Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fruits from the Liberal Arts #1 - Alexis De Tocqueville on Singapore ?

Here's a short snippet on how my journey towards equipping myself with some skills of a Liberal Arts are bearing some fruits.

Alexis De Tocqueville was a French politician with a liberal outlook in life. He wrote a book after visiting America called "Democracy in America". Some statements he made can be easily reapplied to the local context:

a) Citizens displayed great melancholy in the bosom of abundance.
b) The is disgust of life in the midst of an easy and tranquil existence.
c) Tocqueville's thesis is that at the centre of democracy and freedom lies great ennui.
d) Freedom allows citizens to adopt a single minded pursuit for material goods.
e) Men who live in democratic times have multiple passions, but most of their passions end in the love of wealth.

Now I read only a summary of his books but this has certainly ignited an interested to read the entire book just to see if Alexis has predicted our Singaporean way of life over a century before Singapore gained independence.

Another possible use of Alexis' works is to give us a glimpse of how China's growth will change their people and outlook in life, there is already talk of China being like the US a 100 years ago.

I won't really be dismissing the liberal arts now that I've discovered this gem.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My views on how Singapore can adopt the Liberal Arts.

My journeys in wealth creation has stretched most of the technical disciplines. In Singapore, that's what most of us are built to do. Work hard, get a degree and then get employed rapidly to start building wealth for the future. The economy of the future almost ensure that an engineering education will but be enough to sustain a career beyond a decade.

Moving into a management role will require a person to be more aware of the subtleties of corporate life, which means that the advantage will shift towards a manager who is more human and can solve problems with very little structure and live with truckloads of ambiguity.

It is this realization that I disagree with the government's approach towards the liberal arts. Right now, the trend is towards training law and medical students in the liberal arts where they remain elite and give them this opportunity to delay graduation by a year to become more well rounded human beings. All this does is make the program more expensive and delay the money making years by a year for the smartest guys in our education system.

I think this approach will fail. Debt ridden students are more likely to game the grades system to maximize their starting incomes. Humanity can always come later.

Furthermore, the industries in the future will still be run by us Generation X's. We're a ruthless and unforgiving generation who has been trained to be very unsentimental in work matters. The burden will be upon the debt-ridden Generation Y and the Millenials to wrestle the thought leadership from the Generation X's - it would not be ceded more easily.

So i think that a liberal arts education will widen the generation gap between Singaporeans.

I believe that way forward for a liberal arts college should be the opposite of what the West has intended for their people.

The Liberal arts should become an alternative to the EMBA, to allow executives who have reached a level of comfort with themselves to learn more about their past and humanize themselves into better managers. The liberal arts multiple and amplify the years of wisdom already gained by engaging in the workforce. It will also open the minds of the folks in the economy who need it the most.

It will also make execution much easier, mid-level executives can afford to pay for the low lecturer-to-student ratios and discussions between working peers can also attain a level of gravitas as yet unattainable from a bunch of young adults. I bet the academics want a more mature discussion too with cases drawn directly from the working world.

I hope that the Universities will consider making the liberal arts a postgraduate qualification, where senior managers will come back to school to re-school themselves in grammar, logic and public speaking.

Because if you look at the quality of Singapore management today, we're in a dire need for self-improvement.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Presentation at BlinkBl_nk - The Philosophy of Finance.

With the ever pragmatic Government of Singapore looking at the establishment of a liberal arts college here. Folks like me who had a very "functional" education will need to re-look at ourselves and ask ourselves if our skills will be outdated when the next batch of graduates, many armed with a very deep understanding of context and critical thinking, arrive in the workplace.

The value of the humanities is immense and even the most hardcore engineer or investor can benefit from a very simple grounding in the Trivium - Grammer, Logic and Rhetoric - the Foundation of a classical education.

My next gig will be at Blue Jaz where I will be talking about the Philosophy of Finance.

I will present a framework drawn from a famous philosopher and explain how a similar process can be used in a pragmatic setting like Personal Finance to rapidly bootstrap folks along the journey to becoming their own financial guru.

Venue : Blue Jaz Cafe
Address : 11, Bali Lane, Third Floor
Time : 19th May 2010, 7pm

Click here for details