Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Mary Anne Thompson saga

Thommo The Mary Anne Thompson saga has certainly got media in a frenzy -- the level of coverage suggests it's more important to most of the local hacks than the tragedies in Burma and Sichuan.

That doesn't seem right to me.

But even with all that focus, once again the reef fish from the Fourth Estate are at the wrong end of what's relevant.

Mary Anne Thompson was supposed to have a BA, an MA, and a PhD in Economics. She was employed in the Civil Service on the basis of those degrees (known euphemistically as a 'Bugger All,' a 'Mockery of Academia,' and a 'Piled Higher & Deeper' respectively) and then rose to the top of the bureaucracy on the basis of her performance. Her degrees got her in the door, but it was her performance including in the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, achieved without apparent benefit of university education, that got her promotion -- and right to the very top, over the heads of those who did hold genuine degrees. Her performance, sans degrees, was clearly head and shoulders above theirs, with degrees.

Doesn't that pose some important questions -- far more important than the questions being asked by the media?

The most important thing here is not that Mary Anne Thomson lied -- after all, politicians and senior civil servants lie for a living every day (to say nothing of many of the media). It's absolute humbug now for those very people to say Ms Thompson's chief crime is to lie.

It certainly brings into question the over-importance that's been given to what used to be called 'personnel departments,' and are now known as 'human resources sinecures.' These are the time-servers who act as gatekeepers for most employment these days, despite knowing next to nothing about the jobs for which they're employing people, and (clearly) next to nothing about the credentials of candidates they're supposed to be checking.

But the chief question, it seems to me, is how relevant those qualifications really are to one's on-the-job performance? How much use is a handful of degrees in one's day-to-day work in the Civil Service, or indeed, anywhere else?

I'd strongly suggest the value of a university education (and certainly of the university education one would receive today) has has been widely assumed, but largely irrelevant. These things have been used as entry tickets to a career, but as an accurate guide to judging an employee's likely performance, they're about as much use to employee and employer both as tits would be on a bull.

In sum, and conventional wisdom notwithstanding, the value of a contemporary university education has been vastly overstated.

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13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely! Academia in business has no relevance to the real world

5/15/2008 09:22:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you saying the ends justify the means? Isn't that the antithesis of what objectivity is supposed to be all about?

5/15/2008 10:12:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...it was her performance including in the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, achieved without apparent benefit of university education, that got her promotion..."

She does actually have a BA and an MA, though, doesn't she.

5/15/2008 10:29:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

Anonymous 2 (sigh, what's wrong with using a name): "Are you saying the ends justify the means?"

You'll need to explain what you mean.


Anonymous 3 (sigh, what's wrong with using a name):
The only record Victoria University has of a Ms Thompson having a degree at the time suggested is a Maria Anna ... ironically, the information was released by VUW's new 'communications director' Madeleine Setchell. Story here.

5/15/2008 10:40:00 am  
Anonymous BWhitehead said...

Traditionally, people with degrees used to be respected & carried a lot of status & credibility(eg Doctors, Lawyers etc).
However this has been eroded by the shear numbers of people with degrees & as you have pointed out, it can have no relevance to their career.
Also the credibility has been eroded -how do you take Canterbury university seriously when it hands out a degree for saying that the holocaust never happened.
A side effect of this is that very few young people are interested in working in any of the trades. I've worked in places where the maintenance dept staff look like they are straight out of 'Dads Army'.

5/15/2008 12:07:00 pm  
Anonymous NotYourBusiness said...

It's well known that the best Forex dealers are the ones from the London East End markets - the barrow boys. 'Highly educated' individuals do not understand risk, and can't cope with it at all well.

As an aside - you have a high traffic blog -- you are going to get a lot of commenters with the popular name 'anonymous'. Either suck it up, or disable anon comments if it annoys you that much. But for the love of god stop moaning about it on a daily basis..

5/15/2008 12:51:00 pm  
Blogger Rebel Radius said...

If the granting of residency to Mary Anne Thompson’s family was incorrectly done, is their case being reviewed and are they still in the country?

Should any case that she has looked at/ assisted with/ supervised/ be reviewed, with all costs against her? She resigned and got 3 months paid salary as a hand out, so she does have money.

If the government blames the civil service, etc, doesn't that mean that the minister(s) responsible, failed to control their departments? Or do ministers have zero control over their departments? If so, what ARE they DOING?

The buck stops at the PM or does she not supervise her ministers?

If the Department of Immigration is infiltrated with deceit and corruption at its highest level, then the Department of Immigration should be closed down immediately. ZERO applications should be granted until a full departmental investigation has been completed.

If any breach of National Security has occurred during the time that Mary Anne Thompson was Minister of Immigration then she should be charged in accordance to the country's sedition or treason law.

One must presume that as Minister of Immigration, then Mary Anne Thompson has received the highest level of security checks and subsequent clearance. (If she failed either check or clearance then she would not have been appropriate for the position.) National security therefore has failed to do its job and has failed to protect national interests.

The SIS must be held accountable for a breach of security.

As Minister of the Secret Intelligence service which has completely FAILED to work for the best interests of New Zealanders. As Prime Minister of a government that has failed to serve the interests of New Zealanders, The Prime Minister should henceforth resign.

5/15/2008 02:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Craig said...

"In sum, and conventional wisdom notwithstanding, the value of a contemporary university education has been vastly overstated."

I think, as usual, you generalize beyond what I suspect are the bounds of your experiences. Maybe you need to go into IT PC, then you can spend weekends and nights fixing computer code written by homespun fuckwits who had no idea what they were really doing, sometimes a little theory goes a long way.

5/15/2008 02:50:00 pm  
Anonymous a name said...

"The only record Victoria University has of a Ms Thompson having a degree at the time suggested is a Maria Anna "

So, you don't think Maria Anna Thompson and Mary-Anne Thompson are the same person?

Maybe even different from the "Mary Annne Thompson" you mention in your post title?

5/15/2008 03:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Michelle said...

Radius : As Prime Minister of a government that has failed to serve the interests of New Zealanders.

You had advocated to ban foreigners from buying & owning NZ assets such as the Auckland International Airport (AIA), where the PM and her government failed to serve the interests of AIA New Zealand shareholders which, you fully supported failure to act. Now you're opposing this failure by the PM.

Don't you see that you're an idiot and a bigot?

5/15/2008 07:54:00 pm  
Blogger adamsmith1922 said...

SOme additional thoughts and questions on this case

http://adamsmith.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/669/

5/15/2008 09:52:00 pm  
Blogger Rebel Radius said...

Michelle, preventing the sale of Auckland airport to Middle Eastern or indeed communist ownership is in the best interests of New Zealander's.

Consider that Auckland airport is the only airport in the north island that can accommodate aircraft over the size of a 767. Christchurch is the alternate except in conditions which predict fog. In adverse conditions the alternate is Sydney or Fiji. Airlines are required to carry extra fuel to compensate the need for an alternate. As a cost saving exercise Ohakea can be nominated as an alternate, however it is not ideally geared up to handle more than the odd flight because of limitations with passenger facilities/customs etc.

As for the best interest of New Zealanders having a Minister of Immigration (who may have) fraudulent qualifications and who is presumably been vetted by the SIS and has been CLEARED at high level security: Is not.

It is a very serious matter indeed.

"Security is the priceless product of freedom. Only the strong can be secure, and only in freedom can men produce those material resources which can secure them from want at home and against aggression from abroad."

B. E. Hutchinson

5/15/2008 11:48:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do realise that calling her the 'minister of immigration' is like calling 'Rebel Radius' a 'sane and rational actor?'

5/16/2008 10:32:00 pm  

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