Friday, June 25, 2010

The Latest Example of Reverse Discrimination

I continue to shake my head. What are we doing?!

Today, a client who is a communications director for a prominent nonprofit told me this story. (This is a pretty close paraphrase:)

"We have three communications directors. One slot is reserved for minorities. So we hire this Latino guy. It turns out he has a Latino-sounding name but really, he's Russian. He turns out to be a total failure but we end up having to keep him because we had had to get rid of another minority manager six months ago and our organization's Diversity Committee would give us hell if we fired him. So we hired someone to train him, which cost us (and ultimately the sick people we're trying to serve) a fortune. After a year, we gave up. It was hopeless and we fired him and his trainer. Now we're looking for another person of color."

I am aware that this story would be so much more credible if I could list names and the organization but there's no way I'd even ask my client for permission. He'd lose his job faster than you can say General McChrystal. Of course, the only reason I get to hear these stories is that the client-counselor relationship guarantees confidentiality.

Please, dear reader, where possible, think in terms of the largest perspective: Ask yourself whether reverse discrimination is a net positive or a net negative:
  • in terms of the quality of the goods and services we receive
  • with regard to the injustice of more competent people not getting hired or promoted because they are of the wrong ethnic group
  • in light of the prejudice that fully qualified minorities face because we know that many positions are filled as the result of reverse discrimination. Be honest with yourself: When you, for example, see a Black physician or that a Latino student was admitted to UCLA, do you not think they well might have not been selected if it weren't for their ethnicity and perhaps pushed through, and/or had low grades, and thus are likely to be less competent?
  • And perhaps most lofty, ask yourself whether, in terms of the great universal principles of justice, in 2010, after 50 years of affirmative action, 145 years since slavery ended, in light of some minorities (Asians) doing well despite no reverse discrimination, is yet more years of reverse discrimination cosmically right?

The "Dream Act" Would be a Nightmare

The so-called "Dream Act" would allow illegal immigrants to attend our most prestigious universities, and at in-state tuition. For reasons, I explain below, it would bring great, great, net harm.

I received a spam advocating the Dream Act from Mohammad Abdollahi, co-founder of Here are the operative excerpts: "Over the last year we have made great gains fighting for the DREAM Act. We have managed to convince 40 senators and 124 representatives to co-sponsor it... We know you are all ready to fight for three days of escalating action: Mass DREAM Mobilization to show our collective power in demanding the movement of the DREAM Act in congress. Actions include lobbying, graduation ceremony, a DREAM concert, multiple rallies and more."

Here is the letter I wrote in response:

Dear Mohammad,

Ultimately, the so-called Dream Act will do more harm than good. Because there are limited slots at prestigious colleges, the "Dream Act" would deny admission to students with higher grades, test scores, English-speaking skills and, in turn, greater potential to solve societal problems. For what purpose? So colleges can admit students with worse grades, test scores, and English-speaking skills? That, of course, would occur because of the defacto reverse-discrimination admission policies, especially at our prestigious universities.

In addition, you will have increased enmity against immigrants among the students and their parents of legal residents (who pay for much of the cost of public AND private universities) who will have been denied admission, for example, to Harvard, Michigan, etc, so that a child of someone in the country illegally could attend--at in-state rates. Imagine how a legal resident of Arizona would feel who applied to Berkeley or UCLA with A grades and 1200 SAT scores--They would likely be rejected in favor of an illegal immigrant with worse grades in a less rigorous curriculum and with lower test scores. And to put salt in the wound, even if that legal resident is admitted, s/he would be forced to pay the exorbitant out-of-state tuition whereas the illegal immigrant would pay in-state tuition.

Think of the anger (perhaps not expressed in public for fear of being labeled a racist) such a policy would engender, in the student, the parents, and all their friends, when they recount the impacts of the "Dream Act." Think of how much resentment toward minorities would increase.

Mohammad, can you not think of a more fruitful cause to advocate for? For example, if you're interested in helping immigrants, why not spearhead an English tutoring program for legal immigrants. My parents are first-generation immigrants and their having perseveringly focused on becoming fluent in English was key to their achieving a measure of success--They ended up making a middle-class living and I grew up in a decent apartment in Flushing, Queens, NY.

I hope you find this letter worth the time I took to write it.

Wishing you well,

Marty Nemko

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Beginning of Men

Imagine a world without men. You wouldn't be able to read this: no computer, no computer screen, no Google, no Blogger, and no this blogger. Probably no chair you're sitting on, no air conditioner/heater that's making you comfortable in your room. For that matter, you wouldn't have a room--It and its materials were likely developed and installed by men: from the sub-floor to the roof. So are the penicillin that cured your venereal disease, the birth control pill that kept you from getting pregnant, the refrigerator that kept your baby's formula and your food fresh, the car that gives you freedom or the mass transit environmentalists prefer. Beyond necessities, men have given us information transmitters from the printing press to the television to the iPhone to the aforementioned Google, wisdom from Plato and Aristotle to Kant and Wittgenstein, Victor Davis Hanson to Christopher Hitchens. And let's not forget our revered Barack Obama. And lest all work and no play make dull boys and girls, men have given us entertainment from Shakespeare to Spielberg, Beethoven to Basie to the Beatles to Bono, Rembrandt to Rothko. You couldn't even defecate without men: What percentage of toilets would you guess were built, installed, and repaired, not to mention sewer lines cleaned out, by women? No less than lesbian feminist, Camille Paglia, wrote, "If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts." Here's a video that makes that point

Yet over the past 50 years, as a horrible side effect of the appropriate increase in women's opportunities, there has been an accelerating effort to diminish men. Indeed, the oppressed have become the oppressor. Previous posts have cited many examples but a few recent manifestations of that acceleration include President Clinton's Press Secretary Dede Myers', "Why Women Should Rule the World." and "New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's bestseller, "Are Men Necessary?"

But a recent and most troubling example is the The Atlantic Monthly's 2010 annual ideas issue. Picador-timed to anger the bull, it was released just before Father's Day. (Can you imagine a mom-bashing cover story preceding Mother's Day?) One of its stories: Are Fathers Necessary? by Pamela Paul. Despite a rich research literature demonstrating the importance of fathers, for example, this report from the federal government's Children's Bureau, based on merely one journal article, the author concludes that kids may well be better off raised by a single mother and even better by a lesbian couple than by a father. To make such an assertion is a head-shaker but to have such an assertion based on such flimsy evidence published in one of the nation's most prestigious magazines speaks to the pervasiveness of the accelerating chic of unjustified male bashing.

Remarkably, the Atlantic cover story (see picture above) goes even further. And perhaps not surprising, it is The Washington Post's "Story Pick." Its title: "The End of Men." Its core contention: men are better suited for the Neanderthal Era or at least the Industrial Revolution age--brawn and individual testosterone-poisoned competition. The article argues that today's success requires the woman's touch: collaborative, intelligent, reflective. And to think, all of the aforementioned modern discoveries were created by butt-scratching, hyperactive, cognitively crippled troglodytes without benefit of women's wonders.

The problem is that the male-bashing not only dispirits the intellectual men who read publications such as The Atlantic. Average men and boys receive an ever accelerating diet of male as boorish, sleazy idiot shown the way by wise women. We're in our seventh decade of man-as-oaf media: from Ralph Kramden to Homer Simpson. Even in the majority-male Superbowl audience, commercials present man as cretin: hopelessly impotent men who are literally in the doghouse, cowed by their woman master. Or they're mumbling supplicants begging for a woman judge's charity. Lest you think I'm cherry-picking, watch commercials: How often is the man superior to the woman?

Twenty-five years ago, when I began helping people choose their career, both sexes were equally optimistic about their future. Today, most of my female clients correctly believe the world is their oyster (except at the C-level, at which few women are willing to work the 70-hour weeks and move their families across the country to get the necessary promotions.) And my male clients are disproportionately despondent and/or angry--and not going to college. In 1960: the male:female ratio of college degree holders was 61:39. Today, in an era in which a college degree has become a virtual necessity, a mere hunting license for most decent employment, the ratio is 41:59 and projected to be 39:61 by 2020. (Source, U.S. Dept of Education, IES, 2009.) The male unemployment rate is now 20% higher than for women. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.) For the same work (in quantity and quality) women, on average earn the same as men. Indeed, even the article, "The End of Men" points out that among Fortune 500 CEOs, women earn 40% more than do their male counterparts. And in the ultimate example of the pendulum having swung too far, despite men living 5.2 years shorter, most gender-specific medical research and outreach, for the last 50 years(!) has been spent on women. Since 1920, the average lifespan advantage of women has grown 400%! While, of course, one can point to examples of unfairness to women, it's simply dishonest to assert that today, men, on balance, have an unfair advantage.

The world is better when both sexes are valued. For every wife-beating, customer-cheating, sexual harassing guy, there's at least one ethical man, working hard to be productive and to support himself and his family. For every manipulative, hormonally crazed, girls-just-want-to-have-fun woman, there's at least one woman diligently striving to have it all: career, family, and a personal life. Good people all. People with real potential to make a better society for all.

Perhaps it might surprise the author of "The End of Men," Hanna Rosin, who overreachingly wrote that men's rights groups have an "angry, anti-woman edge," this head of a men's rights group, The National Organization for Men and my co-president, Dr. Warren Farrell, per our mission statement of advocating for fair treatment of men and women, believe it's time for a truce, one that's fair to both sexes:

1. We should end the gender-bashing, male or female, in the schools, colleges, and media, for example, statements that Rosin makes in her Atlantic cover story such as that men are "women's new ball and chain." and "Maybe...(male) DNA is shifting. Maybe they’re like those frogs—they’re more vulnerable or something, so they’ve gotten deformed.”

2. It's time to end intentional discrimination against both women and men: If we are to be honest with ourselves, isn't it time to stop:
  • giving women preferences in Small Business Administration female-set-aside loans,
  • requiring only males to register for the draft and to serve in direct combat (99% of US. deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been men)
  • women but not men allowed to have caucuses in corporations and government to facilitate women's advancement
  • having many social-service programs just for women, almost none for men
  • having "targets," virtual quotas for women hired but not for men
  • having female-set-aside scholarships but not for men
  • Women's networking and other organizations encouraged while such men's organizations called sexist with calls for the being disbanded.
  • and perhaps most important to the next generation, a school system that has replaced boy-friendly competition with girl-centric collaboration, boy-friendly adventure stories, with soporific-to-boys tales of girl relationships, and history textbooks disproportionately extolling women from Sacajawea and Pocahontas to Simone DeBouvier and Sally Ride while sparing no pages to pound home the evils of white men from Hannibal to Hitler, Joe McCarthy to Timothy McVeigh, and perhaps worst of all, an insistence on ever more seatwork, which when active boys can't endure, are put on a Ritalin leash at a ratio of eight boys for every one girl.
3. To the extent that men could use better communication and processing skills and more modern, collaborative leadership styles to accompany the more goal-oriented individualistic ones, instead of dismissing such men as unable to communicate, let our schools, colleges, and workplaces offer such trainings.

4. We appropriately celebrate women having options other than being a stay-at-home mom. Women absolutely should have the right to, on the merits, compete for jobs from carpenter to CEO. But we must now legitimate the full range of options for men: from at least short-term stay-at-home father to 80-hour-a-week scientist. The latter should not be pathologized as a "workaholic" but revered as a hard-working contributor to society. This should be the era of the multi-option man as well as of the multi-option woman.

5. It's time for serious Men's Studies programs at universities that aren't merely a male-bashing accompaninent to female-extolling women's studies program.

6. Is it not appropriate to pay due homage to men?: who do so many of the yucky jobs women won't do (from rodent remover to roofer) invent the things that women would likely not have invented. Should we not honor the contributions fathers make to parenting. for example, they often balance many mothers' tendency to not enforce limits. They often leaven mothers' protective instinct by encouraging reasonable (okay, occasionally not so reasonable) risk-taking. Here's to fathers and to, not the end of men but to the new Beginning of Men: the fairly treated, multi-option man.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Case for Being Child-Free

This is a precis of the MacCleans magazine article, "The Case Against Having Kids." with my thoughts interspersed.

Having kids is overrated:
  • Having kids is a career killer. Any honest parent will acknowledge that they devote less time and energy to work after becoming parents. Employers know it too, so they're less likely to hire and promote parents, especially moms because they, on average, want to spend more time with the children, self-efficacy inhibiting helicopter mom or not. The term "mommy track" exists for a reason.
  • Having kids burdens coworkers. When a parent says she wants to leave work early to see her kid's soccer game or drive her to ballet, let alone take the 12 weeks per year of allowed Family and Marriage Leave, her child-free coworkers must often pick up the slack. So child-free workers subsidize "the breeders," as author of No Kids: 40 Good Reasons to Not Have Children, Corinne Maier calls them.
  • Having kids is a relationship killer. It stresses a marriage, dampens sex life, and impedes friendships both because of unavailability and because parenthood tends to turn one into a one-track-mind bore: it's all about the kids. Many moms admit that being a parent "turned my brain into mush."
  • Having kids is anti-environmental. Greenies assert that overpopulation in developed nations is the #1 environmental problem. British journalist Polly Vernon writes, "Spare me the pretensions of martyrdom and selflessness. There’s nothing selfless about having a baby. “You really want to be selfless? Adopt."
  • Having kids often means giving up on yourself. Maier writes, “Children are often used as an excuse for giving up on life without really trying. It takes real courage to say ‘Me first.'"
  • Kids aren't as reliably a source of joy as is advertised. Maier calls labor, “torture,” and breastfeeding “slavery.” Even the best kids are wildly difficult, especially birth to two. And large percentages of kids get more difficult as they get older: trouble with school, drugs, pregnancy, and the common "I Hate You!" syndrome, which only sometimes ends after adolescence.
Many parents count on their children to take care of them in their old age. In fact, so many kids are estranged from their parents. I know more than a few adult children who'd like to see their parents dead.

Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, reports that childless marriages are happier and that people derive more satisfaction from eating, exercising, shopping, napping, or watching television than taking care of their kids: “Looking after the kids appears to be only slightly more pleasant than doing housework." Ann Landers famously asked readers: “If you had it to do over again, would you have children?” Seventy per cent of respondents said “no.
  • Having kids wastes education. For example, women now represent half of medical students yet most women physicians who have children work part-time if at all. With the shortage of doctors, that means that patients are dying or staying sicker longer because of the lack of doctors. If medical schools considered applicant's likelihood of having children, many lives would be saved. But fear of women's groups' ire precludes that.
  • Having kids is wildly expensive. It costs an average American $500,000 per child, not counting college. Maier describes kids as "money pits."
So it's not surprising that in today's era in which more women have rich career and avocational lives and so needn't rely on children as their life's main reward, the U.S. National Center of Health Statistics reports that the number of American women of childbearing age who define themselves as child-free is up 50% since 1982. And the more educated the woman, the more likely a woman is to choose to be child-free.

Maier advises, "If you really want to be host to a parasite, get a gigolo.”

The book I think is best on being child-free is Two is Enough: A Couple's Guide to Living Childless by Choice.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Blueprint for Reinventing Education

I've just written an article, A Blueprint for Reinventing Education. It will appear as a cover story in the August issue of Mensa's national magazine. I thought you might enjoy an advance look: Click HERE.

There's still time for me to change it, so I welcome your comments.

Friday, June 4, 2010

America 2.0: What Happens After America's Decline and Fall?

I have a client in Shanghai, a landscape architect. Like many of his colleagues there, he works from 9 AM to midnight most days--virtually all their waking hours. To encourage that, the employer houses the workers on-site in one-room "apartments" (more like a dorm room) and feeds them cafeteria-style.

That reminds me of the extraordinary work ethic of the Asian students at my alma mater, U.C. Berkeley. As much as Berkeley students normally resist stereotyping, it's widely acknowledged that most of the Asian students work much harder than the other students.

Meanwhile, America, in its attempt to be a kind nation, is making decision after decision to redistribute resources from those with the greatest potential to create jobs and thereby stimulate the economy, to those with the least. For example, the government continues to take our tax dollars, print money, and borrow from China, endangering our children's and our nation's future, to pay for, for instance:
  • Extending unemployment payments, a not insubstantial amount (about $2,000 a month in large states), to a remarkable 99 weeks, which so encourages people to not look for jobs. (Nearly all my clients who are on unemployment say they wait until it's about to run out before they'll look for a job.) In responding to today's jobs report in which the private sector created almost no jobs (the job growth was mainly government temporary census workers) President Obama is calling for even more money to give to the unemployed.
  • Prop up companies that make inferior cars.
  • Wage wars and build nation-states in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Aid countless poor countries.
  • Not only condones but financially supports uncontrolled illegal immigration: largely poor, uneducated people from an agrarian society, unscreened for criminality, diseases, etc. For example, public schools are not allowed to ask parents whether they're here legally. The toll on the schools is tremendous: unprecedentedly large numbers of non-English-speaking students from poor backgrounds descending upon the schools, with their advocates insisting they be taught in the same classes as native speakers, which forces dumbing down of instruction. And the proposed "Dream Act," would enable illegal immigrants to attend our most prestigious public universities at in-state tuition. Because of reverse discrimination admission policies, that would mean that, for example, many legal residents of Arizona with an excellent high-school record and willing to pay the high out-of-state tuition, would likely be rejected from UCLA or Berkeley so an illegal with a worse high-school record could be admitted and allowed to pay only the low in-state tuition, and likely receive all sorts of scholarships and financial aid to boot. And now, when President Obama fulfills his promise of comprehensive immigration reform/amnesty, the illegals will qualify for ObamaCare and because most immigrants and their family members' income are low, they'll have their health care paid for by the taxpayer and will additionally overwhelm our health care system.
Ironic that America's kindness will be a major source of its demise.

Activists tout diversity as a strength. As I've seen it play out in workplaces and schools, it's a net weakness. Companies spend billions of dollars to manage diversity, this supposed strength. And among my career counseling clients, I almost never hear them discuss their workplace's diversity as a strength but often as a weakness: "All the Filipinos hang out by themselves and talk in Tagalog," The Black manager lets the Black employees get away with stuff they'd never let the white employees get away with." "I hate the Asians. They have no work-life balance and make us all look bad." "They don't speak English. I can't understand them and they can't understand me."

Perhaps the most powerful factor that will reduce America to third-world status is the gap between its middle 75% of its population versus that of countries like China and India. Those countries have a deep bench. Compare the Chinese or Indian average person, where hard work, science, technology, and entrepreneurship are core. Compare that with America's 225 million people in our middle 75%. I do not have statistics, but visits to average classes in average high schools and colleges and conversations with average people (for example, while waiting in line at supermarkets, the Department of Motor Vehicles, etc) let's just say, do not inspire optimism.

I am aware that America retains strengths, for example, it tends to value creativity, its women and minorities have opportunities, its universities produce top research (along with a lot of junk,) it offers strong consumer and worker protections. (Although the latter makes it very expensive to hire employees in the U.S., which encourages offshoring.) The U.S. still is the hub of the world's financial, biotechnology, and entertainment industries.

I am also aware of China''s and India's weaknesses, for example, an out-of-balance work ethic, an aging population, water supply problems, pollution, religious extremism (India), and a perhaps excessively conformist mindset.

But, net, I am convinced that we are seeing America's sunset and the Indo-China Empire's sunrise. All empires have their rise and fall: The Roman, The Ottoman, the British, and, I believe, now, the American.

So what do I predict for America? That we will join the world of nations as just another country, with a lower standard of living. Like residents of most countries, we will live in small apartments, drive small cars or not drive, eat more basic food, wear more basic clothes. The America of $200 jeans, $4.00 cups of coffee, and widely held mini-mansions will be over. Maybe that's a good thing, and just maybe, that will reduce the enmity that foreign terrorist groups have for the U.S.

What's an American to do? Learn that living simply doesn't mean living badly. Expect that you'll likely have long periods of un- and underemployment. To keep feeling productive, find rewarding productive, non-paying work: tutor a kid, act in a play, clean up the dog poop on your block. Constantly be nice--look for every opportunity to make the lives of those around you, including strangers, better. You may end up more contented and maybe even America 2.0 will, net, be a better place to live.

Oh, and invest in FXI, the China equivalent of the Dow-Jones Industrial Average.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another NY Times article questioning college's value

This is the third NY Times piece in just the last two weeks to cast serious questions about whether college is worth it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Extraordinary Job Search Tactics for Extraordinary Times

Today, if you're looking for a decent job, it's rarely enough to just write a good resume and cover letter, and interview well.

Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. Here are some:

Buy Google AdWords for the names of bosses you want to work for. Like most of us, your target bosses probably like to google themselves frequently. Imagine if they saw a sponsored ad from you saying, "Isn't googling yourself fun? So's hiring me. (insert a link to your LinkedIn profile or website.)

Rewrite the job description in your image. Often, in reading a job description, you can tell that the employer isn't quite sure what s/he's looking for, or that it was a job description written by committee and so it includes so many requirements that Superman would be screened out.

Rewrite the job description so it seems optimal for the employer and well-suited to you. Acknowledge that your version of the job description is borne of limited knowledge of the employer but that it, at minimum, provides a sample of the way you think.

Take charge of part of the interview. This is risky; assess the vibe in the room before trying it. But especially if it seems like the employer is looking for a take-charge person, ask, for example, if you might go to the whiteboard to describe how you'd proceed if hired.

Send more than a thank-you note. For example, you might include an outline of what you'd do if hired. I recall a candidate for a sales job who sent a list of 50 prospects at government agencies he'd pitch if hired. He was hired immediately.

Have someone call on your behalf. Ask your most eloquent advocate to call (leaving voicemail is okay) the hiring manager and say something like, "I hear Joe Jones is applying for the job as VP operations. I want to let you know that I know him well and I think he'd be a magnificent hire." (insert basis for that assertion.)

If someone else got hired, call the hiring manager. Say something like, "Of course, I was disappointed that I didn't get the position. I'm confident I could have done a great job for you. But I'm not calling to ask you to reconsider, only that if for some reason the person you hired doesn't work out or another position comes open for which I might be well suited, I'd like to hear from you. I really enjoyed meeting you and would welcome working for you."