Posts Tagged ‘bureaucracies’

A Major Reason for the Ridiculously Increasing Costs of a College Education

August 5, 2016

There have been previous healthy memory blog posts about the inexcusable increases in the costs of a college education.  Instead technology should be seriously reducing these costs.  With respect to public institutions, significant decreases in support from states provides a partial reason, but no justification.  University presidents once were supplied with a house on the campus and a reasonable stipend.  But today at the prestigious universities presidents expect mega millions. Even at non-prestigious universities, not just six figures, but well up into six figures seems to be the norm.

A book by James R. Flynn, the James Flynn who identified IQ inflation and a continuing need to recalibrate the IQ quotient, has written a book, “How to Improve Your Mind:  Twenty Keys to Unlock the Modern World,” that offers some profound insights into this problem. He has identified a flow of power from the academics, who do the actual teaching and research, toward he administrative center.  Flynn laments that gone are the days when Deans were elected by academics from their number who, if they wanted a second term, had to stand for re-election.  So the salaries of both presidents and deans are grossly inflated.  The fundamental problem is that the administration controls basically all the power, which, of course, includes funding.

C. Northcotte Parkinson, the author of the famous Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands as to fill time available for its completion” made a highly insightful study of bureaucracies.   Bureaucracies grow and feed upon themselves without providing benefit to the organizations they are supposed to be supporting.  Indeed, they can be decreasing the effectiveness of the organizations they are supporting.  At the last place I worked, I estimated that the efficiency of the organization would be increased if the correct percentage of the staff were eliminated.

The same is true of colleges and universities.  Administrations have been growing at the expense of working academics and students.  Moreover, as it is the administrations who have the power and control the pursestrings, if budget cuts are required, they are made at the expense of the academics and the students.  They will reduce research support fire faculty and make higher reliances on graduate students and adjunct faculty.

The problem with providing student financial aid is that colleges and universities simply adjust tuition and their various special fees, and likely expand the bureaucracy.  The only agency here that can effect the situation is the government.  The government can tie increased funding to cuts specifically in the administration.  If this is done, then it is likely that not only costs will go down, but the administrations will become more effective as they will have reduced themselves from unnecessary burdensome bureaucracy.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

There have been previous healthy memory blog posts about the inexcusable increases in the costs of a college education.  Instead technology should be seriously reducing these costs.  With respect to public institutions, significant decreases in support from states provides a partial reason, but no justification.  University presidents once were supplied with a house on the campus and a reasonable stipend.  But today at the prestigious universities presidents expect mega millions. Even at non-prestigious universities, not just six figures, but well up into six figures seems to be the norm.

A book by James R. Flynn, the James Flynn who identified IQ inflation and a continuing need to recalibrate the IQ quotient, has written a book, “How to Improve Your Mind:  Twenty Keys to Unlock the Modern World,” that offers some profound insights into this problem. He has identified a flow of power from the academics, who do the actual teaching and research, toward he administrative center.  Flynn laments that gone are the days when Deans were elected by academics from their number who, if they wanted a second term, had to stand for re-election.  So the salaries of both presidents and deans are grossly inflated.  The fundamental problem is that the administration controls basically all the power, which, of course, includes funding.

C. Northcotte Parkinson, the author of the famous Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands as to fill time available for its completion” made a highly insightful study of bureaucracies.   Bureaucracies grow and feed upon themselves without providing benefit to the organizations they are supposed to be supporting.  Indeed, they can be decreasing the effectiveness of the organizations they are supporting.  At the last place I worked, I estimated that the efficiency of the organization would be increased if the correct percentage of the staff were eliminated.

The same is true of colleges and universities.  Administrations have been growing at the expense of working academics and students.  Moreover, as it is the administrations who have the power and control the pursestrings, if budget cuts are required, they are made at the expense of the academics and the students.  They will reduce research support fire faculty and make higher reliances on graduate students and adjunct faculty.

The problem with providing student financial aid is that colleges and universities simply adjust tuition and their various special fees, and likely expand the bureaucracy.  The only agency here that can effect the situation is the government.  The government can tie increased funding to cuts specifically in the administration.  If this is done, then it is likely that not only costs will go down, but the administrations will become more effective as they will have reduced themselves from unnecessary burdensome bureaucracy.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Compromises in Pursuing Passion

July 10, 2016

(9th Post on GRIT)

Healthy memory (HM) has had a longstanding passion in human memory and cognition that began in high school.  He earned a Bachelor’s degree with Distinction in Psychology from Ohio State University and a Master’s Degree and a Ph.D in Psychology from the University of Utah.  Past blogs have indicated his frustration when psychologists were debating whether humans could control their autonomic nervous systems.  HM argued that Buddhist monks and priests were able to do this, so why was this an open question?  He was informed that some trick was employed by these Buddhists, and that this had to be proven within the constraints of an experimental laboratory.  As college students could not be trained to control their autonomic nervous systems in the limited hours of training on the tasks, the conclusion was that it could not be done.  The “trick” that these Buddhists were using was thousands of hours of meditation.  Had HM tried to enlist my passion in insisting on studying this problem, he would have been forced out of graduate school.  In graduate school the student needs to seek out an advisor with compatible interests and propose and work on a project agreed to by the advisor and committees for Master’s Degrees and Doctoral Dissertations.

Faculty positions were difficulty to find, particularly faculty positions at research universities where research could be pursued.  HM was unable to find one.  He could have looked for a postdoctoral research position, but postdocs can sometimes become migratory labor for scholars with no tenure track positions ever materializing.  If someone is fortunate enough to become an assistant professor with a track to earning tenure, one then has about six years to produce enough published research to earn tenor and be promoted to an associate professor.

HM found a  civil service job with the Army Research Institute (ARI) foe the social and behavioral sciences.  Here the work was related to his passion, but had to, appropriately enough, address the needs of the U.S. Army.  While at ARI HM later found new hires who had not achieved tenure and had been forced to leave their colleges or universities.  So by going directly into ARI, HM had several years seniority over these new hires.  ARI was staffed by both government and contractor psychologists.  The contractor psychologists were managed by government psychologists.  The commander of ARI was a full colonel along with his staff officers.

HM left ARI and became a contractor working for defense and intelligence agencies.  The work here was close to, but not directly on, his passion.  The research is in the general area of applied experimental and engineering psychology.  This is Division 21 in the American Psychological Association and HM was honored to serve as president of this division.  HM has also done a substantial amount of work in statistics and experimental design.

One of the advantages of this work was that HM had the privilege of working with brilliant individuals in other disciplines, something that was highly unlikely to happen in academe.  HM encountered individuals like himself, who were not able to fully exercise their passions.  This is a serious problem that is unrecognized.  There is an amazing amount of intellectual capital that is wasted or misused.  I have a colleague who is a Ph.D. physicist with a specialty in subatomic physics.  He is one of the most brilliant individuals HM has had the privilege to meet.  He had become part of a highly educated migratory work force moving from post doc to post doc.  When he decided that the research he was doing had come to a dead end, it was questionable whether he could get a post doc in a different area.  In any case, he had become tired of migratory work and decided to become a contractor like myself.  He has amazing talents not just in physics, but also in mathematics and computer science, but he is still frustrated in finding projects that fully use his considerable talents.

Why this intellectual talent is wasted is an interesting question that should be addressed.  Problems stem from bureaucratic structures that are slow, ponderous, and work from the top down so that the brains at the bottom of the organization, and that is where the brains are typically found, have no input.

Another problem involves managers who do not have the background to understand the skills of the personnel they are managing.  Typically these are conscientious people who work hard.  Unfortunately the government, and much too much of private industry, believe that management is a general skill that transfers to any endeavor.  This is mistaken.  To manage properly, the manager must understand what skills he is managing.  There are other skills that managers need to know to effectively manage.  In the last place HM worked, managers needed to have a basic understanding of statistics and experimental design to manage many of the projects for which they were responsible.  Unfortunately, this was not recognized by the government, and they were given responsibility for projects without the skills needed to manage them.  Worse yet, they were unaware that they needed these skills.  HM could have briefed statistical nonsense to these managers and they would have never been the wiser.  HM recommended that he accompany them to meetings where statistics were going to be presented, but his offers were declined.  And these statistical decisions involved important projects.

HM retired.   Fortunately, his jobs paid well, he had good 401K plans, and he saved and invested wisely.  Consequently, he is now in a position to pursue his passions.  This blog is just one of those manifestations.  Some books and speaking engagements are anticipated for the future.  Basically he has been able to award himself the personal equivalent of MacArthur “genius” fellowships.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cultivating & Effectively Exploiting Human Capital

December 19, 2015

My favorite chapter in “Why the Net Matters” is Chapter 6, Cultivating Human Capital.  Regular readers might recognize this as one of my favorite topics.  Human Capital refers to knowledge and know-how, which is key to the success of any country.  The chapter begins by discussing the benefits of crowd sourcing.  For example, fold.it tackles the computationally difficult problem of protein folding by turning it into a game played by thousands.  CSTART.org, which stands for Collaborative Space Travel and Research Team is an open-source development to get a manned craft to the moon.  CSTART is a non-government, non-profit, collaborative space agency with the mission of “space exploration, by anyone, for anyone.

There are so many resources on the net for cultivating human capital.  There is the Wikipedia.  There is MIT’s open courseware that is open to any self-learner.  Rice University launched Connexions (cnx.org), which features 17,000 modules woven into 1,000 collections for levels from children to professionals, in fields ranging from electrical engineering to psychology.  Also there is Khan Academy.  By no means is this an exhaustive list.

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are being made available through many universities.  Although courses are usually free, there is the matter of getting credit for successfully completed courses.  These issues are being worked out.  However, sometimes it is better to audit a course first, before taking it for credit.  I had a friend who did this for his Calculus courses.  He would first audit course, and then take it for credit.  He earned straight As in these courses.

Of course, education is appreciated most by those who are growth minded.  In the lingo of the health memory blog, this is transactive memory, which is knowledge available via technology and fellow humans.

It can be argued that we are much better at cultivating human capital than at exploiting human capital.  Although crowd sourcing is a good example of effectively exploiting human capital, I spent my career with the privilege of working with brilliant individuals, yet this talent was not effectively exploited and frequently ignored.  Bureaucracies in both government and in private companies stifle this human capital.  Management does not appreciate, and sometimes cannot appreciate, this potential, so it remains unexploited.  Bureaucracies excel at growing themselves rather than understanding and making use of effective human capital.  Bureaucracies also adversely impact the cultivation of human capital.    I’ve heard the argument, and I believe this argument, that a factor bearing a significant impact on the ridiculously increased costs  of higher education is the growth of unnecessary bureaucracy.  Bureaucracies need to be studied and changed so that their goal is the cultivation and exploitation of human capital rather than the growth of the bureaucracy.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.