ubc’s blighted thinking and institutional culture

I never was the smartest person in the group because our group didn’t have just one smartest person in one subject matter. My sister, unfortunately, wasn’t so lucky. We all did bone-headed things, of course, we were teenagers in a small northern town who had slightly more sense than most kids our age. But I did the kind of bone-headed things that we all just learned a valuable lesson from and vowed never to speak of such things again.

My little sister kept getting into trouble because no one smarter than she was could help her filter the bad ideas from the good ideas that just needed a few changes to avoid detection.

My poor ADHD brain couldn’t have possibly survived a lifetime of doing science stuff. I follow instructions by skimming over step 1, 2 and 7 and then start the project with what I gleened. It’s a great mindset for a learner who prefers to figure out things on their own.

It’s a terrible mindset for scientists.

People will think that a curious mindset is what most scientists need to succeed in their careers. But to me, that’s believing women think a sense of humour is more important than a partner who sees them as a person first. The most important mindset a scientist needs to have is a humble one.

A sense of curiosity cannot help a scientist do science if they cannot entertain the possibility that they are wrong. Their human brain is programmed to ignore what proves a person might not be correct about something as a defence mechanism. It took a student in school to identify the viscosity of air in the last century because Sir Isaac Newton got it wrong and every other scientist before them erred on the side that some dead guy was probably more correct over what their equipment said. Cognitive dissonance can convince anyone that they cannot be wrong about anything they identify deeply with.

And the more intellectually intelligent a person is, the less likely they’ve been completely wrong about anything they believed in deeply. The very idea they might be can be literally unthinkable.

But as Dr. Martha Piper says in her acceptance of findings, it is one of the UBC’s most important functions to interrogate the status quo. Unless you’re the UBC just a few years later, of course. And then your most important function is to — as an institution — keep any evidence off the official record that the UBC’s status quo was ever even asked a soft-ball question about itself.

In fact, the University of British Columbia University Counsel told the Law Society of British that a student had interpersonal conflict with all of their instructors, and that is why their valid complaint that a UBC Lawyer violated their Professional Code of Conduct should be dismissed. The university counsel did not report the abuse of authority that a UBC Person asking how to violate the policy should have been understood to be as per their professional code of conduct as a lawyer in BC. Andrew J. Szeri’s supervisor could only be Dr. Santa Ono.

Instead, the University counsel committed improper conduct by violating UBC Policies by advising another UBC Officer how to commit improper conduct. And since the University Counsel also told the UBC that UBC Officers are allowed to commit improper conduct as long as they don’t actually break the law, the UBC did nothing to stop them.

But now the UBC has a lawyer’s note saying “it’s fine to ignore policy.” So ignore policy they did. They used their own incompetence to decide not to hear two separate academic freedom violation complaints, which is in itself, a third academic freedom violation.

But only the UBC tells the UBC they can’t tolerate academic freedom violations. So the UBC could violate academic freedom to offer a program designed to create the very best student evaluations possible by never telling a single learner they were incorrect about anything. Anyone who suggests craft might actually be important was silenced until even the slightest hint of that opinion stopped being voiced at all.

And because there are no protections for students like there are for consumers, the UBC can call that “leading edge pedagogy” on their website. But they also don’t think students have a right to question their status quo. They can’t explain how that ‘leading-edge pedagogy’ could possibly work and they don’t think they have to be able to.

But pedagogy is the study of learning. It is literally the science stuff we must always assume we could be wrong about. But the UBC now has an unwritten policy in place to make sure that the next complaint will never see the light of day either.

Dr. Santa Ono is not the “welcome change” any university campus should want. But this is the program he offered:

One day, when the young adult and children’s instructor had for the millionth time come down on the side of “In a market as competitive as YA fiction, authors totally don’t need to use ‘conflict’ or ‘tension’ if the authorial intent is to show what the character is looking at or talking about for entire chapters.”

I messaged the instructor privately and I asked her when, exactly, their students were going to learn how to use conflict or tension if they were being taught in the program as not even necessary. This “instructor” said — in writing — that she didn’t have time to teach my “advanced” techniques in her class. Not all my classmates were as “talented” as I was.

My brain exploded. Conflict and its impact on tension isn’t an advanced technique. It’s Writing 101 and we were in a 50X class. We spent our weekly allotment of time discussing how nice this particular section of description and dialogue was or could be while discussing personal stories it reminded us of and techniques to polish what was done well better.

Angela Ducksworth’s Grit talks about plateauing at a certain level of competence. But this was the opposite of that. This was instruction meant to assist the plateaued learner in one single aspect of the skillset necessary for the act of writing itself. It would be like Olympic scientists assisting long jumpers only on how to stick the landing better while ignoring every other aspect of skillset necessary to complete a long jump successfully from nutrition, to practice, to the takeoff a moment before.

Focusing on what the underpublished can already do well ignores the plethora of skills they still need to acquire.

But most importantly to this story, I was no more talented than my average classmate when I first started to write. But my classmates were in a program that actively taught them they don’t need to learn how to use the skillsets I had to learn deliberately.

But because my instructor saw my acquired skill as “talent” she didn’t need to do her job of assisting learners in their intentions for their work. Which in a masters level program in Canada, must be assumed to be publication at the pedagogical level.

Dr. Santa Ono does science shit. The idea that he could have been wrong should always have been part of his thinking. Andrew Szeri was an engineer. On the basis of all engineers passing at least some of their classes based on the bell curve alone, he should have automatically assumed he could have been wrong.

But at the UBC, everyone knows that if civil or criminal law doesn’t mention academic freedom, the UBC can do whatever the fuck they want to it. Their UBC University Counsel says so and the law is meant to be an academic institution’s highest (and only) authority.

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