Lisa Porter Has Her Head In The Sand

Future Workforce Must Be Cultivated Now to Maintain U.S. Aerospace Leadership, AIAA

"I don't think that we need to adapt our educational strategies to the short attention span of today's students," stated Dr. Porter. "Rather, I think that we need to teach them discipline and perseverance. We need to coach them not to expect instant gratification, but to recover from failure and keep going - a quality shared by productive aerospace engineers."

Editor's note: As is the case with every generation, today's young people are different than the one the generation they follow. That's just the way it is. The current generation grew up in a world totally different than the one you grew up in, Lisa. Ignoring the way that they - and their world works - is simply foolish, to say the least. Why not make them use slide rules and write equations on a chalkboard, eh Lisa? After all, this system worked for Werner von Braun and his team, right?

Did it ever occur to you that this perceived "short attention span" may have to do with the speed at which the younger generation generates - and receives - information? If you don't adapt your message to meet their "short attention spans", Lisa, they simply will not get your message.

Lisa Porter's naivete and total ignorance when it comes to modern education - and those who currently seek to be educated - serves as a perfect illustration of just how out of touch NASA's senior leadership is with regard to the generation that represents NASA's future. The future will be different than the present and these young people will decide how things work, not Lisa Porter. Indeed, they have already made that decision.

Reader note: "Other people have had similar encounters with Lisa Porter. Some communications people made a presentation to Lisa Porter in front of an industry group of 25. At the end of presentation she said "I knew all that." Some of the people in the room remarked that they had been in the business for 25 years and didn't know the information presented. Her next statement floored everyone in the room, "Why would I talk to the American people? They are the people that watch Survivor; I am not interested in what they think or want."

Comments? Send them to nasawatch@reston.com Your comments thus far:


"It is not often than industry either wants or gets a chance to express its views anonymously.You at NASA Watch are providing a valuable service to enable us to get messages relayed that would otherwise never see the light of day. Like others reporting in the blog, we are especially perplexed and dismayed at Dr. Porter's handling of Aeronautics and people. Indeed, her omnipotent, "know it all" attitude is pervasive. Meetings with her concerning the future of supersonics were demeaning and a waste of time.It is obvious she is totally out of her league for the position she occupies, which is one that requires technical, managerial and human relations competence, the latter two of which she has none.To the outside world she is just a manifestation of a Republican Neocon ploy to marginalize aeronautics at a time when it needs to be nourished and supported most, not necessarily with more money, but with more RESPECT.Industry has been systematically sidelined, belittled and relegated to obscurity.Her argument is that NASA knows best what to do, when in fact, it does not.It is the essential cooperation and collaboration of NASA and industry on equal terms that makes NASA Aeronautics a thriving, productive experience in the past. It is now time for Mr. Griffin to see the error in his ways and to move Lisa out of NASA to a place where she can do a much better job more suited to her skill setand that is outside of Government."


While it Is painfully obvious that Lisa Porter (and much of upper NASA management)is out of touch with, well, just about everybody, I'll have to disagree with your blanket proclamations that each generation is different than the one before and that one's message must be adapted to reach them. The quote from Socrates (but probably not actually from him) regarding"the trouble with youth today" comes to mind; while each generationmust master new skills, faces new challenges (typically created by the screwups of their preceding generation), and gains much of its information through new media mechanisms (also created by their preceding generation), at their cores they are the same, stupid (and brilliant) humans of those preceding generations.While I'd give Ms. Porter a failing grade on her delivery and pity her regarding her inability to recognize effective media pathways, her messageabout the need for the new generation'stechnical people to learn discipline and perseverance, to not expect instant gratification, and to be able to recover from failure and keep going remains as valid today as it did when we grew up, when Von Braun grew up, and when Archimedes grew up. We may need to repackage such a message, but for the sake of our (and their) future we had best not adapt or change it.


Ms. Porter's indifference for accommodation of others, in this case the needs and viewpoints of America's public and students, seems in line with Bush administrative philosophy: the people at the top know best, no other viewpoints wanted.


Without getting into Ms. Porter's personality, aerospace engineering does proceed at a more deliberate pace than a lot of the rest of the world. But accepting this without paying attention to the ramifications is asking for trouble. Look at Iridium - what was a pretty compelling service compared to cell phones at the time it was conceived was pathetically inadequate compared to what cell phones had become when it was delivered 5 years later.


I could not agree more on how out of touch is NASA senior leadership, especially in regards to its next generation of employees.

Many the young and inspired employees in the Office of Strategic Communications, especially Legislative Affairs, have left because management has treated them like children by micro-managing them to death. These were well educated, motivated public servants, many of them former Presidential Management Fellows, that have left for less sexy post in other government agencies because they realized that when they told the public that they worked for NASA the all to familer response; "WOW, that must be exciting," was really the opposite.


Keith - Thanks for the insight on Lisa Porter's view of today's young people. As a father of three sons in their 20's, I can relate to your comments. Perhaps Lisa should spend some time in a university teaching role to get "up to speed" on communicating with young people. She would definitely get some rapid feedback on the effectiveness of her communication skills.

As for communicating with the general public, no matter what inane television shows they watch, they ARE the taxpayers, and they DO write their congressmen.


Greetings - For those who have had to deal with Ms. Porter for the last year or so, your recent NASAWatch posting concerning her naivete and arrogance was refreshing, albeit a bit slow in coming. NASA is full of people who believe they are smarter than they really are, but no one has ever come close to Ms. Porter in that regard. As was once said of a particular Supreme Court justice in the last century, her primary problem is theological: she believes there are 4 persons in the Trinity.

I hope you continue to investigate Ms. Porter's actions, and to regularly post about her.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on January 17, 2007 11:20 PM.

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