I need a meta-theory to explain whatever happened in my professional life, as I reach another decision point, where, yet again, I have to do some explaining for what happened so far. When I narrate the story of my career, which is a sequence of several mini-careers, it appears like a dance than a journey, the usual metaphor most people would be comfortable with. I moved vertically, did things which seemed like going back on time, took risks commonly deemed unacceptable, and mostly lived on the brink. I may have achieved too little, reached the right place often too early, and preached, to those who cared, a view too antiquated. Someone, who was my Line Manager for several years, told me that I was the most intelligent person she ever worked with, but I should be mindful that intelligence is a double-edged sword: The wisdom of her words is beginning to dawn on me only now.
There is one easy explanation of my relationship with work: That I sought meaning. I was motivated by the story of the third bricklayer, who was building the cathedral, rather than his colleagues, who were content just to lay the bricks or to build a wall. I wanted visibility of what my work does, its purpose. This sure helped: I loved what I did, work meshed seamlessly with my day to day life, work gave me pleasure. In whatever I did, I wanted to have impact: I was working not to pay a mortgage, or to pay my bills, nor even to retire, but for the pleasure of work itself, for what does or at least meant to do. My seemingly quixotic views about integrity went perfectly with this out-of-date search for meaning at work, but often at odds with the imperatives of a normal, linear career.
I have never lacked ambition though. I had an interesting conversation with a young colleague during the course of a performance review recently, when she told me that she wanted to be the best at her job. It was a casual utterance, and she was wholly unprepared as I was enthused by that statement, and wanted to clarify what she wanted to be the best in. I took this to be a completely natural ambition, given that she was so capable: However, she apparently decided, at this point of conversation, that I might be mocking her and changed the statement to say that she wanted to 'do her best'. I knew that she was trying to be safe, because in most organizations, the ambition to be the best, in anything, within whatever domain, would be considered dangerously ambitious, or impractical, or both. However, personally, I have always followed the aspiration of being the best, in my case in designing education offerings to change lives of large numbers of people, and made no secrets about it. All the things I have done so far in my career, and all the things I want to do, are strung together in the search of this one objective.
Sometimes, puzzlingly, I am told that I lack focus. I concede that I really don't know how much money I want to make, if I want to buy a house, where I want to settle down. However, I know that I want to build an education organization, which works with people who would usually be left out by the elite higher education institutions - people expected to be workers, excluded from the driving seat of life, people expected not to think but live in abject submission to the demands of mortgages, bills and reproduction - and enables them to think for themselves and creates opportunities for themselves and others. It is a wholly utopian view of what education should do: This is about breaking the dichotomy of Higher and Lower Education (one designed for thinkers and other, for the workers) and taking thinking grassroots, and in turn, making work meaningful. My search for meaning at work is based on the quest to make work meaningful for all.
Admittedly, this is not an easy goal. This is, actually, dangerously revolutionary. The public education system is always designed with the objective of maintaining public order, just like the police, so that it reproduces a certain number of thinkers and a certain number of workers and carefully preserve the boundaries of definition and meaning for all comers. The For-Profit, the business of education, despite its challenger status, is actually an extension of the same model: It is about obscuring the meaning at work but producing functional specialists with a narrower focus. I have taken on studies on For-Profit Education for several years now, in order to see from close quarters its mechanics of subverting the status quo, which I approve of, and its creation of a new model, which is deeply dichotomous, and which condemns its students to a slave life of consumption imperatives, which is the one I wish to change.
This is surely going against the tide, in a society where super-specialization is seen as the path to knowledge and the meaning and purpose of work is completely obscured behind the job descriptions, performance reviews and other managerial rhetoric. It is the same in education, where learning outcomes trump wisdom, and assessment scores is treated as knowledge. The hope is in realizing that all of this is now falling apart. Education isn't educating anymore: It is either producing people completely disconnected with their social roles, or people who retreats behind the walls of specialization and denies all responsibility outside their own consumer commitments. The work of experts are falling apart, as the complexity levels have reached monstrous proportions and spun the world out of control for all. The failure and alienation at work is now coming back as meta-theories of chaos and complexity, and suddenly, after centuries of human progress, we are not in charge any more. Those in control has lost control: There were never a better time to construct an alternative and restore humanity at the working end of the education spectrum. I see this as an opportunity, something that I worked for, knowingly or unconsciously, for last twenty years.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.