Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
As science develops ever more rapidly, it becomes ever more essential that we don't let our initial "ugh, yuk!" response prevent us from doing a reasoned analysis of proposals.
For example, Julian Savulescu, director of Oxford University's Center for Ethics, wrote, "Our fundamental cognitive abilities, physical ability, even capacity to love could be influenced by changes in human biology." In other words, if society were to allow such research to be funded, parents could eventually use gene therapy to ensure their children had high intelligence, immunity to cancer, and a loving nature.
Many people viscerally cringe at such a prospect, recalling, for example, the Nazi eugenic atrocities. Yet as with all technologies, they can be used for good or evil. The Nazis goal was extermination of all non-Aryans. Allowing parents the freedom to ensure their children are intelligent, cancer-free, and loving is vastly different. And not only would the parents and children benefit, the world would be enriched by billions of wiser, kinder people. The likely result will be fewer wars, a cure for AIDS, not to mention unimaginably amazing iPhones.
Yes, we must address issues such as "Because it will be expensive, only the rich will do it. Won't that further increase the gap between society's haves and have nots?" A reasonable question. Society would have to decide, as with all health care, whether to, like immunizations, make it affordably available to all citizens, to subsidize it for the poor, or like a Lexus, to assert that the rich should be allowed to reap the benefit of their having earned more money without having to fork over more taxes so the poor can get it too. That's a reasoned discussion, not a visceral, antiintellectual "yuk" response. Let the discussion begin.
Monday, November 22, 2010
by Eileen Toplansky
If George W. Bush had doubled the national debt in one year, would you have approved?
Sunday, November 21, 2010
To effect such a fundamental change in people's values I believe requires a program that starts nearly at birth and continues well into adulthood:
-- Parenting education (as part of LaMaze and other pre-birth parenting education--e.g,. in the post-birth hospital room), including stressing the primacy of teaching your child that ethics must trump expediency.
-- Pre-K-through-graduate school. Every year or two, students create (for example, as a term paper) a model ethics training program for slightly younger students. Such an approach immerses the students in the process, unlike in a lecture should generate minimum defensiveness, and provides an ongoing source of improved ethics courses.
There would be only three rules for that course development:
-- Its goal must be to change the fabric of a student's thinking process so s/he will almost reflexively choose ethics over expediency.
-- It must be critical-incident based, e.g., for elementary school students: bullying, for high school students: cheating, for business-school students: withholding negative information to sell a product.
Optional component: A contest for the best ethics courses. Every year, there would be winners--a la the National Science Fair or Spelling Bee.
-- To extend the ethics "curriculum" beyond the school years, producers of public-service announcement, TV dramas and sitcoms, movies and video games would be encouraged to create story lines that present thorny ethical dilemmas: for example, where expediency would yield great benefit and the ethical violation to derive that benefit is not great.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
As I've written before, physician clients admit to me that they do procedures, including surgeries, that could have more wisely been treated medically. Why? Simply to make more money.
All that ethical filth is on top of the corporate excesses, priests screwing parishioners (including children,) people lying on the resumes and income taxes, using synthetic urine to pass drug tests, and as I wrote about yesterday, hiring people to write their theses, etc., etc., etc.
A society in which integrity is lacking will be so much less than it otherwise could be.
What could help? Ethics courses have, of course, been taught for decades, especially in law and business schools, alas with only modest effectiveness. Nevertheless, my best proposal is, as I wrote yesterday, that a critical-incident-based ethics curriculum in which we feel the effects of unethical behavior on the victim, be suffused through K-16 education, including emphasizing the primacy of parents BEING ethical--No matter how much a parent urges their child to be ethical, if the parent behaves unethically, the kid will realize that the words are empty.
The message of ethics over expediency need be so woven into the fabric of all our citizens that people will reflexively, with little temptation, make the ethical choice, even if it leads to poverty.
Fortunately, ethical people are probably no more likely to end up impoverished by their integrity. They may even be rewarded for it.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The existence of such companies is, alas, not surprising, especially as times get ever tougher, because many people will do what's expedient to get into a good school, get good grades, land a job etc.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Let me get this straight . . . .
We're going to be "gifted" with a health care
plan we are forced to purchase and
fined if we don't,
which purportedly covers at least
ten million more people,
without adding a single new doctor,
but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents,
written by a committee whose chairman
says he doesn't understand it,
passed by a Congress that didn't read it but
exempted themselves from it,
and signed by a President who smokes,
with funding administered by a treasury chief who
didn't pay his taxes,
for which we'll be taxed for four years before any
benefits take effect,
by a government which has
already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare,
all to be overseen by a surgeon general
who is obese,
and financed by a country that's broke!
possibly go wrong?'
Thursday, November 11, 2010
- Hiring a resume writer is no more ethical than a high school student hiring a professional to write his or her college application essay. Imagine you were looking to hire someone, even if it was a job working with their hands. Wouldn't you appreciate being able to judge how well the applicants organize their thoughts? When an applicant hires a resume writer, s/he gets an unfair advantage--the employer sees the resume writer's thinking and communication skills, not the applicant's. Resume writing is an unethical profession.
- It's far more valid to pick a career or job based on its meeting your career's non-negotiables (e.g., primarily using words, working at home, non-profit work, whatever) than by trying to come up with some career that matches your skills, interests, values, etc. An attempt at the latter usually fails for a variety of reasons (I've written about them HERE,) whereas the former succeeds far more often.
- High school counselors and college admissions people would be far more ethical if they stopped pushing nearly every inquirer to go to college. (They feel particular pressure to do so for "underrepresented" minorities.) Instead, using success-rate statistics as available, they should help the student decide whether s/he'd most likely be successful and happy at a four-year college (which by the way, usually takes much more than four years,) two-year college transfer program, short-term community college training program, apprenticeship, on-the-job learning, or self-employment.
- Career counselors would add far more value if they did not focus on helping people find a career or land a job. Instead, they should focus on helping people succeed in the current job, and learn how to be master users of Google--a window to so much information--if you know how to time-effectively access it.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
- Freshman-to-senior average growth in critical thinking, writing, quantitative reasoning, etc. (disaggregated by high school record)
(For you statisticians out there, a variable consisting of pre-post growth embeds significant error variance, but with the large N and that variable being only one of a number of indices of college quality, the wisdom of including a measure of growth outweighs the disadvantage of a large confidence interval. And if that argument is deemed inadequate, a reasonable proxy would be to use senior scores adjusted for high school weighted GPA and SAT score.)
- The results of a recent student satisfaction survey
- Four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates (disaggregated by high school record)
- The percentage of graduates professionally employed, including average salary. (disaggregated by high school record and by major)
- The accreditation team's most recent report on the college.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
1. Per the post I just wrote, make health care provider training shorter and more practical. That would improve quality while reducing cost and increasing supply of providers.
2. Except for the truly indigent and for catastrophic health care, health care would be paid directly by the consumer. If consumers had most of the money at stake, 300 million Americans would be exerting the power of the invisible free hand of the market to drive down costs and improve quality. The good quality, cost-effective providers would succeed, the bad ones driven out of business.
3. To ensure that those consumers had the information needed to make smart choices of health care providers and procedures, there would be outstanding, easily accessible consumer information on all licensed doctors, nurses, hospitals, etc: for example, patient satisfaction (disaggregated by condition,) the provider's risk-adjusted success rates for different procedures, etc.
So what do you think of this plan?
That approach to training would not only be less expensive, time consuming, and painful, it would also increase the number of providers. That would lower their salaries and in turn our health care costs. It would also help accommodate the large number of additional people who will be getting health care under ObamaCare.
Why did the status quo of absurdly long, arduous training come into being? Do health care trainers let alone their students really believe, for example, that a physician needs organic chemistry, calculus, physics, four years of extremely demanding medical school, 100-hour-per-week internships, plus two-to-four-year residencies? The reasons for the unnecessarily demanding programs are:
- Universities like the tuition that come from longer training programs
- The programs are developed by university professors, an anomalous group of people who just love academic learning, arcana, and learning for learning's sake. So they believe, for example, that it would be nice for registered nurses to take a year of inorganic chemistry.
- The professional associations for doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, etc., favor longer training because their profession obtains more prestige. And any added requirements don't apply to existing members--they get grandfathered in, so those associations' leaders, who make the decision to require the additional training, reap the prestige benefits without having to put in any more work.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Today, I received a pitch from a college that I found particularly odious.
One of NYU's PR/marketing firms, G.S. Schwartz & Co., sent me a marketing pitch for their art business certificate (no degree) program. The teasing subject line: "Art Business a growth field for workers chasing their passions- case study available."
It turns out that the program consists only of 19 total class sessions (the approximate equivalent of one regular college course) yet costs $2,000. The pitch invited me to interview a student in the program named Dean Harmeyer who landed an internship at Christie's. (I append the NYU pitch at the end of this blog post.)
I shook my head in derision. I've had so many clients who hold far more than a mini-certificate (for example, a BFA, MFA, or MBA in art business or other similar fields) who never earn enough to pay their student loans let alone make a middle-class living using such a degree. Yet a brand-name school like NYU descends to trying to seduce students into its program using a pitch whose rigor its own professors would dismiss as utterly invalid (a cherry-picked anecdote of one student who got an internship) to make students believe they'll likely have a real arts career if they complete the program. Of course, even when I then reviewed NYU's web page for the program, there's no information on the graduation rate, let alone the percentage of graduates are earning a middle-class income in an art-related field.
It's high time we recognize that higher education is not a beneficent national treasure but just another business and an often sleazy one at that. It's time to rage against the machine, the Higher Education Machine.
Here is the pitch I received from that PR/marketing firm hired by NYU:
From:Keith Campbell [mailto:Kcampbell@schwartz.com]
Tuesday, November 02, 2010 8:33 AM
Subject: Art Business a growth field for workers chasing their passions- case study available
The current unemployment crisis has seen many American workers refocusing their career plans. In many cases, recently laid off workers are reassessing their past jobs, and whether they were in fields that they were passionate about, or just showing up to cash a paycheck. In the pursuit of their passions, many people are looking to the arts, the business side of which is a booming industry.
I would like to offer an interview with Terry Shtob, coordinating chair of the Department of Liberal Studies and Allied Arts at New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and oversees programs in Arts Business, including professional certificates in Arts Administration and Art Appraisal. Terry can discuss the opportunities open to art lovers with business skills in the field.
I can also put you in touch with Dean Harmeyer, a student in both the NYU-SCPS Art Business and Art Appraisals programs who is currently interning for Christie’s. Dean can describe his transition from the music industry, which was floundering even before the global economic crisis, to the world of art business, and how he sees the prospects much brighter in the business of fine art.
I will follow up to gauge your interest in an interview with Terry and/or Dean.
For New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies
Tel: (212)725-4500 Ext. 318