Category Archives: Education

Who Needs A Traditional MBA Degree?

Mark your calendars! 2008 will mark the centennial anniversary of the world’s first MBA program. Yes, Harvard University is about to celebrate the one hundredth year of its full-time Master’s Degree in Business Administration.

But does it still serve a purpose? Back in 1908, America’s Industrial Age economy needed a process for inculcating engineers, scientists, and other professionals in the principles and practices of modern commerce. An aspiring young inventor at a firm like General Electric might thus seek a two year MBA Degree to complement a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial, Mechanical, or Electrical Engineering.

Today, though, many full-time MBA Degree programs are in decline. And many micro-credential, nano-degree, and part-time programs are ascendant. The reasons for this evolution are not surprising: the cost of higher education, the time required to obtain a traditional degree, the need for narrowly defined technical specialists, the capacity of internet-based technologies to convey information, etc.

But before we consign the full-time MBA program to the ash heap of history, let’s consider what we would lose if all graduate business students were to enroll in the newer options instead.

Think about it. Our undergraduate programs are still producing thousands of engineers and scientists each year to serve our social and economic needs. They’re producing nurses and social workers and teachers too. When all of these professionals advance to positions of organizational authority, won’t they need a comprehensive knowledge of business practices and principles?

If we shut down our full-time MBA programs, where will they go to obtain that knowledge? Do the new alternatives possess the capacity to replace two full years of formal education?

To be sure, it is indeed possible that many business managers will be able to function without two such years. And yet, as a point of comparison, the American education sector has eliminated traditional Civics classes from our public school curricula. How has that decision impacted our society?

So let’s not rush to bury the full-time MBA program. After all, it has served as a critical component of our nation’s educational infrastructure for the past century. If we destroy it today, we may not be able to rebuild it tomorrow.

Accounting Games And The Next Generation

Today is Labor Day, the social conclusion to the summer months. It’s time to pack away our beach sandals, close up our summer homes, and turn our sober eyes toward the worlds of work and school.

So what did the sensible and pragmatic folks at the New York State Society of CPAs decide to showcase during the week leading up to Labor Day? Accounting games! No, not the shenanigans that companies play with their tax returns, but rather the activities that make us laugh and cheer as we compete to win our contests.

I’m a contributing writer for Next Gen, the professional development guide of the New York Society, which has developed a sizable following among millennials who are working as accountants or who aspire to become accountants. Last week, they published my posting entitled Oh, The Accounting Games We Play.

It describes how games can be utilized to enliven the process of professional learning and education. And, in particular, it presents an illustration of a game that I co-created, entitled Audit Experience!

Believe it or not, the design process of an educational game is actually a very serious endeavor. Like any other communication media based service, it must carefully consider factors like the attention spans of the learners, the entertainment value of the content, and — most importantly of all — the ability of the game to convey knowledge in a sustainable fashion.

If you have any curiosity about the design of such games, you’re welcome to click over to the Next Gen blog posting. In fact, even if you’re not particularly enamored of educational games, you might wish to peruse the Next Gen platform of online media content to see how the New York Society is addressing the interests of the millennial generation.

And if you ever find yourself struggling to maintain your interest in a tedious training or learning exercise, please don’t give up on the material! Instead, try searching for an approach that makes a game of it.

New York’s Education Rebellion

Have you ever heard of the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791? It represented the first instance of a sustained anti-government protest in the United States. Although President George Washington employed federal troops to decisively squash that uprising, Americans have continued to stage protests since that time.

Indeed, from the military draft riots of the 1860s to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and then on to the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protests of the 21st century, Americans have continued to rally against their own government’s policies and practices. And today, the ongoing public demonstrations against police brutality extend this established tradition.

Every so often, though, social rebellion tends to erupt in unusual venues. Did any one expect, for instance, the suburban parents of grade school children in New York State to rebel against school testing practices?

The recent governmental emphasis on standardized tests originated in the No Child Left Behind law a decade ago. It then expanded under the recent Common Core initiative. But why are parents in New York now so concerned?

Apparently, the parents believe that an over-emphasis on testing is creating a destructive high pressure, high stakes culture that diverts resources from learning activities and encourages “teaching to the test.” They do have a point; after all, eight grade school educators in the Atlanta school system just received prison sentences for helping students cheat on their standardized exams.

New York is facing a similarly challenging situation because parents in the Empire State can elect to opt out of testing activities. In much the same way that California’s “opt out of pediatric immunizations” policy led to a measles outbreak and a public health crisis, New York’s “opt out of standardized testing” policy is leading to a public education crisis.

That’s because the bedrock foundation of any standardized testing activity is the presumption that the results of the tests are representative of the students in the education system. Once significant numbers of students opt out, an assessment system solely based on testing has no alternative means to gauge their needs.

Imagine, for instance, a restaurant owner who decides to transform his entire menu on the basis of information from a handful of little customer feedback cards. If many of his paying customers decline to hand in their cards, should the owner rely solely on the feedback that he receives from a few patrons?

At the moment, New York State Education officials are both exhorting and threatening parents who wish to opt out of the testing process. Many officials are encouraging parents who have already opted out to change their minds and opt back into the system. But no official has yet launched any initiative to address their complaints.

In a society where teachers risk prison to help students cheat, though, why not directly address the high pressure, high stakes testing culture? After all, if America’s Whiskey Producers, Civil Rights Protestors, Tea Partiers, and Wall Street Occupiers never responded to simple requests to cease their protests, why would the soccer moms of New York State act any differently today?