Full of "Brules": Our Lovely Brain-Washing Society

What are “Brules”?

Brules = BS rules

Today, there are many different kind of “brules” that the society has used to brain-wash us. Some common “brules” include:

  • University Degree is necessary
  • After you get a degree, you must go out and find a well-paying job or else you are screwed
  • Time is money (What?! This is also a brule? I will get to this very soon. Continue reading.)
  • The pursuit of money is inherently bad

This list is inexhaustive.

Let’s reflect. Were you told by your parents and teachers to study hard and get an University degree? After that, were you pushed by them and the society to find a job, the higher the salary the better? Are you currently stuck in a job that you don’t necessarily like at all? Are you pressured by all the bills coming in every month?

All of this happened because the society has asked us to follow this path repeatedly, generation after generation. Are you sure University degrees are necessary? If it is, how did Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, Richard Branson… and so many famous college drop-outs come about? I must admit that these people are talented in one way or another. But, what about you? We all are talented in certain areas. The only difference between successful and unsuccessful people is their level of perseverance and resilience.


Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit. – Conrad Hilton

So don’t be afraid to follow your own intuition and go and pursue your interest. University education is like a tool for you to do something. For example, if you want to start a business, University education can equip you with necessary skills and knowledge for you to get into this area. Please don’t study University because the society says you must have a University degree in order to get a job in order to have a living in order to…

Let’s move on to the next “brule”. We all were taught since young that time is money so please don’t waste time. Let me tell you, this is bullshit. Time is money because people are always spending their precious time working for money. Just like part-time jobs or any other normal jobs where you earn money based on the time you spend working. In this way, the more time you spend on your work, the more you earn. This is the “employee mindset”. If you detach time from money, you are able to live a life which you don’t need to rush for time, work for time and work for others. This happens when you are able to escape the rat race and generate passive income streams. Your money will be flowing in automatically and you can enjoy your life without the need to compete with time. This is totally possible today for anyone to achieve as you can make it as long as you have a laptop and an internet connection. There many ways to bring in wealth without sacrificing time. What I would recommend is the Laptop Lifestyle. You can earn money while you are asleep or enjoying your life. So make sure you detach time from money in your dictionary! This is really important. Don’t be fooled around by the society anymore.

In today’s society, we have brought shame on the pursuit of money. Many people regard the pursuit of money as a bad attitude. This probably occurs because there are people making money at the expense of product quality or at the expense of other parties involved. But honestly, who don’t want to earn money and get rich? There is nothing wrong in pursuing money at all as long as you earn money in a decent and legal way. What’s wrong with earning money? The most important thing is that you do not sacrifice your product quality and customer welfare. With quality products and services, you will be able to earn much more money in the long run.

So, don’t be limit by the “brules” and don’t let the society brain-wash us anymore. There are many more mindsets that the society has embedded in us. Have an open mind and follow your intuition. Try to discover the rules that are confining you in life and make improvements to them that can lead you to a better life.

Let me end off with a quote from Steve Jobs,


Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

All my best to your success!

Is Critical Thinking Overrated or Under-Utilized in Higher Education?

Critical thinking is listed as a desired skill or preferred outcome within many higher education courses. It is something that students are expected to demonstrate through their involvement in the class and learning activities. It may be listed in a rubric and/or stated in the course syllabus, depending upon the requirements of the program or the school itself. There may be varying degrees as to how it is demonstrated and then evaluated, ranging from occasionally to always within a rubric description. It is a common practice to provide students with the course rubrics at the start of class; however, the question becomes: Do students usually know what critical thinking means? Do instructors or schools provide a standard definition?

Additional questions that arise include: Do instructors understand the meaning of critical thinking and are they provided with an explanation by the school? These are questions that I sought to answer and I spent over two years talking to instructors and students about this topic. There is information that is readily available, such as websites devoted to critical thinking and a few books about this topic, and there are classes that spend an entire term examining it; however, what does the average student and instructor know about this topic? How is it utilized in classes if it is stated in a rubric? What I wanted to learn is whether or not critical thinking is overrated (which means it is not actively utilized in classes and is only a catchphrase) or is it underutilized (which means it holds greater potential than is recognized now) in higher education classes.

Instructor Perspective

My perspective is primarily based on my work in the field of distance-learning as an online educator and faculty development specialist, which has included the role of online faculty peer reviewer. I have reviewed hundreds of online classes and discussed critical thinking with hundreds of online faculty. What I’ve learned is that the average instructor may have a general knowledge about critical thinking and what it means; however, faculty generally do not provide an explanation for students beyond what is stated in the course rubric. I did not observe it as an active discussion or explained through additional instructional posts or supplemental information, and I also didn’t observe detailed notes about it within the feedback provided.

What do instructors generally know about critical thinking? For those who have conducted some research they will find definitions that are related to logic and reasoning. However, the usual go-to definition or explanation is Bloom’s taxonomy and this provides levels of cognition that can help instructors recognize when a state of critical thinking has been attained. What is unclear is whether or not a one-time occurrence indicates that students know how to use the skill on a regular basis. What are instructors taught by the schools? They are usually told to use questioning techniques and specifically Socratic questioning by a few schools. What I’ve observed is that even when questions are used that doesn’t necessarily mean a follow-up reply by students will demonstrate use of this skill.

Student Perspective

When students were asked to define what critical thinking means, the following is a list of the most common answers:

  • Thinking outside of the box
  • Thinking harder about the topic
  • Problem-solving
  • An ability to think independently
  • Weighing options, the pros and cons
  • Being rational and avoiding emotions
  • Making decisions, such as going to the grocery store and deciding on meal options
  • Becoming curious, creative, and open-minded
  • Learning through trial and error
  • Knowing what to do in life threatening situations
  • Making intelligent decisions
  • Collaborating with others to reach a consensus

This is only a partial list of the responses from students, and these were undergraduate and graduate students. After reviewing this list becomes clear that without a standard definition of critical thinking, students may not fully understand what is expected when they see it listed in a course rubric. It can also explain why it is difficult to evaluate this as a skill for an instructor and why students may come up short in their evaluation. What I’ve found is that students rarely conducted their own research about this subject and if they did they still weren’t sure if their definition was matched to their instructor’s definition, how it applies to their class and learning activities, or how to meet the requirement as listed in the rubric.

Logical Perspective

I’ve reviewed many of the available online resources to ascertain what instructors and students might read about critical thinking and it was often related to the use of logic and reasoning. The same is true for an online class I’ve taught that was six weeks in length and combined critical thinking with creative thinking. The logical perspective explained in the course materials involved looking for facts instead of opinions, evaluating arguments, examining premises, developing a logical or rational conclusion, and learning about potential fallacies. What this did was to take a subject that students were already unclear about and make it even more complex and challenging to apply directly to their classwork. Students generally struggled throughout the entire course and by the time it concluded there was little improvement in their ability to demonstrate the use of this skill.

Cognitive Perspective

Bloom’s taxonomy is referenced frequently by faculty and this taxonomy provides a range of cognitive or mental functions that begin with lower order thinking and progress to higher order thinking. On the lower end is the ability to recall information, which is usually held in short term memory and quickly discarded. As higher cognitive functions are engaged a student may be able to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. There are action verbs that are generally associated with each level and this is helpful for the development of course objectives. The challenge for instructors is making a determination of how to explain cognitive functions to students so that they understand what it means to demonstrate critical thinking. For example, how does a student know when to analyze or synthesize information in a discussion post or written assignment? Do they know when they have achieved development of this skill? Does answering an instructor’s question ensure they have reached a higher cognitive state? How many times do they need to demonstrate use of this skill to believe they have mastered its use? This is the challenge for educators; the uncertainty of the use of this skill and how to accurately assess it.

A New Perspective

What I propose is the use of a simpler model that explains how the mind functions or operates, which can provide a uniform description for instructors and students. As a starting point, the mind is always active and thinking is a natural process. A helpful way to understand how the mind performs is to separate thinking into three specific types, which will explain why critical thinking requires practice to learn before it can be actively used as a skill. The most basic type is simply called thinking or the automatic thought processes. This occurs naturally and includes thoughts about the current environment, along with thoughts that are based upon physical needs, emotions, or external stimuli. It also consists of self-talk, internalized dialogue, superficial thoughts, established thought patterns, habits of thinking, and existing mental structures. Automatic thinking also occurs as data is acquired through the five senses, when the mind relies upon perceptual filters to interpret the information received.

The next type is active thinking and this occurs when a person become consciously aware of their thought processes or while the mind is intentionally processing information. As an example, consider advertising messages. If an advertisement is noticed the mind would transition from automatic thinking to active or conscious thinking and awareness. Active thinking also includes reading, writing, speaking, stating opinions, and problem solving through the use of informal logic. For example, if a financial analysis is needed it would require taking numbers and putting them into a format or equation to be calculated, categorized, manipulated, or any other form of computation. Active thinking is often what students believe critical thinking consists of when they state it is a matter of “thinking hard” about a topic or subject. They are consciously aware of the topic and recalling the knowledge they currently possess about it.

The third type of thinking is critical thinking, which is not automatic and must be activated. It can be activated for a specific purpose and learned to be utilized as a skill. Students can trigger it when they need to work with more than their existing knowledge, beliefs, and opinions. It can also be activated through something unexpected, unknown, or unique. More importantly, critical thinking is done with a purpose. For example, when a student needs to research a topic and the subject is presently unknown to them. Instead of filling their paper with direct quotes they can question the information received in an attempt to find answers. It can also enhance problem-solving when a student needs an answer they cannot arrive at on their own. When students write papers they can provide more of their analysis and less from their sources because they have examined evidence and re-examined their beliefs or assumptions.

Transformative Perspective

Critical thinking has the potential to transform every aspects of a student’s performance, from discussion question responses to written assignments. Students first learn to work with their accumulated knowledge, beliefs, and opinions. That is how they develop an initial response and for many students that also becomes their final answer. But educators want students to move beyond this active form of thinking and demonstrate that learning has occurred. It is easy to ask students to demonstrate critical thinking but even more challenging to develop a mental model for them to follow and that means it must be prompted so that students watch it in action and can then emulate the process. Thinking becomes critical when students provide more than a superficial or cursory response, and in place of opinions they develop well-documented and well-research position statements and analyses.

Critical thinking is not a natural process although there are times when it is possible for adults to have a period of reflection when they are prompted by unplanned or unexpected changes. Thinking also becomes critical when students no longer rely upon perceptual filters to determine what is accepted as true and correct, with a willingness to evaluate beliefs and change when they find compelling evidence. Critical thinking can be most effectively taught through the use of a detailed explanation, time to practice what is being learned, and direct application of the skill to issues and problems, which means that any time this skill is listed as a requirement for a course, students need a standard definition and an opportunity to practice it. I do not believe that critical thinking is overrated as it is transformative in nature; however, what I’ve observed in the field of distance learning is that it is under-utilized because of a lack of a uniform method of explaining it and this results in a missed opportunity for learning in higher education classes.

Is College Debt Really Necessary? What Parents and Students Should Know

“Had the people who started Facebook decided to stay at Harvard, they would not have been able to build the company, and by the time they graduated in 2006, that window probably would have come and gone.” – Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal.

Ever since I can remember, I was inculcated with the belief that in order to truly succeed in America, you have to get at least a 4 year degree from a prestigious university; even if it means taking on a ton of debt that you may work your entire adult life to pay off.

I also came to believe that if you really want to stay on the top of the heap, then you need to take on even more debt and get a graduate degree, hence my own post-graduate alphabet soup, including law school.

In high schools across the nation, statistics are still being trotted out by guidance counselors to “prove” that young people have no chance of success without that high-priced sheepskin, or that, if they somehow manage to land a job without one, they will never get promoted and will be stuck in bottom-of-the-ladder limbo land for all eternity.

Twenty years ago, the idea that “you have to go to college to make good money” might have been more truth than myth.

Now, though,, the ever-escalating cost of tuition, fees, and books at America’s universities means that post financial collapse parents might want to take another, perhaps more jaundiced view of the entire higher education system even as the old school narrative continues to be shoved down their throats by university marketing departments.

As a financial educator, I have had numerous concerns about my own clients taking on the costly burdens associated with financing their child’s college education. Truthfully, it makes me more than a bit queasy when I see clients raiding their savings and retirement accounts to send Junior to a fancy private school.

This is especially true in a financial system in flux, where, for the first time ever, over 50% of the unemployed and underemployed have college degrees. To make matters worse, there is a bubble on the horizon; large, paper-thin, and waiting for one tiny pin prick to explode it.

This bubble comes in the form of easy-to-obtain student loans that many are finding are not so easy to pay back. A 2012 article on CNN’s website reported that, at a time of record high unemployment for college grads, student indebtedness had reached an average of nearly $27.000.

“… Two-thirds of the class of 2011 held student loans upon graduation, and the average borrower owed $26,600, according to a report from the Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt. That’s up 5% from 2010 and is the highest level of debt in the seven years the report has been published.” (1)

Beyond the expense of college there is also the thornier issue of whether most college kids are learning anything of real value that can be applied to the new economy. The education cartel, always in need of fresh blood and fresh wallets, has systematically smeared those who work in the trades as “blue-collar,” or “uneducated,” and thus somehow inferior to those with Ivy League degrees.

Matthew B. Crawford, a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, and author of the bestseller, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, has posited that the degradation of manual labor and the rise of so-called knowledge-based jobs was wrongheaded and that the future will belong to those who actually know how to do things such as build custom furniture, repair a car, or install heating and air conditioning units.

Says Crawford:

“While manufacturing jobs have certainly left our shores to a disturbing degree, the manual trades have not. If you need a deck built, or your car fixed, the Chinese are of no help. Because they are in China. And in fact there are reported labor shortages in both construction and auto repair. Yet the trades and manufacturing are lumped together in the mind of the pundit class as “blue collar,” and their requiem is intoned. Even so, the Wall Street Journal recently wondered whether “skilled [manual] labor is becoming one of the few sure paths to a good living.”

Crawford also observes that “If the goal is to earn a living, then, maybe it isn’t really true that 18-year-olds need to be imparted with a sense of panic about getting into college (though they certainly need to learn). Some people are hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, against their own inclinations and natural bents, when they would rather be learning to build things or fix things… ” (2)

The Cartelization of Education

We need only look, says bestselling author and trend forecaster Charles Hugh Smith, to the advent of the higher education cartel to see the reason for our obstinate addiction to the “old school” higher education system and the instance that insistence that everyone needs to go to college. There is a lot of money to be made, says Smith, and an elite cadre of cartel bosses who stand to profit by promoting that myth.

“Why does the old style system still persist even though it is already demonstrably inferior? In addition to the financial disincentives, there is another reason: the current system retains a monopoly on assessing student learning and granting credit for demonstrated accomplishment. The schools are able to do this because they have arranged a monopoly on accreditation. This is ultimately a grant of state power.

As a result, modern colleges and universities have collectively become a rent-seeking cartel, an alliance of nominally competitive institutions that maintains a highly profitable monopoly of accreditation. To grasp the power of the cartel, consider a typical Physics I course even at MIT is almost entirely based on Newtonian mechanics, and the subject matter is entirely in the public domain. Only a cartel could arrange to charge $1,500 and more per student for tuition and texts, in the face of far lower cost and superior quality materials, for subject matter that is no more recent than the 19th Century.” (3)

Jeffrey Tucker, CEO of the startup Linerty.me and publisher at Laissez Faire Books, agrees with Smith and maintains that cartelization has ensured that a return on investment in higher education is far from a sure thing for most students and their parents.

… even if the teen does everything right-every test trained for and taken five times, every activity listed on the portfolio, a high GPA, top of the class, early applications and admissions-you are not home free. You are going to spend six figures, but there is also a high opportunity cost: you remove your child from remunerative work for four years, and this is after four years of no employment in high school. That means both lost income and lost job experience. College is costly in every way. (4)

Citing what economists refer to as “inelastic demand,” Tucker writes that the cartel is exceptionally aware of, and deliberately contributes to, parental unwillingness to forego a four-year college education for their children, even if it means putting themselves in the poor house.

“Parents would gladly step in front of a bus to save their children, so facing debt and financial loss for a few years seems just part of parental obligation. This is why, in economic terms, the demand for college is relatively inelastic: Parents keep paying and paying no matter how bad it gets,” he argues. (4)

I see a lot of angst concerning this issue among my own clients. As the parent of a high school student, I understand it. The idea of college “no mater what” is so ingrained in our thinking that when a child tells us they are considering postponing college or even not going at all, parents tend to panic.

However, the stakes are higher than ever before and the potential for damage to the parents’ own financial well-being is enormous, not to mention the contribution education debt makes to our national economic malaise.

Parents and students need to ask themselves honest questions about the value of a traditional four-year degree, what the potential return on that investment will be, and whether or not there are viable alternatives.

Student Debt and Wall Street

As of this writing, current student debt stands at around $1.2 trillion dollars, more than the entire gross domestic products of some nations, including Canada.

After what we’ve discussed in previous chapters, it should come as no shock to you that many banks have turned these college loan obligations into (surprise, surprise) “investments” and are busy shopping them on Wall Street as subprime debt.

The market for these educational loans is relatively small compared to the market for home loans, so I doubt that it will be as massive a bubble as we had during the housing market.

However, if the Fed continues to hold interest rates down, investors might be desperate enough to snap more of them up. Then we could have another potential economy-damaging event on our hands.

Teresa’s Takeaway: Alternatives to Traditional 4-Year Degrees

Many of my clients are able to fund their kids’ education without incurring any debt due to their diligence in creating and maintaining their own private finance system using specially-designed insurance policies. In fact, I set up many of these policies that have as their express purpose the funding of a university education.

That being said, however, I never think it is a good idea to spend money simply because you have it available.

If you are a young person considering college or graduate school, do your research and question your motivations. Before saddling yourself or your parents or grandparents with a lot of debt- consider alternatives to four-year colleges, such as online degrees, community colleges, and trade schools. Ask yourself if what you really love and want to do

Find out if what you want to do really does require a college degree in the first place. Amazingly there are lots of high-paying jobs that don’t require 4-year degrees.

Look into local and community colleges, where your expenses are often a fraction of what private universities charge.

If you’re a recent high school graduate, take a year to “cool off,” work, save and travel. Gain a better understanding of yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. Learn what you have to offer to the world. Contribute to the global conversation in a meaningful way as a volunteer.

A bright spot in all of this is the fact that there are some great alternatives to the traditional sheepskin; alternatives that might actually broaden a students’ understanding of the world and give them skills that are needed in the new economy without bankrupting mom and dad.

Bestselling author James Altucher, a longtime proponent of re-thinking college, provides a few real alternatives to college.

Altucher suggests that some college prospects might be better off taking their college savings and starting a business.

He also suggests traveling to a country such as India and immersing your self in a culture completely different than your own.

You will learn what poverty is. You will learn the value of how to stretch a dollar. You will often be in situations where you need to learn how to survive despite the odds being against you. If you’re going to throw up you might as well do it from dysentery than from drinking too much at a frat party, “he writes. (5)

For even more ideas of what to do instead of college, check the resource section of this book for a link to Altucher’s report “40 Alternatives to College.”

References:

(1) Report CNN Money “Average Student Loan Debt Nears $27,000”

(2) Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

(3) Smith, Charles Hugh, Higher Education Cartel, Meet Creative Destruction, Sept. 9,2013

(4) Tucker, Jeffrey A.”Is There A Viable Alternative to College?” The Freeman, July 2013

(5) Altucher, James “8 Alternatives to College” The Altucher Confidential. January 8, 2011

Tips To Choose Students For Direct Entry Into Schools Of Higher Education

This is a common situation that you have to face. Every year, you have to select from a large group of 16-year olds, a few who automatically qualify to join institutions of higher education even before the final examinations.

This poses a big dilemma when these students have almost identical academic results and extra-curricular activities.

Are there other ways of trying to separate these teenage students and choose the most suitable to enter into the respective educational faculties?

Here are some tips that you should seriously consider.

Philosophical Questions

Firstly, you can create some philosophical or ethical questions to slowly see their own personal stand and bias. The coming new workplace will have a big portion of robotics and automation. Thus it is crucial to see if your candidates are not merely book-smart but am also ready to face the new realities of life.

Video Resume

You can instruct them to make a minute presentation describing their strengths and why they fit a particular faculty. This one-minute presentation can follow the style of a video resume and should have clear dialogue and accurate subtitles to allow the assessor to get a first impression.

Referees

You can also contact the referees of these candidates and find out why they want to recommend these students to direct-entry into higher education. It is up to your own experience to discover if these referees merely associate themselves with these candidates just to give blind support but may not know have enough reasons for their support

Extra-curricular Activities

You may have to create an internal system of grading your potential candidates in terms of the results of their chosen extra-curricular activities. For example, a higher grading can be assigned if the candidates have proven leadership responsibilities.

Open-ended Questions

You can give all final-round candidates some open-ended questions and ask them to provide their best replies and analysis to the given case studies. Do ensure that you allocate sufficient time for these activities.

Future Thoughts

Pose a question about where their chosen industries will be headed to in the next few years. This is crucial because you do not want a chosen candidate to switch faculties on a whim. Normally, a good candidate will make an effort to read more about the new chosen path.

Lego

The truth of the matter is this. Lego blocks are very good for any candidate to highlight what is in his mind. The Lego pieces are of different colours and sizes and are only constrained by the deep recesses of the candidate’s imagination.

Team building exercise and observation

You can also follow-up by allowing each final candidate to join a team of senior students who are already in the higher educational institutions. Break them into different groups and give them group projects to do. Remember to delegate the group presentation to be done by each candidate and then allow the other group members to evaluate them. This is very crucial because their peers are very good judges of competency and maturity.

Best of luck for your search.

Teaching Entrepreneurship In University – Teaching Conformists How To Be Non Conformists?

“…we do not spoonfeed our students.”, said a professor from Singapore Management University.

I had an interview there recently. I was with four other prospective interviewees who were like me, trying to secure a place in a relatively new establishments in Singapore.

“The Singapore education system is a conveyor belt.”, remarks a Polytechnic student in Singapore.

I was sighing as I was pondering over her quotes.

From a young age, I have been told that I must make it to university and be a lawyer or doctor. For years, I have been told to get good grades and degrees. For years, I have been taught to be a cog in this ‘machine’ called school.

I remembered Robert.T.Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad,Poor Dad) criticizing education systems in schools.

I was chucking as I was listening to the professor’s speech. In an education system, everyone goes through a fixed set of syllabus. Everyone is taught the same rules and protocols. In that case, how can it breed initiative and entrepreneurship if all is taught to conform?

Some of you may argue that every university has its own style of teaching and incorporating entrepreneurship, I beg to differ. By choosing the typical (and safe) route to university, everyone is now a conformist. Learning comes through experience, it doesn’t comes through rote learning. A better oiled cog is still a cog. It is still part of the system.

Am I part of a cog in this dreadful education system which Robert.T.Kiyosaki described?

In that case, you may be asking why I am still going into University. The reason is simple. I plan to equip myself with the essential skills necessary to be an entrepreneur. Thereafter, I will remove myself from the ‘system’ and embark on my entrepreneurial dream.

I guess I am the intelligent cog which studies how the machine works and learns how to jam and defeat it.