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User Journal

Journal Journal: The Collective Consciousness

Expanding on my Groupthink rant (terribly short,) I have yet more experiences that prove some of my earlier theories. It is a common occurance that micro phenomena can equal macro phenomena. Whether it be the tiny stretching and unstretching of polymers in 10W30 oil, or thousands of solar masses coming together to produce a black hole, the greater sum is always the result of many instances of lesser parts.

This point has been almost painfully made clear to me in the past few months, as I have watched the individual personality quirks of board members turn into a collective insanity. The sum really IS greater than its parts. From an unwillingness to oppose someone lest that person later oppose you, to the building of one silly idea upon another, groups of people do not often make good decisions.

I remember way back in college, in a management class, we were treated to the "groupthink lecture," that is, the teacher was going to prove the superiority of thinking in a group, rather than as individuals. We were given a long list of seemingly random items, and asked to rank our idea of how good of an item they would make if we were to be stranded in the arctic wilderness. Of course, individually, we scored less than the group, if only because the teacher attempted to guide us through the "group" session a bit better. More about this tomorrow!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Groupthink and School Boards

I have, more recently, been perceptive of what "group think" really does for the decision-making process. As I still work in education, this refers to School Boards, working groups, committees, and the like...all considered cornerstones of educational bureaucracy. This page is about as good of a treatise on the evils of educational ruling bodies as I can find: More on this's getting late.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Overspending on Education...

I have worked in education ever since...ohhhh, November of 2000 I guess it's been. In my time in two districts, I have noticed one common thread; overspending on what is referred to as "technology." Way back when things were simple, people thought it might be great to introduce kids to computers, since they were the wave of the future and all. Well, Apple was about it. Sure, there were Commodores and TI-99's available, but Apple had salesmen, and legions of them. Once the wave started, it was unstoppable as it swept over district after district, and thousands of Apple II's filled the former broomclosets and storage rooms now known as "computer labs." Nobody really noticed that the districts were millions of dollars lighter in the pocket, because, after all, we now had computers to use. Fast-forward to the early 90's, and the newfound phenomenon of the Internet. Suddenly, you needed not only a "Technology Coordinator", also known as "Person Who Signs Purchase Orders", but also a "Technology Consultant", also known as "Person Who Gets Money from Purchase Orders." The problem was that the adminstrative "Tech Coordinators" had little or no ability to actually do hardware and software work, especially when things appeared as fast as the Internet. Suddenly, the need arose to get routers configured, to fiddle with DHCP servers, to set up servers. The Administrators had always been bureaucratic in nature, that is, having little or no actual ability. Additionally, they had been weaned on Apple computers their entire careers, and now were facing what was a massive invasion of PC's. Enter the Consultant. When skills are greatly in demand, one person is able to spread himself over numerous clients, and charge huge fees while doing so. With no other way to get things done, virtually all districts called in firms of varying sizes to do it for them. Smiling salesmen signed them up to contracts worth years of time and millions of dollars. This allowed the districts to maintain their own, unskilled Administrators in their current positions, while getting the technical skills they needed. It seemed like the best of both worlds. But behind the scenes, the Administrators were allowing the Consultants to price their own hardware and software, while recommending frequent updates for the same. The Administrators didn't know; they were trusting the Consultants with everything. It was this kind of arrangement that led to the long-term lock-in that Microsoft achieved, and solidified with products like Office. Districts were prevented from using alternatives by the Consultants, who relished their comissions and fees they could heap upon the districts for installing the software. The Administrators, meanwhile, enjoyed praise for having done such a good boards and superintendents put their full confidence in their abilities. The times between 1993 and 1999 or so were good for all. Consultants continued charging ever-higher rates, Technical Administrators of all sort were given huge raises, and companies like Microsoft continued stamping out all competition. About 2000 or so, the exponentially upward curve of the price of "technology" began to meet the relatively flat budgets of the time. Initially, adjustments were made in various other programs, and things worked fine. But more recently, 2002 to 2003, budgets began actually declining. These smashed head-on into the ever-higher costs of things like Microsoft Server 2003. Decisions had to be made. Unfortunately, in most districts, the decision has been to cut back on everything from book purchases to teachers themselves. Where this ends I cannot foresee...but it does not look good. I'll write more later...
User Journal

Journal Journal: Thursday

You know, I think I'll try writing a Journal.
When I get around to putting something in here, there will be something here. Until then, there's nothing here of note.

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