Archive for the 'education' Category

Your business card is crap

Consider yourself told. What a twonk.


Lazy post: surprised by the Mail

I take it all back. Sometimes there is something useful in the Daily Mail. Alison Pearson reports some nuggets of wisdom Bill Gates gave to US high school pupils:

  1. Life is not fair – get used to it!
  2. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
  3. You will NOT make £30,000 a year right out of high school.
  4. If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
  5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: opportunity.
  6. If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes — learn from them.
  7. Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills and listening to you talk about how cool you are.
  8. Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT.
  9. Life is not divided into terms. You don’t get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you ‘find yourself’. Do that in your own time.
  10. TV is not real life. In real life, people have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
  11. Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one!

Can advertising help create psychopaths?

violenceSchool massacres have become a meme, or a contagious idea. That’s the astounding conclusion of a thought-provoking article in one of the weekend papers. The media noise – advertising, films, TV, conversations – affect our self-image from which everyone, including deeply disturbed individuals, take their cue.
The distressingly large list of similar massacres has become a genre in its own right, and one which grows in power at each retelling.
Sam Leith, the Daily Telegraph‘s young arts editor, describes the mindset that causes us to seek a target to blame:

“As a species, we are very bad indeed at coping with eruptions of meaninglessness. We like things to have causes and effects – ideally, causes and effects whose relationships to each other are simple. And this seems to be why, in the wake of any eruption of violent senselessness, we tend to comb through the wreckage looking for explanations. And it’s art that usually cops it.”

Advertising is possibly one of the least valued and most despised form of communication to which everyone is exposed. If Leith is correct, then I wonder to what degree advertising, often guilty of stereotyping and of attaching a consumer’s idea of self-worth to brands, can be blamed for having one of the loudest voices.

I’m not suggesting that endless repetitions of the latest KFC ad is going to make someone brain a waitress with a chicken wing. But maybe some people’s perception of what constitutes happiness and fulfilment could be affected by these messages. To someone with low self-esteem and affected by violence seen elsewhere in the media, how would their failure to achieve such contentment manifest itself?

Yahoo! Answers isn’t the answer

There was some considerable plugging by Yahoo! of their new “Answers” service at the recent Blogging4Business Conference in London. It’s a neat idea: throw any question into the ether and there’s a good chance that several people will answer it.
But take a look at this:


This is a snapshot from the History category.
Being something of a history bore, I have spent some time surfing the various Q&As and it soon became apparent that most questions were from students passing on their homework assignments to complete strangers. If you consider the criticisms aimed at Wikipedia – a democratically-controlled knowledge base vulnerable to misinformation – then these flaws are writ large if people are relying on Yahoo! Answers to get them over the latest school hurdle.

I threw in the following question:

“Why don’t kids use books to research their homework? Will they get good marks by asking complete strangers on the internet?”

Some people said “laziness”, but there were some surprise answers:

  • “It’s probably because they get the correct answers more on the internet than by looking it up by themselves”
  • “there is so much information on the internet now days that there really is not much need for books… why waste time going to the library, searching for your topic & a good book on it when you could google it about 10x faster, learn the material and move on to the next subject”
  • “Get real – in today’s word you can read a book for your own pleasure, but if you want to get things done quick you get it online – that’s what you do in a job – and that’s what the kids need to learn”

I’m trying to teach my 13 year-old how to research online for his homework. It’s very hard – without life experience he isn’t equipped to spot the trustworthy sites and discard the rubbish. I’m starting off by building bookmarks to good sites, but it’s becoming an uphill struggle when he’s working on tougher projects.
It’s clear that many students, of whatever age, are too trusting of online sources. A page of replies on Yahoo! Answers lacks the safety net of peer reviews and rigorous checking of good old text books. And yet there are some excellent free online sources – but how can these guys tell what’s good, and what’s bad?

Self-important bit

I’m Victor Houghton, a, er... something or other in one of the UK’s largest advertising agencies. My job title has a comma in it, which is embarrassing. I’m the chief finder-things-outer with a splash of trends who is lucky to work with all the major functions of the agency, even though I am most closely associated with strategic planning. Everything in this blog has most probably been stolen from other, infinitely more talented people, although the opinions are most definitely my own and not those of the agency.



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