LO in Higher Ed LO7564

Rol Fessenden (76234.3636@CompuServe.COM)
22 May 96 23:48:25 EDT

Replying to LO7516 --

James Needham presents a list of criticisms of college graduates, and then

*Are these valid criticisms ?
*If so, who is responsible for these shortcomings?
*Do those deemed responsible realize that they are being held
*If so, do they accept this responsibility?
*If so, are they taking effective corrective action?


Speaking for myself, and based on working in educational reform and based
on hiring college graduates, the answer to the first question is yes.

Responsibility resides throughout society. Every single teacher, every
single adult contact of a child has an impact. We need to change
fundamental values.

A 22-year old comes to work. He or she does not dare ask questions
because a) he do not want to expose what he does not know, and b) he does
not want to appear too curious/uncool. Where did he learn this? The whole
pass-fail approach to education builds this in. Giving the wrong answer
is bad. Giving no answer is neutral. Choosing between those two, you
will choose to give no answer every time. But he also observed his
parents not asking questions. We do not challenge the doctor, for
example, to explain something so we can understand it. We leave not fully
understanding, but being too intimidated to do anything about it.

Now, I hire people to be analysts. If I give this person a problem, he
needs to do 5 things to succeed. Understand the business problem, and
translate it into a meaningful mathematical problem that can be solved.
Gather data, and solve the mathematical problem. Test the solution for
reasonableness -- is it reasonably correct -- and for sensitivity -- is
+/- 50% o, or +/- 5%. Translate the solution back into business terms and
provide a recommendation on how to approach the business problem. Finally
communicate the situation effectively.

Approximately 80% of these people can only do one of the 5 things
adequately. Gather data and solve a mathematical problem. They do the
other 4 tasks incorrectly or not at all. Many times they are unable to
translate the business problem into a mathematical problem. I am
constantly astounded at the number of people who -- even with explicit
direction -- are unable to test for reasonableness, and in the absence of
explicit direction, will never to think to do it. They can provide
answers to the mathematical solution, but they cannot translate that back
into a business context. And they cannot communicate effectively.

One reason they cannot translate the business problem into a mathematical
one is that they are unable to ask penetrating questions, even if they
have some. Fear. Fear not learned in the business environment, fear
learned long before they arrived on my doorsteep. A second reason is that
they do not know how to operate in a team environment. They do not
understand that seeking help and more information from others is a
positive, not negative, activity. They have learned to solve problems by
themselves, and they have learned that all the needed information is
always included in the problem statement. Flawed learnings in both cases.

Teachers are among those who have some responsibility. College professors
are also among those with responsibility. By and large -- some exceptions
-- college professors are so insulated from the needs of the real world,
that they feel no need to be responsive to that world.

Many teachers will claim that preparing kids for work is somehow not part
of their responsibility, and therefore they feel no need to respond to
this need either. I would argue that the skills I described above are not
uniquely needed in business, but are valuable skills to have in life
period. The fact that kids do not have them is therefore a very serious
reflection on their k-12 and college training.

Does this relate to your questions?


Rol Fessenden LL Bean, Inc. 76234.3636@compuserve.com

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>