Student - October 29, 2014

Blog: ACT humiliation

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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’.

Re:actions 2

  • Gerben

    Clearly you've missed the goal of ACT. The course is designed in an attempt to teach one of the hardest thing in your carrier. This tool is not popular by students and therefore they 'bash' ACT. It requires effort and investement and is called a proffessional skill. You may know it as self-improvement or active self-reflection.

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    • C

      Who says I've clearly missed out the goal of ACT? you, mr Gerben? chill, man. thanks for passing by and reading, anyhow.

  • Klaas

    Unless you work at PicNic Inc...

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  • JH

    It seems Camilla learned some tough lessons during ACT, which in her case qualifies the course as useful already.

    Apart from that, I think the added value of ACT should not be exaggerated. Yes, it teaches something on team work, feedback, group roles, deadlines, etc. On the other hand it would be good if university provides graduates with some knowledge they can actually use in their professional careers. Maybe that's not an easy target to achieve in this world of predominant applied knowledge jobs, but 5 years of studying is maybe nice if you aspire a scientific career, otherwise I think it's a bit of a time waster :)

  • Ilse

    I agree on the fact that ACT is "all about ‘openly giving and receiving feedback’ "

    However, you make it seem that giving feedback is a bad thing, and that you do it to humiliate others. In that case I do not think you really know what the idea of feedback is, which is to improve yourself and get to know your weak AND strong points.

    During ACT I have learned a lot about myself and others by giving and receiving feedback, without being humiliated.

  • Wondering

    I share your idea that universities should encourage and enable students to think about the "best possible world" rather than indoctrinate them with dominant paradigms.

    But the link to the ACT-feedback sessions is not clear to me. I can't imagine that people in the US, China or Italy never get frustrated with a lazy, incapable, rude or dominant team-mate. The only difference then is that they don't communicate it openly. Worse even, they may still talk about that person behind his/her back.

    I don't think we'll get far if we're not allowed to point out our flaws to each other. Having said that, we should also never let an opportunity pass to give our fellow students a compliment. ACT can be a safe space to practice both.

  • Jasper

    Compassion and cooperation are normally trained in kindergarten.

  • Pascal

    If you think ACT was bad. Just wait for the " real world ". It's not a picnic. I'm happy that University is at least trying to give an impression of what is to come after they finish their studies.


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