So this is attempt number two with voice recognition software. Now that I have my new custom splint on and I look something like Darth Vader with the robot arm I thought I had better not just keep doing the same thing that caused this problem in the first place.

my darth vader arm

The arthritis in my hands has just been getting worse to the point where I just had my left thumb, reconstructed. I know from other sports injuries that what happens when you injure one part is that other body parts get stressed and start to get injured. For example if you injure your right knee you start putting so much weight on your left knee to compensate that your left knee soon is giving you problems as well.

The Dragon software that I have only works on Windows although the Mac version is coming out very soon. So far it seems to work better than read and write the Google Chrome extension I have used.

What I like about this software so far is that it can do more than just type. It will open a web browser you can correct and underline words and do other formatting.

It’s going to be kind of weird to get use to dictating instead of typing. I’m sure it’s going to take me a while after all I’ve been typing for probably 40 years. I’m certain though that this will help the problems I have with my hands a lot. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do a lot of coding with this, though who knows.

I don’t think it will really work on planes and airports where I spend an inordinate amount of my time. Maybe it will though, I have a friend who is visually impaired and she talks into her phone all the time giving it messages and commands so I’m sure it’s just a matter of getting used to it.

Well I currently have about 900 unanswered e-mail messages, I also have an IRB application to complete and loads of documentation to write. I expect just like learning to use a word processor for the first time this will be a bit of a time-consuming learning process but well worth it in the end.

You’d think that talking to your computer would feel more natural and it would be easier to write but I can’t say that’s the case at all. Obviously I’m much more used to typing.

We’ll see as time passes if this gets easier. I presume it does.

Do you use voice recognition software to type? If so, how long was it before you felt comfortable doing it?

 

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SCHOOL IS STARTING ! DONATE 7 GENERATION GAMES TO A STUDENT, CLASSROOM OR SCHOOL under $20 for all three games,

Fish lake woman
————-

you can make anything into an opportunity.

For example today I had this very unpleasant operation on my phone actually that was my thumb not my phone. as you may have guessed comma I am now writing using a piece of voice recognition software.

me wearing cast inside giant foam pillow on arm

It’s a Google Chrome extension. this makes me happy for two reasons. the pain pills are not one of them.

the first reason is that I have been wanting to experiment more with Google Chrome extensions.  

At some point we are planning on using Chrome extensions 4  for our game making camp. this is a great opportunity for me to start learning more about how extensions work.

The second reason this is a great opportunity is that I have wondered for some time what I’m going to do when I get old.

I’m just not sitting around knitting type of person. my hand has been bothering me for quite some time. it’s only a matter of time until my other hand starts to bother me as well. So I’ve been wondering about this comma what could I do if I didn’t work.

Now all kinds of people including all of my relatives most of my friends tell me all of the time that I should not work so much. I mention that I did not ask any of these people their opinion? You see the issue isn’t that I can’t think of things to do instead of work. the point is that I like to work and the thought that I couldn’t do it anymore is a bit depressing.

 

There are a few drawbacks of  read and write for Google Chrome which you may have already detected. One is that it has a rather random view of capitalization.  I’m sure that if you read this post closely you can identify other drawbacks. for example like Siri it often misinterpret your words. I left most of the errors here so that you could see. I did fix a few where the sentence made absolutely no sense.

I found it works better if you speak more slowly.

 

So far  it hasn’t been too bad. it was super easy to install and I figured out how to use the speech to text by watching 2 minute YouTube video.

 

On the other hand haha  that’s a joke since I only have one hand –  it seems like the only way to get the premium features is to be at a school that licenses those at the school or maybe classroom level.  right now I’m using the 30 day trial version.

 

The other problem I have found is that sometimes the microphone just randomly quits working.  toggle it off and on to fix Problem.

 

2 move 2A new line All you need to do is say those words which ironically since I wanted actually those words in the sentence I had to take them otherwise it would have gone to a well you know.

 

now if you read this you can see it kind of makes me look like a cross between a teenager using text-speak and someone with a very poor grasp of grammar and spelling. however I think that much of that could be improved with practice and getting 2 no the software better. we’ll see if with practice the voice recognition can be accurate at a faster speed because this slow pace is pretty annoying. the invisible developer just told me that I  sound like a bit from Find old radio show called the slow talkers of America.

New line I also think it would be really really difficult to write code using this with all of the special characters required like  square brackets and curly brackets parentheses etcetera etcetera.

 

After a few weeks tough trying this out I’m going to check out dragon I have a friend who is visually impaired who uses that so I’m going to ask her 2 show me because I’m sure she knows all of the special features as I believe she even used it to write her thesis.. You’re line

If you have any other suggestions either 4 Chrome extensions in general or on using Speech-to-Text software please post it and the comments.

————

SCHOOL IS STARTING ! DONATE 7 GENERATION GAMES TO A STUDENT, CLASSROOM OR SCHOOL under $20 for all three games,

Fish lake woman

Since it’s the 4th of July, I figure no one is very work-focused today and it would be a good time for one of my occasional rants.

I read a book this week, The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf. It was a good story for a lots of reasons, a primary one being that it didn’t follow the usual narrative of beautiful damsel in distress rescued by charming prince.

knight in armorIn fact, the beautiful damsel is kind of a stupid jerk and it is her overlooked, smarter sister who heads out to find a knight to save the castle. Said knight isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, either. In fact, most of the knights in the story seem to have been bonked on the head a few times too many. 

In the end, the beautiful damsel is rescued by the not-too-bright knight and they go off to King Arthur’s court. The sister ends up with another guy who pretty much sucks at being a knight, so he gives it up and they live happily ever after together as he takes over the family lands and becomes a highly successful farmer.

One reason I almost never watch TV or movies is that the story is so predictable. Love at first sight. Unappreciated younger brother becomes greatest knight ever through magic potion/ love of a good woman. Bad guy defeated by good guy. Lots of fighting scenes. Overlooked woman develops into a beauty and the guy finally notices her.

More people should write their own story. Truly , fighting occasionally , with intervening sitting around the castle drinking beer waiting for a fight does sound like an incredibly boring life. A lot of the stuff the Knights (and people now) fight over is stupid. 

“You insulteth mine honor.”

Yeah, so we should hack each other to pieces with swords? Get over it.

The ‘savage damsel’ falls in love with a knight who falls in love with her beautiful sister. When she has the chance to make him love her forever, she starts thinking past the first minute she imagines him declaring his love for her and tries to see being middle-aged, sitting by the fire with Sir Dumb-As-A-Rock and concludes, “Oh, hell, naw.”

Sir Lancelot loses a joust and disappears. And he doesn’t come back.

I liked the book a lot because it didn’t follow the recipe for fantasy stories. I ordered it for my granddaughter because it has a great life lesson – write your own story.

 —

My usual disclaimer when I write about a product: No one paid me diddly-squat to write this.

Julia, Maria and granddaughter—-

If you want to write your own multimedia story on your iPhone, check out Evrybit. You can download it free from the app store.

It’s been a good week for the darling daughters.

The Spoiled One graduated summa cum laude, also president of the senior class, and is heading to the east coast to attend a small liberal arts college where she has an academic scholarship and a spot on the soccer team.

Julia, Maria and granddaughter

The book co-authored by Darling Daughter One and Darling Daughter Three won International Sports Biography of the Year, and the two lovelies pictured above flew to London to receive the award.

The Perfect Jennifer has tenure now and is finishing out another year of being an outstanding teacher.

A couple of years ago, there was a book with the thesis that Chinese mothers are superior and all Americans are raising a bunch of lazy slackers. It irritated me and I wrote a blog with the title “Why American mothers are superior” because that seemed more professional than “Go Fuck Yourself” . And no, in all seriousness, I really don’t think that one race or country has better mothers, but I also think the idea that if we don’t regiment our children lock-step for 18 years straight into MIT we are a bunch of losers is irritating as fuck.

You might think this is my rubbing it in post to say, “How you like me now? My kids are doing awesome.”

You’d be wrong. To paraphrase Erma Bombeck yet again, no mother should ever be arrogant because she can’t be sure that at any moment the principal won’t call to tell her that one of her children rode a motorcycle through the gymnasium.

I wanted to talk about something different – definitions of success that Tiger Mom Lady probably would not understand at all.

A friend of mine has a son in his mid-twenties who lives at home. He earned a degree from a two-year college. He is not crushing it as a hedge fund manager, but rather, has a regular job with benefits. I’m sure Tiger Mom would be dismayed if he was her kid.

My friend was distraught over the situation at work. The company had been acquired and reorganized. Her new boss was a nightmare and she came home in tears more often than not. Despite over a decade of good performance, she was afraid she was going to be laid off and was becoming depressed and stressed. They couldn’t afford to make the payments on their house on one income, and they had already lost a home back in 2008 when the housing marketing imploded. They were the collateral damage of those hedge fund managers.

It was at this point that her son (remember him?) stepped up. He had been living at home to save money for a down payment on a house of his own. Since he is single, has no children and gets along well with his parents, it seemed like a good arrangement, and he was paying them rent, but  a lot less than it would cost to go out and get his own apartment. Plus, there were those home-cooked meals. He said something like this,

Look, you took care of me for 26 years. I make enough money now to cover the mortgage. If you are that unhappy about your job, quit. Even if you don’t quit your job, at least quit worrying about being laid off. I’ll pick up any slack. Between Dad and me, we got you covered.

Look at this family – they all love each other, the mom, dad and son. They get along well enough that he feels comfortable living at home to save money. Her son is hard-working and appreciates the fact that his parents have done what they could to support him. He can take the perspective of another person, see the stress his mother is experiencing and offer to do what he can to alleviate it out of appreciation for what they have done for him.

In my view, my friend is a success as a mother and her son is a success as a human being.

———

My day job :

Games that make you smarter. Don’t let your kids get dumber over the summer. We have three games that run on Mac and Windows. Check them out here.

Mom and kid

 

In a very random life event, I was asked a lot of questions recently by people exploring making a movie about my life. This is not the interesting part, because in Hollywood people are always talking about making movies that come to nothing …

The interesting thing was how many times the answer to a question was,

Sister Marion, my sixth-grade math teacher.

I was not a very prepossessing child.

“Prepossessing – Having qualities that people like: appealing or attractive.”

School buildingIn fact, if there was such a word as anti-possessing (which there is not), that would have defined me well. I was short, overweight, often dressed in my brother’s too-big clothes because I was too lazy to look for my own uniform and didn’t care about my appearance. I was also the type of child who knew the definition of words like ‘prepossessing’ and mocked other children, and teachers, if they did not. It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that I was not wildly popular.

My grades were not the best, partly because I often forgot my homework in the mad rush to get five kids out the door early enough that my mother could make it to work on time. Partly it was because I am EXTREMELY near-sighted, a fact no one discovered until the third or fourth grade (thank you, Lions Club vision screening!) and even after that I usually could not see the board because I could not manage to have a pair of glasses for more than a few weeks without losing them. Glasses were not cheap and my family didn’t have a lot of extra cash so it would usually be months between pairs.

Then, I got the chicken pox and was out of school for a week. Despite all of the bewailing about how stupid today’s children are compared to yesteryear, back then we learned fractions in sixth-grade, not fifth, and I had missed the entire week when these were introduced. A petty teacher (and the world has too damn many of  those), might have been gratified by the fact that a pain-in-the-ass, know-it-all kid was finally going to be put in her place.

I’d like to think that Sister Marion realized that the only thing I felt I had going for me was being smart and that’s why I had to rub everyone’s face in it. Maybe she realized I needed a friend, and a new perspective.

Whatever it was, she paired me up with another child in the class, Diane, who wasn’t a star student overall, but was very good at math, and told her to explain to me what we had learned while I was out. Not only did I get caught up on fractions, but I learned not to underestimate people based on appearances or first impressions. Just because a person wasn’t a great reader didn’t mean she couldn’t be good at math. Diane and I actually had conversations, and she introduced me to another friend of hers, also named Diane. I called one of the Dianes on the phone – it was the first time I had ever had another kid at school to call – and I was 11.

Sister Marion was nice to me. If you think every teacher is nice to every child then perhaps you need to go back and read the beginning of this post. When I think back, I can only think of two teachers I had before I got expelled from the public school system who were consistently nice to me, Sister Marion and Mr. Cartwright, my 8th grade algebra teacher.

It’s probably no coincidence that I’m good at math and made a career of it.

It’s funny how often when they asked me questions, Sister Marion’s name came up.

Did you have a teacher who you particularly admired?

Was there a teacher who interested you in mathematics?

What made you decide that you wanted to teach?

Who were your role models in life?

I’m not saying that she was the only person who was a role model or who made a difference. However, she was exactly what we try to be at 7 Generation Games – a change in the trajectory that made me shift from doing all right in school with no effort to doing better and better with more effort. She was a person that made me think I could be more than ordinary.

Of course I make an effort to encourage the students who show exceptional effort and ability. Then, I remember Sister Marion and make an extra effort to also encourage students who are annoying, rude, don’t do their work.

When I think of Sister Marion, I am reminded yet again of the truth of that saying:

I touch the future. I teach.

———-

Want to see what I did with math once I grew up?

Since I already called my mom on Mother’s Day, I thought that I’d talk about another woman who was important in my life, a mentor, who I probably haven’t talked to in 20 years. (I know, I’m such an ungrateful bitch. )

Dr. Jane Mercer was not even in the same department as me. My dissertation was an analysis of the psychometric properties of Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Revised , Mexicano, and she was a sociologist renowned for her expertise on the impact of social and cultural factors on intelligence test scores.

Shortly after I finished the first draft of my dissertation, my advisor received some distressing news (no, it wasn’t that he was my advisor, he already knew that). He and his wife had begun dating as very young teenagers. Other than his military service during World War II, they had been together ever since. When she was diagnosed with cancer, he walked into the dean’s office and just said, simply,

I can’t.

… And went on sabbatical with about a four-minute notice. 

Everyone completely understood. His colleagues took over committee responsibilities. As his doctoral student that was furthest along, I taught his courses, like inferential statistics.

I was his only doctoral student writing a dissertation, and someone needed to step in to supervise my research. That was Dr. Jane Mercer. 

Not only did she read every draft of my dissertation, recommend articles I read and journals to submit publications, introduce me to people at conferences (not a gesture to be underestimated when one is looking for a position) but, more importantly, she provided advice on life.

Here are a few of the things I learned from Dr. Mercer just by observing her.

1. NO MATTER HOW FAR YOU HAVE GONE DOWN THE WRONG ROAD, TURN BACK! Taped over her desk, Dr. Mercer had a piece of paper with this proverb typed on it. No matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road, turn back. We’re told in America that quitters never win, bloom where you’re planted, you can’t fight city hall, you’re never going to win against big corporations. Making a change in anything from your employer to your gym to the crowd you hang around with can be treated as an act of disloyalty. People stay in situations long, long after they should have left because they are ‘committed’, ‘invested’, ‘cannot leave now’. The unwillingness to turn back after going a long way down the wrong road is the second biggest barrier most people’s happiness. The biggest is fear, which leads me to …

2. Have the courage to speak the truth as you see it.  Being the most brilliant researcher in the world does no good to anyone if you are afraid to publish and publicize unpopular results. In the 1970s, many people thought intelligence tests were the answer to psychology’s long history of physics envy. At last, we were a real science with actual numbers, not this whacko dream interpretation stuff but measurement – hey, IQ even has a math word – quotient, in the name. Not to mention, companies like The Psychological Corporation and Educational Testing Service were big business (still are). Jane Mercer sincerely believed intelligence tests systematically underestimated the intelligence of low-income, minority children. In the case of Diana vs the State Board of Education, a lawsuit was filed on behalf a few Mexican-American children, including a little girl who spoke Spanish as her first language,  was tested in English and determined to be mentally retarded. All of the big names (and big money) lined up on the side of the State Board of Education and Jane spoke up for the side of Diana. This may not seem like much now, but back then she had to stand up to a LOT of opposition, it was not happy times. She did it anyway.

3. Yes, you CAN have a job and a family. Men do it all the time. Jane was older than me and of that generation that was told women could either have a career or children but not both. By the time I met her, her four sons were all adults. She and her husband got along fine and seemed to agree that since they were both parents of these children they could both engage in parenting them. We couch things in daunting terms “Can women have it all?”  Of course no one has it ALL. I’m finishing this blog post in the Denver airport. That empty spot you see at the end of jetway is where the plane I am taking back to Los Angeles should be. 

no plane

I would like to have a non-eventful flight out of Denver airport, just once. You see, none of us can have it ALL but no one asks men whether they think they can manage a career and children.

4. Being the first or only woman in an area doesn’t mean you have to go along with that happy-to-be-here crap. Yes, she was a tenured professor at the University of California, which had damn few of them, but that didn’t mean she had to accommodate in any way because of her gender. Don’t take on female doctoral students because you don’t want to be type-cast as ‘only a good advisor for women’? Screw that! If they needed an advisor and she could help, she was on board. Don’t speak out about intelligence testing because people will think you are shrill or too emotional, not a real academic? Screw that twice!  As you can see, I have taken that lesson deeply to heart but with less of her limits on profanity.

Woo-hoo – plane boarding now – only 90 minutes late – gotta go. Happy Mother’s Day.

———–

 If you forgot to give your mom anything for Mother’s Day, you sponsor a school, classroom or individual license for any of our games, starting at just $4.99Sam and Angie planning their journey

Or get one for your own kids (or yourself, maturity is over-rated).

Whenever you find yourself overworked or tired out, it’s easy to get upset out of all proportion when something goes wrong.

The usual advice to avoiding stress  –  “Be sure you get enough sleep. Work-life balance is important.”  – can be like telling runners at a track meet to run faster. It is correct but not helpful.

This month, I’ll be in Tampa, San Francisco,  Las Vegas,  Grand Forks,  Devils Lake and Tulsa. I’m giving three papers at three conferences, meeting with a lot of people, writing an annual report, working on the bugs to get out our latest game by the end of this month, working on a Chromebook version of our two current games, expanding our resources for instructors, meeting with potential investors, visiting school beta sites. It’s exhausting just reading it, no?

I arrive in Los Angeles from Las Vegas at 10 pm and leave at 1 am for Grand Forks.  I’m not at private jet level yet, so I had to catch whatever flights were available to get from Nevada to North Dakota because those selfish bastards who organized SAS Global Forum did not consult me in which days on the calendar fit in my personal schedule. I know, I’m shocked, too! The North Dakota STEM conference, same thing! No one called me and said,

“Hi, AnnMaria, we’re thinking of having a conference. What day is good for you?”

My point is that when Delta airlines doesn’t consider you in its flight routes or conferences don’t schedule around your convenience, you don’t get outraged because you don’t take it personally.

That last phrase is the major stress relief strategy that is within your control. You can’t always get enough sleep, do your yoga, only associate with positive people (or, based on some of my recent flights, people with adequate hygiene).

You can, however, try to avoid taking personally the inevitable slips in your best-laid plans. I’ll give you an example that happens to me more often than I would like – I am supposed to go to a school that has expressed an interest in using our games to teach math. Sometimes they have made an appointment for me to present our research to the staff, observe students playing in the computer lab or meet with a focus group of students and then, at the last minute cancel – sometimes, literally, as I am getting into my car to drive to meet with them.

It’s easy to get upset about this, or a hundred other things that don’t go perfectly in the average day. I was talking to The Perfect Jennifer about one of these today and she said,

Jenn studying

You know, Mom, as much as I am always on your side, I don’t think this has anything to do with you.

And she is right. I could have said,

“What do you mean? It was ME they had agreed to meet with/ invest in/ buy games from/ have as the chief belly dancer (okay, maybe not that last one).”

The fact is, though, people change their minds, say something they didn’t mean, double-book, forget appointments or have conflicts for all kinds of reasons and a very, very small proportion of them have to do with you. They just plain forgot that Wednesday was a half-day and the students would not be there at 2 pm. THEY are overworked, too, and were called in to handle a crisis with a student who had attempted suicide or assaulted a teacher, the school is on lock-down, the superintendent dropped by to ask why their test scores were so low, their budget was cut, their last investment lost a bucket of money and they can no longer afford to invest.

So … the next time you find your stress level rising along with your desire to throttle someone, don’t count to ten, start counting all of the plausible explanations for their behavior that don’t involve you. I’m pretty sure people are not wandering around plotting to make your life stressful. In fact, once you start thinking about the potential problems other people have to deal with, your life starts looking pretty good by comparison.

———

Games for Mac and Windows that make you smarter

Fish lake splash screen

Chromebook versions coming soon

 

It’s almost 6 am here on the east coast, and after flying all day during which I worked on a final report for a grant to develop our latest educational game and make bug fixes on same, I landed and wrote a report for a client, because that pays the bills.

In the meantime, over on our 7 Generation Games blog, Maria wrote a post where she called bullshit on venture capitalists who claim not to be interested in educational games because they aren’t a billion dollar business but then fund other enterprises that no way in hell are a billion dollar business.

She seems to have touched a nerve because now we are getting comments from people saying no one wants to fund you because your games are bad and you are mean.

That is part of the start-up life, really. You have this idea for a business that you think is wonderful, it is your baby. Like a baby, you get too little sleep, because you are working all of the time, but you think it’s worth it.

kid acting ugly

And every day, you run into people who are essentially telling you that your baby is ugly.

People like to believe they are reasonable and give reasons for their belief in your baby’s ugliness. I think you should consider those explanations because they could be right. Maybe your baby IS ugly.

For example, someone said, “Maybe venture capitalists don’t want to invest in your games because they aren’t as good as the PS4 , Wii and Xbox games and kids don’t want to play them.”

I answered that he was correct, our games, that cost schools an average of $2- $3 per student, and cost individuals $9.99 are NOT as good as games that cost $40 – $60. If you have 200 kids in your school playing our games, you probably can’t afford to pay us $10,000 . I know this is true. Could I be wrong about the price of the games to which he was comparing ours? I went and checked on Amazon which is probably one of the cheapest places to buy games and,  I was correct.

I have a Prius. My daughter has a BMW that costs four times as much. Her car looks much cooler than mine and goes much faster. Does that mean Prius sucks and no one should invest in them? Obviously, no.

Actually, we have thousands of kids playing our games and they sincerely seem to like them, and upper elementary and middle school kids are usually pretty honest about what they think sucks.

People sometimes point out that our graphics could be cooler or our game world could be larger or other really, really great ideas that I completely agree with. The fact is, though, that we want our games to be an option for schools, parents across the income spectrum, after-school programs and even nursing homes, in some cases. (There is a whole group of “silver gamers”.) These markets often do NOT have the type of hardware that hard-core gamers do. In fact, the minimal hardware requirement we aim to support is Chromebooks and we are building web-based versions that will run in areas that don’t have high-speed Internet access.

Did you ever have that experience where you call tech support for a problem and the person on the other end says,

Well, it works on my computer.

What good does that do me?

So, we are trying to make games that work on a lot of people’s computers. Believe me, I do get it. I play games on my computer and I have a really nice desktop in an area with high-speed Internet and I would LOVE to do some way cooler things. We made the decision to try to provide games people could play even if the only computer they can access is some piece of junk computer that most of us would throw out. Don’t get me started on the need to upgrade our schools and libraries, that is a rant for another day.

A teacher commented the other day that while she really liked the educational quality of our games what she really wanted for her classroom were Xbox quality games for free . I would like a free computer, too, but those bastards at Apple keep charging me when I want a new one. I guess that is a rant for another day, too.

My whole point is that running a start-up is a lot of hard work and a lot of rejection. Almost like being an aspiring actor or author or raising a teenager. You have to consider the criticisms without being discouraged. Maybe they are correct that Shakespeare wouldn’t have said,

Like, you know, to be or not.

On the other hand, I remember that publishers rejected Harry Potter, and just about every successful company over the last few decades has had more detractors than supporters when it got started. And let it be noted I was right about that jerk I told you not to date, too.

In the meantime, check out our games, they really are fun and DO make you smarter!

Fish lake splash screen

 

 

 

There are some things in life that I just have difficulty wrapping my brain around, and one of those is how some people can be so incompetent that they don’t know they’re incompetent.

Let’s take the example of people earning doctorates. You’d think that would be a pretty select crowd, right?

From 1960 – 69, about 16,ooo Ph.D.’s were awarded  annually in the United States

From 1990-99, there were about 40,000 annual Ph.D graduates.

That seems like a pretty steep jump in 30 years, but maybe science, technology, etc. was increasing at a rapid rate, we were in a race to space, make up whatever explanation you want because, are you ready for this  …. in 2013, we awarded over 125% of the number of degrees a mere 14 years ago- and  that is following on pretty steep trends up to that decade.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of institutions awarding doctorates.

So, here is a question for you …. who are the people educating all of these doctoral students?

At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, even more than usual, I’d like to point out that it used to be that a professor supervised only a few doctoral students at a time. You worked closely with that person on your research for a year or two. Prior to that, you had 3-5 years of coursework, often with only a dozen or fewer students in a class. When I enrolled in the doctoral program, I had to agree not to work more than 20 hours a week during the term because being a doctoral student was a full-time job.  All but two of my statistics courses were six hours a week, a three-hour lecture and a three-hour lab. One of the two that didn’t have a lab, structural equation modeling, you were just expected to spend that lab time figuring it out on your own, and believe me, it took more than an extra three hours.

When I look at what doctoral students are required to know in most institutions, I wonder – who is going to replace the people who are retiring?

If someone poses a statistical problem to me – say, determining whether three groups receiving different treatments improved from pretest to post-test, I can perform all of the steps required to answer the problem – pose the relevant hypotheses and post hoc tests, evaluate the reliability and validity of the measures used, clean the data in preparation for analysis. Not only can I lay out the research design and necessary steps, but I can code it, in SAS preferably but in SPSS or Stata if someone prefers. Everyone I knew in graduate school was expected to be able to do this, it wasn’t the special AnnMaria program.

Now, many people use consultants. I have friends that make their living full time consulting on dissertations for doctoral students.

This leads me to the question, “What are their advisors doing if these students need a consultant?”

Isn’t that what your professors in your program are supposed to be doing, consulting with you?

The fact is that the vast majority of professors now are adjuncts, teaching a course here or there. I’m not bashing adjuncts per se. I teach as an adjunct now and then myself, and it is fine if you need a course on say, programming or statistics, but if that is all you get, is courses taught by someone tangentially tied to the university, you are missing out on the in-depth research and study that used to be required for a Ph.D.

The really alarming thing to me is that now we have whole waves of students who are being educated by people who don’t know any other system. So, we have people who cannot conduct a complete research project on their own, who have only vague concepts of what a ‘mixed model’ is – and they are teaching doctoral students!  Now, if you are in French literature or something, maybe that’s cool and mixed models aren’t very applicable. That’s not my point.

My point is this whole cutting costs by reducing full-time faculty to a tiny fraction has resulted in people who are poorly educated and don’t even know it! They don’t know what they don’t know and now they are passing their ignorance on to the next generation.

I came out of my Ph.D. program knowing one hell of a lot, simply because, if I wanted to graduate, there was no other option. The University of California didn’t give a damn if I had three kids (I did), or needed to work (I did) or that it costs one hell of a lot to provide that level of individual supervision (it did). The powers that be figured you needed this body of knowledge to get a Ph.D. and that was that. And now, that isn’t that. That worries me.

 

This is part 3 of the series inspired by Cindy Gallop’s brilliant talk on finding talented women or minorities.

Not only is your company not hiring female or minority employees, not investing in female or minority-led companies, but YOU ARE LITERALLY ADDING INSULT TO INJURY.

The tech workforce is disproportionately white and Asian male, and the white male proportion increases the higher one goes up the ladder. Link to Fortune article here. I don’t just make this shit up.

Here is what people say when told these facts about their company.

“We hire/fund solely based on merit.”

Which is saying, that Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans, women are INFERIOR.  If you do not mean that, please tell me how “has less merit” is defined in your language.

There is actually a great deal of research that documents that women and non-white men are NOT judged equally. Here is a link to a summary of three of them. In fact, the identical pitch, when given by a man, was about twice as likely to rated favorably as a pitch by a woman.

The first post in this series was about how people can’t find women and minority applicants because they don’t really want to find them. If they did, they would look harder.

The second was on how we hire men based on their potential but we hire women based on their proven accomplishments. The same goes for African-Americans, Latinos and others who don’t fit the stereotype. There are plenty of studies, here’s a link to one of them, that show we give people “like us” the benefit of the doubt. They are rated more highly, more likely to be hired. The “like us” includes “like the people who already work here”.

This whole “they don’t have merit” and judging one group of people on potential while another is judged on accomplishments, produces a vicious circle.

You hire Bob because he has all the qualifications for the job – degree in the right field, portfolio he created in college that highlights his skills – and he is your friend, Bubba’s son. I get that, I really do. We are a small company and we can’t afford to have people working for us who are lazy, faked their qualifications or just cannot get along with their co-workers. Bob is a known quantity and you want to mitigate risk.

So, now, Roberto, or Roberta, does NOT get the internship. When you are looking for a full-time employee, it’s not that you don’t like Latinos or women but Bob has experience and they don’t. Two years later, when you are looking for someone to promote to management, there is Bob, with two years of experience in your company and Roberto and Roberta are somewhere else.

Let’s go back to the beginning, though, when Bob is applying for his first internship or pitching his first startup. Let’s say you don’t know Bob, or Roberto or Roberta. How fucking DARE you start off by saying,

“Well, I’d give Roberto or Roberta the chance if one of them is the better candidate.”

Why do they have to be the BETTER candidate? Why can’t they be just as good?

Okay, now you’re back-pedaling,

Well, of course, if they were just as good.

What really, really makes me want to slap people is the assumption that Roberto or Roberta are not just as good, the willingness to accept the “we only hire for merit and all of the white, male people are better.” Define better.

Let me tell you what happens to the definition of better – it moves to fit your preconceived notions.

Sometimes, Maria and I look at the programs that decided not to fund us or accept us in their accelerator and we laugh a little bitterly. They accept/ fund people with less traction, less users, no product, less experience, less education. Somehow, though, they have “more merit”.

It’s your money, it’s your program and you have every legal right to select people how you see fit.

Just DON’T go around telling people that you accepted all young white and Asian men because there were no good female, black, Latino or Native American entrepreneurs out there, because that just makes me want to slap you.

— Games that make you smarter –

buffalo in the winter

Here is what I make when I am not ranting here. Buy one. You can also donate one to a classroom or school.

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