Posts tagged leadership

Leadership and Education…after a month long hiatus

I didn’t expect I would write on this blog again once home in the U.S. However, I have great quotes that Kazakh students have written saved up on my computer that I just could not ignore.  As an educator for over 30 years, I think it is absolutely important to keep writing on these issues about education that concern Kazakhstan deeply.  Education, according to Sir William Halley, British newspaper editor and broadcasting administrator should reflect this: “Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school, every boy and girl should know how much they do not know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.”

While I taught in Kazakhstan in the last three and a half years, both in Almaty and Astana, I not only filled my students minds with facts but also hopefully moved their hearts.  I hope that the leaders of the westernized universities in Kazakhstan would understand the following quote attributed to an unknown author: “Outstanding leaders appeal to the hearts of their followers, not their minds.”  However, those administrators in universities throughout Kazakhstan are driven by Soviet practices which they learned in pedagogical institutes many years ago.  Sadly, they are teacher-centered in their approach as administrators and many are sorely outdated to keep up with the speed of the 21st century. I would like to remind them and my former students what Socrates knew:  “In every person there is a sun.  Just let them shine.”  Today’s Kazakh and Kazakhstani students are told over and over again they are the future of Kazakhstan but their own educators are not about letting them shine as individuals with their God-given strengths and talents.

The following is what one Kazakh student wrote, which encouraged me:  “I like reading.  One of my favorite books is “Abai” by Muhtar Auezov.  Abai was a great Kazakh poet, he lived in 1845-1904.  He exposed human vices, such as greediness, covetousness, duplicity, laziness, etc. in his works.  He did a lot for the enlightenment of Kazakh people. In his book Auezov describes Abai’s life, his experiences and difficulties he faced.” I need to find and read this book by Auezov in the U.S. if it has been translated into English, I doubt it though.

Finally, a British parliamentarian, Benjamin Disraeli is quoted as saying the following:  “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?”  I think the following piece written by an informed Kazakh student about leadership is on the same, right track when she wrote about Olzhas Suleimenov.  If only there would be some champions to push to the public awareness about human trafficking.  That is today’s “nuclear sites” in rural Kazakhstan and other poorer countries in Central Asia:

“I would like to refer to one of the bright examples of leadership from Kazakh history, Olzhas Suleimenov.  He is known in Kazakhstan and other countries for his political activity, poetic works and anti-nuclear activity.  His name became known worldwide in 1989, when he led the movement called Nevada-Semipalatinsk.  It was aimed on closing nuclear sites in the Semipalatinsk area of Kazakhstan. He showed outstanding leadership skills during this movement.  It is really difficult and dangerous to rise against governmental machine of power and defend rights of people, who became victims because of nuclear testings in the region.  People were talking about closing nuclear test sites, but only to each other. 

And only Olzhas Suleimenov called people to fight for their rights.  Olzhas Suleimenov is a person who ideally suits the word “effective leader.”  First of all, he knew what he was going for.  He knew the risks, aims and he know that people would follow him.  At the same time, he worried for the future of his nation, he believed that people should fight for their rights.  He showed responsibility towards people and was brave enough to fight for their rights.  These qualities deserve admiring of this person and striving to follow suit.”

 

 

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Reality Leadership and Helping Baghdad

 

 Our university schedule is coming to a screeching halt; we are sooo ready for the end of THIS semester.  Yesterday I got an e-mail from a former student of mine named Baghdad, he showed himself to be a very conscientious student when learning English.  However, I might add, I didn’t work at all with his writing.  This is his e-mail to me:  “I need your help!  I am going to try to win the scholarship of _____ company…I wrote about me for this response.  You cant imagine about my writing skills.  It’s awfull!! But I tried to write and it looks like this (Please, could you check it, correct huge mistakes and add something else to support my article):”

 

I was more than happy to help Baghdad and he was right, there were many errors such as:  “But let’s talk about myself.  At university I am one of the best student.” Once I cleaned up those minor errors I sent it back to him.  I am only too eager to help my Kazakh students to achieve the highest possible awards and scholarships they can attain while they are still young and energetic.  Baghdad had wanted to go to the U.S. this summer but his parents would not permit him to go.  Thus, whatever opportunities avail themselves here in Kazakhstan; I want to help him and others like him.

 

Thinking about leadership at our university I came across this quote by businessman and author Max De Pree.  His leadership moved his company near the top of the Fortune 500, he wrote:  “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.  The last is to say thank you.  In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.  That sums up the progress of an artful leader.” I’m not so convinced that many leaders at the top of our administration have this ability to deal with reality or to be gracious as a servant-leader.  However, I believe some of them are “artful” in other regards.  I won’t go there by what I mean with artfully “crafty.”

 

Reality at our English Language Center is that many Kazakh teachers are working hard to teach their Kazakh students research methods.  Sadly, they themselves have not been taught how to write papers according to APA style.  What was rather vexing for some writing teachers was to get a Faculty Evaluation Form that would list their teaching load and then the next page was to fill out their “Research and Scholarly Activities.”  Reality is that many of our writing teachers have a B.A. and have never written a journal article or authored a research book or edited one.  They have not given a conference proceedings paper or done a business case studies.  For each of these they are to award points for being published by an international publisher.  For example, 3-4 points for a textbook and 4-8 points for a research book. (Maximum points for full time teachers is 30 points).

 

One can receive 15 points for “Administrative Contributions and management participation.”  All this is itemized out to see if the teacher would be awarded a promotion considering all the abovementioned categories.  Sending this Faculty Evaluation form to our Language Center is NOT dealing with REALITY!!!  Technically, the Language Center has long been thought to be the “service arm” to the rest of the university and not outfitted to do research.   Neither is our administration dealing with reality when this form is sent to many of the “Ph.D. professors” who try to pass off scholarly journal articles and award themselves points that clearly would not pass muster in a university in the West.  Such as, (fill in the blank with a Third World Country):  _________Journal of Development;  Journal of the Asiatic Society of __________; BIISS Journal (don’t know what those letters stand for but that is how it was listed). 

Seeing full professors put down Vanity Press publications is another favorite of mine when I see what passes for “scholarly work” such as University Press of America.  That is fine if you are proud of being from America but many of these professors are NOT from America!!!  Don’t even get me started on website publications that are passed off as peer-reviewed and scholarly!!!  Unfortunately, some of these professors will grab for promotional points any way they can.

 

If someone from the West reads what I am writing, they would not believe what passes for REALITY at our institution of “higher learning” in Kazakhstan.  But then again, I fear that not much learning is happening in the West anymore and that is why I am very eager to watch “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” once I get back to the U.S. this summer, the Lord willing.

 

 

 

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A. Solzhenitszyn in the City of Apostils

“One person speaking the truth has more power than a whole city living in falsehood.”    Aleksandr Solzhenitszyn

 

I am currently living and teaching in the City of Apples or Almaty, Kazakhstan.  Just yesterday I received a rather opaque e-mail where about 20 of us at our “institution of higher learning” need to do some extra paperwork which involves an “apostil.” Many of us wondered, “What is an apostil?”  Not to be confused with apostles or apples, of course.  This e-mail was the second of its kind within a week that I have received which is full of blathering legalese.  Supposedly our university touts itself as being unique and having a “high level of openness and transparency.”  I would agree with Aristotle when he argued that “the only way one can discover the true character of a regime is to analyze in depth the characteristics of its leadership…”

 

 

Reading through the first message, with the help of a friend who has a law degree, I found that the author of the e-mail was making fallacious claims about certain laws concerning the misuse or abuse of our use of electronic research databases.  This person was using a bullying tactic by interpreting the law which had nothing to do with my pedagogy whatsoever.  I have the backing of several in our academic community who understand the use of electronic databases the same way I do.

 

Unfortunately, there are those who are suspicious of the Information or Computer Literacy that has taken over in the West.  No more can you apply for different grants or answer the distant “call for papers” without doing it electronically.  Gone are the days of mailing in your application through the regular postal service, our globalized world is getting smaller thanks to the Internet.

 

So, where is our leadership in protecting foreign faculty who come to the land of apples and apostils?  According to Kazakhstan’s President N.A. Nazarbayev in reference to our university, “Everything here is done to the highest standards, there’s no need to go abroad to study.”   Therefore, we as foreign faculty are making it more affordable to have Kazakhstani students study at our institution rather than have them go abroad to the West and find out that the standard in writing and computer literacy are far higher than earlier suspected.

 

Lately I’ve been reading a very riveting book titled “The Silent Steppe: A Story of a Kazakh Nomad under Stalin.”  Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, is a man in his eighties whom I highly respect as an educator, caring deeply about his country of Kazakhstan.  He wrote the following on page p. 146 “Writing these words now, so many years later, I find myself thinking long and hard about the past.  For years our ancestors lived under a tribal system where relationships were based on mutual help: they were convinced of the enduring worth of their centuries-old principles, and perhaps as a consequence used to regard any innovation with suspicion, fear and even disapproval.  They were conservative by nature and clung to what was familiar: why else, in 1932, when the population of Kazakhstan was in the grip of a terrible famine, did our two families of fugitives head for a starving aul – where a year before they had been robbed, prosecuted and deported – instead of staying in Ridder, where they were getting limited but at least regular food rations?”

 

What would Solzhenitszyn say NOW about Kazakhstan if he were to ever return to this land?  What would he write about our university which requires “apostiled” documentation of their foreign faculty?  Just curious.

 

 

 

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Searching for a Specific Russian Folktale

Yesterday one of my Russian teaching friends told me of a folktale which typifies what is going on in the leadership of our institution of “higher learning.”  Let me know, if you know this famous Russian story about a bird, land animal and fish.  All three had a mission together but couldn’t accomplish it because their environments were at odds with each another, seems true with the many cultures involved at our university. Simple Google searches have not yielded the information I’m looking for, so I’ll go back to my friend today to get more specifics.  In the meantime, here is what I found out from this Russian Folktales link.  I am using some of the material from this website but sorry that I can’t give proper attribution to the author.  Maybe if the author of this link tracks his visitors, he will be able to tell me what folktale I am looking for. 

There are many folktales in Russian which are called SKAZKA. The word is from the same root as the verb “to say” — skazat’. Therefore it is simply “that which is told” — a tale. But by implication, it is fiction, not news, something someone came up with. Simply entertainment but the animals are strictly typecast:

  • Wolves are greedy rather stupid, and male (the Russian word for wolf is “volk,” a masculine noun).
  • Foxes are sly, calculating, and tricksters. They are also female (the Russian word for fox is “lisa,” a feminine noun).
  • Cats are opportunistic and lazy. They are male (the Russian word for cat is “kot,” a masculine noun).
  • Bears are big and lumbering (naturally), rather clumsy, and not very bright. They are male (the Russian word for bear is “medved’,” a masculine noun). The Russian word that is the equivalent of “teddy bear,” “misha,” is also the diminutive for the name Mikhail, which is the standard “first name” of folk-tale bears.
  • Hares are quick and cowardly, and male (“hare,” in Russian, is “zaiats,” a masculine noun).
  • The goat is cunning, and female (Russian — “koza,” a feminine noun).
  • The rooster is cocky and boastful, and male (Russian — “petukh,” a masculine noun).

Some animal tales tell of the “beginning” of things, such as the first tale on the — the beginning of the enmity between man and bear. Others are merely amusing. Others yet have a moral, but by no means all. And not all tales, by far, qualify as “good children’s stories.”

The animals in the tales behave in many ways as real animals do: carnivorous animals eat meat, even when the “meat” in question can talk. Wild animals are dangerous, and that they can interact with people does not mean that they are tame or “civilized.” A bear or a wolf may attack or even eat (or attempt to eat) a person.

There is usually no reason for the animal characters to behave as they do, other than their nature. Of course, personal gain is a clear motivation for their actions, but not for the form these actions take. The wolf is bad because he is the bad wolf, not because he had a difficult childhood; the hare is cowardly because it is a hare, not because of some trauma. Animals, like other folk-tale characters, behave accordingly to their roles.

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