Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How do I lift thee from the mundane: Musings of a Dean

How Do I Lift Thee From the Mundane

What a fleeting time is youth!
  • that beckons the future
  • that walks in beauty
  • that gallops with force
  • that exudes energy in every motion
  • that dances with the daffodils
  • that climbs every mountain
  • that explores every valley
  • that aspires for the stars

Monday, March 13, 2017

5 Phone Behaviors of Employees who Need to be Fired

Based on my experience with dealing with people over the last so many years, I have identified the following phone behaviors that should raise a red flag about the ethical values and personal responsibility of an employee. A manager can use these phone behaviors to identify the employees who need to be fired or got to be replaced:

1. Getting a Missed Call or SMS from your Contact and not Responding Promptly

Typically an employee who gets a missed call or SMS from office and does not respond within  reasonable time (say) of a few hours to a day is again indicative of disorganized behavior or a tendency to avoid responsibility.   Repeated missed calls where the bell was ringing but is not responded. Or repeated SMS sent, with no acknowledgement or a reply are indicative of a major ethical issue. Sending a small one word message such as "OK" or "BUSY" or a small phrase like "Will call later"  does not take more than a few seconds but greatly reflects on your personality. If you can not do this immediately, then you need to inform in some reasonable time that you are busy and will call later or respond later. However, the messages and missed calls going into a black hole with no response is a very dangerous sign to watch out for. If an employee does this too many times and when confronted comes up with all sorts of lame excuses should not be tolerated. 

Often the excuse that they come up with is a lame excuse such as not having credit or being ill. If one is receiving a number of missed calls and sms and is not responding even after a day, and the excuse is not having credit then this excuse should be intensely pursued and confronted. The excuse of not having credit can be easily rectified by using someone else's phone and sending a message that for such and such reason I can not respond. Similarly, "being ill" is also a lame excuse. Unless you are in coma or unconscious, you can always instruct someone who is taking care of you to simply respond to all the sms/missed calls from known numbers that you are ill and will respond later. 

In the presence of junk spam messages or when a person is too much busy, he may not respond promptly. At times busy people do miss the SMS, however, responsible people do go over there SMS's and respond even if they are a day old. In my experience, greater the responsibility of a person, greater is his promptness to reply to messages/missed calls from known contacts. 

Note: Some people do have a policy of not responding to unknown numbers or not responding to so many interaction channels like Whatsapp, Linkedin, Facebook, Tango, Viber, Soma etc. However, their policy should be clearly stated and the behavior should be consistent. It can not be that you respond some times and then you switch off at others. When contacting a senior person, first introduce yourself through a regular channel like sms and email asking for the permission to call or asking to use some other channel.

2. Not Changing the Phone Behavior Even When Reminded

An employee who does not change his behavior about item above and the three items below, and continues to exhibit the same behavior is not a reliable person. If that person on your confronting him had stated that he will change the behavior and does not and continues with his erratic behavior, then this employee must be fired promptly. He will create huge issues for you later on. Trust me. I have seen this too many times. It is better to be stern the first time and get this thing out of the door.

3. Too Many Cell Phone Numbers (SIMs) and Too Frequent Changes

In Pakistan, people can easily switch buy different SIMs from different vendors and can easily switch between them. If an employee carries more than 2 SIMs (cell phone numbers) and frequently switches among them, then this is indicative of a personality who wants to hide. This person gives different numbers to different sets of people so that he can easily vanish and disappear. This is often done by those who need to pay some liability or need to do some work for someone. They either block the number of the person who owes them something. Managers should watch out for a person who when found to be using multiple SIMs will make a lame excuse of having forgotten to tell the manager that he has switched. 

4. Phone not Charged or Not Responding for a Long Time

Employees whose phones are not responding for a long time or are not responding to several days is also indicative of a personality who is not organized or not willing to reform. Employees when admonished for this behavior should reform, but if they do not then it is better to let such employees go. If a person can not keep his phone charged and online means that he is disorganized and can pretty much not do anything. 

Please note that this may happen also when the person is out of the country and the roaming is not available or too expensive. But, the person, if on roaming, gets an important message and it is too costly to respond, then can always use whatsapp or email (if wi-fi) is available to respond. How this is too infrequent and while calling senior executives is a much more frequent occurrence. However, all such messages should be reponded when the person gets back to country. A message being replied even after weeks is indicative of a highly responsible person. 

5. Changing a Phone Number and not informing those in Contact List

An employee who changes his number and who does not inform the organization and the manager should again raise the flag. Courtesy demands that when changing a number, you should inform  everyone in your contact list especially those with whom you frequently talk about the change.  Changing your number and not informing is a cardinal sin and should indicate to the manager that the employee can not be trusted. 


Please note that my bandwidth on the existing email and sms channels is already full. I have no time to respond to individual such channels that seem to sprouting up everywhere such as at Facebook, Research Gate or other websites. I can not respond to all these channels, and I have stated that. My policy on Facebook clearly states that I only respond to messages on email and sms.

See Also: 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

5 Major Misconceptions of Muslim Parents regarding Parenting Challenges of the 21st Century

[Themes of this post were presented at Forward Institute for Educational Bridgework Seminar on Jan 27, 2016. ]

Note: This post is specifically written for Muslim parents and presupposes reader's belief in Quran and Sunnah.
Over the last few years I have come across Muslim parents who are making extra effort in following Sunnah. However, their over-emphasis on "school education" seems to be backfiring creating several issues stifling the growth of their children. Their misplaced emphasis and strictness reveals several major misconceptions from the Islamic point of view:

1. Excessive Worrying about Education for Earning-sake: Degree as Raaziq?

The worry that Muslim parents exhibit about the "school education" of their children far exceeds the acceptable limits. Their over-focus on the future career of children indicates that their worry is not about education but about the future career and earning. They are not interested in "education for education sake" but are more interested in "education for earning sake" (career = earning). This over-worry of Muslim parents about the future earning potential of their children indicates a weakness of faith in "Allah as Raaziq" (Provider).

One can see that the worry of parents (especially mothers) is much more about "education for earning sake" because they are more worried about their children's show-off-skills than with their cognitive, social and emotional skills which are more important. Mothers are excessively pressurizing the children to measure up to the artificial standards of the show-off-skills mandated by the intense peer pressure, which they can not withstand, especially if it is coming from their in-laws, friends, and cousins. This misplaced emphasis on show-off skills is actually detrimental to the natural development of their children.
I often ask such over-worried Muslim parents, who are mostly from well-off communities, whether your parents or grandparents ever worried about your school education as much as you are worrying about your children's?

  • Did they get you admitted to school at the age of 2.5 or 1.5 years? They did not!
  • Were they worrying about your studies, when you were only 6 years old, as much as you are worrying about your child of 6-year old? They did not!
  • Did your parents hounded you for the homework as much as you are hounding your children about homework? They did not!
  • Were your grades and school performance better than your children? No!

Their answer is often an emphatic "no" to all these questions. If that is the case, then looking at your current situation are you starving? Are you short of money or resources? Are you financially sufficient? That is, Allah, the Raaziq, did provide for you irrespective of the ridiculous standards that you are worrying about!

These parents are much too worried and too much burdened by the peer pressure that seems to be mandating artificially constructed "milestones" (show-off-skills) of speaking, motor skills, reading, writing and school grades which are not backed by any sound academic basis from the experience of countries which are at the top of the education pyramid (such as Finland and other Scandinavian countries).

I am now forced to conclude that these Muslim parents in their subconscious have a weakened  belief in Allah as the Provider: They believe that if they don't teach or give a peer approved education, the future career of their children would be at stake i.e.the child may starve or become poor, or may not do well in class. Deep down they think that a good degree is equal to good earning. They actually think "Wal degree-o khair ur Raaziqeen", instead of
Wallah o khair ur raziqeen.
Allah is the best of providers. (Quran 62:11)
Rizq is something that is given by the creator, as much as He likes, and from wherever He likes. Struggle is our responsibility and a precondition, but how much we actually earn is through the blessing of Allah and at His discretion. For the above reason excessive worrying about the show-off skills of your children borders on a mental sickness of Muslim parents for the following reasons:

2. Purpose of Education

The parents must understand that purpose of education is not to earn money. At best, earning is a by-product of education. Purpose of education is to learn how to differentiate good from bad, and truth from falsehood, and above all right from wrong. This is why Quran is "Furqan":
Blessed is He who sent down the "Furqan" upon His Servant that he may be to the worlds a warner (Quran 25:1)
An education that make us as a better human being and which does not help in making such distinctions (furqan) is not an education. An education that is only visible as a degree is not worth the paper it is printed on. The degree in itself is not a guarantee of good life or good earning.

3. Explosion of Professional Degrees vs the Worry Factor

Over the last 40 years the importance of high grades at matric (O'Levels) and intermediate (A'Levels) has decreased tremendously. Today a student only needs a minimum of 50% to get into a professional college today. With so many choices at the higher education level, it is irrational and even ridiculous to be exerting so much pressure on the kids at school.

In Karachi, 40 years ago, there were only 2 engineering schools (NED and Dawood) and 2 medical schools (SMC and DMC) and one university (KU). A student who did not score well in matric or intermediate was destined to a BA/MA or BSc/MSc from an affiliated degree college. If there was any time when parents should have been worried about the future of their kids, then that was the time. However, parents were not worried as much because their belief in Allah as Provider was still strong, but now they are because their belief in Allah as Provider has weakened and they now believe that education is for earning-sake and Degree is their Raaziq.

Weakening of their belief in Allah as Provider is irrational and startling because in Karachi, today there are more than 44 chartered universities/Higher Education Institutions in Karachi, and it is so easy to get into a degree program of your liking that such excessive pressure on kids at such an early age appears not only irrational but sheer madness (e.g. admitting kids in schools at 1.5 and forcing tuitions upon  3-4 year olds). Please note that there are at least 20 universities offering engineering programs and another  17 universities offerring medical/dental programs. The choices for professional degrees are now much more and more lucrative such as media, arts, textile, film/TV, computer arts, computer science, fashion design, etc. You just need a minimum of 60% in intermediate to get into an engineering or medical program. One can join other professional programs with only 50% (in some cases with even less).

4. Showing the Right Path is the Responsibility of Parents

The advent of internet and free availability of adult content and its accessibility has driven many parents to an extreme position that borders on paranoia. At times I feel that this paranoia reflects in their attitude and is indicative of they having assumed the responsibility of being a "Haadi". In their subconscious they have started believing that giving "hidaya" is their responsibility. If they do not continuously guide and protect their children, their children will go astray. (Naoozibillah).
Being a "Haadi" is an attribute of Allah. He gives guidance to whomsoever He wills and leads astray whomsoever He wills. Yadillo mai yashaoo, waYahdee mai yasha-o. We seek His guidance for the straight path and pray to Him to guide us on the path who had His blessings.
For Allah leaves to stray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. [Quran 35:8]
Our responsibility as parents is ONLY to teach our kids what is wrong and what is right and using "hikmah" let them know what will happen to them if they adopt straight path (basheer) and what will happen to them if they adopt the wrong path (nazeer).

Of course, we need to try to shield them from as much adversity and temptation as possible. However, when we get full of worry that they may be going towards the wrong path, and are about to blow our fuse, then we should seek help from the "Haadi" and pray to Him to guide the child towards straight path. Our getting angry, or getting irrational and using stick or punishment may not help at all. In fact, it may make the matters worse because your anger will make you lose your powerful capacity of parental love to transform their behavior with love, logic and firmness.

Parents need to understand the limits of their contribution to "hidaya" of their child. Given this understanding of their limitations, the tension level of the parents must decrease. Their anger and temper should consequently decrease. Consider this question:
  • What should be the emotion of a father if he sees his child not praying despite his warning and reminding the child again and again? 
  • Should it be anger or should it be sorrow?
Father should exhibit the emotion of "sorrow" because the child who has not taken heed of his advice and did not pray may go to hell. This should fill the heart of the parent with sorrow. However, the reality for most parents is that the emotion they feel is "anger". Which actually indicates that the ego of the parent has been hurt when the child refused despite his command and warning. Therefore, the most appropriate emotion of the parent is "sorrow" and not "anger" (which is an expression of hurt ego). 

5. Belief in Learning Disability and Manufacturing Defect of a Child;

Believing in a child to have some learning disability or a manufacturing defect is also contrary to what has been taught in Quran:
  1. Luqud Khalqnal Insaan a fi ahsun e taqveem (verily we have created insaan in the best of moulds: Quran 95:4)
  2. Afa hasibtum unnama khaluqnakum abasa (do you think we have created you without purpose?  Quran 23:115)
  3. Concept of "tazkia": Islam teaches us that man comes to this world in pristine form and the world soon starts polluting the personality which then requires "tazkia", cleansing to revert to the original pristine form. See Education as Tazkia.
The above Islamic concepts run counter to the arbitrary and artificial construction of "milestones" with which poor child is measured, is humiliated, is labeled, and then subjected to all sorts of senseless exercises and assessments that have been constructed by psychiatrists who are themselves psychological cases, and have no experience of raising happy and well-adjusted children: 
 A child should start walking at a certain age, should start talking at a certain age, should recognize the alphabets at such an age, should have such and such fine motor skills by this age, and should have such and such coarse motor skills by that age are all ridiculously mandated milestones that are observed more on their breach than in their observance. These artificially constructed "milestones" have no nexus with the real world and the lives of successful people. (For example, Richard Feynman, the famed physicist and Nobel Laureate started speaking at the age of six. Einstein too is reputed to have started speaking at the age of 4.)  

The "myth of milestones" has been constructed by psychiatrists who wanted to create a business for their consultancy. Schools under pressure for not being able to come up to the expectations of parents started labeling the children as "learning disabled" to shift the blame from their teaching methodology to some phantom learning disabilities. Prominent among these psychiatrist constructed phantom learning disabilities consist of ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism etc. 

See Also: 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Why Students Avoid and Stop Taking the Course of Some Teachers: 7 Top Reasons

Over the last 37 years in higher education  as student (from 1980-94), and as faculty member and academic administrator (since 1995), I have come across scores of instances  where students went out of the way to avoid certain teachers, dropped the course en-mass, ganged up to remove the teacher, walked out or simply dropped the course whenever it was possible possible. Here are some of the top reasons for why students avoid certain teachers and drop their courses en-mass: