Last period I completed the course Academic Consultancy Training – which provides students with valuable skills to use in the job arena. I had heard this training being praised and bashed, so I didn’t know what to expect. In the end I made up my mind: ACT teaches us about the survival of the fittest.
ACT is compulsory. Period. The university thinks this experience should be instilled in every Master student, no matter what their cultural background or future ambitions are. Why is it so important to take this course? Apparently, to be exposed to what happens in ‘real life’: openly criticising and endorsing each other. In fact ACT is all about ‘openly giving and receiving feedback’, which seems to be the favourite activity of Dutch people. Well maybe just behind filling their agendas with board appointments and lunch meetings. Perhaps in the Netherlands all this open bashing in the public sphere is normal, but in the United States or in China, in the UK or in Italy where I come from, people would never let themselves be so publically humiliated.
But during this course some people always have to suck up. In the end, the unfit and the fittest emerge. The weakest, the uncooperative, the lazy, the slow and the clumsy get exposed to bashing in the final evaluation. It goes without saying that the criticism depends not only upon your actual performance, but also on the sympathy and antipathy you inspire in your group mates. Compassion and cooperation are not trained during ACT, nor anywhere else.
To date, the ‘survival of the fittest’ is the only doctrine that plausibly explains the course of the labour market in a liberal economy, but there is no need to endorse it. I thought that universities should educate students, not just instil in them the fatalistic sense that they must learn to capitalize on others’ weaknesses, as they get ready to join the rat race called ‘job market’.