Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Life Happiness Starts At The Workplace

Is there a way we can convince ourselves that we are happy? How about the pressures of personal, family, and work pressures? Which of these contribute the biggest pressures on us? The problem here seems to be that the time we spend at work is in average twice the time we spend with our families and friends, and that the pressures we suffer from in the workplace continues to take hold of us even after we leave the workplace. Thus, our personal life is both affected and controlled by our work life. Therefore, the starting point towards redirecting our emotions towards being more constructive and positive is: “how to enjoy our jobs?” and hopefully if we were able to make this happen, a lifelong happiness can be attained. We need to persuade ourselves that we are happy. We need – if I may - brainwash ourselves into the belief that we are happy, talk ourselves into it. Mission impossible? No. It is difficult but possible? It is worth trying. An adventure in ‘self-deceit’ that is worth doing.Work is a great value in itself. It is crucial In accomplishing self-actualization. In that sense the recognition we get at work recharges our batteries and sharpens our appetite for more achievements and more rewards. But, what happens if we do not get the recognition we deserve? Demotivation builds up and work becomes some kind of punishment, and the workplace turns gradually into a torture chamber. Intrinsic motivation is can compensate the lack of motivation we suffer at the workplace as a result of the managers negligence to reinforce good work. Here is my prescription to you to make up for the lack of simple ‘thank you’ jests at the workplace: If you have to work, you might as well enjoy it. Why be unhappy for 40 hours per week at the least? Out of experience, here are ten ways to enjoy your work:
1. Decide to enjoy it! Make up your mind to feel good at work. You will be surprised how much better you will like your work if you just make a deliberate decision to enjoy it. This of course requires that you only take the jobs you are good at. Even when you change jobs, it should be in the context of career development and in response to what you like to do, not accepting what is available. If you wake up in the morning feeling bad about going to work, then probably you are dong something you do not like, and you better find the job you want to feel happy.

2. Maintain good and friendly relationships with your employer and with your co-workers. Getting along with and liking the people you work with will make any job more enjoyable. Emotional intelligence helps us accept the other. Greatly diverse workplaces became the norm of the new century. Consider it an adventure not a threat. It could be a rich learning process of added value to you.
3. From a materialistic point of view, remember that your work provides most of your necessities and luxuries. Just think, unless you inherited a bundle, you owe all you have to work. In that light, the whole job looks pretty good, doesn't it? You do not have to feel romantic about your job, What you need to convince yourself. Liking rather than loving is all that you need to feel happy at work. Of course if you are able to ‘love’ you job then you should be grateful for a heavenly gift that many other do not have.
4. From a social point of view, keep in mind the service you are providing people through your work. The job you do helps other people. Now that is a good feeling! Your job is essential to the welfare of the customers of your organization, and of added value to the GDP of your country. Your contribution is required and indispensable to the progress and development of your country and its people.
5. Attitude-wise challenge yourself at work. Set and pursue attainable goals. Always try to do a better job. Stretch yourself and your abilities! Grow! That attitude can make even a dull job exciting! It enhances your sills and competencies to pursue escalating goals in life and feeling good of yourself.
6. Concentrate on the good things about your job. Write out a list of 10 or more things you like about your job. You might include on your list things like the pay, the fringe benefits, the heat and air conditioning, the vacation time, etc. Read the list every time you feel bad about any aspect in the workplace. It is a package deal, and accepted one if the good things about it outweighs the bad ones. You may also compare your status with people you know in other organizations in the same business as yours. If you feel good about exchanging business cards, then you are OK.

7. Do more than you are paid to do. If you do just enough to barely maintain your membership in the organization, you will be bored soon, but if you really get after it, you will feel good about yourself. Besides that, your boss will soon notice, and before too long you will be rewarded. Persistence will get you there, even if you experience some stumbling blocks.
8. Adopt the "This is my company" attitude. You may not actually own the company, but wherever you work, it is your company! And when you begin to feel like it's your company, you will discover a new sense of pride and fulfillment in your work! ‘Positive Thinking’ is the name of the game. You will soon find that you get over problems in a creative innovative way, and problems remain in their context without being overblown or inflated.

9- Seek joining successful teams doing special projects or tasks. They are usually spotlighted and get full support of the senior management. They also become more legible to promotion than those who do not demonstrate their competencies and skills, and stay away from being seen by the decision makers in the organization. By belonging to a winning team, you can maintain your high flyer status while gaining organizational recognition.

10- Quit if you feel that you can no more tolerate the organizational pressure and politics especially the relationship with your immediate supervisor who is supposed to lend you the required support to succeed. It is not worth it to expose yourself to a daily test of tolerance. The impact on your psyche and health is accumulative and damaging.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

التعليم فى العالم العربى : معول هدم أم ركيزة إصلاح ؟!

التعليم فى العالم العربى: معول هدم أم ركيزة إصلاح ؟!

المتابع لحال التعليم فى العالم العربى لابد وأن يصاب بحالة من الانزعاج والألم الشديدين للواقع المرير لهذا الحال والذى تؤيده العديد من الدراسات الميدانية التى لاتترك مجالا للشك فى أننا نحتاج إلى ثورة تعليمية حقيقية لو أردنا أن نتدارك الأخطاء الفادحة التى ترتكب ، ونقلل بقدر المستطاع من حجم الدمار الذى يصيب عقولنا فى مقتل ، والذى يتزايد باضطراد بتزايد عدد الخريجين فى معظم مدارسنا وجامعاتنا بشكلها الحالى. والثورة التى أعنيها لإصلاح حال التعليم فى العالم العربى لايمكن أن تكون حكومية ، فالحكومات لاتقوم بثورات ضد نفسها ، لكنها ثورة يقودها المجتمع المدنى وأصحاب المصلحة فى تحسين جودة التعليم . ثورة اجتماعية تأخذ بزمام المبادرة نحوتشكيل لوبى شعبى منظم وجماعات ضغط هدفها تعليم رفيع الجودة يصلح لأن يكون الركيزة الأساسية للاصلاح الاجتماعى والثقافى والاقتصادى ، ركيزة تجعل العالم العربى قوة فكرية وليست عددية حيث تصبح الأعداد مهما كثرت مجرد أصفار مالم يحمل أصحابها عقولا تفكر وتبدع وتبتكر. إن قراءة سريعة فى النسب المتضائلة لمانخصصه من الناتج المحلى الإجمالى على التعليم (لاتزيد فى المتوسط عن 9ر4%) مقارنة بغيرنا من الدول المتقدمة لابد وأن يصيبنا بالخجل من أننا نخصص لملء البطون أضعاف مانخصص لملء العقول . ولابد وأن تتدهور تبعا لذلك – بالإضافة إلى مايسببه من تداعيات - مخرجات التعليم فى كل مراحله حيث تتضافر العديد من الأسباب التى تزيد من تسارع عملية التدهور وتجعلها أكثر تعقيدا فى معظم الدول العربية، مثل :
  • تبنى المؤسسات التعليمية لسياسات ونظم متباينة ومتشابكة لاتحقق التواصل الفكرى المطلوب ، ولاتسمح بحرية الحركة والتنقل وتبادل الخبرات والتكامل ، وتجعل كل دولة عربية جزيرة منعزلة منغلقة ثقافيا وفكريا يكلم مواطنوها أنفسهم ويجترون تجاربهم الخاصة ، ويرفضون الانفتاح على جيرانهم والعالم من حولهم .

  • مقررات ومناهج جامدة غير مرنة تعتمد على الحفظ والاسترجاع، وتدور فى فلك محدد سلفا، ولاتواكب التطور العالمى فى مجالات العلوم والآداب والفنون ، وتبنى السدود أمام روافد التفكير الابتكارى والنقدى ، ولاتشجع الابتكار ولا التجديد .

  • إهمال الاستثمار فى تطوير مهارات وقدرات وجدارات المعلمين الذين هم فى الأساس من نواتج النظم التعليمية المهترئة التى تجهض فى مجموعها حقوق الإنسان، والحق فى  تحدى الأفكار قبل قبولها ، واحترام ديمقراطية الفكر، وتقوم على الحوار والتفاعل وليس على التلقين والقهر.

  • الأمية الكاسحة فى كثير من الدول العربية ، وفشل الحكومات فى مكافحة تلك الأمية التى تصل فى المتوسط إلى 7ر48% ، أى أكثر من 61 مليون مواطن فى سن الخامسة عشرة وما فوقها، وتصل فى بعض البلدان إلى أكثر من ذلك مثل السودان (42%) والمغرب (55%) وموريتانا (54%)واليمن (56%) وجيبوتى (42%)، بينما تنخفض إلى اقل من ذلك فى دول مثل تونس (32%) ومصر(34%) الجزائر (37%).

وعلى الرغم من أن 67 مليونا من العرب تقريبا  من إجمالى 270 مليونا يدخلون القرن الحادى والعشرين وهم أميون بالمفهوم القديم التقليدى للأمية ، أى لايقرأون ولايكتبون (ناهيك عن عدم استخدام التكنولوجيا)، فإن جهود مكافحة الأمية فى العالم العربى لو استمرت بنفس الإيقاع، فإن نسبة الأمية بين البالغين عام 2015 سوف تظل عالية (28%). بل إن فى خمسة دول عربية هى مصر والسودان والجزائر والمغرب واليمن يعيش على أرضها 49 مليونا من مجموع 67 مليونا من الأميين فى العالم العربى ، أى 73% من الأميين بالدول العربية الإثنين وعشرين .

تتفشى الأمية بيننا إذن على الرغم من وجود مايقرب من 250 جامعة يتخرج فيها مئات الألوف كل عام، ولكنها أعداد منزوعة الدسم ، أعداد لاتضيف قيمة للمخزون الفكرى للأمة. العلاقة بين الأمية والتعليم واضحة فى حالتنا حيث أن جامعاتنا ببساطة تخرج أفواجا متتالية من الجهال يحملون درجات علمية قد تكون معتمدة محليا ، ولكنها بالمستوى العالمى لضمان الجودة والاعتماد لاتساوى ثمن طباعتها ، إلا لو اعتبرنا أن غياب جامعاتنا عن قائمة أفضل 500 جامعة فى العالم ثم أفضل 100 جامعة فى العالم حدثا عاديا لايستحق أن نتوقف عنده.

إذن ، جهود الحكومات وحدها لإصلاح التعليم لم تكن كافية ، ولن تكون كافية ، وإيقاع التطور من حولنا يكتسح فى طريقه زحف السلاحف الذى تتميز به الجهود النمطية فى إصلاح التعليم. ومن هنا كانت الدعوة لتفعيل دور المجتمع المدنى فى أخطر قضية يواجهها العالم العربى فى تاريخه وتتعلق باستثمار "رأس المال الفكرى" للأمة وتعظيم العائد من هذا الاستثمار. ومثلما تقوم نهضة المجتمعات المتقدمة على أكتاف المجتمع المدنى الذى يقوم بدور قاطرة التنمية ويمارس حقه فى الرقابة والمطالبة بحقوق الناس ، فإن الارتقاء بجودة التعليم عندنا لابد يقع على عاتق الجمعيات الأهلية غير الحكومية بالدرجة الأولى .إن أزمة التعليم عندنا تكمن فى أن أصحاب المصلحة من حكومات وأساتذة وطلاب ومجتمعات المفروض أن تخدمها الجامعات لايتفقون على أهداف استراتيجية لنشر ثقافة جودة التعليم ، والمساعدة على تهيئة البيئة المناسبة لنشر وتطبيق المعرفة الأكاديمية والفكر الاستراتيجى ، ومساندة التواصل بين المؤسسات التعليمية فى المجتمع العربى، وتشجيع البحث العلمى والتطوير المؤسسة. لذلك ، لو تواجدت الجهات التى تدعم تلك الجهود ، وتحدد مستويات الجودة المطلوبة لكى تكون مدارسنا وجامعاتنا واقعا لاخيالا، وتقدم المشورة الفنية للنهوض بالمؤسسات التعليمية على اختلاف أنواعها ، وبناء القدرة الذاتية للمجتمع العربى ، وتبادل الخبرات المعرفية ، وتبنى الممارسات الناجحة، وتشجيع البحث العلمى .. لو تحقق ذلك لالتف الناس حولها ، ولساندوا جهودها .

إصلاح التعليم يمكن أن يتم على أكثر من مستوى ، وعلى خطوط متوازية محلية وإقليمية وعالمية .  ولايضيرنا أن يكون هناك عشرات بل مئات من الجمعيات الأهلية التى تعنى بجودة التعليم طالما أن هذه الجمعيات تضم فى عضويتها نخبة من العناصر الفاعلة والمؤثرة ذات الخبرة فى التعليم سواء أكانوا أفرادا أم مؤسسات بما فى ذلك مراكز التدريب ذات المستوى الرفيع التى تكمل رسالة التعليم وتطوره إلى " تعلم " حقيقى نحتاجه لنطبق العلم على الواقع ، وتتسارع نبضات تحركاتنا على المسرح الدولى فنحتل مكاننا بين الدول المتقدمة ... وشتان مابين التعليم الذى يعتمد على حشو المعرفة فى الأدمغى، والتعلم الذى يستفيد من المعرفة فيجرب ويخطئ ويصيب فى عملية تعلم مستمرة تواكب التطور المستمر وتجعلنا أكثر تأهيلا لمواجهة تحديات العصر. المهم أن تنسق تلك الجهات جهودها وتصر على التواصل والاستفادة من الخبرات المتراكمة التى تحققت حتى الآن حتى لانعيد اختراع العجلة.

أ.د/ فتحــى النــادى
نائب رئيس الجمعية العربية لضمان الجودة فى التعليم (إسكاى)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Truth About NLP

What is NLP?
NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a name that encompasses the three most influential components involved in producing human experience: neurology, language and programming. The neurological system regulates how our bodies function, language determines how we interface and communicate with other people and our programming determines the kinds of models of the world we create. Neuro-Linguistic Programming describes the fundamental dynamics between mind (neuro) and language (linguistic) and how their interplay effects our body and behavior (programming).

NLP is a pragmatic school of thought - an 'epistemology' - that addresses the many levels involved in being human. NLP is a multi-dimensional process that involves the development of behavioral competence and flexibility, but also involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior. NLP provides tools and skills for the development of states of individual excellence, but it also establishes a system of empowering beliefs and presuppositions about what human beings are, what communication is and what the process of change is all about. At another level, NLP is about self-discovery, exploring identity and mission. It also provides a framework for understanding and relating to the 'spiritual' part of human experience that reaches beyond us as individuals to our family, community and global systems. NLP is not only about competence and excellence, it is about wisdom and vision.

In essence, all of NLP is founded on two fundamental presuppositions:
1. The Map is Not the Territory. As human beings, we can never know reality. We can only know our perceptions of reality. We experience and respond to the world around us primarily through our sensory representational systems. It is our 'neuro-linguistic' maps of reality that determine how we behave and that give those behaviors meaning, not reality itself. It is generally not reality that limits us or empowers us, but rather our map of reality.2. Life and 'Mind' are Systemic Processes. The processes that take place within a human being and between human beings and their environment are systemic. Our bodies, our societies, and our universe form an ecology of complex systems and sub-systems all of which interact with and mutually influence each other. It is not possible to completely isolate any part of the system from the rest of the system. Such systems are based on certain 'self-organizing' principles and naturally seek optimal states of balance or homeostasis.

All of the models and techniques of NLP are based on the combination of these two principles. In the belief system of NLP it is not possible for human beings to know objective reality. Wisdom, ethics and ecology do not derive from having the one 'right' or 'correct' map of the world, because human beings would not be capable of making one. Rather, the goal is to create the richest map possible that respects the systemic nature and ecology of ourselves and the world we live in. The people who are most effective are the ones who have a map of the world that allows them to perceive the greatest number of available choices and perspectives. NLP is a way of enriching the choices that you have and perceive as available in the world around you. Excellence comes from having many choices. Wisdom comes from having multiple perspectives.

What it does
John Grinder and Richard Bandler, who invented it, call NLP the study of subjective experience. The letters stand for neuro-linguistic programming. I think of it as influencing people's imaginations through language to help them change anything about themselves in an instant.

Where it came from
Back in the 70's NLP started as a meta-model, or a model for making and changing other models. The NLP meta-model focuses on verbal models, and how language both shapes and reflects human thought. The two explained their meta model in The Structure of Magic. They first used the meta-model to find how highly successful therapists like Milton Erickson and Virginia Satir managed to help so many people. They wanted to know:
  • What language and behavioral patterns did these therapists have?
  • In Erickson's case, how did he consistently produce deep hypnotic trances?
  • What happened in the client's mind as they changed?

Bandler and Grinder wanted to package this knowledge so that anyone could use it to produce the same results - influence human behavior, induce trances, and change their own lives. These studies produced a slew of distinctions and techniques such as pacing and leading, slight-of-mouth patterns, anchors, rep systems, and the Milton model (all of which I will cover in future articles). Throughout it all, the NLP attitude has said that if one person can get a result, so can anyone else - if they have a detailed enough model of what the first person's strategy.

NLP took a quantum leap with the discovery of submodalities. Human experience comes in at least five modalities: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory. These correspond to the five senses: sight, hearing, feeling, smell, and taste. But within each modality is a wide range of experience. Noises can sound loud, soft, high-pitched, or low-pitched. Qualities such as these correspond to adjectives in language: "I heard a loud sound to my left."

Bandler, Grinder, and their students found that submodalities controlled a great deal of our behavior. Consider: if you can remember what you had for breakfast yesterday, and you can imagine what you might have for breakfast tomorrow, how can your brain tell these two apart? How do you tell the future from the past, things you like from things you don't, things you believe in from things you feel uncertain about?

Obviously, these pairs of thoughts have contrasts, qualities that differ between them. Suppose that by applying meta- model questions, you found that you imagine your beliefs off to your left, and uncertainties to your right. What would happen if you imagined something you believed and something you felt uncertain about and then switched their positions? It turned out that most people would feel less certain about their old belief, and more certain whatever they had been uncertain about.
About that time, a kid named Tony Robbins, who studied under Bandler and Grinder, decided to demonstrate to the world how this simple but powerful information could change anyone's life. Robbins started as a janitor in a cramped little apartment, and within a few short years made millions of dollars, bought his own castle, and taught thousands of people about NLP.

Why you should know about it
NLP changes people's lives - for better or worse. Whatever your lifestyle, you have created it through a lifetime of beliefs, attitude, and actions. Because NLP focuses on just these topics, everyone uses its techniques and patterns every single day. When we learn to use NLP consciously, we give ourselves the power to create new lives for ourselves, and get any outcome we desire.

One common thread in NLP is the emphasis on teaching a variety of communication and persuasion skills, and using self-hypnosis to motivate and change oneself. Most NLP practitioners advertising on the WWW make grand claims about being able to help just about anybody become just about anything.
The following is typical:
NLP can enhance all aspects of your life by improving your relationships with loved ones, learning to teach effectively, gaining a stronger sense of self-esteem, greater motivation, better understanding of communication, enhancing your business or career... and an enormous amount of other things which involve your brain. (from the now defunct http://www.nlpinfo.com/intro/txintro.shtml )

Some advocates claim that they can teach an infallible method of telling when a person is lying, but others recognize that this is not possible. Some claim that people fail only because their teachers have not communicated with them in the right "language". One NLP guru, Dale Kirby, informs us that one of the presuppositions of NLP is "No one is wrong or broken." So why seek remedial change? On the other hand, what Mr. Kirby does have to say about NLP which is intelligible does not make it very attractive.
For example, he says that according to NLP "There is no such thing as failure. There is only feedback." Was NLP invented by the U.S. Military to explain their "incomplete successes"? When the space shuttle blew up within minutes of launch, killing everyone on board, was that "only feedback"? If I stab my neighbor and call it "performing non-elective surgery" am I practicing NLP? If I am arrested in a drunken state with a knife in my pocket for threatening an ex-girlfriend, am I just "trying to rekindle an old flame"?

Another NLP presupposition which is false is "If someone can do something, anyone can learn it." This comes from people who claim they understand the brain and can help you reprogram yours. They want you to think that the only thing that separates the average person from Einstein or Pavarotti or the World Champion Log Lifter is NLP.

NLP is said to be the study of the structure of subjective experience, but a great deal of attention seems to be paid to observing behavior and teaching people how to read "body language." But there is no common structure to non-verbal communication, any more than there is a common structure to dream symbolism. There certainly are some well-defined culturally determined non-verbal ways of communicating, e.g., pointing the back of the hand at another, lowering all fingers but the one in the middle, has a definite meaning in American culture. But when someone tells me that the way I squeeze my nose during a conversation means I am signaling him that I think his idea stinks, how do we verify whether his interpretation is correct or not? I deny it. He knows the structure, he says. He knows the meaning. I am not aware of my signal or of my feelings, he says, because the message is coming from my subconscious mind. How do we test these kinds of claims? We can't. What's his evidence? It must be his brilliant intuitive insight because there is no empirical evidence to back up this claim. Sitting cross-armed at a meeting might not mean that someone is "blocking you out" or "getting defensive". She may just be cold or have a back ache or simply feel comfortable sitting that way. It is dangerous to read too much into non-verbal behavior. Those splayed legs may simply indicate a relaxed person, not someone inviting you to have sex. At the same time, much of what NLP is teaching is how to do cold reading. This is valuable, but an art not a science, and should be used with caution.

Finally, NLP claims that each of us has a Primary Representational System (PRS), a tendency to think in specific modes: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory or gustatory. A person's PRS can be determined by words the person tends to use or by the direction of one's eye movements. Supposedly, a therapist will have a better rapport with a client if they have a matching PRS. None of this has been supported by the scientific literature.*

Bandler's Institute
Bandler's First Institute of Neuro-Linguistic Programming™ and Design Human Engineering™ has this to say about NLP:
"Neuro-Linguistic Programming™ (NLP™) is defined as the study of the structure of subjective experience and what can be calculated from that and is predicated upon the belief that all behavior has structure....Neuro-Linguistic Programming™ was specifically created in order to allow us to do magic by creating new ways of understanding how verbal and non-verbal communication affect the human brain. As such it presents us all with the opportunity to not only communicate better with others, but also learn how to gain more control over what we considered to be automatic functions of our own neurology." *

We are told that Bandler took as his first models Virginia Satir ("The Mother of Family System Therapy"), Milton Erickson ("The Father of Modern Hypnotherapy") and Fritz Perls (early advocate of Gestalt Therapy) because they "had amazing results with their clients." The linguistic and behavioral patterns of such people were studied and used as models. These were therapists who liked such expressions as 'self-esteem', 'validate', 'transformation', 'harmony', 'growth', 'ecology', 'self-realization', 'unconscious mind', 'non-verbal communication', 'achieving one's highest potential'--expressions which serve as beacons to New Age transformational psychology. No neuroscientist or anyone who has studied the brain is mentioned as having had any influence on NLP. Also, someone who is not mentioned, but who certainly seems like the ideal model for NLP, is Werner Erhard. He started est a few miles north (in San Francisco) of Bandler and Grinder (in Santa Cruz) just a couple of years before the latter started their training business. Erhard seems to have set out to do just what Bandler and Grinder set out to do: help people transform themselves and make a good living doing it. NLP and est also have in common the fact that they are built up from a hodgepodge of sources in psychology, philosophy, and other disciplines. Both have been brilliantly marketed as offering the key to success, happiness, and fulfillment to anyone willing to pay the price of admission. Best of all: no one who pays his fees fails out of these schools!

The ever-evolving Bandler
When one reads what Bandler says, it may lead one to think that some people sign on just to get the translation from the Master Teacher of Communication Skills himself:
One of the models that I built was called strategy elicitation which is something that people confuse with modeling to no end. They go out and elicit a strategy and they think they are modeling but they don't ask the question, "Where did the strategy elicitation model come from?" There are constraints inside this model since it was built by reducing things down. The strategy elicitation model is always looking for the most finite way of accomplishing a result. This model is based on sequential elicitation and simultaneous installation.
Many would surely agree that with communication like this Bandler must have a very special code for programming his brain.

Bandler claims he keeps evolving. To some, however, he may seem mainly concerned with protecting his economic interests by trademarking his every burp. He seems extremely concerned that some rogue therapist or trainer might steal his work and make money without him getting a cut. One might be charitable and see Bandler's obsession with trademarking as a way to protect the integrity of his brilliant new discoveries about human potential (such as charisma enhancement) and how to sell it. Anyway, to clarify or to obscure matters--who knows which?-- what Bandler calls the real thing can be identified by a license and the trademark™ from The Society of Neuro-Linguistic Programming™. However, do not contact this organization if you want detailed, clear information about the nature of NLP, or DHE (Design Human Engineering™ (which will teach you to hallucinate designs like Tesla did), or PE (Persuasion Engineering™) or MetaMaster Track™, or Charisma Enhancement™, or Trancing™, or whatever else Mr. Bandler and associates are selling these days. Mostly what you will find on Bandler's page is information on how to sign up for one of his training sessions. For example, you can get 6 days of training for $1,800 at the door ($1,500 prepaid). What will you be trained in or for? Bandler has been learning about "the advancement of human evolution" and he will pass this on to you. For $1,500 you could have taken his 3-day seminar on Creativity Enhancement (where you could learn why it's not creative to rely on other people's ideas, except for Bandler's).

Grinder and corporate NLP
John Grinder, on the other hand, has gone on to try to do for the corporate world what Bandler is doing for the rest of us. He has joined Carmen Bostic St Clair in an organization called Quantum Leap, "an international organisation dealing with the design and implementation of cross cultural communication systems." Like Bandler, Grinder claims he has evolved new and even more brilliant "codes". TheNew Code contains a series of gates which presuppose a certain and to my way of thinking appropriate relationship between the conscious and unconscious parts of a person purporting to train or represent in some manner NLP. This goes a long way toward insisting on the presence of personal congruity in such a person. In other words, a person who fails to carry personal congruity will in general find themselves unable to use and/or teach the New Code patterns with any sort of consistent success. This is a design I like very much - it has the characteristic of a self-correcting system.

It may strike some people that terms like "personal congruity" are not very precise or scientific. This is probably because Grinder has created a "new paradigm". Or so he says. He denies that his and Bandler's work is an eclectic hodgepodge of philosophy and psychology, or that it even builds from the works of others. He believes that what he and Bandler did was "create a paradigm shift."

The following claim by Grinder provides some sense of what he thinks NLP is:
My memories about what we thought at the time of discovery (with respect to the classic code we developed - that is, the years 1973 through 1978) are that we were quite explicit that we were out to overthrow a paradigm and that, for example, I, for one, found it very useful to plan this campaign using in part as a guide the excellent work of Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) in which he detailed some of the conditions which historically have obtained in the midst of paradigm shifts. For example, I believe it was very useful that neither one of us were qualified in the field we first went after - psychology and in particular, its therapeutic application; this being one of the conditions which Kuhn identified in his historical study of paradigm shifts. Who knows what Bandler was thinking?

One can only hope that Bandler wasn't thinking the same things that Grinder was thinking, at least with respect to Kuhn's classic text. Kuhn did not promote the notion that not being particularly qualified in a scientific field is a significant condition for contributing to the development of a new paradigm in science. Furthermore, Kuhn did not provide a model or blueprint for creating paradigm shifts! His is an historical work, describing what he believed to have occurred in the history of science. Nowhere does he indicate that a single person at any time did, or even could, create a paradigm shift in science. Individuals such as Newton or Einstein might provide theories which require paradigm shifts for their theories to be adequately understood, but they don't create the paradigm shifts themselves. Kuhn's work implies that such a notion is preposterous.

Grinder and Bandler should have read Kant before they set off on their quixotic pursuit. Kant's "Copernican revolution" might be considered a paradigm shift by Bandler and Grinder, but it is not what Kuhn was talking about when he was describing the historical development of scientific theories. Kuhn restricted his concern to science. He made no claim that anything similar happens in philosophy and he certainly did not imply that anything NLP did, or is doing, constitutes a paradigm shift. Kuhn claimed that paradigm shifts occur over time when one theory breaks down and is replaced by another. Scientific theories break down, he claimed, when new data can't be explained by the old theories or when they no longer explain things as well as some newer theory. What Bandler and Grinder did was not in response to any crisis in theory in any scientific field and so cannot even be considered as contributing to a paradigm shift much less being one itself.

What Grinder seems to think Kuhn meant by "paradigm shift" is something like a gestalt shift, a change in the way we look at things, a change in perspective. Kant might fit the bill for this notion. Kant rejected the old way of doing epistemology, which was to ask 'how can we bring ourselves to understand the world?' What we ought to ask, said Kant, is 'how is it possible that the world comes to be understood by us?' This was truly a revolutionary move in the history of philosophy, for it asserted that the world must conform to the conditions imposed on it by the one experiencing the world. The notion that one has the truth when one's mind conforms with the world is rejected in favor of the notion that all knowledge is subjective because it is impossible without experience which is essentially subjective. Copernicus had said, in essence, let's see how things look with the Sun at the center of the universe, instead of the Earth. Kant said, in essence, let's examine how we know the world by assuming that the world must conform to the mind, rather than the mind conform to the world. Copernicus, however, could be considered as contributing to a paradigm shift in science. If he were right about the earth and other planets going around the sun rather than the sun and the other planets going around the earth--and he was--then astronomers could no longer do astronomy without profound changes in their fundamental concepts about the nature of the heavens. On the other hand, there is no way to know if Kant is right. We can accept or reject his theory. We can continue to do philosophy without being Kantians, but we cannot continue to do astronomy without accepting the heliocentric hypothesis and rejecting the geocentric one. What did Grinder and Bandler do that makes it impossible to continue doing psychology or therapy or semiotics or philosophy without accepting their ideas? Nothing.

Do people benefit from NLP?
While I do not doubt that many people benefit from NLP training sessions, there seem to be several false or questionable assumptions upon which NLP is based. Their beliefs about the unconscious mind, hypnosis and the ability to influence people by appealing directly to the subconscious mind are unsubstantiated. All the scientific evidence which exists on such things indicates that what NLP claims is not true. You cannot learn to "speak directly to the unconscious mind " as Erickson and NLP claim, except in the most obvious way of using the power of suggestion.

NLP claims that its experts have studied the thinking of great minds and the behavior patterns of successful people and have extracted models of how they work. "From these models, techniques for quickly and effectively changing thoughts, behaviors and beliefs that get in your way have been developed."* But studying Einstein's or Tolstoy's work might produce a dozen "models" of how those minds worked. There is no way to know which, if any, of the models is correct. It is a mystery why anyone would suppose that any given model would imply techniques for quick and effective change in thoughts, actions and beliefs. I think most of us intuitively grasp that even if we were subjected to the same experiences which Einstein or Tolstoy had, we would not have become either. Surely, we would be significantly different from whom we've become, but without their brains to begin with, we would have developed quite differently from either of them.

in conclusion
It seems that NLP develops models which can't be verified, from which it develops techniques which may have nothing to do with either the models or the sources of the models. NLP makes claims about thinking and perception which do not seem to be supported by neuroscience. This is not to say that the techniques won't work. They may work and work quite well, but there is no way to know whether the claims behind their origin are valid. Perhaps it doesn't matter. NLP itself proclaims that it is pragmatic in its approach: what matters is whether it works. However, how do you measure the claim "NLP works"? I don't know and I don't think NLPers know, either. Anecdotes and testimonials seem to be the main measuring devices. Unfortunately, such a measurement may reveal only how well the trainers teach their clients to persuade others to enroll in more training sessions.
The Myth about 'Good Eye Contact'
It's amazing how many communication skills' books and courses perpetuate the myth that 'good' eye contact means gazing fixedly into the other person's eyes. For a few people this will work well. However many people are likely to find it uncomfortable to the point where they begin to wonder if you are trying to hypnotise them or ask them for a date, or both.
If you meet lots of people in your daily life it's a good idea to think about how you make eye contact - it is, after all, one of the first things people use to form an impression of you!

Some Eye Contact Styles
Spend some time observing people and you will soon recognise that there are many different eye contact styles of which the more common are:
(1) The Fixed Stare Style: their eyes never leave you and practically bore through you. Occasionally this style is used as a power trick to intimidate or to give the impression that the person is more confident than they really are. Much used by politicians who have been thoroughly coached in how to appear a lot more trustworthy than they often turn out to be!
(2) The Darting Glance Style: They do look at you – but with very brief glances. They tend to look at you only when your gaze is averted. This style can give the impression of either low self confidence or lack of trustworthiness so if it happens to be your natural style you may wish to remedy the situation rather than transmit such a non-verbal message.
(Rather than being related to their trustworthiness or their confidence this lack of eye contact is more likely to be due to their personal thinking style. Many people have developed the habit of having to look away, or even close their eyes momentarily, in order to think about what they are saying. In a later article we will look at this subject and at what the direction a person's eyes move in tell you about the ideal communication style to use with them.)
(3) The No-Eye-Contact style: Their eyes rarely, if ever, meet yours. They use peripheral vision to watch you. This style is much favoured by country dwellers whose lifestyle has not included many opportunities for gazing into the eyes of other humans.
You may have noticed, while out in the open country, that there is a tendency to use somewhat less eye contact and to stand further from one another than would be the norm on a city street. As with the Darting Glance the style can be misinterpreted. However the No Eye Contact style is more likely to be a learned behaviour than an essential part of their thinking strategy.
(4) The Turn-And-Turn-About Style: This is the most common style. I look quite steadily at you while you are speaking. (Although, if you appear to find this uncomfortable, I look away occasionally to avoid creating tension). When it is my turn to speak you look at me steadily while I still meet your gaze but look away a little more (to think, gather my thoughts, check my feelings, etc.).

Action Points
The NLP approach to inter-personal communication is to use a slightly different style with each person rather than use the one-size-fits-all approach. This is because treating each person as a unique individual is at the core of NLP and because Rapport in NLP is based on maximising the similarities between us and playing down the differences. People are unconsciously signalling to us how they wish us to behave towards them. This is done non-verbally – through their body language. Match those parts of a person's body language that they have least conscious awareness of and you are on your way to creating excellent rapport. (Although what you are doing is out of their conscious awareness it will still register with them at a subtle feeling level).

In creating Rapport matching does not mean mimicking – if only because to do so would alert the person, consciously, to what you are doing. Matching means adapting your own behaviour so it is somewhat similar to the other person's. So you do not do exactly the same as they do you do enough to non-verbally signal that you are emphasising the similarities between you.
Which behaviours do you match? Eye contact is an excellent way to begin creating better rapport since few people have conscious awareness of their personal eye contact style. (Another excellent way of creating rapport is to match how a person uses their voice – their voice speed, volume, tempo, and rhythm, for example).

Use Eye Contact to Improve Rapport
(1) If they use the fixed-stare: While speaking to them look at them for longer than you might otherwise do. But avoid getting into I-will-not-look-away-until-you-do competition. When you are doing the listening give them quite sustained eye contact. (If, at first, you find this a little uncomfortable you can ease your own tension by varying your expression and by using head nods and 'Uh-huh' sounds.)
(2) If they use Darting Glances: Giving them sustained eye contact will be perceived as aggressive or even intimidating. Adopt a somewhat similar style by looking away more than might be normal for you, especially when you are doing the speaking.
(3) If they use minimal eye contact: Make much less eye contact that you might normally do. Practising using peripheral vision to watch them.
(Incidentally, it is quite likely that these people will also prefer to maintain a larger personal space zone so avoid moving too close to them.)

NLP & Rapport
Rapport, in NLP, is not just something that occurs as a result of people of people being in tune with one another. It is something that can be created – very quickly and easily – even with people we do not know, with whom we do not have common interests, and even with people with whom we disagree. Matching a person's eye contact style is one way of creating this rapport. And it is easy because they are already giving you a demo of how to do it! Simply observe them and then match their style. NLP is a modelling process. It is based on what works. Whether or not they have been 'scientifically validated' we will use those behaviours which produce satisfactory results – and jettison the ones which don't!

Matching non-verbal behaviour works.
Do it subtly. Initially it may feel a little strange – most new behaviours do – so simply use matching in the first three or four minutes of a conversation and then revert to your normal style. Gradually, with practice, it will become more natural for you and soon you will discover that you are doing it without (consciously) having to think about it – you'll have reached unconscious competence.

Now in creating RAPPORT with a group, when addressing meeting or conference for example, I’ll use a variety of styles and approaches. Including matching body language with key players (to whom I recognise that others defer) and using the key 3-5 seconds of eye contact with each person to create rapport with them at a number of levels."
See also est, firewalking, hypnosis, Landmark Forum, large group awareness training, Frederick Lenz (Rama), memory, paradigm, psychoanalysis, and reverse speech.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Entrepreneurship: Difinitions, Theories, and Origin

Definition of Entrepreneurship

Researchers have been inconsistent in their definitions of entrepreneurship (Brockhaus & Horwitz, 1986, Sexton & Smilor, Wortman, 1987; Gartner, 1988). Definitions have emphasized a broad range of activities including the creation of organizations (Gartner, 1988), the carrying out of new combinations (Schumpeter, 1934), the exploration of opportunities (Kirzner, 1973), the bearing of uncertainty (Knight 1921), the bringing together of factors of production (Say, 1803), and others (See Long, 1983). The outline below presents some authors definitions of entrepreneurship and attempts to summarize these viewpoints into a more meaningful whole.
Richard Cantillon (circa 1730); Entrepreneurship is defined as self-employment of any sort. Entrepreneurs buy at certain prices in the present and sell at uncertain prices in the future. The entrepreneur is a bearer of uncertainty.

Jean Baptiste Say (1816); The entrepreneur is the agent "who unites all means of production and who finds in the value of the products...the reestablishment of the entire capital he employs, and the value of the wages, the interest, and rent which he pays, as well as profits belonging to himself."

Frank Knight (1921); Entrepreneurs attempt to predict and act upon change within markets. Knight emphasize the entrepreneur's role in bearing the uncertainty of market dynamics. Entrepreneurs are required to perform such fundamental managerial functions as direction and control.

Joseph Schumpeter (1934); The entrepreneur is the innovator who implements change within markets through the carrying out of new combinations. The carrying out of new combinations can take several forms; 1) the introduction of a new good or quality thereof, 2) the introduction of a new method of production, 3) the opening of a new market, 4) the conquest of a new source of supply of new materials or parts, 5) the carrying out of the new organization of any industry. Schumpeter equated entrepreneurship with the concept of innovation applied to a business context. As such, the entrepreneur moves the market away from equilibrium. Schumpter's definition also emphasized the combination of resources. Yet, the managers of already established business are not entrepreneurs to Schumpeter.

Penrose (1963); Entrepreneurial activity involves identifying opportunities within the economic system. Managerial capacities are different from entrepreneurial capacities.

Harvey Leibenstein (1968, 1979); the entrepreneur fills market deficiencies through input-completing activities. Entrepreneurship involves "activities necessary to create or carry on an enterprise where not all markets are well established or clearly defined and/or in which relevant parts of the production function are not completely known.

Israel Kirzner (1979); The entrepreneur recognizes and acts upon market opportunities. The entrepreneur is essentially an arbitrageur. In contrast to Schumpeter's viewpoint, the entrepreneur moves the market toward equilibrium.

Gartner (1988); The creation of new organizations.

The Entrepreneurship Center at Miami University of Ohio has an interesting definition of entrepreneurship: "Entrepreneurship is the process of identifying, developing, and bringing a vision to life. The vision may be an innovative idea, an opportunity, or simply a better way to do something. The end result of this process is the creation of a new venture, formed under conditions of risk and considerable uncertainty."

In summary, entrepreneurship is often viewed as a function which involves the exploitation of opportunities which exist within a market. Such exploitation is most commonly associated with the direction and/or combination of productive inputs. Entrepreneurs usually are considered to bear risk while pursuing opportunities, and often are associated with creative and innovative actions. In addition, entrepreneurs undertake a managerial role in their activities, but routine management of an ongoing operation is not considered to be entrepreneurship. In this sense entrepreneurial activity is fleeting. An individual may perform an entrepreneurial function in creating an organization, but later is relegated to the role of managing it without performing an entrepreneurial role. In this sense, many small-business owners would not be considered to be entrepreneurs. Finally, individuals within organizations (i.e. non-founders) can be classified as entrepreneurs since they pursue the exploitation of opportunities. Thus intrepreneurship is appropriately considered to be a form of entrepreneurship.
The idea of "social entrepreneurship" has struck a responsive cord. It is a phrase well suited to our times. It combines the passion of a social mission with an image of business-like discipline, innovation, and determination commonly associated with, for instance, the high-tech pioneers of Silicon Valley . The time is certainly ripe for entrepreneurial approaches to social problems. Many governmental and philanthropic efforts have fallen far short of our expectations. Major social sector institutions are often viewed as inefficient, ineffective, and unresponsive. Social entrepreneurs are needed to develop new models for a new century.
The language of social entrepreneurship may be new, but the phenomenon is not. We have always had social entrepreneurs, even if we did not call them that. They originally built many of the institutions we now take for granted. However, the new name is important in that it implies a blurring of sector boundaries. In addition to innovative not-for-profit ventures, social entrepreneurship can include social purpose business ventures, such as for-profit community development banks, and hybrid organizations mixing not-for-profit and for-profit elements, such as homeless shelters that start businesses to train and employ their residents. The new language helps to broaden the playing field. Social entrepreneurs look for the most effective methods of serving their social missions.

Though the concept of "social entrepreneurship" is gaining popularity, it means different things to different people. This can be confusing. Many associate social entrepreneurship exclusively with not-for-profit organizations starting for-profit or earned-income ventures. Others use it to describe anyone who starts a not-for-profit organization. Still others use it to refer to business owners who integrate social responsibility into their operations. What does "social entrepreneurship" really mean? What does it take to be a social entrepreneur? To answer these questions, we should start by looking into the roots of the term "entrepreneur."
Origins of the Word "Entrepreneur".

In common parlance, being an entrepreneur is associated with starting a business, but this is a very loose application of a term that has a rich history and a much more significant meaning. The term "entrepreneur" originated in French economics as early as the 17th and 18th centuries. In French, it means someone who "undertakes," not an "undertaker" in the sense of a funeral director, but someone who undertakes a significant project or activity. More specifically, it came to be used to identify the venturesome individuals who stimulated economic progress by finding new and better ways of doing things. The French economist most commonly credited with giving the term this particular meaning is Jean Baptiste Say. Writing around the turn of the 19th century, Say put it this way, "The entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield." Entrepreneurs create value.

In the 20th century, the economist most closely associated with the term was Joseph Schumpeter. He described entrepreneurs as the innovators who drive the "creative-destructive" process of capitalism. In his words, "the function of entrepreneurs is to reform or revolutionize the pattern of production." They can do this in many ways: "by exploiting an invention or, more generally, an untried technological possibility for producing a new commodity or producing an old one in a new way, by opening up a new source of supply of materials or a new outlet for products, by reorganizing an industry and so on." Schumpeter's entrepreneurs are the change agents in the economy. By serving new markets or creating new ways of doing things, they move the economy forward.

It is true that many of the entrepreneurs that Say and Schumpeter have in mind serve their function by starting new, profit-seeking business ventures, but starting a business is not the essence of entrepreneurship. Though other economists may have used the term with various nuances, the Say-Schumpeter tradition that identifies entrepreneurs as the catalysts and innovators behind economic progress has served as the foundation for the contemporary use of this concept.

Current Theories of Entrepreneurship
Contemporary writers in management and business have presented a wide range of theories of entrepreneurship. Many of the leading thinkers remain true to the Say-Schumpeter tradition while offering variations on the theme. For instance, in his attempt to get at what is special about entrepreneurs, Peter Drucker starts with Say's definition, but amplifies it to focus on opportunity. Drucker does not require entrepreneurs to cause change, but sees them as exploiting the opportunities that change (in technology, consumer preferences, social norms, etc.) creates. He says, "this defines entrepreneur and entrepreneurship-the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity." The notion of "opportunity" has come to be central to many current definitions of entrepreneurship. It is the way today's management theorists capture Say's notion of shifting resources to areas of higher yield. An opportunity, presumably, means an opportunity to create value in this way. Entrepreneurs have a mind-set that sees the possibilities rather than the problems created by change.

For Drucker, starting a business is neither necessary nor sufficient for entrepreneurship. He explicitly comments that "not every new small business is entrepreneurial or represents entrepreneurship." He cites the example of a "husband and wife who open another delicatessen store or another Mexican restaurant in the American suburb" as a case in point. There is nothing especially innovative or change-oriented in this. The same would be true of new not-for-profit organizations. Not every new organization would be entrepreneurial. Drucker also makes it clear that entrepreneurship does not require a profit motive. Early in his book on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Drucker asserts, "No better text for a History of Entrepreneurship could be found than the creation of the modern university, and especially the modern American university." He then explains what a major innovation this was at the time. Later in the book, he devotes a chapter to entrepreneurship in public service institutions.

Howard Stevenson, a leading theorist of entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School , added an element of resourcefulness to the opportunity-oriented definition based on research he conducted to determine what distinguishes entrepreneurial management from more common forms of "administrative" management. After identifying several dimensions of difference, he suggests defining the heart of entrepreneurial management as "the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled." He found that entrepreneurs not only see and pursue opportunities that elude administrative managers; entrepreneurs do not allow their own initial resource endowments to limit their options. To borrow a metaphor from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, their reach exceeds their grasp. Entrepreneurs mobilize the resources of others to achieve their entrepreneurial objectives. Administrators allow their existing resources and their job descriptions to constrain their visions and actions. Once again, we have a definition of entrepreneurship that is not limited to business start-ups.

Differences between Business and Social Entrepreneurs
The ideas of Say, Schumpeter, Drucker, and Stevenson are attractive because they can be as easily applied in the social sector as the business sector. They describe a mind-set and a kind of behaviour that can be manifest anywhere. In a world in which sector boundaries are blurring, this is an advantage. We should build our understanding of social entrepreneurship on this strong tradition of entrepreneurship theory and research. Social entrepreneurs are one species in the genus entrepreneur. They are entrepreneurs with a social mission. However, because of this mission, they face some distinctive challenges and any definition ought to reflect this.

For social entrepreneurs, the social mission is explicit and central. This obviously affects how social entrepreneurs perceive and assess opportunities. Mission-related impact becomes the central criterion, not wealth creation. Wealth is just a means to an end for social entrepreneurs. With business entrepreneurs, wealth creation is a way of measuring value creation. This is because business entrepreneurs are subject to market discipline, which determines in large part whether they are creating value. If they do not shift resources to more economically productive uses, they tend to be driven out of business.

Markets are not perfect, but over the long haul, they work reasonably well as a test of private value creation, specifically the creation of value for customers who are willing and able to pay. An entrepreneur's ability to attract resources (capital, labor, equipment, etc.) in a competitive marketplace is a reasonably good indication that the venture represents a more productive use of these resources than the alternatives it is competing against. The logic is simple. Entrepreneurs who can pay the most for resources are typically the ones who can put the resources to higher valued uses, as determined in the marketplace. Value is created in business when customers are willing to pay more than it costs to produce the good or service being sold. The profit (revenue minus costs) that a venture generates is a reasonably good indicator of the value it has created. If an entrepreneur cannot convince a sufficient number of customers to pay an adequate price to generate a profit, this is a strong indication that insufficient value is being created to justify this use of resources. A re-deployment of the resources happens naturally because firms that fail to create value cannot purchase sufficient resources or raise capital. They go out of business. Firms that create the most economic value have the cash to attract the resources needed to grow.

Markets do not work as well for social entrepreneurs. In particular, markets do not do a good job of valuing social improvements, public goods and harms, and benefits for people who cannot afford to pay. These elements are often essential to social entrepreneurship. That is what makes it social entrepreneurship. As a result, it is much harder to determine whether a social entrepreneur is creating sufficient social value to justify the resources used in creating that value. The survival or growth of a social enterprise is not proof of its efficiency or effectiveness in improving social conditions. It is only a weak indicator, at best.

Social entrepreneurs operate in markets, but these markets often do not provide the right discipline. Many social-purpose organizations charge fees for some of their services. They also compete for donations, volunteers, and other kinds of support. But the discipline of these "markets" is frequently not closely aligned with the social entrepreneur's mission. It depends on who is paying the fees or providing the resources, what their motivations are, and how well they can assess the social value created by the venture. It is inherently difficult to measure social value creation. How much social value is created by reducing pollution in a given stream, by saving the spotted owl, or by providing companionship to the elderly? The calculations are not only hard but also contentious. Even when improvements can be measured, it is often difficult to attribute an them to a specific intervention. Are the lower crime rates in an area due to the Block Watch, new policing techniques, or just a better economy? Even when improvements can be measured and attributed to a given intervention, social entrepreneurs often cannot capture the value they have created in an economic form to pay for the resources they use. Whom do they charge for cleaning the stream or running the Block Watch? How do they get everyone who benefits to pay? To offset this value-capture problem, social entrepreneurs rely on subsidies, donations, and volunteers, but this further muddies the waters of market discipline.

The ability to attract these philanthropic resources may provide some indication of value creation in the eyes of the resource providers, but it is not a very reliable indicator. The psychic income people get from giving or volunteering is likely to be only loosely connected with actual social impact, if it is connected at all.

Defining Social Entrepreneurship
Any definition of social entrepreneurship should reflect the need for a substitute for the market discipline that works for business entrepreneurs. We cannot assume that market discipline will automatically weed out social ventures that are not effectively and efficiently utilizing resources. The following definition combines an emphasis on discipline and accountability with the notions of value creation taken from Say, innovation and change agents from Schumpeter, pursuit of opportunity from Drucker, and resourcefulness from Stevenson. In brief, this definition can be stated as follows: Social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents in the social sector, by:
  • Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value),
  • Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission,
  • Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning,
  • Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and

Exhibiting a heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created. This is clearly an "idealized" definition. Social sector leaders will exemplify these characteristics in different ways and to different degrees. The closer a person gets to satisfying all these conditions, the more that person fits the model of a social entrepreneur. Those who are more innovative in their work and who create more significant social improvements will naturally be seen as more entrepreneurial. The truly Schumpeterian social entrepreneurs will significantly reform or revolutionize their industries. Each element in this brief definition deserves some further elaboration. Let's consider each one in turn.

Change agents in the social sector:
Social entrepreneurs are the reformers and revolutionaries described by Schumpeter, but with a social mission. They make fundamental changes in the way things are done in the social sector. Their visions are bold. They attack the underlying causes of problems, rather than simply treating symptoms. They often reduce needs rather than just meeting them. They seek to create systemic changes and sustainable improvements. Though they may act locally, their actions have the potential to stimulate global improvements in their chosen arenas, whether that is education, health care, economic development, the environment, the arts, or any other social sector field.

Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value:
This is the core of what distinguishes social entrepreneurs from business entrepreneurs even from socially responsible businesses. For a social entrepreneur, the social mission is fundamental. This is a mission of social improvement that cannot be reduced to creating private benefits (financial returns or consumption benefits) for individuals. Making a profit, creating wealth, or serving the desires of customers may be part of the model, but these are means to a social end, not the end in itself. Profit is not the gauge of value creation; nor is customer satisfaction; social impact is the gauge. Social entrepreneurs look for a long-term social return on investment. Social entrepreneurs want more than a quick hit; they want to create lasting improvements. They think about sustaining the impact.

Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities:
Where others see problems, entrepreneurs see opportunity. Social entrepreneurs are not simply driven by the perception of a social need or by their compassion, rather they have a vision of how to achieve improvement and they are determined to make their vision work. They are persistent. The models they develop and the approaches they take can, and often do, change, as the entrepreneurs learn about what works and what does not work. The key element is persistence combined with a willingness to make adjustments as one goes. Rather than giving up when an obstacle is encountered, entrepreneurs ask, "How can we surmount this obstacle? How can we make this work?"

Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning:
Entrepreneurs are innovative. They break new ground, develop new models, and pioneer new approaches. However, as Schumpeter notes, innovation can take many forms. It does not require inventing something wholly new; it can simply involve applying an existing idea in a new way or to a new situation. Entrepreneurs need not be inventors. They simply need to be creative in applying what others have invented. Their innovations may appear in how they structure their core programs or in how they assemble the resources and fund their work. On the funding side, social entrepreneurs look for innovative ways to assure that their ventures will have access to resources as long as they are creating social value. This willingness to innovate is part of the modus operandi of entrepreneurs. It is not just a one-time burst of creativity. It is a continuous process of exploring, learning, and improving. Of course, with innovation comes uncertainty and risk of failure. Entrepreneurs tend to have a high tolerance for ambiguity and learn how to manage risks for themselves and others. They treat failure of a project as a learning experience, not a personal tragedy.

Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand:
Social entrepreneurs do not let their own limited resources keep them from pursuing their visions. They are skilled at doing more with less and at attracting resources from others. They use scarce resources efficiently, and they leverage their limited resources by drawing in partners and collaborating with others. They explore all resource options, from pure philanthropy to the commercial methods of the business sector. They are not bound by sector norms or traditions. They develop resource strategies that are likely to support and reinforce their social missions. They take calculated risks and manage the downside, so as to reduce the harm that will result from failure. They understand the risk tolerances of their stakeholders and use this to spread the risk to those who are better prepared to accept it.

Exhibiting a heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created:
Because market discipline does not automatically weed out inefficient or ineffective social ventures, social entrepreneurs take steps to assure they are creating value. This means that they seek a sound understanding of the constituencies they are serving. They make sure they have correctly assessed the needs and values of the people they intend to serve and the communities in which they operate. In some cases, this requires close connections with those communities. They understand the expectations and values of their "investors," including anyone who invests money, time, and/or expertise to help them. They seek to provide real social improvements to their beneficiaries and their communities, as well as attractive (social and/or financial) return to their investors. Creating a fit between investor values and community needs is an important part of the challenge. When feasible, social entrepreneurs create market-like feedback mechanisms to reinforce this accountability. They assess their progress in terms of social, financial, and managerial outcomes, not simply in terms of their size, outputs, or processes. They use this information to make course corrections as needed.

Social Entrepreneurs: A Rare Breed:
Social entrepreneurship describes a set of behaviours that are exceptional. These behaviours should be encouraged and rewarded in those who have the capabilities and temperament for this kind of work. We could use many more of them. Should everyone aspire to be a social entrepreneur? No. Not every social sector leader is well suited to being entrepreneurial. The same is true in business. Not every business leader is an entrepreneur in the sense that Say, Schumpeter, Drucker, and Stevenson had in mind.

While we might wish for more entrepreneurial behaviour in both sectors, society has a need for different leadership types and styles. Social entrepreneurs are one special breed of leader, and they should be recognized as such. This definition preserves their distinctive status and assures that social entrepreneurship is not treated lightly. We need social entrepreneurs to help us find new avenues toward social improvement as we enter the next century.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Promoting Reflective Thought in The Classroom

The concept "reflective thought" was introduced by John Dewey in 1910 in his "How We Think", a work designed for teachers. Dewey admitted a debt to both his contemporaries in philosophy, William James, and Charles S. Peirce. Dewey's most basic assumption was that learning improves to the degree that it arises out of the process of reflection. As time went on, terminology concerning reflection proliferated, spawning a host of synonyms, such as "critical thinking," "problem solving," and " higher level thought."

Dewey's definition of reflective thinking repeated over the years was:
"Active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it tends". (Dewey, 1933)
However, other researchers added to this definition and modified it. Thus,

"The purpose of Socratic Seminars is to enlarge understanding of ideas, issues, and values. The intent is to create dialogue that gives voice to rigorous thinking about possible meaning... Seminars are structured to take the student thought from the unclear to the clear, from the unreasoned to the reasoned. . . from the unexamined to the examined." (Lambright, 1995)
Many other definitions exist, but what all have in common is conviction. Some are of a more generalized nature, such as the two above. Others assume that true reflective thinking can only be derived from the application of the various intellectual disciplines.

For the last four decades, consensus thinking is that reflection in a classroom can take place only when a questioning strategy promotes it. Paradigms and models of questioning have proliferated endlessly. All begin with the assumption that there are unproductive, sterile questions that throttle student thought. Thus, Wasserman (1992) talks about "stupid questions" which ignore student ideas, are "insensitive to the feelings or ideas being expressed," or are irrelevant and disrespectful.

Dead-end questions may be too complex for student experience, may not provide sufficient "wait time" for students to process the question, may involve trick questions or those which ask a question whose answer can be found in the text or lecture of the teacher.

Questions which promote thought begin with the assumption that students do not think unless they have something to think about. Dewey, Hullfish and Smith, Hunt and Metcalf, Bigge, and Bayles argued that this "something" can only be a problem. But the problem must be real, i.e., internalized, felt by students. "Pseudo problems" occur when the importance of the problem is ignored or when a problem is assumed to exist because the teacher or text defines it as a problem. Thus, "What were the causes of the Civil War?" has been a problem to historians for many years. It is unlikely to be one to students.

Many authors (Simpson, 1996) have attempted to create paradigms of questioning, including Simpson, Weast, Hauser and Wasserman. What all of these different paradigms have in common is the strongly held conviction that the traditional, text bound, information coverage, low-level questioning must be replaced by a more fruitful approach that stimulates students to reflect on problems.

How to Generate Problems. A problem exists when a student is curious, puzzled, confused, or unable to resolve an issue. A situation which was clear and untroubled has now become clouded or obstructed. In recent years, scholars have attempted to come up with useful, generic models of problem setting:
* asking students to devise alternative ways of presenting information, i.e., alternative to text or teacher
* comparing different accounts of the same events, ideas, phenomena
* supplying alternative endings, writing different outcomes
* role-playing, role reversal, attempting to discern what was left out, what was inconsistent
* inserting ideas that do not appear to "belong" in a text
* deleting or omitting information
* playing "what if"
* examining the social context of a given statement
* attempting to identify the assumption

There is no course, age, or grade where reflective theory cannot be applied. Reflective theory simply says that if you wish to generate a problem, enter the thinking and knowing patterns of your students. And then ask them questions which create conflict and confusion. And then help them reach an answer. And attempt to recognize a 24 carat gold question when you hear it. For example, if a student who has been paying attention to the usual information on animal and fish camouflage asks, "How come the Monarch butterfly is so colorful when this makes it easier for a predator to see?" has just asked precisely such a question. There is an infinite number of such questions, just waiting for teachers to recognize or ask. These questions promote the reflection that provides the best kind of learning that human beings have so far invented.

Any educational evaluation stems from the educational purposes specified in advance of teaching. If one wishes to teach reflectively and hold reflective discussions, then the purposes, goals, or objectives must mandate such discussion. This necessarily precludes evaluation that emphasizes memorization. Memorization is what is ordinarily measured by conventional objective tests--true false, fill in, matching, and completion.

What evaluation is mandated? Lambright cites Cross who maintains that, "If you want to teach critical thinking . . .,we suggest that you devise an exercise that requires students to practice critical thinking and simultaneously demonstrate their progress in achieving that complex skill." Some researchers have insisted that appropriate evaluation "must go beyond acquiring facts and learning theories -- they must apply knowledge." (Lambright) However, application of knowledge, in terms of the Bloom Taxonomy, is technically Level III, which is not especially reflective. Reflective thought involves acquisition of facts, understanding of ideas, application of principles, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. In short, reflective thought and reflective teaching involve all levels of the Bloom Taxonomy.

Perhaps the most complete listing of reflective skills may be found in Weast (1996):
* identifying the author's conclusion;
* identifying the reasons and the evidence
* identifying vague and ambiguous language
* identifying value assumptions and value conflicts
* identifying descriptive assumptions
* evaluating statistical reasoning
* evaluating sampling and measurements
* evaluating logical reasoning
* identifying omitted information
* articulating one's own values in thoughtful, fair-minded way.

These skills are the ones which, over the last six or seven decades, have tended to be emphasized by advocates of reflective thought and teaching. They continue to be emphasized. The continuing emphasis is a valid index to the fact that they are still not in schools.

Dewey, J. (1993). How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Hauser, J. (1992). Dialogic classrooms: Tactics, projects, and attitude conversions. Paper presented at the National Council of Teachers of English convention, Louisville, KY. [ED 353 232]
Hunt, M. P., & Metcalf, L. E. (1968). Teaching high school social studies: Problems in reflective thinking and social understanding. New York: Harper and Row.
Lambright, L. (1995). Creating a dialogue Socratic seminars and educational reform. Community College Journal, 65, 30-34.
Shermis, S. S. (1992). Critical thinking: Helping students learn reflectively. Bloomington, Indiana: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills. [ED 341 954]
Simpson, A. (1996). Critical questions: Whose questions? The Reading Teacher, 50, 118-126. [EJ 540 595]
Wasserman, S. (1992). Asking the right question: The essence of teaching. Phi Delta Kappa Fastback 343. Bloomington, Indiana: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.
Weast, D. (1996). Alternative teaching strategies: The case for critical thinking. Teaching Sociology,24, 189-194.

Creative Thinking: An Applicable Approach


Critical thinking as a specific area of study goes back at least to 1941 with Edward Glaser’s An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking. It may not be a coincidence that the rise of interest in independent critical thinking coincides with the chaos that was unleashed by aggressive, totalitarian governments.

Today, a number of definitions of thinking and of critical thinking in particular exist in academia. That multiple definitions exist is not unusual when one considers the field of inquiry. Over time at AMSC, we have used definitions from a number of authors; some relating to thinking in general (Rubinstein and Firstenberg 1987) (DeBono 1976) and some who were focused specifically on critical thinking (Brookfield 1987:7-11) (Ennis 1987) (Walters 1990) (Paul 1993). We also draw on Kuhn’s work (1970) for his discussions of paradigms, paradigm shift, and change as it relates to thinking.

One of the early difficulties we found in trying to work with the concepts involved in critical thinking at AMSC, was that it is very difficult to present multiple definitions to people who are encountering the deliberate examination of their thinking for the first time. Since our goals have always included the development of critical thinking as a lifelong habit, we were willing to forgo the rich variety of perspectives on thinking in exchange for something we could use successfully with our adult students.
Another approach to critical thinking could be summarized as:"Critical thinking is the ability to think about one’s thinking in such a way as: "to recognize its strengths and weaknesses and, as a result, to recast the thinking in improved form. Such thinking about one’s thinking involves the ability to identify the basic elements of thought (purpose, question, information, assumption, interpretation, concepts, implications, point of view) and assess those elements using universal intellectual criteria and standards (clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, and logicalness)."
  • Is this a good idea or a bad idea?
  • Is this belief defensible or indefensible?
  • Is my position on this issue reasonable and rational or not?
  • Am I willing to deal with complexity or do I retreat into simple stereotypes to avoid it?
  • If I can’t tell if my idea or belief is reasonable or defensible, how can I have confidence in my thinking, or in myself?
  • Is it appropriate and wise to assume that my ideas and beliefs are accurate, clear, and reasonable, when I haven’t really tested them?
  • Do I think deeply or only on the surface of things?
  • Do I ever enter sympathetically into points of view that are very different from my own, or do I just assume that I am right?
  • Do I know how to question my own ideas and to test them?
  • Do I know what I am aiming for? Should I?
  • Effectively evaluating our own thinking and the thinking of others is a habit few of us practice. We evaluate which washing machine to buy after reading Consumer Reports, we evaluate which movie to go see after studying the reviews, we evaluate new job opportunities after talking with friends and colleagues, but rarely do we explicitly evaluate the quality of our thinking (or the thinking of our students).

But, you may ask, how can we know if our thinking is sound? Are we relegated to “trial and error” to discover the consequences of our thinking? Do the consequences always accurately tell the tale? Isn’t thinking all a matter of opinion anyway? Isn’t my opinion as good as anyone else’s? If what I believe is true for me, isn’t that all that matters? In our education and upbringing, have we developed the ability to evaluate, objectively and fairly, the quality of our beliefs? What did we learn about thinking during our schooling?

How did we come to believe what we do believe, and why one belief and not another? How many of our beliefs have we come to through rigorous, independent thinking, and how many have been down-loaded from the media, parents, our culture, our spouses or friends? As we focus on it, do we value the continuing improvement of our thinking abilities? Do we value the continuing improvement of our students’ thinking abilities? Important research findings indicate that we need to look closely at this issue. Mary Kennedy reports the findings on the opposite page in the Phi Delta Kappan, May, 1991, in an article entitled, “Policy Issues in Teaching Education.”
How can we improve our thinking without effective evaluation practices? Can we learn how to evaluate our thinking and reasoning objectively? Let’s look at one concrete example for clues into the elements of effective evaluation in a familiar field. In platform diving, there are criteria to be met to receive a score of “10” and standards that judges and competitors alike use to evaluate the dive. These standards guide the divers in each practice session, in each effort off the board. Without these criteria and standards, how would the diver and the judges know what was excellent and what was marginal? Awareness of the criteria and standards are alive in the divers’ and coaches’ minds. Do we have parallel criteria and standards as we strive to improve our abilities, our performances in thinking?

There is nothing more common than evaluation in the everyday world but for sound evaluation to take place, one must establish relevant standards, gather appropriate evidence, and judge the evidence in keeping with the standards.

There are appropriate standards for the assessment of thinking and there are specific ways to cultivate the learning of them. The research into critical thinking establishes tools that can help us evaluate our own thinking and the thinking of others, if we see their potential benefit and are willing to discipline our minds in ways that may seem awkward at first. This chapter briefly lays out those tools in general terms and acts as a map, so to speak, of their dimensions. We present examples of student thinking that demonstrate critical and uncritical thinking as we define those terms. In other chapters, we identify approaches to teaching critical thinking that are flawed, and explain why they undermine the success of those who attempt to use them.
Important Research Findings

First Finding: ...national assessments in virtually every subject indicate that, although our students can perform basic skills pretty well, they are not doing well on thinking and reasoning. American students can compute, but they cannot reason.... They can write complete and correct sentences, but they cannot prepare arguments.... Moreover, in international comparisons, American students are falling behind...particularly in those areas that require higher-order thinking.... Our students are not doing well at thinking, reasoning, analyzing, predicting, estimating, or problem solving.

Second Finding: ...textbooks in this country typically pay scant attention to big ideas, offer no analysis, and pose no challenging questions. Instead, they provide a tremendous array of information or ‘factlets’, while they ask questions requiring only that students be able to recite back the same empty list.

Third Finding: Teachers teach most content only for exposure, not for understanding.

Fourth Finding: Teachers tend to avoid thought-provoking work and activities and stick to predictable routines.Conclusion: “If we were to describe our current K–12 education system on the basis of these four findings, we would have to say that it provides very little intellectually stimulating work for students, and that it tends to produce students who are not capable of intellectual work.
Fifth Finding: ... our fifth finding from research compounds all the others and makes it harder to change practice: teachers are highly likely to teach in the way they themselves were taught. If your elementary teacher presented mathematics to you as a set of procedural rules with no substantive rationale, then you are likely to think that this is what mathematics is and that this is how mathematics should be studied. And you are likely to teach it in this way. If you studied writing as a set of grammatical rules rather than as a way to organize your thoughts and to communicate ideas to others, then this is what you will think writing is, and you will probably teach it so.... By the time we complete our undergraduate education, we have observed teachers for up to 3,060 days.
Implication: “We are caught in a vicious circle of mediocre practice modeled after mediocre practice, of trivialized knowledge begetting more trivialized knowledge. Unless we find a way out of this circle, we will continue re-creating generations of teachers who re-create generations of students who are not prepared for the technological society we are becoming.”
(Figure 1 condensed from “Policy Issues in Teaching Education” by Mary Kennedy in the Phi Delta Kappan, May, 91, pp 661–66.)
Critical Thinking: A Picture of the Genuine Article
Critical Thinking is a systematic way to form and shape one’s thinking. It functions purposefully and exactingly. It is thought that is disciplined, comprehensive, based on intellectual standards, and, as a result, well-reasoned.

Critical Thinking is distinguishable from other thinking because the thinker is thinking with the awareness of the systematic nature of high quality thought, and is continuously checking up on himself or herself, striving to improve the quality of thinking. As with any system, critical thinking is not just a random series of characteristics or components. All of its components - its elements, principles, standards and values - form an integrated, working network that can be applied effectively not only to academic learning, but to learning in every dimension of living.
Critical thinking’s most fundamental concern is excellence of thought. Critical thinking is based on two assumptions: first, that the quality of our thinking affects the quality of our lives, and second, that everyone can learn how to continually improve the quality of his or her thinking.
Critical Thinking implies a fundamental, overriding goal for education in school and in the workplace: always to teach so as to help students improve their own thinking. As students learn to take command of their thinking and continually to improve its quality, they learn to take command of their lives, continually improving the quality of their lives. Comprehensive Critical Thinking Has the Following Characteristics:

It is thinking which is responsive to and guided by Intellectual Standards, such as relevance, accuracy, precision, clarity, depth, and breadth. Without intellectual standards to guide it, thinking cannot achieve excellence. [Note: most so-called “thinking skill” educational programs and approaches have no intellectual standards.]

It is thinking that deliberately supports the development of Intellectual Traits in the thinker, such as intellectual humility, intellectual integrity, intellectual perseverance, intellectual empathy, and intellectual self-discipline, among others. [Note: most “thinking skill” programs ignore fundamental intellectual traits.]

It is thinking in which the thinker can identify the Elements of Thought that are present in all thinking about any problem, such that the thinker makes the logical connection between the elements and the problem at hand. For example, the critical thinker will routinely ask himself or herself questions such as these about the subject of the thinking task at hand:

  • What is the purpose of my thinking?
  • What precise question am I trying to answer?
  • Within what point of view am I thinking?
  • What information am I using?
  • How am I interpreting that information?
  • What concepts or ideas are central to my thinking?
  • What conclusions am I coming to?
  • What am I taking for granted, what assumptions am I making?
  • If I accept the conclusions, what are the implications?
  • What would the consequences be, if I put my thought into action?

For each element, the thinker must be able to reflect on the standards that will shed light on the effectiveness of her thinking. [Note: Most “thinking skill” programs ignore most or all of the basic elements of thought and the need to apply standards to their evaluation.]

It is thinking that is ROUTINELY SELF-ASSESSING, SELF-EXAMINING, and SELF-IMPROVING. The thinker takes steps to assess the various dimensions of her thinking, using appropriate intellectual standards. [Note: Most “thinking skill” programs do not emphasize student self-assessment.] But what is essential to recognize is that if students are not assessing their own thinking, they are not thinking critically.

It is thinking in which THERE IS AN INTEGRITY TO THE WHOLE SYSTEM. The thinker is able, not only to critically examine her thought as a whole, but also to take it apart, to consider its various parts, as well. Furthermore, the thinker is committed to thinking within a system of interrelated traits of mind; for example, to be intellectually humble, to be intellectually perseverant, to be intellectually courageous, to be intellectually fair and just. Ideally, the critical thinker is aware of the full variety of ways in which thinking can become distorted, misleading, prejudiced, superficial, unfair, or otherwise defective. The thinker strives for wholeness and integrity as fundamental values. [Note: Most “thinking skills” programs are not well integrated and lack a broad vision of the range of thinking abilities, standards, and traits that the successful critical thinking student will develop. Many tend to instruct students with a technique such as mapping of ideas in diagrams or comparing two ideas, yet these ask little of the student and can readily mislead student and teacher to believe that such techniques will be sufficient.]

It is thinking that YIELDS A PREDICTABLE, WELL-REASONED ANSWER because of the comprehensive and demanding process that the thinker pursues. If we know quite explicitly how to check our thinking as we go, and we are committed to doing so, and we get extensive practice, then we can depend on the results of our thinking being productive. Good thinking produces good results. [Note: Because most “thinking skills” programs lack intellectual standards and do not require a comprehensive process of thinking, the quality of student response is unpredictable, both for the students and for the teacher.]

It is thinking that is responsive to the social and moral imperative to not only enthusiastically argue from alternate and opposing points of view, but also to SEEK AND IDENTIFY WEAKNESSES AND LIMITATIONS IN ONE’S OWN POSITION. When one becomes aware that there are many legitimate points of view, each of which—when deeply thought through—yields some level of insight, then one becomes keenly aware that one’s own thinking, however rich and insightful it may be, however carefully constructed, will not capture everything worth knowing and seeing. [Because most “thinking skills” programs lack intellectual standards, the students are unable to identify weaknesses in their own reasoning nor are they taught to see this as a value to be pursued.]
What Does Comprehensive Critical Thinking Look Like?

Critical Thinking at School
Critical thinking has an appropriate role in virtually every dimension of school learning, very little that we learn that is of value can be learned by automatic, unreflective processes. Textbooks, subject matter, classroom discussion, even relationships with classmates are things to be “figured out” and “assessed.” Let’s look at two students who are each “reading” a passage from a story and see if we can identify the consequences of critical and uncritical reading habits and abilities.

Are We Hitting the Target? Assessing Student Thinking in Reading
Consider the following example of two students engaging in reading the same story. This example is taken from an important article by Stephen Norris and Linda Phillips, “Explanations of Reading Comprehension: Schema Theory and Critical Thinking Theory,” in Teachers College Record, Volume 89, Number 2, Winter 1987. We are privy to conversations between each of the two students, Colleen and Stephen and an experimenter. We are thus invited to reconstruct, from the students’ responses, our own appraisal of the quality of their thinking. The utility of intellectual standards such as clarity, relevance, accuracy, consistency, and depth of thinking come into sharp focus once one begins to assess specific thinking for “quality.”

In what follows we will present episode-by-episode Stephen and Colleen’s thinking aloud as they work through the passage. The experimenter’s questions are given in brackets. We have chosen to make our example detailed, because we see this as the best route for providing specificity to otherwise vague generalizations about the relationship between reading and thinking. To simulate the task for you we present the passage without a title and one episode at a time as was done with the children.
Critical Thinking in the Workplace
With accelerating change and the increasing complexity of problems facing us at the dawn of the 21st Century, we are striving to compete within the new global economic realities. John Sculley, CEO of Apple Computer, Inc. reported to President-elect Clinton in December of 1992:
Most Americans see our largest corporations going through massive restructurings, layoffs, and downsizing. People know something has changed and they are scared because they don’t fully understand it and they see people they know losing their jobs.They also see their neighbors buying high-quality, lower-priced products from abroad, and they ask why can’t we build these same products or better ones here at home?

The answer is, we can. But only if we have a public education system that will turn out a world-class product. We need an education system that will educate all our students, not just the top 15–20 percent. A highly-skilled work force must begin with a world class public education system. Eventually, the New Economy will touch every industry in our nation. There will be no place to hide!

In the New Economy, low-skilled manual work will be paid less. The United States cannot afford to have the high-skilled work being done somewhere else in the world and end up with the low-wage work. This is not an issue about protectionism. It is an issue about an educational system aligned with the New Economy and a broad educational opportunity for everyone. Maximum flexibility.In the old economy, America had a real advantage because we were rich with natural resources and our large domestic market formed the basis for economies of scale.

In the New Economy, strategic resources no longer just come out of the ground (such as oil, coal, iron, and wheat). The strategic resources are ideas and information that come out of our minds. The result is, as a nation, we have gone from being resource-rich in the old economy to resource-poor in the New Economy almost overnight! Our public education system has not successfully made the shift from teaching the memorization of facts to achieving the learning of critical thinking skills. We are still trapped in a K–12 public education system which is preparing our youth for jobs that no longer exist.

Critical thinking is valuable not only in school but in the world beyond school as well. Increasingly, our ever-changing economy demands abilities and traits characteristic of comprehensive critical thinking. They enable us not only to survive but to thrive. They are essential to the new management structures to which successful businesses will routinely and increasingly turn. Consider the news item opposite, from a small town in Wisconsin. It illustrates well a trend which is going to grow enormously, and that is toward high productivity work-place organizations that “depend on workers who can do more than read, write, and do simple arithmetic, and who bring more to their jobs than reliability and a good attitude. In such organizations, workers are asked to use judgment and make decisions rather than to merely follow directions. Management layers disappear as workers take over many of the tasks that others used to do
Off the Target: Pseudo-Critical Thinking Approaches and Materials
Critical thinking cannot be seen, touched, tasted or heard directly, and thus it is readily subject to counterfeit, readily confused with thinking that sounds like, but is not critical thinking, with thinking that will not lead students to success in school and beyond. Critical thinking is readily falsified in the commercial world by those who seek to capitalize on its growing legitimacy. We increasingly need a regular Consumer Report that enables the reader to effectively recognize the counterfeits of good thinking, which are multiplying daily, to help us recognize the latest gimmick du jour. The characteristics of comprehensive critical thinking outlined in this chapter make available just a beginning set of criteria by which professionals and parents can evaluate educational resources in this field.

Educators, business and governmental leaders must begin to distinguish the genuine from the counterfeit, the legitimate from the specious, the incomplete from the comprehensive. Smooth, slick, and shallow thinking are everywhere around us, filled with promises of simple, quick, instant solutions, or misdirecting us into schemes that misspend our own or public monies. Other chapters of this book will provide many examples, principally from the field of education. The reader will doubtless be able to add other examples from his or her own experience.
That we need sound critical thinking to protect ourselves and the public good is intuitively obvious, once we are clear about what critical thinking is and what it can do. Identifying the target precisely, however, is the first step in facing the challenges ahead.
Pseudo critical thinking is revealed in educational assessment when the assessment theory or practice — or the approaches to teaching, thinking, or knowledge that follows from it — fails to take into account fundamental conditions for the pursuit or justification of knowledge. The result is the unwitting or unknowing encouragement of flawed thinking. What are some of the common ways, then, that the assessment of thinking or, indeed, any approach to the teaching of thinking might be flawed?

Here are three. These are not by any means the only ones, but they are very common, very basic, and very important.

First Basic Flaw —The lack or misuse of intellectual standardsThis is one of the most common flaws. It derives from the fact that though all of us think, and think continually, we have not been educated to analyze our thinking and assess it. We don’t have explicit standards already in mind to assess our thinking. We may then fall back on “mental process words” to talk about good thinking, words such as analyzing. Though all of us think, and think continually, we have not been educated to analyze our thinking and assess it.

identifying, classifying, and evaluating. These are words that name some of what thinking does. We use our thinking to identify things, to classify them, to analyze them, to apply them, and to evaluate them. It is tempting, then, to think of critical thinking as merely thinking engaged in identification, classification, analysis, application, evaluation, and the like. But it is important to remember that responsible critical thinking requires intellectual standards. Hence, it is not enough to classify, one must do it well, that is, in accord with the appropriate standards and criteria. Misclassification, though a form of classification, is not an ability. The same goes for analysis, application, and evaluation.

It might be helpful to remember that all critical thinking abilities have three parts: a process, an object, and a standard. Here are various critical thinking abilities which can serve as examples. As you read them see if you can identify the intellectual standard in each:
  • the ability to evaluate information for its relevance
  • the ability to accurately identify assumptions
  • the ability to construct plausible inferences
  • the ability to identify relevant points of view
  • the ability to distinguish significant from insignificant information

The standards used in these examples are “relevance,” “accuracy,” “plausibility,” and “significance.” Each of these standards would, needless to say, have to be contextualized. Nevertheless — and this is the key point — there can be no critical thinking without the use of intellectual standards.

Hence, if an approach to teaching or thinking focuses on the use of mental processes without a critical application of standards to that use, and persuades many to do the same. There can be no critical thinking without the use of intellectual standards. Then, it is an example of pseudo critical thinking. There are in fact many such approaches in use in education today.

Second Basic Flaw — Misconceptions Built Into the System Flaws occur when thinking or an approach to thinking embodies a misconception about the nature of thinking or about what makes for excellence in it. I will explain just two of the most common misconceptions. The first involves confusing reasoned judgment (which is one of the most important modes of thinking leading to the possibility of knowledge) with subjective preference (which is not a basis for attaining knowledge). The second misconception involves confusing recall (which is a lower order use of the mind) with knowledge (which requires higher order thinking). Here are the explanations in brief. See if you can follow the examples and relate them to your experience.
Reasoned Judgment Confused with Subjective PreferenceMany pseudo critical thinking approaches present all judgments as falling into two exclusive and exhaustive categories: fact and opinion. Actually, the kind of judgment most important to educated people and the kind we most want to foster falls into a third, very important, and now almost totally ignored category, that of reasoned judgment. A judge in a court of law is expected to engage in reasoned judgment; that is, the judge is expected not only to render a judgment, but also to base that judgment on sound, relevant evidence and valid legal reasoning. A judge is not expected to base his judgments on his subjective preferences, on his personal opinions, as such. You might put it this way, judgment based on sound reasoning goes beyond, and is never to be equated with, fact alone or mere opinion alone.

Facts are typically used in reasoning, but good reasoning does more than state facts. Furthermore, a position that is well-reasoned is not to be described as simply “opinion.” Of course, we sometimes call the judge’s verdict an “opinion,” but we not only expect, we demand that it be based on relevant and sound reasoning.

Here’s a somewhat different way to put this same point. It is essential when thinking critically to clearly distinguish three different kinds of questions: 1) those with one right answer (factual questions fall into this category), 2) those with better or worse answers (well-reasoned or poorly reasoned answers), and 3) those with as many answers as there are different human preferences (a category in which mere opinion does rule). When questions that require better or worse answers are treated as matters of opinion, pseudo-critical thinking occurs.

Here are examples of the three types: 1) What is the boiling point of lead? 2) How can we best address the most basic and significant economic problems of the nation today? and 3) Which would you prefer, a vacation in the mountains or one at the seashore? Only the third kind of question is a matter of sheer opinion. The second kind is a matter of reasoned judgment — we can rationally evaluate answers to the question (using universal intellectual standards such as clarity, depth, consistency and so forth).

When questions that require better or worse answers are treated as matters of opinion, pseudo critical thinking occurs. Students come, then, to uncritically assume that everyone’s “opinion” is of equal value. Their capacity to appreciate the importance of intellectual standards diminishes, and we can expect to hear questions such as these: What if I don’t like these standards? Why shouldn’t I use my own standards? Don’t I have a right to my own opinion? What if I’m just an emotional person? What if I like to follow my intuition? What if I don’t believe in being “rational?” They then fail to see the difference between offering legitimate reasons and evidence in support of a view and simply asserting the view as true.

The failure to teach students to recognize, value, and respect good reasoning is one of the most significant failings of education today.

Recall Confused With Knowledge. A second common confusion which leads directly to pseudo critical thinking is recall confused with knowledge. As I suggested above this confusion is deeply embedded in the minds of many “educators.” It results from the fact that most instruction involves didactic lectures and most testing relies fundamentally on recall. Educators confuse students recalling what was said in the lecture with knowing the how and the why behind what was said. For example, a teacher might give you information, some of which is true and some of which is not, and you may not know which is which. Another way to see this point is to figure out why we don't think of parrots as gaining any knowledge when they learn to repeat words. Tape recorders get no credit for knowledge either. Do you see the point?

We tend to assume, to carry the point a bit further, that all information in a textbook is correct. Some, of course, is not. We attain genuine knowledge only when the information we possess is not only correct but, additionally, we know that it is and why it is. So, strictly speaking, I don’t know that something is true or correct if I have merely found it asserted to be so in a book. I need to have a greater understanding — for example, I need to know what supports it, what makes it true — to properly be said to know it.

significance of this distinction causes a lot of problems in schooling because many who teach do not really know their own subjects well enough to explain clearly why this or that is so, and why this or that is not so. They know what the textbook says, certainly, but not why the textbook says what it says, or whether what it says is so or not. Having knowledge (for such confused persons) is nothing other than remembering what the textbook said.

Third Basic Flaw — The Misuse of Intellect “Skilled” thinking can easily be used to obfuscate rather than to clarify, to maintain a prejudice rather than to break it down, to aid in the defense of a narrow interest rather than to take into account the public good. If we teach students to think narrowly, without an adequate emphasis on the essential intellectual traits of mind (intellectual humility, intellectual honesty, fairmindedness, etc.) the result can then be the inadvertent cultivation of the manipulator, the propagandist, and the con artist. We unknowingly end up, then, undermining the basic values of education and public service, properly conceived.

It is extremely important to see that intelligence and intellect can be used for ends other than those of gaining “truth” or “insight” or “knowledge.” One can learn to be cunning rather than clever, smooth rather than clear, convincing rather than rationally persuasive, articulate rather than accurate. One can become judgmental rather than gain in judgment. One can confuse confidence with knowledge at the same time that one mistakes arrogance for self-confidence. In each of these cases a counterfeit of a highly desirable trait is developed in place of that trait. There are many people who have learned to be. One can learn to be cunning rather than clever, smooth rather than clear, convincing rather than rationally persuasive, articulate rather than accurate.

skilled in merely appearing to be rational and knowledgeable when, in fact, they are not. Some of these have learned to be smooth, articulate, confident, cunning, and arrogant. They lack rational judgment, but this does not dissuade them from issuing dogmatic judgments and directives. They impress and learn to control others, quite selfishly. Unless we carefully design schooling to serve the “higher” ends of education, it can easily, as it now often does, degenerate into merely serving “lower” ends. When this happens, schooling often does more harm than good. It spreads the influence and resultant harm of pseudo critical thinking.

Intellectual Standards That Apply to Thinking in Every Subject Thinking that is: Thinking that is: Clear vs UnclearPrecise vs ImpreciseSpecific vs VagueAccurate vs InaccurateRelevant vs IrrelevantPlausible vs. ImplausibleConsistent vs InconsistentLogical vs IllogicalDeep vs SuperficialBroad vs NarrowComplete vs IncompleteSignificant vs TrivialAdequate (for purpose) vs InadequateFair vs Biased or One-Sided