflict sometimes with creativity.

Creativity is just as important, and if we focus on intellectual power we’re going to miss out on a lot of these kids that are going to really shake up the world, really change things.

Even at the neurological level, when you look at the brain [activity] of high IQ individuals, the network resembles someone who’s really good at focusing, concentration, ignoring distraction.

With the creative person, sometimes you see the exact opposite pattern — the person who’s open to new experiences, they can integrate seemingly disparate things.

So different kinds of intellectual abilities can be in tension with each other. Let’s say you suspect you have a kid like this. What do you do?

Some people say, “Oh, my child is smart, I’m going to fight for them to get into gifted classes,” but maybe that’s not always the right fight.

If you’re seeing extraordinary creativity, you can help them find the right match in after-school activities or things outside of school. My mom signed me up for everything, to see what I would be interested in.

With commitment, I would really encourage your child to pursue that with full vigor and offer resources. Try to find a mentor in your community and help them get involved.

You do see cases where, when you get them involved in something where they feel good about themselves, it’s almost like they forget to be disabled. Like Matt Lerner at Stony Brook University, who’s done research putting kids with autism into improv classes.

Instead of saying, “You have a social deficit,” it’s saying, “We think you have great potential for some social creativity because you really think differently and you tell the truth.”

Can a disorder really be that situational?

Well, anxiety is a big commonality among everyone on the twice-exceptional spectrum.

It’s in so many ways conditional. It emerges from the interaction of their learning difficulties and the way they’re being treated in school.

What about teachers? What can they do to support students like this? . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 May 2018 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

At What Age Does Our Ability to Learn a New Language Like a Native Speaker Disappear?

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Dana G. Smith writes in the Scientific American:

The older you get the more difficult it is to learn to speak French like a Parisian. But no one knows exactly what the cutoff point is—at what age it becomes harder, for instance, to pick up noun-verb agreements in a new language. In one of the largest linguistics studies ever conducted—a viral internet survey that drew two thirds of a million respondents—researchers from three Boston-based universities showed children are proficient at learning a second language up until the age of 18, roughly 10 years later than earlier estimates. But the study also showed that it is best to start by age 10 if you want to achieve the grammatical fluency of a native speaker.

To parse this problem, the research team, which included psychologist Steven Pinker, collected data on a person’s current age, language proficiency and time studying English. The investigators calculated they needed more than half a million people to make a fair estimate of when the “critical period” for achieving the highest levels of grammatical fluency ends. So they turned to the world’s greatest experimental subject pool: the internet.

They created a short online grammar quiz called Which English? that tested noun–verb agreement, pronouns, prepositions and relative clauses, among other linguistic elements. From the responses, an algorithm predicted the tester’s native language and which dialect of English (that is, Canadian, Irish, Australian) they spoke. For example, some of the questions included phrases a Chicagoan would deem grammatically incorrect but a Manitoban would think is perfectly acceptable English.

The researchers got a huge response by providing respondents with “something that is intrinsically rewarding,” says Josh Hartshorne, an assistant professor of psychology at Boston College, who led the study while he was a postdoc at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The small gift to the respondents was a guess about their background. According to Hartshorne: “If it correctly figures out that you are in fact a German-American, people are like, ‘Oh my god, science is awesome!’ And when it’s wrong, they’re like, ‘Ha ha, stupid robot.’ Either way, it’s entertaining and interesting and something that they can think about and talk about with their friends.”

Hartshorne’s tactic worked. At its peak, the quiz attracted 100,000 hits a day. It was shared 300,000 times on Facebook, made the front page of Reddit and became a trending topic on 4chan, where a thoughtful discussion ensued about how the algorithm could determine dialect from the grammar questions. The study brought in native speakers of 38 different languages, including 1 percent of Finland’s population.

Based on people’s grammar scores and information about their learning of English, the researchers developed models that predicted how long it takes to become fluent in a language and the best age to start learning. They concluded that the ability to learn a new language, at least grammatically, is strongest until the age of 18 after which there is a precipitous decline. To become completely fluent, however, learning should start before the age of 10.

There are three main ideas as to why language-learning ability declines at 18: social changes, interference from one’s primary language and continuing brain development. At 18, kids typically graduate high school and go on to start college or enter the work force full-time. Once they do, they may no longer have the time, opportunity or learning environment to study a second language like they did when they were younger. Alternatively, it is possible that after one masters a first language, its rules interfere with the ability to learn a second. Finally, changes in the brain that continue during the late teens and early 20s may somehow make learning harder.

This is not to say that we cannot learn a new language if we are over 20. There are numerous examples of people who pick up a language later in life, and our ability to learn new vocabulary appears to remain constant, but most of us will not be able to master grammar like a native speaker—or probably sound like one either. Being a written quiz, the study could not test for accent, but prior research places the critical period for speech sounds even earlier. . .

Continue reading.

As I frequently point out, one can learn a foreign language better, more easily, and more quickly if s/he first learns Esperanto (which is quite easy to learn, by design). And you can learn Esperanto on-line at, which has excellent lessons. Use your mouse to hover and click to get translations and word meanings.

Then tackle Greek. 🙂

Written by LeisureGuy

4 May 2018 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Education, Esperanto

The 5 best books on learning ancient (Classical) Greek

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One of my language tutors at St. John’s said that those who study Latin generally believe that the amount of Latin they know is enough, but those who study Greek generally want to know more.Paul McMullen, who has taught ancient Greek literature, history and religion at the University of Sydney and Pembroke College, Cambridge and has lectured on ancient Greek at University College Cork, has five book recommendations for those wanting to learn Greek. The Five Books interview begins:

We’re going to talk about the best books to read if you want to learn ancient Greek and I’m going to ask the obvious question straight up: Why should anyone bother to learn ancient Greek?

That’s the wrong way to phrase the question. Let’s ask what can you learn by learning ancient Greek. First of all, it gives you access to a wealth of material in the original. Which for anyone who can read or speak French or German or Italian and has access to those works in the original…or Russian and can read Dostoevsky in the original! You know the joy that that can bring you.

And when you consider that by reading Greek in the original you get Sophocles, Herodotus, Euripides, Aristophanes—all this seminal stuff that set the pace for the genres which developed ever after them—it’s really more a case of why would you not learn Greek?

Also—and this will perhaps be seen by some as somewhat masochistic—it’s such a phenomenal challenge. It tests you in learning it and it keeps compelling you to try and master it.

How difficult is it?

It’s not so difficult as everyone thinks it is. A lot of people say, ‘Oh well, unless you’ve learnt Latin first, don’t even try and learn Greek.’ That’s not the way around that I did it. In my undergraduate degree, I picked up Greek and it was only a year-and-a-half later that I picked up Latin.

Studying Greek introduced me to a lot of grammatical concepts which, technically, I should have learnt in high school. But this is so often the way for native speakers of a language: You know exactly how to use it but you don’t know why it’s correct for you to use it in a certain way. That was my experience of learning ancient Greek: suddenly syntax makes sense, you learn what cases are—even though it seems we don’t have them in English but we actually do. It was a learning curve for me in my own language, as much as it was about learning another language.

It gave me access to all these texts and to all this historical evidence for me to think about patterns in history and causality and causation and time and all these big concepts. It was everything all together, at one time.

Did you find Latin a lot easier than Greek?

I suppose if I’d done Latin first, Latin would have been harder. They’re both still challenging languages for sure. For anyone who’s had a crack at learning either one or both, in whichever order, you know the challenges that come along with it. But it was definitely easier learning Latin after having broached the concepts that exist in Latin, which also exist in Greek, and doing those first by learning Greek.

A lot of people often, incidentally or on purpose, do it the other way around and use Latin as a way into Greek, if nothing else just because in Latin at least the alphabet is the same. Some see the alphabet as a barrier to entry for Greek and that’s why they’re a bit hesitant to go Greek first. But why not?

I think we should just dwell on the alphabet for a second. I think it puts off people way more than it should. If you set a day aside to learn it, you’re sorted, aren’t you?

Absolutely. A lot of the letters look very, very similar and the sounds are the same. If you set a day aside to learn the alphabet, then you’ve got it in hand. I remember in my first lesson at university learning ancient Greek, it wasn’t so much a day that was set aside as 48 seconds. ‘There are this many letters in the alphabet, this is what this means, this is how this sounds. Great, let’s begin reading shall we?’ So a day will be plenty.

How long before you could read your first Greek text that hadn’t been abridged?

It was about nine, ten months. It’s definitely possible in that time.

So on to your first book. Where should people get started?

I think a really good place to start is with a seemingly formal textbook. It’s called Reading Greek and it’s published by Cambridge University Press. The revised edition of this textbook is very informal and very accessible. It introduces you, step by step, to each part of speech and each concept of the language, at a very manageable speed. And, most importantly—and I think this is the great triumph of the book—it’s in a very accessible order as well.

It’s not the kind of textbook or learning experience where they throw every single minute detail about this particular verb or about this particular grammatical construction at you at one time and say, ‘Right, master all that’ and then move on to the next one.

They introduce one very accessible part of a verb, or a noun, or a concept, or a grammatical construction and say ‘Right, okay, it won’t take you long to master that. Master that, and now we’ll give you the next part.’ So you build up your mastery of the language very much block-by-block, step-by-step. You feel very comfortable moving on to the next block or having it revealed to you what the next form is to learn because it’s not overwhelming in its detail.

When was it written?

So the first version of this textbook was published in, I think, 1978.

Okay, so the reason I ask is that the 1970s, it’s a bit post-hippy culture, but what I’m associating that era with, in terms of language learning, is not rote learning. I have to put my cards on the table, I’m a big fan of rote learning. I think you have to go through the pain. Tell me, does this book encourage rote learning?

It doesn’t make it the frontline of learning. But inevitably, it must be part of it. You can’t learn any language without a bit of rote learning, that’s for sure.

So it doesn’t pretend that you don’t have to?

No, it definitely doesn’t mask the hard bits of learning ancient Greek by any means. But, at the same time, it doesn’t inflate how hard they are. In fact, it cushions the blow of how hard they are by the way that it introduces you to each new block in turn. You can’t get around rote learning, it’s just one of those things. But it pairs the inevitable rote learning with the right way of explaining concepts.

Obviously people’s problem with rote learning is that it’s desperately dull, but I would say learning Latin or Greek is a desperately dull enterprise. But one great antidote to that dullness is that quite quickly you can be introduced to readings and not just readings, but salacious readings. I had a quick look and I noticed that this book doesn’t shy away from saucy or controversial material. They’re interested in introducing you to readings that are entertaining, even when really, on the sly, they’re trying to persuade you to learn the aorist.

That’s a brilliant observation. They do smuggle in the harder tenses under the guise of salacious jokes.

And he’s got quite a good authorial voice. He’s a bit sarcastic, isn’t he, about some of the challenges he sets you? Which I like. You feel the writer is a friend.

Absolutely. Ultimately you feel there’s a person on the other side of the book. Particularly when it gets hard—as learning any difficult thing does—it’s strangely comforting to know that a human person sat down and wrote this and thought about you and how easy or difficult you might find the material when they were arranging it for you. It’s a very pleasant experience.

To your next book. In some ways, I see this as a duplication of the Cambridge book. Why have you put another book that seems pretty similar on your list?

I’ve put this book on the list because people learn in different ways and there are some people out there, some may call them masochists—I would not—who very much like to know every single thing about a concept or if we’ve talking about language, about linguistic forms or about parts of speech or syntax or grammatical constructions.

They want to know everything about it right then, no matter how detailed or complicated it is; to have it dispensed all at one time, so that they can situate themselves in that landscape of all that material and arrange that for themselves before moving on to the next new thing. So this book is another textbook and it’s by Donald Mastronarde. It’s called Introduction to Attic Greek, and it’s published by Berkeley. It’s published significantly later than the first version of Reading Greek: it was published in 1993. And it says in the preface that it’s aimed at, if not university students, then students or potential learners of ancient Greek who feel very confident in their ability and want to get up to speed quickly.

Potentially this is a really good option for people who have some previous experience with other languages that are not their first language. I’d say particularly if you already have some exposure to Latin, this book is a good choice. Because ultimately, whether it’s Latin or a modern romance language, or German or any other language that has formal cases—that’s inflected—you’ve already been introduced to the concepts which are the bedrock of these languages as they’re taught. For that reason Mastronarde’s Introduction to Attic Greek would be an extremely good option for you.

So with no further ado, I’m going to move on to the next book because we’re now getting to the meat-and-potato content. These are original texts. You obviously believe in going straight from learning the rules to reading original texts pretty quickly, because over half of your books are legitimate classical, Hellenistic authors. Do you think that we need to memorise a lot of the rules in your first two books before reading these books? Or are these books almost companions to the grammar books that you’ve cited? . . .

Continue reading.

A story from my college days, which I’ve told before but still enjoy. At St. John’s College (Annapolis MD (my alma mater) and Santa Fe NM), the first-year language tutorial is Greek, mostly Attic Greek. Entering freshmen were told to learn the Greek alphabet before showing up, and generally the first thing done in the first tutorial meeting is having the students write down the Greek alphabet. In one tutorial, the students were told to write down the alphabet, and they busily got to work scribbling, except for one student who was hesitating and finally asked, “Do you want this in any particular order?”

Written by LeisureGuy

4 May 2018 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Education

Why we should bulldoze the business school

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Martin Parker writes in the Guardian:

Visit the average university campus and it is likely that the newest and most ostentatious building will be occupied by the business school. The business school has the best building because it makes the biggest profits (or, euphemistically, “contribution” or “surplus”) – as you might expect, from a form of knowledge that teaches people how to make profits.

Business schools have huge influence, yet they are also widely regarded to be intellectually fraudulent places, fostering a culture of short-termism and greed. (There is a whole genre of jokes about what MBA – Master of Business Administration – really stands for: “Mediocre But Arrogant”, “Management by Accident”, “More Bad Advice”, “Master Bullshit Artist” and so on.) Critics of business schools come in many shapes and sizes: employers complain that graduates lack practical skills, conservative voices scorn the arriviste MBA, Europeans moan about Americanisation, radicals wail about the concentration of power in the hands of the running dogs of capital. Since 2008, many commentators have also suggested that business schools were complicit in producing the crash.

Having taught in business schools for 20 years, I have come to believe that the best solution to these problems is to shut down business schools altogether. This is not a typical view among my colleagues. Even so, it is remarkable just how much criticism of business schools over the past decade has come from inside the schools themselves. Many business school professors, particularly in north America, have argued that their institutions have gone horribly astray. B-schools have been corrupted, they say, by deans following the money, teachers giving the punters what they want, researchers pumping out paint-by-numbers papers for journals that no one reads and students expecting a qualification in return for their cash (or, more likely, their parents’ cash). At the end of it all, most business-school graduates won’t become high-level managers anyway, just precarious cubicle drones in anonymous office blocks.

These are not complaints from professors of sociology, state policymakers or even outraged anti-capitalist activists. These are views in books written by insiders, by employees of business schools who themselves feel some sense of disquiet or even disgust at what they are getting up to. Of course, these dissenting views are still those of a minority. Most work within business schools is blithely unconcerned with any expression of doubt, participants being too busy oiling the wheels to worry about where the engine is going. Still, this internal criticism is loud and significant.

The problem is that these insiders’ dissent has become so thoroughly institutionalised within the well-carpeted corridors that it now passes unremarked, just an everyday counterpoint to business as usual. Careers are made by wailing loudly in books and papers about the problems with business schools. The business school has been described by two insiders as “a cancerous machine spewing out sick and irrelevant detritus”. Even titles such as Against Management, Fucking Management and The Greedy Bastard’s Guide to Business appear not to cause any particular difficulties for their authors. I know this, because I wrote the first two. Frankly, the idea that I was permitted to get away with this speaks volumes about the extent to which this sort of criticism means anything very much at all. In fact, it is rewarded, because the fact that I publish is more important than what I publish.

Most solutions to the problem of the B-school shy away from radical restructuring, and instead tend to suggest a return to supposedly more traditional business practices, or a form of moral rearmament decorated with terms such as “responsibility” and “ethics”. All of these suggestions leave the basic problem untouched, that the business school only teaches one form of organising – market managerialism.

That’s why I think that we should call in the bulldozers and demand an entirely new way of thinking about management, business and markets. If we want those in power to become more responsible, then we must stop teaching students that heroic transformational leaders are the answer to every problem, or that the purpose of learning about taxation laws is to evade taxation, or that creating new desires is the purpose of marketing. In every case, the business school acts as an apologist, selling ideology as if it were science.

Universities have been around for a millenium, but the vast majority of business schools only came into existence in the last century. Despite loud and continual claims that they were a US invention, the first was probably the École Supérieure de Commerce de Paris, founded in 1819 as a privately funded attempt to produce a grande école for business. A century later, hundreds of business schools had popped up across Europe and the US, and from the 1950s onwards, they began to grow rapidly in other parts of the world.

In 2011, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business estimated that there were then nearly 13,000 business schools in the world. India alone is estimated to have 3,000 private schools of business. Pause for a moment, and consider that figure. Think about the huge numbers of people employed by those institutions, about the armies of graduates marching out with business degrees, about the gigantic sums of money circulating in the name of business education. (In 2013, the top 20 US MBA programmes already charged at least $100,000 (£72,000). At the time of writing, London Business School is advertising a tuition fee of £84,500 for its MBA.) No wonder that the bandwagon keeps rolling.

For the most part, business schools all assume a similar form. The architecture is generic modern – glass, panel, brick. Outside, there’s some expensive signage offering an inoffensive logo, probably in blue, probably with a square on it. The door opens, automatically. Inside, there’s a female receptionist dressed office-smart. Some abstract art hangs on the walls, and perhaps a banner or two with some hopeful assertions: “We mean business.” “Teaching and Research for Impact.” A big screen will hang somewhere over the lobby, running a Bloomberg news ticker and advertising visiting speakers and talks about preparing your CV. Shiny marketing leaflets sit in dispensing racks, with images of a diverse tableau of open-faced students on the cover. On the leaflets, you can find an alphabet of mastery: MBA, MSc Management, MSc Accounting, MSc Management and Accounting, MSc Marketing, MSc International Business, MSc Operations Management.

There will be plush lecture theatres with thick carpet, perhaps named after companies or personal donors. The lectern bears the logo of the business school. In fact, pretty much everything bears the weight of the logo, like someone who worries their possessions might get stolen and so marks them with their name. Unlike some of the shabby buildings in other parts of the university, the business school tries hard to project efficiency and confidence. The business school knows what it is doing and has its well-scrubbed face aimed firmly at the busy future. It cares about what people think of it.

Even if the reality isn’t always as shiny – if . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 April 2018 at 12:33 pm

Free Yale on-line course: “The Science of Well-Being” (i.e., happiness)

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Looks interesting, and it’s free. I’m in.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

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