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Professional Skills for a Globalised World: Why is it problematic?

Featured Image: Module Image taken from ‘Professional Skills for a Globalised World’

Professional Skills for a Globalised World is an online training module for Chemistry, Informatics and War Studies students. This mandatory course intends to provide students with the knowledge and skills to work in a diverse workforce. Roar commentators Anne Andersen and Ryan Chan, along with guest writer Anya Herne, contend that this training module fails to deliver this mission. 

By perpetuating highly problematic and unsubstantiated conclusions and expectations about the world, the Professional Skills for a Globalised World course constructs an alternative reality based on identity politics and consequently disadvantages students by placing them in a bubble. 

Firstly, the online format of the course is problematic and patronising, forcing students to accept its content at face value regardless of what they think. University should provide open debate: students should learn how to think rather than what to think. A series of online videos and graphics that spoon-feed values to students without providing room for objection does not uphold this standard.

Course Content and No Counter-arguments.

The course’s abhorrent structure is complemented by its content. For example, the course misleadingly asserts that ‘diversity’ correlates to ‘higher earnings’, citing a Forbes Insight report. This misleading interpretation of statistics elevates ‘race and gender’ above other potential explanations: a mere reference to the Harvard Business Review’s emphasis on ‘cognitive diversity’, which found “no correlation between race/gender diversity and performance”, was not included.

This reductionist structure of no counter-arguments inhibits alternative theories that enhance a thorough understanding of diversity. One will not find a single article in the module’s reading list that addresses counter-arguments or critiques of their provided studies.

For example, the course would be enriched by a reference to experts like Glen Llopis, who argues that diversity is defeated by creating this melting pot of ‘physical differences’, and the workplace should instead value the diversity of ideas and individuals. This is reinforced by another study, which suggests that focusing on different traits fosters division and limits cooperation.  

These studies show that the course’s idea of diversity (which is exclusively concerned with race and gender) is counterproductive. By implementing an approach that ignores opposing theories, the module’s goal to equip students knowledge and skills for a diverse workforce remains unobtainable. 

What is more egregious are the ‘learning scenarios’ provided. In the ‘unconscious bias’ section, students are coerced to pick the lecturer who they assume to have the lowest student satisfaction score based solely on race and gender. If the student chooses anything other than the ethnic minority, the course replies that he or she is incorrect premised on ill-informed statistics.   

“Unconscious Bias” Learning Scenario, taken from the training module ‘Professional Skills for a Globalised World.’

While the course claims that diversity is about ‘appreciation of individual differences and traits’ over ‘political correctness’, the module exploits identity politics, having no regard for teaching styles or individual personalities while elevating race and gender as explanations.

This supposed ‘real-life’ situation forces an uncomfortable decision based on appearances. In order to enforce their artificially constructed point about bias, the course patronisingly implies that students are subconsciously racist and sexist, regardless of what they actually think. Such irresponsible employment of statistics can be misconstrued as the deliberate engineering of racial tensions. 

Placing Students in a Bubble

The course transforms university life into a ‘bubble’ in which nobody is ever made to feel ‘offended’ or ‘uncomfortable’, however subjectively defined these parameters are. This ‘bubble’ cultivates the entitled expectation that comfort in the workplace should be provided for, and that if one does not feel entirely comfortable, it is the other’s responsibility for not ‘actively creating an inclusive environment.’

Of course, issues such as sexual harassment and abuse remain vital to address in professional settings, but equating this behaviour with simple statements that may be construed as ‘non-inclusive’ is unfounded. 

By elevating inclusivity and demonising all subjectively ‘offensive’ comments, the course challenges the legitimacy of genuine criticisms that targets people’s performance, absolving individuals of personal responsibility and directing blame instead to ‘lack of inclusion’. This in turn perpetuates students’ entitled expectations of external conformity to personal comfort, which is certainly not a work ethic that confers ’employability’.

For these reasons, Professional Skills for a Globalised World is a shamefully devised course which fails at delivering anything practical and ‘preparatory’ for students. With a structure that does not allow debate, reinforced by misleading content and the absence of alternate perspectives, the course essentially appears to be a project of ticking off boxes, where the sense of entitlement that employers already abhor about our generation is reinforced and hands are dusted off.

 

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