Respecting Authoritative Decisions, even bad ones

In part 1 and part 2 of this series, I talked about why the (then) recent decisions relating to school prefects and head students were terrible choices. Now I’m going to talk about why I will still respect those decisions. There really isn’t much to be said about it. The fact is that even though I and my peers don’t think the decision that was made was a good one, it was still made by authoritative people.

To continue the analogy of sport from the first post in the series, if the referee was to make a blatantly wrong decision, the players and coaches would have to accept it. Even the best people with authority make bad decisions. In some cases, they have time to think over their decision before hand, and this should decrease the likelihood of making a bad decision, but even then bad decisions will be made.

Now, that was a bit of a false analogy, because this decision was a deliberate one. It wasn’t made as an accident or misinterpretation of events. However, the result is still the same. An incorrect decision, but one by which you must stand. The teachers in charge made a bad decision, but for a good reason. They had to make the decision to promote the school, and more specifically their new prefect system. They chose the people they chose so that it would seem that they were giving equal and fair opportunities to everyone. Because of this, I’m going to respect the decisions that they made. I’ve moved on, and so has everyone else. I wouldn’t even be writing this if I hadn’t teased that I was going to in the last post, which was made shortly after the teachers made the decision, and before I had gotten over it.

Bizarre Choices, and the Justification of Them

This post is part 2 of my “poor decision making” series. It’s based on my experiences the weekend of the 12th March, when I was on a trip with my school for its prefects.

I talked in part 1 about why I was unfairly the subject of negative bias because my parents were teachers. In this post, I will talk about why the decisions that were made were not the best ones. Had my reasoning in this post been listened to, I would not necessarily have gotten the position; however, a number of those that were chosen would most likely have not gotten the position either.
It’s worth noting that the information I am basing this post off of is not directly from the teachers. It is second hand, from other students who say they have talked to teachers. So please, take this with a grain of salt.
I’ve heard two things about why the people were chosen. The first, is that they were people who don’t do too many activities. This supposedly means that they will have more time to devote to their duties as head students. Now, it’s interesting to point out that the student who found this out from the teacher actually mentioned to the teacher that they were not a good pick because they didn’t do many activities (meaning that—for some of the students—they were not particularly active and well-known in the school community). To me, it sounds like this reasoning is the teachers’ way of justifying what they already know to be a poor decision. Otherwise, did they ever think that maybe students who already do a lot of activities are very good at managing their time, and thus they are able to take on more duties? And perhaps students who don’t already do a lot of activities aren’t as good at managing time, so more duties may put too much pressure on them?

The other thing that I’ve heard was that they were chosen because on the trip, they played cards with others a lot. This supposedly means that they are already good at getting along with others. Now, on the one hand, I can see that there may be some logic in that. However; I know that myself, and others, didn’t play cards because it is antisocial. To us, playing cards did not seem like a good way of demonstrating leadership qualities such as good team skills and communication with the whole group. Again, it seems like some very crafty justification for the decision the teachers made.

I do have one more complaint about the decision-making process. This time, it’s not based on what I’ve heard second-hand from the teachers, but from what I’ve heard first-hand from one of the students who was picked. Specifically, the student who was picked as head boy. Now, on the one hand, he is actually an incredibly good pick for the job. He’s very well known, quite outgoing, he speaks well in public—even if he doesn’t enjoy it—but I actually disagree very strongly with him being picked. Why? Because he didn’t really want the job. He had to be talked into accepting the position by the three head teachers.
What’s the problem with that, you may ask? There are two problems: one which is simply about fairness and equal opportunity—something the head teachers had discussed with us earlier when telling us why they were choosing two boys and two girls, even though the ratio in our school is boys:girls 2:3 at best—and the other is to do with specifically choosing a person who is best for the job. As I said before, the person who was picked as head boy would have been the best person if he had wanted it. However, because he didn’t really want it, and was instead talked in to taking the position, he won’t be likely to do it as well as someone who really wanted the position and was working as hard as they could to show that they are good for the position (and to overcome negative bias that was already there against them).
The other reason, fairness, is very much related to the more logical decision of someone who wants the position being someone who will work harder at it. It simply doesn’t seem fair to give the position to someone who doesn’t want it—or who may only have agreed to accept the position for their CV—versus someone who really does want the position. It isn’t fair that other people who wanted the position missed out to someone who just isn’t that interested.
Part three in this series will talk about why I respect the teachers’ decisions, and will therefore give the head students the respect that the position should warrant. 

I do have one more complaint I could make about another person that was chosen, but because there’s a chance that he will read this, I won’t. Instead, why don’t you leave me your thoughts on the matter? Do you think it’s fair that a person who is better suited for the job, but doesn’t really want it got the position? I would be very interested to see a counter-argument to this. Please feel free to leave a comment about anything you like, and remember, you can comment anonymously if you feel the need.

Negative Bias? The overcompensation for the appearance of bias

This post is part 1 of my “poor decision making” series. It’s based on my experiences last weekend (12th–13th March) when I was on a trip with my school for its prefects.

 

My school recently introduced a system of prefects, and I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of them. The prefects who were chosen went on a training trip with the head teachers. One of the purposes of the trip was to pick from the team, four “senior” prefects: a head boy, deputy head boy, head girl, and a deputy head girl. It is the decision of who was picked for these four top positions that I am writing about.

This post is about the problem of what I am calling “negative bias”. Basically, negative bias is when someone overcompensates for something that may be construed as being bias towards someone, and it in fact becomes so that they are bias against them.

One real-world example where this could be easily seen is in sports. Let us take a hypothetical match between the Broncos and the Rabbitohs. Let’s say the referee in this match supports the Rabbitohs. Because he wants to do his best to be neutral, he deliberately becomes stricter against the Rabbitohs then he normally would be. While this should dispel any of the complaints of bias, it is then very unfair for the team being discriminated against. It would most likely actually have been fairer if the referee had acted as he normally would, although in this situation people would perceive the ref as being bias towards his preferred team.

While this particular example is unlikely to come up—sports tend not to allow referees to work when a team they support is playing—I experienced a very similar situation this past weekend on my prefect trip. I was one of the students interested in being head boy or deputy head boy, and I think I would have been a very good candidate for either of these positions. However, my parents are teachers at the school, and so had I been picked (even if it was based purely on merit), it would have seemed to the parents of others (who, at international school, are often very quick to complain) that I had been picked because of my parents being teachers. This is the perceived bias talked about earlier. Instead, the teachers responsible for selecting head students will have ruled me out as a candidate for the job. Ruling me out is overcompensation for the appearance of bias.

Now, obviously, I can’t say for certain that if I weren’t a teacher’s kid, I would have been selected. But I do strongly believe that had the situation been different, I would have been selected. I can say this based on who was actually picked, and other circumstances around their selection, which I will go into in the second post of this series.

So, what do you think? Have you been in any situations where you, or someone you know, have been the subject of negative bias? Do you think that there are any situations (perhaps even the ones I mentioned), where negative bias can be justified? Let me know in a comment below. If you’re a student at the school, I encourage you to consider posting anonymously if you’re talking specifically about the people who were chosen.

FOBISSEA Music 2010 (Part 3)

This is part three (and the final part) in a series of posts.

There are many reasons that I enjoyed this trip more than past trips, but the main one I want to talk about is my own personal experiences with the music. (The other main reason is that it was a much more social experience for me, and I feel I socialised with new people from my school, as well as people from other schools, but that’s not very interesting for anyone other than myself.) The Beethoven symphony is my favourite piece of music of all time. Some of the pieces I wasn’t playing in were great to listen to, James Bond, Viva la Vida, Smoke on the Water, Jump from Glee. But that isn’t the best of it. In two of the pieces, I was the only clarinet to play. One Short Day, from the musical Wicked, was for choir and a small band. I’ve had experience with pieces like this before, and although they look simple at first, they’re always actually quite a challenge. This was no exception, although it was great fun to play, being the only one playing at many points.
The other piece that I loved was called Look at the World. It was originally for the whole orchestra, but the conductor decided he only wanted 6 strings, 1 flute, and 1 clarinet to play. I was the best clarinet there, so he asked me to play. It was incredibly beautiful, but also very hard at points. For me, those two pieces were the highlight of the whole trip.
There’s so much more I could say, but this is already 3 parts long, so I’ll just finish by saying what a great experience it was, and I can’t wait until next year in Beijing!

FOBISSEA Music 2010 (Part 2)

This is part two in a series of posts.

The organisation on periphery matters (things not directly relating to the music) this year was not as great as in the past. The food was in general just acceptable, although the opening dinner, and the final gala dinner were spectacular.
On three occasions during the trip, were had the opportunity to do one of the music-related workshops we chose before the trip. My first one — Jazz band — was pretty fun, although the conductor was a real pain. He was also the person who conducted the concert band, and he cut the best bits of Star Wars, and made us play a stupid simplified version of Soul Bossa Nova (from Austin Powers). The worst, though, came at the final concert. I was sitting right at the front of the jazz band, and he was literally one metre away from me. As I was still setting up, he had already started counting us in (he also deliberately put on this annoying accent for the count in), and started before I was even ready. He was also really impatient with the drummer, not giving her a chance to learn the one bar drum solo and the start of the piece. Because jazz band was performing in the concert, we were required to be there for both our first and our third workshop.-
My second workshop was GarageBand. To be honest, it was kinda a waste of time. They basically only taught us how to create a song using loops, and nothing more than that. Although I’ve never actually done it before, it’s incredibly easy to do, so I didn’t think it was really worth my time. There was another workshop that I wish I had done, but still wouldn’t have taught me anything. In the conducting workshop, they showed a video of Rowan Atkinson conducting Beethoven’s 5th, which I actually showed to a friend the night before. Apparently it was only the absolute basics of conducting anyway: showing how to beat it 2, 3, and 4, and how to end a piece. I’ve already had some experience with conducting an actual orchestra, so although this workshop would have been fun, I wouldn’t have learnt anything anyway. 

Check back in three days for the next part of the series.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: or, FOBISSEA Music 2010 (Part 1)

This is part one of a series of posts.

FOBISSEA: Federation Of British International Schools in South-East Asia.
FOBISSEA Music is a festival in which a large number of talented musicians from British International Schools in the South-East Asian region. Over the course of around 6 days, a large group of musicians meet and rehearse music for a gala concert at the end of the festival. It’s a great opportunity for young musicians to expand their musical ability, while making new friends and just generally having a good time.
The selection of music this year was spectacular. Music including an a capella version of James Bond; string orchestra version of Coldplay’s Viva la Vida; music from the musical Wicked, the film version of Fame, Star Wars, and glee; some well-known classical pieces such as Beethoven’s 5th and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance; and When You Believe, from Prince of Egypt.
Upon arriving in Hong Kong in the mid-afternoon, most of my friends went into Hong Kong Disneyland (we were staying at the Disneyland hotel), but I chose to stay behind and catch up on some homework — so I didn’t have too much work to do when we got back. Also, it was quite late, so they only got two hours in Disneyland: I didn’t think it was worth it.
FOBISSEA music is always really tiring — more tiring than the sport trip, surprisingly — and by the end of it, singers had throats like sandpaper, wind players had lips like jelly, and string players fingers were rubbed completely bare. The percussionists were fine though…
Despite this, playing such challenging and fun music was definitely worth the pain.

Check back in three days for the next part of the series.