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Fighting the Tuition Culture

After-school tuition is a menace. Besides questioning the credibility of a school, it heavily consumes effort, time and money of students and their parents. However, the tuition culture continues to flourish so much so that it has become a symbol of status quo. If a school-goer has no tutor or coaching, many would believe, it is probably because of an inability to afford one.

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I have spent more than a decade in teaching and tutoring. My own experience is that most parents get their child tutored only because of the heck of it or because they cannot persuade the child to do her homework. A tutor is hence hired as a specialized security guard who ensures that the child does not escape home work or test preparation. The idea is that if independence were ever granted, the child will surely skip her home work and test preparation.

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Recently, however, I got a chance to tutor a student of KN Academy. It is a boarding school in Karachi so the child was on her family holidays during the summer. I was hired to keep her engaged in art work which she has great interest in. I was astonished to see pictures of her work for KN Academy art exhibition. It simply wasn’t a product of forceful teaching or tutorship.

Digging out deep into values of KN Academy, I found that their teachers were producing ‘independent learners’, students who’d read even if they had freedom to get distracted. I recommend you give a visit to the school if you think your child needs to develop as a free learner.

 

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How to Win an Argument

How to Win an Argument

If you are reading this, being argumentative is your chief trait. Your DNA has more-than-average space for wrangling, discussion, debate, gossip and tussle.  You enjoy discovering and nailing psyches of your fellows, friends and family members. You want to change their perceptions and the way they believe. In short, you want them to become ‘you’.

Essentially, almost all human interaction seems lifeless without argument(s).  Many social decisions demand solid and concrete arguments.  We decorate arguments with science (and pseudo-science). We decorate them with logic – moral, ethical, legal, philosophical, cultural, technological, economical, personal, managerial, aesthetical, – or any ‘al’ of that sort.

 

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Before going ahead, let it be made clear that winning an argument does not necessarily mean winning over the person. You might win an argument and lose the trust of the person with whom you are arguing. In other words, while your opponent may concede the point, either due to lack of energy or inability to argue any more, he may still go with his personal perception or belief. Human mind is like that; it often filters out inconvenient information.

So, without further beating about the bush, here are some time-tested argument tactics from my personal experience. Do not try them at home or office. You might get hurt pretty badly!

 

  1. Change the Scope

This is the most common tactic, where in by enlarging or reducing the scope of an argument, you can find a comfortable position in the argument battlefield. From there, you can easily attack your enemy. It takes a while for transforming an argument from ‘the quality of cat food’ to one for dog food, and even longer to convert it into an argument about human food. With a little more effort, you will end up on issues of starvation and food shortage. Are you in a strong position? There you go!

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Looking for an example for the other way round i.e. reducing a broad topic to a finer one? Just reverse the order of steps and you will land on your otherwise strong area i.e. cat food.

  1. Use Logical Fallacies

No argument can be totally free from fallacies. As per Nietzsche, there are no facts, only perceptions. That being said, it does not take much effort in detecting a fallacy or two in your opponent’s argument. Once you have convinced your argumentative enemies that their points are fraught with fallacies, they will have no choice but to accept yours. Take, for example, a man exhibiting a seemingly high level of patriotism on a national holiday which his wife finds disturbing. All she wants is to go out for a family picnic instead of chanting national anthems. “Okay, let’s persuade our boys to get enlisted in the army. Let them be martyrs for the Flag. Is that all you want? Fine. The man, moved by the ‘appeal to emotion’ fallacy, changes his mind and the starts hating national days for the fear that it would turn him ‘an-emotional-dad-who-lost-his-sons-to-a-bloody-war’.

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Scientific research can go wrong due to their lack of subjectivity. Natural things can be hurtful too. Personal incredulity can be right or wrong depending on approach and practice of the person.  In short, every argument can be pricked with one or more of these fallacies to weaken its strength.

 

  1. Use Rhetoric

This blog has already used one by Nietzsche. Rhetoric, broadly speaking, is a set of speech persuasion tools evolved over the wide course of human intelligence, wisdom and experience. Proverbs, quotes, parables, analogies, idioms, phrases and sometimes even scientific formulae can be used as rhetoric to add wings to your arguments. Rhetoric comes in really handy for political speeches, analysts’ views, scholars’ sermons, marketers’ slogans and even teachers’ lectures.

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Here is an instance: “Early bird catches the worm’.

Counter logic. “It is the second mouse that gets mouse in the mouse trap”

Another one: ‘’A stitch in time saves nine’’

Counter: ‘’It is never too late to mend’’

While these pairs seem to complement (rather than conflict) each other, the thing to note here is that we would use them as per the need of arguments. So instead of saying ‘once a liar … always a liar’ in a situation where my kid has spoken untruth, I would quote him the famous fable of ‘Nip the Evil in the Bud’. That, of course, would be reversed when my office junior does the same.

We are concerned with expected outcomes of our speech, not with words. While dictionaries keep them intact, meanings of the words keep on changing in our minds according to our situation, knowledge, experience, socialites and spirits.

 

  1. Time Travel

I do not know whether man will, in reality, time travel. But time-traveling is a fairly good technique in the art of argumentation. By affixing reasons based on history or future, you can make your opponents lose their grip on the argument. Business meetings call these reasons ‘plans’. Media call them ‘trends’.

 

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Talk about history and/or future and your opponent will clearly miss his/her point. You can map a chart of progressive technology, science or knowledge and infuse a not-so-near obsolescence of things, people, ideas or culture.  You can sugar-coat obsolescence by good-old-times stories. Determine your place or side of the argument, and apply them. They really work.

 

  1. Empathize

Empathy – putting yourself in someone else’s shoes – can give great insights into your opponent’s way of thinking and processing information. Once empathetic, your tone becomes theirs. You tend to attack the argument without letting the person understand what is going on.  Call it diplomacy, hypocrisy or linguistic flattery; it works without hurting the sentiments of the opposition.

 

Last Word

Arguing is not everyone’s piece of cake. It relates to the human instincts to fight, which is helpful and hurtful, depending upon the scenario. Without arguments, the world would not have met the progress. In fact, all progress or destruction owes much to our ability to argue or remain silent. In the end, all rejoice or all repent.

 

WARNING: Action, power and authority speak louder than words. Never apply these techniques where speech persuasion does not matter.

When Being Fake is Better Than Being Real

I graduated with a very real MBA degree in 2010. The degree was a cherry on top for my earlier degree, B.com (Hons.). Both of the degrees promised me a bright future: a decent entry level job with good pay and opportunities for learning, growth and self-development.

During the final-semester exams of my MBA, I did what most of the other graduating fellows would do: hunt down the handful of good employers on the internet, prepare an impressive resume, apply, drop CVs at the big offices, go for trials or offer demos.

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None, except Axact offered me a job. I did not know about the company then. I was so impressed by the way they treated their employees that it almost occurred to me a dream come true.

It really is. Apart from the somewhat unethical nature of Axact’s work (will comment on it later), everything you can fantasize as an employee (may be even more) has its reality in Axact. From exotic transportation and lunches to heart-fulfilling pay, perks and bonuses, Axact does not leave a pinch of dissatisfaction as far as compensation for your labor is concerned. Not even a mop man would complain of a poor compensation. The philosophical tenet ‘we value quality human resource’ can be seen in every aspect of Axact’s management.

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Now, the ethical part. Yes, Axact does deal in a somewhat unethical (notorious, okay?) business of online education industry. That is, life-time, experience-based online certifications, diplomas and degrees. But before you google it more, let me make it clear that all such stuffs are completely above the board i.e. legal. There is no cyber jurisdiction that can control or prevent it. It is a gray area of the internet business the regulation for which has never been developed by any real, universally accepted educational institutions, boards or accreditation bodies. Why? There is no single universally accepted educational accreditation body!

There is a lot on the internet like this. For example, virtual private networks or VPN services that allow you to bypass the state-registered firewalls cannot easily be prevented by any internet body. This is why you can still watch YouTube and other blocked sites while they are being banned by PTA.

Then there is a whole mess of real or fake online certifications which, to date, have no real value beyond what the organizations accepting it give. O Levels has no real value in USA, for instance. A Pakistani engineering degree is as fake as an Axact’s degree when you submit it to a Canadian state employer. One can get labeled as a medical doctor learning for 5 years in Pakistan in a medical school. In UK, that real MBBS degree won’t get you a GP license.

So friends, before challenging the exact mechanism, legality and applicability of Axact degrees, shouldn’t we be concerned about our own, really-disappointing, worthless degrees? The company at least values the real Pakistani degrees before most others and keeps the lights on for an ever struggling Pakistani employee that works like a slave in most of the other organizations.

Yes, Axact might be playing on higher-education’s failings, but are other corporate giants ethical?  Do a little review of the corporate and social brutality of large business organizations in Pakistan and you will see that there are bigger business evils that, unlike Axact, suck the labor of their employees to damage our very own society.

So friends, I would rather criticize the worthlessness of real degrees when the world would whistle against the fake degrees none of which has ever damaged a Pakistani.

                                                                                                                  

P.S.: I left Axact when I could afford ethics.  After Axact, I did ethical cleansing of my soul and started working on school textbooks and educational materials. My very real degree (MBA banking and finance) lies in a dusty shelf. No one could value it more than Axact.

 

How Pakistani MBAs Fit When They Won’t Get Field Jobs

Through 90s and 2000s, Pakistan produced a shit load of business graduates, particularly those in Masters of Business Administration, or MBA, programs..The natural result of all this orgy came in the form of a generation of misemployed or unemployed MBAs!

MBA grads invading the entrepreneurial landscape?

Until late 2000s, most MBAs could have been accommodated into one of so-called management trainee positions by  both local companies and MNCs. But as matters got worse, we saw MBAs working as data-entry operators, bank clerks, or even call center agents. However, being taught to act as jack of all trades, MBAs could have well adjusted into one of these off-tracks as well, as long as you could have a white-collar shirt, its a go-go, one would say.

Who ate MBA jobs?

MBA graduates specializing in finance saw their jobs stolen by a stream of certified accounting professionals: ACCAs, ICMAs, CAs and CIMAs etc.

MBA graduates specializing in marketing got their jobs ripped off by average salespeople good in social and BD skills.

And MBA graduates specializing in HR and Supply Chain were replaced by low paid college grads who would be happy working 10 hour shifts for the cost of peanuts.

 

 

A Few New Working Avenues for MBAs

Let me dismiss myself as an authority for advice, but I see myself (and others like me) justly adjusted into one of the off-beat MBA fields in fairly good terms: good salaries, easy job timings, respect, honor and learning all inclusive.

Teachers: No matter how stigmatic it may seem, some MBAs feel clearly honored sailing the classroom environment. Fahim Abbasi, an IBA grad, chose the track and is a laudable educationist figure and entrepreneur.

Researchers: Did you do your MBA being bookish. Than stay like one and enjoy great perks of being a research analyst. No extra-ordinary social skills required. No word jugglery. Earn easily with precision and growth.

Content Writers: Oh, tat’s my field these days (in fact, for the past 5 years). It rewards well and does not suck your labor if you reap quality.

Online Traders: Did marketing or supply chain majors in MBA and work disheartedly. Go make an online store or facilitator at eBay or ODesk. E-commerce is the future of business. Get into it now.

 

End Thought: 

Don’t settle for good, demand great — that’s the sales line for one of the mobile handset these days. If you feel you are underemployed, misemployed or even unemployed because your MBA just isn’t good enough for the market, create one and stay there. Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No rain without pain!

Here, I am praising rain.
And there, a poor farmer is cursing the very same thing for the lost crop.
How can rain be both a blessing and a curse?
Are blessings even indifferent?
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So when clouds are dancing (or weeping, for that matter), isn’t one person’s joy another person’s pain?
Not all the times, of course. But when taken as a socially acting phenomenon, it is definitely the case.
A similar blessing-curse perception exists for wealth, another socially acting phenomenon.
While a rich man may call wealth as a blessing, a poor man would regard absense of wealth as a curse…while in social, collective sense, wealth itself remains as blind as rain, distributing without regards to specifics of circumstances or due share, and often against the interest of the masses.

Children of War

Before you grow up, my child
Remember that we’re already doomed
You were born in an age of chaos
In times that helped only powers boom
In an era when only might was right
In a place where only battles survive

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In smokes, flames and bombs
In pits, graves and tombs
And its not only here that the worlds a hell
Its wider than what newspapers would tell
Its in the love for voilence
Its in the obsession for silence
Its in the long boots of soldiers
And in the filthy mind of a traitor

So before you grow up or die
Know this. One. Last. Time.
We were already doomed
When the world let powers boom

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Reality is the Glass That Never Fills

If there is one thing that people hate the most, it’s the reality. Through ages, men have learned to understand reality into perceptions of good and bad. And while we do so, we bleak out a much needed, neutral, unbiased and accurate view of facts – the reality.

Let’s prove it by seeing how the metaphor half-empty or half-full glass has its reality distorted. Instead of seeing it in both sides, people falsely apply it as a litmus test for separating positive from negative thinking. Without delving deep into the nature and limitations of the metaphor, we simply mark disagreeing people into those who see glass as half-empty.

That the glass is half-full or half-empty is more of a philosophical question, not a statement to jump into conclusions or feel good, or feel bad judgments.

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It totally depends on the frame of mind that you’d see things as positive and negative. While you may seemingly relate an event with positivism and hopefulness, the other person may see the opposite. Psychologists have proven this thing time and again. In a research by Craig et. al (2003), it was found that a speaker’s choice of frame (stating an object as half-full or half-empty) primarily depended on how they witnessed the object prior to being filled or emptied. If they found the glass as full before being emptied, they called it as half-empty. If they found it empty before being half-filled they saw it as half-full.

The finding should be not very different for our real world. If you have been seeing all the seemingly good things for yourself, you would find all things going against that perceived good as half-empty, negative, threatening and maybe even disastrous! Of course the reverse is true for the other side.

The half-full mindset is seldom connected two of its own facets – the responsible hopefulness and the irresponsible hopefulness. The former is almost always needed. The latter causes havoc, and maybe it’s the half-empty mindset that should have prevented one. Titanic, for example, would not have sunk had the half-full approach not followed. The same goes with other accidents, crisis and disasters.

The half-empty, half-full mindedness leaves no space for imagination. By categorically marking people, objects and events into positive and negative, we do great injustice to human equality and an everlasting beauty of seeing and doing things differently.

Reality is the glass that never fills. It is neither completely empty nor completely full. It’s all about the way we see things.  The ironic reality is, however, that the half-glass empty or half-glass full rhetoric  is almost always  one-sidedly used.

Solutions

  1. Accept it.
  2. Go kill your teachers.