Tuesday, July 24, 2007

NYconneX seems to have touched a nerve with last week's project work article! And I couldn't be happier! There is a real discussion going on with angry, angsty comments in the tagboard. Finally, we're getting to the point where our readers are opening up and speaking their minds. Perhaps they aren't so apathetic after all.

The beef is about how some JCs have attained a miserable "A" "B" grade percentage in last year's assessment compared to others scoring astronomical results. The kids are upset that for many of them, their efforts didn't score them an "A" and they are bemoaning that PW is just a waste of time, should be scrapped... whine, whimper, sob.

There's no consistency in the grading, and supervisors have their own interpretation of what's important and give conflicting advice, depending on who's asking and who's answering. In other words, PW is one big giant complete mess and so what's the point?

People, arise and savour the olfactory sensation of fresh brewed caffeine. In the real world, there IS no consistency. Unless a group firmly believes in the worth of what it's doing (like maybe the Al-Qaeda), projects usually put people who hate each other together to work towards a common but highly negotiated, diluted, compromised goal. Group members are hell to work with -- we have control freaks; leave-me-aloners; slackers who need fork-lift assistance to help them turn over in their beds; slave-drivers; just to name a few. And in the real world, project failure is more common than project success.

An even bigger mystery is how some projects can be so utterly crap (check out the multitudinous complaints directed at the iPhone, for example) and yet, they are such commercial successes. NASA engineers scribble ideas on pub napkins (see Wolfe's "The Right Stuff") and they send astronauts to the moon and back. In short, why some projects succeed and so many others fail, no one can say for certain.

Part of the reason for a successful project could be in the way the project is ultimately sold. Regardless of how much effort goes into a project, how well it has been researched and tested, if no one buys it (literally and figuratively) it's wastebasket material. For our kids, I think many lose points for being unable to carry themselves confidently at the oral presentation. If they doubt their own project, it shows. If project members haven't been carrying their own weight, it shows. If the team lacks unity, it shows. If you don't believe in your own product, or your own rationale for doing it, who will? I wouldn't buy your product if your pitch went, "We don't know why we did it, but we won't go to university if we didn't." That's just stupid.

And what about The Grade itself? If we were grading the kids on how much effort they put into their project, how many late nights they spent on it, how many brain cells they sacrificed for it, how much TV and Nintendo time was lost because of the endless meetings and paperwork they had to file for it, and we didn't give them an "A", that would be grossly unfair of us. Unfortunately, that's not what we grade their projects on. Ultimately, we want a project that works, that is socially responsible in its benefits, and is something we can believe in. Give us something REAL, and maybe, just maybe, we'll appreciate what you are offering.

PW isn't about the grade, anyway. The learning comes more from the attempt and the experience in working with others towards a real and realistic objective. If you get an "A", maybe you'll get to go to the uni. But if you learn how to collaborate, solve problems, and sell your own creations to an audience, maybe you don't need university to get on in life, after all.

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