We have seen the future, and it sucks.

Thoughts on Education

28th January 2012

Jeff de Chambeau has some interesting ones.

For all the complaints about how the movie industry is stuck in the 1960s, our education system is stuck in the 1760s. And proposed updates, like Blackboard’s unforgivably bad software (WebCT in my day), do nothing to change how education works, they just digitally codify outdated practices and give university administrators the mistaken impression that they’ve managed to stay with the times.

Henry Ford is reputed to have said, ‘If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have told me a faster horse.’

An “education,” whether for its own value or to help you get a job, is–at least to me–about developing the skills to find the information you need, assess its value, integrate it into the context at hand, and make a better decision than you otherwise could have. These skills aren’t taught at university; we develop them to cope with university.

An interesting notion: What if the value of a college education were the thrown-in-the-deep-end skills we develop while attempting to cope with being at college? One of the most valuable skills to have in the Real World is how to ‘fake it ’till you make it’, and God knows that skill is of supreme value in college.

In the “real world,” having a copy of your notes is called being prepared. Instead, university exams expect us to tie one hand behind our backs and master a skill we’ll seldom if ever use again.

I suspect that it’s because, in the medieval universities where the current Higher Education system developed, reference materials verged on nonexistent — if you didn’t have it in your head, you didn’t have it, period.

One Response to “Thoughts on Education”

  1. Dennis Nagle Says:

    For some time now I’ve suspected that the main reason for requiring a college degree for job applicants is that it demnonstrates that one has enough mental ability and agility to actually get through the college process, irrespective of the type of degree earned.

    That having been said, the process of learning involves two different goals, one of which is never adequately addressed: 1) the knowledge to be imparted (the normal body of all schooling), and 2) the skills needed to learn said knowledge (which too often gets short–or no–shrift).

    If they would just focus on how to learn at the same time that they introduce the material to be learned, they’d get much further.