July 2012 archive

Is reading a book on the way to work unprofessional?

| Uncategorized

She hid her copy of Proust inside a magazine to read on the train.

A friend of mine downloads books onto his ipad to read on his commute because, ‘carrying a book or a Kindle into a meeting is unprofessional’.  To him toting a well-leafed novel in a corporate environment sends the wrong signal.  It makes him look distracted, as if he’s timewasting instead of focusing on the agenda.  Based on this logic reading a book is a bad, shameful thing.  It’s something to hide in your electronic planner.

Is reading detrimental to your career?  Is your book habit stopping you from getting that promotion?  Poppycock!  Books are perfectly packaged little mind enhancers.  They’re little dumbbells your brain works out with.  They’re bound cluster bombs of educational titbits and insights into the human condition.  Read a book and you don’t regress into a monosyllabic fool unable to focus on a 5-point financial strategy, you blossom and grow into a smarter, more self-aware person.

We can all learn from reading stories.  My understanding of history comes from fiction, not the classroom.  My grasp of politics, religion and all those things you’re not supposed to discuss at dinner parties is borne from books.  Hell, I’m the pre-internet generation: I learnt about sex from Jilly Cooper.

Each time you open a book you prosper.  I want to work with people who are continually learning.  I want to hire people who are hungry for knowledge.  I’d like to entrust my money to someone who’s read The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations and The Prince.  I feel confident in people who read.  A book is a badge of honour, and infinitely better than strolling into a meeting with a dog-eared copy of a free paper.



Why taking Maths A-Level 29 times is a good thing.

| Uncategorized

The Sesame Street gang are delighted Big Bird finally passed A-Level Maths.

An article on the front page of today’s Sunday Times claims a pupil retook their Maths A-Level 29 times.  Andrew Hall, chief executive of AQA exam board, cited this pupil’s repetitive exam experience as an extreme example of “retake culture”.  Ofqual, the exams regulator, is currently calling for there to be a limit of one resit for each paper.  According to the Sunday Times, “critics argue that the ability to resit exams an unlimited number of times is a prime reason for grade inflation and a drain on school budgets.”

I took/barely scraped A-Level Maths and let me assure you once was bad enough.  I’m sure a maths exam is less painful for those whose minds work in logical sequences and see the world as a series of floating numbers.  (My non-mathematical brain is imagining Sesame Street: ‘Today is brought to you by the number 7 and pi.’).  It’s pretty safe to assume the kid who sat the exam 29 times is not a walking calculator.  So why do it?

Exams, even for those who are academically gifted, are stressful.  Resitting the same exam 29 times sounds like a form of torture.  The CIA should adopt it.  ‘He cracked the 15th time we asked him about photosynthesis, Sir.  Tomorrow we start with GCSE Latin’.  To resit an exam 29 times you’d either have to have sadistic parents or a really strong incentive.  I suspect the kid in question needed A-Level Maths to get her dream job or, more likely, to get into her chosen university degree.  She didn’t shrug her shoulders and say, ‘Oh well, I tried’.  She didn’t quit.  It takes maturity, focus and perseverance to keep working toward what you want despite setbacks.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try and try again.

It took me three attempts to pass my driving test, is my licence worth less than someone who passed first time?  Is an ‘A’ worth less if it took you 2, 3, or 29 times to get it?  Exams are meritocratic, an ‘A’ is an ‘A’.

Young people are facing an increasingly competitive world where there are fewer job opportunities available to them.  They have to fight hard to stand out.  If you need A-Level Maths why shouldn’t you retake it until you pass?  That shows grit determination.  That’s not a bad thing, that’s not someone skewing the system or messing with a statistical graph of results.  It’s someone working damn hard for what they want.  It should be applauded.  Good life skills, kid.

1 Comment