But are we getting smarter?

Statscan is a great site if you like poking your nose into Canadian demographic data (or just about anything else). Recently I wondered how the percentage of Canadians holding post-graduate degrees had increased in recent years. A few clicks later I found a summary table that I’ve condensed a little more below:


Those are some pretty drastic changes in all levels of education over those fifteen years. The proportion of people earning bachelor’s degrees grew by 59%, as did those earning a doctorate. The proportion earning master’s degrees jumped 81%. Pretty remarkable. The drop in the group without high school diplomas is probably largely due to the death of those born before compulsory schooling laws like the Schools Administration Act came into effect.

Another summary table caught my eye: the educational level attained by farm operators. In 2006 7.4% of farmers held university degrees. In 2001 it was just 6.1%. Hard to say what it would have been in the mid-60s when my dad got his.

"Insidious" might be a stretch…slightly devious, perhaps.

I’ve been meaning to write about an Economist blog post from December about MBAs which points to a debate between three professors from MIT and Harvard about whether MBAs are the cause or the cure (or something in between) of the current economic troubles:

The reaction of many budding financiers and consultants when faced with an economic downturn is to pack it in and go to business school. Business school applications soar in number during recessions. A lively debate between Andy Lo and Jay Lorsch and Rakesh Khurana questions if business schools are actually to blame for our current turmoil.

Messrs Lorsch and Khurana, professors of human relations and leadership at Harvard, think so. They believe business school can encourage the “culture of me”, or individuals solely out for their own self-interest.

An interesting debate, but I was more interested in a subsequent point made by the Economist blogger. Emphasis is mine.

This reminds me of a discussion I once had with one of my professors, the dean of a prestigious business school. Shortly after the Enron debacle he asked me how business schools could better teach ethics to help reduce such behaviour in the future. I told him you cannot teach ethics to MBAs. By the time you’re an MBA student (typically mid to late 20s) you’re either an ethical person or you’re not. No business school class can make you realise embezzling money is wrong if that’s your inclination. Most MBA students are ethical; they learned from their parents long ago.

I know where he’s going with that, but I don’t think I entirely agree. I don’t think there’s an on/off switch marked ‘ethical’ in the brain that’s either a 1 or a 0; I think it’s a scale, like all other traits and characteristics defined by a single word or concept. I think that trying to teach ethics gives students tangible examples that may later prevent them from doing something overtly unethical…so while it’s not making students think more ethically per se, it might make them act more ethically, and that’s just as important.

When I was in the software industry I worked with enough sales people to know that some individuals:

  1. are so far down the ethical scale that they wouldn’t recognize normal business ethics anymore;
  2. have jobs where incentives structures reward unethical behaviour;
  3. have received no ethical teachings which may have staved off unethical behaviour, as described above.

In all three cases I can see ethical training helping, or at the very least doing no harm. In my undergraduate business degree we were compelled to take a business ethics class (which I actually quite enjoyed, but then, I am a socialist) but had no such requirement in my MBA courses. We could have used some, certainly; I heard some truly astounding moral rationalizations during discussions on child labour, advertising and the like.

What do you think? Can ethics be taught?

Stop 'n go

We arrived back in Toronto today, just in time to do some laundry, perform some emergency triage on the PVR and pack for two days away at a conference. I leave tomorrow morning and get back Wednesday evening. It’s going to be a tough two days, mainly because of how behind I am on my sleep, but it’ll be fun too.


Today was our last full day in Halifax. It started with my convocation ceremony, then lunch with our parents, then a few hours of downtime in the bar and our room, then dinner with our friends Marney & Amy. Great dinner, by the way, at a cool little wood oven pizza place.

We leave tomorrow morning, but not too early. Good thing too…we’re oh so tired. Night, kids.

Now: two reasons to feel guilty when ordering dessert

So let’s see…what’s happened since last I blogged? I had some lunch at Rogue’s Roost, walked around the Public Gardens, walked up to the campus and picked up my gown, fought off a wicked-ass headache, and spent the evening at a very nice work function. Said work function was followed by too many hours at the Lower & Middle Deck.

This morning, after too little sleep, we met some friends for brunch, did a little shopping, met up with my parents, came back and relaxed at the hotel for a bit, and went out to dinner at Il Mercato. This time out wasn’t as good as my visit in August…it was too loud to have a conversation, and there was a massive lineup of people hovering over our tables, staring at our food and silently willing us to eat faster. That kind of put a damper on the dinner.

Tonight I’m happily chilling out for a bit. Nellie’s off having a glass of wine with her mom, while I catch up on some reading and get some quiet time. Tomorrow morning the big event starts early.

I'm a croakin' man with a Halifax beer

We landed in Halifax quite late, and it took forever to get a cab into the city, so it was nearly midnight before we could drop our bags and meet some friends for a beer. Two pints and 90 minutes later we were walking home in the cold rain, and I woke up this morning with a chill and a sore throat. Well, it was either the walk home or the sub-zero temperature in our hotel room. I had to use an ice scraper on the alarm clock just to see what time it was.

We have a few hours to ourselves now. Time to go find some grub and enjoy Halifax.

Graduand –> graduate

It might be a bit quiet around here the next few days since I’ll be in Halifax — for the third time in as many months — to take part in my MBA convocation. Trying like hell to get everything done, at home and at work, before I leave.

Have a good weekend, y’all.

Everybody…word scramble!

It’s official: I passed my final exam, which means I passed my final course, which means I have an MBA. I guess technically I wait until my convocation in October, but whatever.

So…now that I have BComm, FICB and MBA trailing after my name, what fun words can I scramble those words into? I suspect it could be difficult, given the paucity of vowels.