Updated: 05/08/2003; 7:53:42 AM.
My Courses and Comments from My Students

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

There is a North American problem for boys and school. Boys are doing very badly in the education system. But on PEI, we have reached a crisis.

We have the highest drop rate  for males in high school at 22.6%. Male literacy is in the basement. In 1998 82% of females could read at a level 3  compared to only 60% for boys. Way below the national average. In a 2001 survey of grade 12 - 62% of females said that they planned to attend university. Only 42% of boys made the same claim. UPEI is granting 1.8 degrees to women for every one for men. In 1998 28% of women in the 25-29 age group had degrees, in line nationally, but only 17% of men.

Anecdotally I hear that in 2003 70% of freshmen are women at UPEI. I hear that medical schools, law schools even engineering are packed with women. There have been rumblings about boys doing badly but this is surely a crisis? We surely cannot accept that it is all the boys' fault.  There is something really wrong about how we raise and school boys.

We have to have a serious look at schools and ask what is it about how we run them that turns boys off. We have to look at how we as parents raise our boys as well. How have we taken their desire to achieve away?

There have been rumblings about this issue but surely we are on such a poor track that we have to step back and apply our best efforts to re- engage the male gender in their education.

7:52:09 AM    comment []

Sunday, July 13, 2003

I am doing some OD work for a university. One of the issues confronting all universities today is a quantum increase in organizational complexity. My ingoing sense is that the mechanism's for managing complexity are poorly understood and that as maths changed at the turn of the century to take complexity into account, so we have to look for novel ways of managing complexity at universities.

My thesis is that we manage today as if cause and effect were our universe. Our systems are too complex for this midset and if we remain in cause and effect, conflict will be the only result. Some type of systems tool is required. A start may be some type of council that brings all partiers to the table - but I get ahead of myself.

Let's look at the world of 1969 when I went up to Oxford and then at the world of 2003 for a modern urban university in Canada

When I went to Oxford 35 years ago, my college, Christchurch was mainly an undergraduate college attached to a cathedral. The Dean ran both. He and the Dons ran the college with a handful of secretaries and a lot of servants and he and the Canons ran the Chapter again with a few secretaries and a lot of servants. Christ Church was part of a Coop called the University where a few Dons sat on committees and set policy. That was the University - a few committees.

Our world was really the college. Small and compact. 90% of the teaching was in the college. We all lived in college. Each college had a its own funding. Christ Church was immensely wealthy with large endowments of land that had accrued over hundreds of years. There were few of us. All of us that went paid fees and it cost me then about L1,000 a year in fees and I spent about another L1,000 on having a good time. We were heavily subsidized by the college but it also lived well within its means. Our accommodation, though splendid, was also spartan as only an all male place of the time could have been. In my quad, the only toilet was on the ground-floor, and the building was 6 stories high. We used the sink for most things! The only baths were in the basement in one corner of the quad. When this was pointed out to the dean who built the quad, his reply was that " they are only here for 8 weeks at a time". I think I only had a handful of baths in the 3 years that I was there. I would go home on the weekends for a clean up.

Again my point - a simple set up with not much money flowing either way and almost no government involvement. The world was the college and the faculties. Being small there was little managerial complexity. All who were not faculty were in effect servants or students. There were no money problems and, apart from maintenance, little need for capital investment. The money fit inside the capital envelope of the college. The university ran a few libraries and exams. The simple college was our world where everyone knew everyone perhaps better than they wanted too.

I use Oxford as an example because it was the model for many other universities. But now what is the university world?

Money and social engineering are compelling drivers. The state has entered the game in most countries and has funded a huge increase in enrollment which has driven a huge increase in the capital requirement. Coed is the norm and modern plumbing has entered the male preserve at great cost. Equipping my college with toilets and bathrooms on every floor cost over L20 million! Imagine the plumbing issues in 16 -1 19th century buildings.

So what are the issues in many Canadian Universities today. They have a president whose job is to fund-raise and to deal with governments. His job is mainly a business role. He has to get the budget and make the money work. He has to compete for capital donors and he has to lobby government for more research and operating funds. He is supported by a staff that would not be out of place in any large commercial enterprise. But he has no power to tell the faculty what to do. The Product end of the university has not changed much since I was an undergraduate or indeed since the middle ages. The faculty is divided into separate disciplines who jealously guard their turf. Now usually unionized, my Tutor Charles Stuart must be turning in his grave, they hold back the online world as they know that this will destroy how they work. They do not want to teach because they move up the tenure track and in status by publishing. So they employ armies of servants, TA's to you and I, to teach and mark in their name. In my day all the dons in every discipline met every night over dinner in hall. Today they all go home to their SOS's and children. So the linkages between them are poor. All the fertile research ground has been tilled and new entrants scrap for weeds deep in the mud.of their field. There is little sense of collegiality.

They fear that the president will make their university into a BUSINESS - horror of horrors! They sense that undergraduates already pay too much but that is the President's problem. They sort of know that demography will send fewer young their way - but that is the president's problem. After all they don't want to teach them anyway. . They reject any idea of using technology to teach differently - they fear that their precious IP will be lost if they make what they do accessible. So reducing the cost of teaching is the-President's problem. They have their heads firmly in the sand but will not give an inch of thie power up to help.

Governments want every one to have access to university. They have set up a loan sharking business to facilitate this. The average debt for  BA is about $30,000. The theory is that BA's get high paying jobs and will easily pay this off. Not so. Most are caught and flip hamburgers or some double up and go onto graduate work. Students will find new ways of getting what they want and will turn away from the traditional delivery and costs - they have no choice.

While the students are finding university too expensive. 50% of the faculty will be in the retirement zone in the next 10 years. Already a bidding war for the new talent is happening. In key areas, new hires are earning more than the old guard. resentment is building and costs are going up.A classic squeeze play is emerging. Costs are too high and rising. Each party balmes the other.

Universities have become huge. They now have armies of Administrators and Technicians who are still treated like servants by the faculty. They are unionized as well and have a deep sense of bitterness and entitlement.

So who would want to be a University President?

How can universities reduce this complexity. Maybe they can take a lead from our Provincial Politicians. They are recommending the formation of a council where the premiers meet as a matter of course with the Prime Minister. The underlying idea is that there is no process other than confrontation to meet the complex needs of a diverse set of groups who live under one hat, Canada. So maybe for universities.  Currently each powerful group has to attack the others. The poor President is stuck in the middle.

Maybe this is true for all organizations? Management and the rest was OK for simpler times. The 3 body problem demands a more sophisticated process. It recognizes that once there are more than two parties, then using cause and effect as the metaphor leads to conflict and failure. Most organizations are more complex than two body systems now. Understanding complexity and chaos will become essential tools for managment. More later

3:54:16 PM    comment []

Friday, July 11, 2003

"The Laws that we are ignoring determine how life sustains itself. Commerce requires living systems for its welfare -- it is emblematic of the times that this even needs to be said. Because of our industrial prowess, we emphasize what people can do but tend to ignore what nature does. Commercial institutions, proud of their achievements, do not see that healthy living systems -- clean air and water, healthy soil, stable climates -- are integral to a functioning economy. As our living systems deteriorate, traditional forecasting and business economics become the equivalent of house rules on a sinking cruise ship."

Being an Island and being dependent on our natural resources for the 3 pillars of our economy, Agriculture, Tourism and the inshore Fishery, PEI is on the knife edge. Our use of the traditional industrial model has stressed all the connected systems to the limit. How to save ourselves is the question. Debates about the environment are usually futile arguments from one group who says that we cannot change because if we do, we will lose all the jobs and while the other says that we should not have an economy at all and merely save the environment. The result is that we remain stuck.

For many years Paul Hawken has being saying something different. His message is that an economy is essential. The issue as he sees it is not to chose between jobs and the planet but to have both. The work is to design a new type of economy that works according to the laws of nature and physics. Hence the term Natural Capitalism.

Paul is coming to PEI to speak formally to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy on August the 14th. But he will speak to the public of PEI at UPEI on the evening of August the 13th.  

Over the next few weeks I will post as many good articles that I can about what we face here as issues and also what we now know about a new design that may help us. Please help me by adding your comments and by leading me to other good articles.

3:41:00 PM    comment []

Monday, June 16, 2003

Reminder: Weblog Night in Charlottetown. "Tonight at 7:00PM at UPEI, Weblog Night in Charlottetown: a seminar introducing weblogs and personal web publishing. All welcome. Tune into CBC Radio PEI this afternoon to hear Peter Rukavina and Catherine Hennessey disussing their weblogs and the seminar." (38 words - posted by steven) 1 reply [Acts of Volition]
1:40:46 PM    comment []

Saturday, June 14, 2003

A question for educators who do weblogs. For BloggerCon, one of the areas of focus will be weblogs in education. So we've got a couple of people lined up who are scholars who use weblogs with excellence. No announcements yet. Now I want to balance that with a couple of educators who have successfully created weblogs in a school, school district, college, university. I'm looking for people who support people who use weblogs, in a context that is not about weblogs, if possible. For example, a history class where each student keeps a weblog. Teachers who manage classes with a weblog. My goal of course is to learn from them, and then figure out what the next steps are. What do they need from other educators. What software is missing? We've already got some famous universities, I want to get connected with some not-so-famous universities. Who is leading in use of weblogs in education? Who do you look to for insight and inspiration? That's who I want for BloggerCon. [Scripting News]

What a coincidence! We at UPEI are starting a push into Weblogging - could not be smaller than us

3:13:46 PM    comment []

Friday, June 13, 2003

The Tech.. Good Morning. Week 3 at the gym begins. No more pain, but all gain. My energy level has stopped suffering from my gym and UFit workouts, and I am starting to feel better than I have in years. Good Stuff. [The Tech. For Blogpeople.]
4:20:06 PM    comment []

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Can PEI change in time?

Here is my response to my students. We are wondering whether PEI can make the changes it needs for its long term survival without a crisis. While we talk about PEI, the isue of whether we are at the end of the industrial system and what this means is a question for all of us


I suspect that PEI will need to experience a number of profound shocks and drop into Chaos to adapt. Why? Because I fear that our state of equilibrium is so powerfully held by a number of structural elements.


Many of you talked about demography, education and politics on PEI. These are some of the structural issues that concern me. Your comments have caused me to think a bit more about this myself.


While there are many conservative young people, it is fair to say that young people are less set in their ways. The percentage of young to old on PEI is low and will get lower. On PEI, as in Atlantic Canada we have a birth rate less than replacement and many young have to leave to get work - what are your plans? Much of our immigration, PEI does relatively well here, is made up of retired Islanders returning for their Golden Years - many of who have been holding onto, I bet, a fantasy about how PEI was when they were young and wanting to find this again. Our older and homogeneous population will have strong braking effect on change.


With the majority of our population likely to be over 50 in 15 years time - this will be a powerful barrier to change. That is unless of course that having this skewed age distribution itself causes a crisis. What will we do with all those schools and teachers? What will we do to afford healthcare? Who will pay all the taxes? So I see on balance this trend as one that drives a crisis. We risk holding onto the old for dear life until it is too late and our system snaps.


Another possible future is that we open the doors on PEI for immigration from the =rest of the world. We will never be  Toronto but we could do one thing here that others wont - we could open the doors for foreign professionals such as doctors who end up driving cabs in Toronto. It might only take a few thousand to shift our equilibrium of white Christian culture and expose us to more change and to a more aggressive set of people.


Education. More than 43% of adult Islanders never finished high school. It is very challenging to cope with change if you have a limited education and therefore few choices.


This is I think a key factor in PEI politics where so many voters look to a top down paternal government to solve their problems and to give them work. We have the political system that we have I think as a result.


This strong equilibrium is held more tightly because of I think two things. The well-educated tend to leave the Island, making the education skew worse and our electoral districts are so small that a hundred voters can lose you your seat. How can you consider tough change when your seat losing voters don't want it and look to you for all the answers to their life's problems?


PEI has started to think about electoral reform. My sense is that we are too sensitive a system and that larger districts and fewer MLA's would help. But I have no confidence that this will fly - do you?


I think that our Conservative mindset will therefore lead us to a crisis rather than a soft landing.


There are many sign s that our potato industry and our fishery are very vulnerable to a crisis. So is Tourism. It is easy to see how this may happen with border closing and health related excuses (Mad Cow, wart, SARs - how about Foot and Mouth?). These industries pay for our way of life - roads,schools, healthcare .


It will then be change or die and those who wanted no change will demand it - while of course blaming the last government for not acting!


So what do we do? Give up?


I don't think so. Ideas are powerful things and take time and circumstances to become accepted. What we are talking about in this course are ideas that most don't know of and have no meaning. Most people think that if we only worked harder at what we are doing now that everything will be OK. They are in the old valley. But if you are working to build a link to the next valley, it will be there when the time comes.


When a crisis happens there is a vacuum - often a vacuum of the right next idea. I suspect that, like the canary in the mine, PEI's crisis will happen earlier than most, other economies are more robust, but all industrial systems are vulnerable. If we are first and we have a critical mass of thinking going on already about using nature as our guide, we will come out of this earlier and as a leader.


We are not on our own here on PEI. What gives me most hope is that when the bifurcation comes it will shock the heartland even more than us. They will hang on longer because they are so invested in the old system. It made their success.


Deep in Islanders is a practical memory of living with nature. We are only one generation away from a group that "knew" nature because most Islanders worked directly with it and in it. Ideas about using nature a sa model will have an easier sell in a crisis her than in Ontario - what do you think?


8:23:35 AM    comment []

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