Monday, June 15, 2009

On Intellectual Integrity and honesty

The common denominator between the two gentlemen whose picture you can see above (besides being philosophers whose name start with S) is that they both talked about intellectual integrity and honesty. I got a lot of responses (most in Email and not as comments to the Blog) for my post on positive thinking, and decided to have another off-topic posting on related issue.

A few weeks ago I have been in the large conference that IBM is doing to its customers (Websphere Impact), and besides meeting customers, this is an opportunity to meet other IBMers from all over. I had some corridor meeting with a senior person in IBM, whom I never met in person before, and he told me that he heard about me, and that I have a reputation that I stand firm for what I believe, even if I swim against the current. Well, at least I have a reputation for something. Some people appreciate such a behavior, and some are not.

But - instead of telling about myself, I'll tell a related story. In my long university teaching career, I had lot of teaching assistants.

One of the teaching assistants, whom we shall call TA1, has once looked at the slides I was going to present in my class, and said that actually they are not consistent with what he told the students in the recitation, it turned out that he got some (not very important detail) wrong. He asked me to change my slides and talk about this in a fuzzy way so that it will not be inconsistent with what he told the students, I suggested that he'll just tell them that he has some minor correction to the last recitation, but he refused, saying that this will harm his professional authority for the students, in short -- he said he needs to "save face". I did not like his answer and did not change my presentation, I don't know what happened, maybe the students did not notice. I actually allergic to the term "save face". I have seen a lot of bad things done for face savings.

Another teaching assistant, whom we shall call TA2, once asked me to take 5 minutes at the beginning of my class, since he wants to clarify something about the recitation, I thought that he wants to clarify something about an assignment he gave to the students, but surprisingly for me, he said -- in the last recitation I made a mistake, here is the mistake I have made, and here is the correct version, please copy it so you'll not be confused, and I apologize for the mistake. At that point I thanked him and started the class with a discussion with the students about intellectual honesty, and the importance of it. Guess who succeeded better in life
TA1 or TA2 ? you probably guessed right.
Intellectual honesty often does not pay off, there is something in the culture that prefer other values.

I have started with saying that I got many responses to the "positive thinking" postings, I got a cool one today, from Septimiu Nechifor, a Blog reader from Romania, who sent me the ultimate response to Kipling's IF -- any relationships to today's posting is just a coincidence...

ANTI - IF by Kostas Varnalis

If you can fool yourself when someone else hits you,
Pretending him a wise man and never you blame him;
If you don't trust nobody and no one's trusting you,
Forgive your sin is easy, but never others' sins.

If you respite the evil no single moment and
You lie louder and louder when other people lie;
If you're enjoying hitting the love with hate and though
Pretend to have a wise and even saint good side.

If you move like a worm and never fly with dreams,
And interest is always up to your highest aim;
If you leave the defeated for the winner all times,
Though both of them betraying is your standing desire.

If you can gain a thousand for every little gift
And mother land to play at cards is not a heavy act;
If you don't pay a penny as duty you have made,
As for being you paid is always right and fair.

If you can urge your thinking and heart and even nerves,
Ill - old all them to make some new and evil acts;
And indecision bowing low deserves from you as serve,
When all bawl "Forward!" you're the only crying "Back!".

If you reject the evil no single time or plot
And in its shadow feel like in a saint life tree shade;
Yours will be whole Earth and all its gifts and mines,
You'll be the first of masters, but never MAN, be sure!

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