Thursday 1 March 2012

Midweek update: TCP, Student strikes

This morning I had a great idea.  I was going to do a video update instead of a regular blog post.  I can speak so much faster than I can type, so if I do a video it'll take less time and be more interesting, right?


After about an hour of takes and re-takes and not really liking how I was speaking or how the video was coming out, I decided that I didn't have that much that was interesting to say anyway and went back to writing.

On student strikes

More people at school have been asking me about the Montreal student strikes, so I feel it's important just to put up a quick note about them.

The most common argument for raising tuition that I hear is that it would allow the universities to get better services and would let students pay their fair share. Tuition has been frozen forever and students are greedy and complaining for no reason. After all, tuition is higher in other provinces and in the USA.

The best argument I've heard for freezing tuition is that education should be a public service, not a consumer service.  If we treat education as a public service, we recognize that it benefits society as a whole and the government should work to reduce barriers to entry, in order to ensure a well-educated society that can compete on a global stage.  Given that in the marketplace a bachelor's degree is treated now like a high-school degree used to be, it's less of a luxury and more of a necessity and should be funded accordingly.

Nevertheless I don't think education should be free.  For better or for worse, people value what they pay for, and what they're invested in. Just compare the seriousness of high school students with CEGEP or university students to understand what I mean.

I personally think that student strikes are a symptom of a deeper problem that's hard to put into words. By and large the education system is not meeting the needs of students or the larger society that supports them. The issue at hand is education reform, and the whole system from elementary to post-doc is so established and in-grown that it's difficult to do. But what needs to be asked is "what are the goals of the system? What should they be? What are the needs of students and society? How can we structure the system to meet those needs?"

From the crowd's perspective, they will speak to where it hurts - rising fees, lower prospective opportunities. Hence student strikes. And that's what I have to say about that.

The Carnegie Project update

As many of you know, I'm reading through Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, one chapter per week, and writing my reflections on it.  Thanks for following along.

One thing I really appreciate about this book, is that the chapters are simply stories from people's lives, short anecdotes about how the principle applies.  It's a light read.

Previous Principles

Part A: Fundamental techniques in handling people

1. Don't criticize, condemn or complain

2. Give honest and sincere appreciation

3. Frame things in terms of what other people want

Part B: Six ways to make people like you

4. Become genuinely interested in other people

As I anticipated, one of the drawbacks is encountering people who have been starved for attention for a while.  I found it very difficult with a few people from whom I got a sense that they only talked to me when they wanted something. I felt that attempting to become more interested would only encourage this behaviour.  Though perhaps the solution is just to be upfront about how I feel about them.  It's hard though, when you can't get a word in edgewise.

This week's principle

5. Smile

General idea:  
  • This gives people a very positive first impression of you
  • Your own attitude is connected to your face: If you smile more you feel happier
  • People will be more receptive of you if you smile more
It's easier to do business with a smiley face than a frowny face, and it's easier to like someone who genuinely smiles a lot. Apparently if you smile more your brain starts thinking that you must be happy and it can lighten your mood.

I've done a bit of research, however and determined that not all smiles are treated equally. Here is a short guide for the uninitiated:

Not a smile.  Just .. no.

Good smile.

A bit too much - looks patronizing


Since reading this chapter, I've been trying to smile whenever I become aware that I'm not smiling.  I'm not sure if that will affect my mood as they claim or not, but I'll let you know next week.


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