Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Education at a Glance 2007

I didn't get much feedback or excitement from the Education Pays 2007 report, but that is not going to stop me from sharing Education at a Glance 2007(pdf). This report is released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and unlike Education Pays, this report studies education globally. There are 30 countries involved in OECD. Here are some of the facts that I found interesting:

  • "57% of 15-year-olds in OECD Countries expect to go to university, but this rate varies from as high as 95% in Korea to as low as 21% in Germany." pg5
  • Economically, "Ireland and Spain provide the most equitable access to higher education. pg6
  • "Differences in employment rates between males and females are wider among less-educated groups." pg6
  • "Indicators show that across OECD countries, learning outcomes can be increased by 22% while maintaining the current level of expenditures." pg6
  • "Expenditure on core educational services (excluding research and development activities and ancillary services) in tertiary institutions averages about $7,664 per student" pg6
  • "In 2005, over 2.7 million tertiary students were enrolled in education outside their country of citizenship, representing a 5% increase in total foreign-student intake over the previous year." pg8

Monday, September 17, 2007

Counseling Theories Guided Reflection

Corey identifies 14 personal characteristics of effective counselors (pp.16-17). These characteristics are important regardless of the particular counseling theory that the counselor my follow.
1. Which three (3) characteristics do you believe are especially important? Why? Explain.
2. What is one (1) characteristic, not listed, that you believe is important? Why? Explain.

From Corey’s list, the three qualities that I find especially important are Have a sincere interest in the welfare of others, Appreciate the influence of culture, and Authentic, sincere, and honest.Of these three, having a sincere interest in the welfare of others seems the most important to me. This characteristic is needed for the client, the counselor, and the relationship between the two. The client needs the counselor to have an interest in his welfare as a general reason to begin counseling. The client must trust that a (any) counselor is interested in helping before they bring their issues to a complete stranger. Like any profession where you are helping people, the practitioner benefits from this general interest. Like any other job, counseling can be taxing at times, and this genuine caring is one of the many things that can make it rewarding and fuel a counselor’s ambition in her field. Finally, the trust required to form a relationship between the counselor and client is grounded in the understanding that the counselor is interested in helping the client. A counselor without that basic desire cannot be trusted to be working in the client’s interest as opposed to her own.

Appreciating the influence of culture also struck me as a characteristic that cannot be overlooked. A simple example from the campus setting would be helping international students. When an international student comes to a counselor, it can’t be assumed that she is trying to work through the same issues as an American student. When she is dealing with some of the same issues such as stress or time management, she can’t be expected to address them or work through them in the same ways an American student would be expected to. This characteristic becomes even more intricate than understanding that an international student is a different type of homesick than an American student. Cultural differences exist within our country. Every day that this Yankee spends in the south makes it more apparent how my Catholic upbringing has influenced who I am and how I think about things. I didn’t anticipate it before I came, but moving south was moving into a different culture even though I never left the country. I think in general, I was raised with the same or similar values as my peers in the south, but I think that the emphasis on those values varied greatly.

The third quality that I find especially important is being authentic, sincere, and honest. This one is vital to building and maintaining the trust that the counseling relationship is based on. I think the reason this one stuck out to me is because of how much I would like to be characterized by it. That is not to say that I think I am inauthentic, but I don’t know that it is on the list of top characteristics that people would use to describe me. I have heard people call me cheerful, friendly, responsible, caring, trustworthy, and probably even honest, but I don’t think that anyone has ever used the words authentic or sincere. I could strive to be more authentic or more sincere, though I’m not sure how I would begin. Even if I managed to work on my sincerity, I’m not sure that I would be striking people as sincere. I am drawn to it, because it is a quality that I would like to be known for. Maybe it is just a matter of semantics. It is probable that people believe I am sincere and authentic, but they are not my most noticeable or displayed qualities, or maybe they are not words the people who describe me normally think of when describing people.

This brings me to the characteristic that is not listed that I believe should be. It has been mentioned that there are counseling theories that focus more on the actions and the body language of the client than on what it is they want to talk about. This may be an early indicator that those theories are not for me, but an Appreciation for language should be a part of this list. I don’t believe that life can be whittled down to just semantics, but I do believe that language carries more than just the meanings of the words. What I am talking about is the combination of denotation and connotation in the words that people are using to describe their issues. In counseling, I think the connotations become even more important and telling. The words people choose while talking are clues to their beliefs, values and opinions. Some of the values are long held, and some of the opinions are formed in that instant. Either way, there is so much information to be taken from what people are saying that extends beyond the simple definitions of the words they are using.

Friday, September 14, 2007

One Small Degree for Man, One Giant Perk for Mankind

My high school tried to talk me into going to college by telling me how much more money I could make with a degree. The report that proves them right has updated and released. Education Pays 2007 (pdf) emphasizes the benefits of higher education to both the individual and society. Pages 9 through 20 will show you that college graduates are still earning more money and have better benefits. Unfortunately minorities and women are still not getting paid what they deserve, but that is another topic.

What I think we should talk about more is pages 21 through 28. These are the benefits that are not associated with money. For example, people with higher education are more likely to vote, donate blood, and volunteer their time. The children of graduates are more likely to be able to count to 20 and write their name by the age of 5. They are also more likely to participate in after school activities. Not just the mathletes, sports and religious activities are more likely as well.

If the money is what you really want to focus on, things are still pretty good. College graduates have lower unemployment rates, and since their are getting paid more, they are paying more taxes. Having more successful college graduates is just smart economically. That's why we need to start investing more time, energy, and money to making degrees affordable and attainable. In 2004 graduates were taking an average of 11 years to pay off their debt, and the cost of college has done nothing but rise since then. I realize that it costs more for everyone that is contributing, but we can let the students pick up this much slack.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"It has nothing to do with homophobia."

The alumni news letter of American University printed the announcement that Ross Weil and Brett Royce have gotten married and that Ross has been named chief operating officer of the Gay Rights Brigade. Unfortunately, it is not true and was submitted to the magazine as a prank. Now the university is facing a $1.5 million lawsuit for defamation. I'll admit that the 'gay rights brigade' is pretty suspect and should have raised some warning flags, but to claim that the university was being malicious seems over the top. As an active member of my alumni association, I can sympathize with American Magazine. We are constantly seeking updates and contact information for alumni, and regularly trusting that the information we have been given is accurate. However, libel and poor fact checking are two different issues.

It seems to me that in order to call this defamation (even unintentional) you have to prove that being called homosexual can tarnish your reputation. How can you do that and at the same time claim that, "It has nothing to do with homophobia?" It may not be about the clients homophobia, but if it isn't then it is about their fear of homophobs. Somebody's homophobia has to be a factor. Reputation is a finicky thing that can't be destroyed by one person. That person needs an audience. So the question becomes, what kind of power do the alumni of American University have over Ross Weil and Brett Royce that the perception of the two of them as gay causes $1.5 million dollars in damage.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I have to start somewhere

My first assignment in Budgeting is to develop the budget for the financial aid office of the fictional Smith University. I thought it was not too daunting of an assignment. I've made budgets before and I think I generally understand the goals and purposes of budgets. Then I was told that I was not allowed to do any research. When I say I've made budgets, I am of course talking about personal budgets for myself. The only bills I had were my car payment and my cell phone. It wasn't so much a budget as it was determining how much I could spend at Barnes and Noble every month. I have no idea what expenditures a university office has, or how much those things cost. There were two results from my assignment. First, it showed my professor how much I knew. In the process, it showed me how much I didn't know.

Here it is, my first budget:
Smith University
Financial Aid Office
2008 Budget

Salaries 70% $507,500



Student Help

Staff Development 8% $58,000



Equipment 8% $58,000




Supplies 6% $43,500

Telephone 1% $7,250

Long Distance Charges

Cellular Phones

Promotion 7% $50,750





I failed to budget for any fringe benefits for my employees. I suppose I'll have a high turnover rate when they all realize that they don't have any health insurance. I made some other mistakes too, but that is really the one I feel the worst about. Fortunately, I will turn in a revised budget after I do some research, and meet with my campus' financial aid director.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Clothes Don't Make the Man

I've already commented on my peers and how they act at work, and I can assure you that putting them in khakis and a polo shirt doesn't make them professional. Personally I find it very easy to act lady-like when I am wearing the rib crunching, spine straightening apparatus that is often required for lady-like attire. When I am in a skirt I feel more presentable, and I am more conscious of how I am carrying myself. My professional clothes act as a regular reminder of who I am representing and how I am acting. This is because I like jeans, t-shirts, sports bras, and tennis shoes. I'm not always or necessarily uncomfortable in my professional clothes, but they are different. That difference is what works as a reminder.

I don't think nice clothes work as a reminder for our people the same way they do for me. Students are now dressing like this. If I was regularly in a mini skirt, my work slacks would be extremely comfortable. I think that if I was teaching, I wouldn't mind students showing up to class in their pajamas. Of course I'd want them to be attentive, but that is something I care about no matter what they are wearing. Pajama pants with pink flying elephants on them are novel and would probably get attention when they enter the class room, but a mini skirt and a low cut top is sexual and can be distracting for the entire period. I would rather they be in pajamas and learning instead of dressed nice and hooking up. This isn't meant to be a defense of all pajama pant wearers on all campuses. If you are unshowered and half asleep, that is disrespectful. If you focus better when you are comfortable, that is fine by me.

Despite my personal willingness to let students dress casual for class, I really like Paul Quinn College's new dress code policy. Having a university wide (or even program wide in the case of my Masters program) dress code means much more than a personal pet peeve of of pajamaed students. The change in clothes isn't going to bring about a magical change in student behavior. If it is enforced, it will become a physical representation of college's values and mission. It will be an indicator of what their goals are for their students and campus visitors will be able to see what they prioritize. Eventually, it would ideally work to only attract students and staff who have similar goals and values, but it wouldn't work to 'weed out' people. I think the dress code will do a great job of showing outsiders what this campus promotes. Clothes don't make the man, but they do make first impressions.

Edit: If you are interested, here is a story about the Illinois State Marketing Department and their new Dress Code.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

For the Love of Freud...

I've noticed that every time Freud comes up in discussion some one rolls their eyes and comments on how everything with Freud is about sex and your mother. Then he is just negatively dismissed as if that is all there is to say about him. Why is it so cool to be so dismissive of Freud? I don't agree with everything he says, but I do think he deserves more credit than he seems to be getting. If I was going to fit Freud in a nutshell, I probably wouldn't mention his mother or sex. I would probably sum him up with the iceberg. I think Freud got some stuff wrong, but why the lack of respect for what he got right? Columbus didn't land in India, but nobody is holding that against him.

Psychology was not around before Freud. Psychoanalysis did not exist. He was a medical doctor who thought that our dreams could give us insight to our emotional and social problems. His concepts of unconscious and repression are now ingrained in our culture. I think that is pretty impressive. He is not the last person to say that we stop development at an early age. In my opinion if he had spent some time working with and observing children, he would have gotten even more right. Is it because of the penis envy? Is it because we just don't like people focusing on the taboo? Why do we roll our eyes at Freud?