Protests?

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Post by Yaya » Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:47 pm

Karl wrote:But how do you measure that when you interview him, yaya?

Do you let him have a stab at a surgery to see if he can do it, do you go by references (which is biased against new career starters) or do you rely on a formal level of education?

Certification is imperfect but that does not mean it is without value I think.
In my experience, Board Certification of a physician here in the U.S. is the least effective means of evaluating an ophthalmologist's competency. For one, certification is achieved through oral and multiple choice examinations, not through evaluation or observation of one's surgical skills. Given that ophthalmology is a surgical speciality, aside from ascertaining one's knowledge set, seeing who is certified is a poor means of selecting an eye doctor to care for your eyes. And yet, it's the first thing on an ophthalmologist resume and the first thing a patient usually looks at.
Going by my experience, university was important for these reasons:

1) Pushed you to research/investigate theory/argument/material that you would normally find off-putting because it's (a) dense, and (b) challenging to your way of thinking.
I would argue that this can be achieved without a structured university setting, that it wasn't the university that was responsible for your intellectual development, but your own natural curiosity and bend, your own natural inclination to question.
2) Gave you access to material that is still not available except by an expensive subscription to something like JStore. The amount of bona fide academic literature that has made its way onto the internet for free is still miniscule, because the way people make money from their research is to have people pay for access to it. Universities pay for subscriptions that give their students access.
Okay. But wouldn't a public library offer the same knowledge for free?
3) Gave you the structure, space and environment that actually fostered serious study and thinking. Completely different from the world beyond its doors, which seems to be an endless succession of mundane obligations demanding quick-fix solutions and following of arbitrary rules and procedures. This isn't just that 'broadening your horizons' stuff - I'm talking about making some kind of progress towards knowing how to effect change on a large scale, or in the long-term, rather than: how do I use this computer program that will be redundant in five years? How do I increase my salary? Where do I buy a nice sandwich?
Here's what I learned growing up in a small hillbilly town in the middle of nowhere with the lowest PSAT scores in the country. And that is, as long as you have the drive to achieve an educational goal, you will be able to realize it through personal effort and struggle. It may be easier for the person coming from a better equipped academic enviroment, but it is still not a necessity to achievement.

If you want to broaden your horizons, if you one truly is serious about this, they will find a way.

Yaya says he can teach any of us to perform diabetic and glaucoma laser procedures as good as any ophthalmologist, but isn't that just monkey see, monkey do? That's pretty much all I've been taught by anyone since I left uni.
If monkey see, monkey do puts food on the table, I would think most would not have a problem with it. It may not satisfy one's intellectual curiosity or broaden one's philosophical horizons, but it meets the bare necessity needs by which we live, which are the very foundation that allow us the time to ponder over the other less crucial ventures in our lives.
And actually, the way I'm phrasing it here isn't even right - it's not about being 'taught' things. It's about what parts of your brain you're actually exercising. It's about beefing up the part of your mind that thinks on a bigger scale, about how to begin to tackle unthinkably massive problems like war, tyranny, poverty, or (on a more modest scale) marshalling cogent arguments against ill-considered policy or wrong-headed sloganeering. You don't learn how narrative and rhetoric works on our rational minds, or how popular mythology is created and sustained, or what happened the last time the superpowers started carving up Africa, from doing woodwork.
But what I'm saying is, even if you do woodwork, you an still do those other things if you have that desire. The desire for knowledge is one of those unquenchable things for some people. But such knowledge often does not put food on the table or support a family in many instances. For that, you need a skill, and if I'm going to pay a university for anything, it is to provide me the tools to acquire such a skill, not to satisfy intellectual curiosities.

Again, I have no problem with the universities if those two extra years become optional. Obviously, for you, university was quite the period of development, to which I say good for you. But what about those who are ready to move on? Why hold us back, taking our money and our time?

Not sure what the US equivalent would be, but over here, universities do offer sandwich courses, by which, usually immediately prior to the final academic year of their degree, the student may undertake a year (or sometimes several) working in an industrial placement, so that when they graduate, they already have relevant experience under their belt as well as the knowledge, etc. they were taught.
See Blebis, here's by gripe. There really isn't a US equivalent, and there really should be. If they incorporated vocational and practical courses into US universities, you would find me more of a proponent of such a system.
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Post by Kaylee » Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:53 pm

Sorry, quotes is broken :)

Certification is imperfect but I as a layman don't have the mechanism to judge by observing an operation, and as I said when hiring to begin with that makes it very hard to hire a new starter who might not have the existing experience.

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Post by Yaya » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:23 pm

Karl wrote:Sorry, quotes is broken :)

Certification is imperfect but I as a layman don't have the mechanism to judge by observing an operation, and as I said when hiring to begin with that makes it very hard to hire a new starter who might not have the existing experience.
And therein lies the practicality of having a certifying process, for such things as making it easier for hirers to weed out the competition, letting the layman know the one being certified has been through an official process and is therefore unlikely a fraud, etc.

But not as a benchmark for determining competency, IMO.
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Post by Kaylee » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:30 pm

I agree with that.

Unfortunately determining competency is a very tricky business. I know good people who fail the measures businesses use to assess competency and I know people who are useless who pass :)

I have no clue how to solve that :(

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Post by Jack Cade » Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:01 pm

Yaya wrote:I would argue that this can be achieved without a structured university setting, that it wasn't the university that was responsible for your intellectual development, but your own natural curiosity and bend, your own natural inclination to question.
Too simplistic, Yaya. Too simplistic and too American. There will be *some* who will find a way to be what they're gonna be, no matter what, just as there will be some who are born ruthless enough to become millionaires in spite of an impoverished backgrounds. But there will be innumerable others for whom certain opportunities offered throughout their life make all the difference to the path they follow, to what aspects of their minds and bodies they develop. School is emotionally brutal. Working life is a never-ending series of demands and responsibilities. Life, in general, is hard. Most people struggle to break free from the social machines they're born into.

I can tell that for me, personally, finding time to indulge my 'natural curiosity' is pretty hard these days. I desperately wish I had more time to just read and digest things. When it comes to my creative output, people often tell me, "I don't know how you find the time to do it", and the answer I don't tell them is that I frequently stay up until past 1am (of course, I procrastinate a bit as well, via sites like this!)
Yaya wrote:Okay. But wouldn't a public library offer the same knowledge for free?
You mean theoretically? Because they don't at the moment. Either way, the answer is no - university libraries often have vast echelons packed with documents, journals and publications going back decades or more. The difference between what they have access to and what you can get at your average public library is like the difference between what's on the internet and what you can fit on a single computer.

Besides which, our libraries are also being shut down because they also supposedly don't pull their economic weight.
Yaya wrote:Here's what I learned growing up in a small hillbilly town in the middle of nowhere with the lowest PSAT scores in the country. And that is, as long as you have the drive to achieve an educational goal, you will be able to realize it through personal effort and struggle.
That's the American philosophy, and it's a lie. For every person who, like yourself, sees themselves as an example, there must be - I don't know - hundreds who aren't here saying, "I made it." The people who die, the people get screwed over, the people trapped in cycles of violence and poverty, the people who suffer bigotry from an ignorant society - 'drive' might give the fractionally more of a chance of actually breaking out of it, and sometimes that's enough. But progressive social institutions, invested by those better off than them - those who unconsciously and apathetically exploit them - will give them a much, much better chance, at no loss to the country.

It's not even a 'service'. It's not if the taxpayer really forks out for university. It's an investment on which governments make a sensational return. That's why European countries with their head screwed on right pay people to take degrees. It works on exactly the same principle as a business paying for your training week, but on a grand social and economic scale. Making students bear the whole burden is a con and a cheat by the government in exactly the same way the company I work for cheapskates their new employees by making them 'pay back' the cost of their training out of their pay packet. It's not remotely fair, but they know full well they can cover it all up in a smokescreen of distorted statistics and analysis, and most people won't see through it.
Yaya wrote:If monkey see, monkey do puts food on the table, I would think most would not have a problem with it.
I'm not arguing that it's worthless - nothing like it - but you need far more to a society than a billion monkeys putting a billion plates of food on a billion tables. A society doesn't survive on short-term self-interest. It survives on vision, realistic steps towards long-term goals, knowledge, inspiration, adaptability, morality - everything fed by thinking that goes on beyond the food on table process.
Yaya wrote:But what I'm saying is, even if you do woodwork, you an still do those other things if you have that desire. The desire for knowledge is one of those unquenchable things for some people. But such knowledge often does not put food on the table or support a family in many instances. For that, you need a skill, and if I'm going to pay a university for anything, it is to provide me the tools to acquire such a skill, not to satisfy intellectual curiosities.
Sorry, it's just too narrow. "We'll support people in learning how to make a buck, but if they want to actually improve the world, understand the forces at work in it, nourish their souls and others, they'll have to do it in their spare time."

And it's somewhat mortifying that you think of it merely in terms of 'satisfying intellectual curiosity', as if thinking outside the box isn't responsible for a huge amount of the genuine moral and intellectual progress we've made as a species. Did Isaac Newton discover gravity when he was idling under an apple tree or working all the hours God sends down a mineshaft (figuratively speaking)?
Yaya wrote:But what about those who are ready to move on? Why hold us back, taking our money and our time?
I never said it shouldn't be entirely optional, and I believe that vocational courses should be fully integrated into higher education, so that universities can turn out carpenters, economists, doctors, bankers, artists and thinkers all at once. Every single one is a good investment for society and for the government (allowing, of course, for the life-long slackers in every area.)
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Post by Metal Vendetta » Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:13 pm

I would have waited a ******* eternity for this!!!!
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Post by Jack Cade » Tue Dec 14, 2010 11:29 pm

Did you see the BBC interview with the lad with cerebral palsy who was dragged from his wheelchair - twice - by cops? They effectively accused him of 'rolling towards' police in a threatening manner, and asked if he threw rocks! Then they cited his website where he said he was of a 'revolutionary' mindset and that 'direct action' was necessary as a way of suggesting he was some kind of anarchist!

I've fired off a complaint to the Beeb for the first time in my life.
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Post by Jack Cade » Wed Dec 15, 2010 1:24 am

It's passed the Lords. The first comment on this article is well worth a read:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/educa ... 60615.html
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Post by Yaya » Wed Dec 15, 2010 1:46 am

Yaya wrote:I would argue that this can be achieved without a structured university setting, that it wasn't the university that was responsible for your intellectual development, but your own natural curiosity and bend, your own natural inclination to question.
Too simplistic, Yaya. Too simplistic and too American. There will be *some* who will find a way to be what they're gonna be, no matter what, just as there will be some who are born ruthless enough to become millionaires in spite of an impoverished backgrounds. But there will be innumerable others for whom certain opportunities offered throughout their life make all the difference to the path they follow, to what aspects of their minds and bodies they develop.

That's the American philosophy, and it's a lie. For every person who, like yourself, sees themselves as an example, there must be - I don't know - hundreds who aren't here saying, "I made it." The people who die, the people get screwed over, the people trapped in cycles of violence and poverty, the people who suffer bigotry from an ignorant society - 'drive' might give the fractionally more of a chance of actually breaking out of it, and sometimes that's enough. But progressive social institutions, invested by those better off than them - those who unconsciously and apathetically exploit them - will give them a much, much better chance, at no loss to the country.

Oh, don't get me wrong Jack, I'm entirely with you on the fallacy of the concept that's touted by Mickey Mouse at Disney World, that "Dreams do come true!" and "You can be whatever you want to be!" Utter crap, this is. Very few things get me riled up more than this, as you say, American concept, that fools the masses and sets them up for major disappointment. It gives false hope and is completely devoid of realism. Come to think of it, maybe there's a reason it's Mickey Mouse who's always saying it, because he isn't real either.

No, I'm speaking specifically about education and intellectual development, not material success. There is a big difference. I do believe that if a person has the drive and the time to learn, the sky is the limit on the amount of knowledge one can acquire, provided they have ample access to literature, whether it be from a university, the library, a bookstore, the Internet, etc.

In other words, I fully believe that a high school graduate who never attended a day of college in his life can, with the necessary diligence, become intellectual enough to banter with us here on this very message board by self study alone. This is the reason home schooling rather than public schooling is happening with greater frequency here in the U.S., because it works.

The university setting might foster more of a desire to learn in a student, but such learning is not wholly dependent on such an environment. When one see's one's peers doing something, the natural result is a desire to follow suit. In that sense, university is also 'monkey see, monkey do'.

Again, knowledge does not translate to material success. Opportunities in a society are rarely uniform, as you say, and some are granted better circumstances and opportunities than others. In many instances, neither intelligence nor opportunity has anything to do with success, but rather connections and who you know.
A society doesn't survive on short-term self-interest. It survives on vision, realistic steps towards long-term goals, knowledge, inspiration, adaptability, morality
All of which can be realized and achieved without a university. That's my point. Why are four years of my life given a mandatory 'prison sentence' where I must confine myself to learning things I have no real desire to know, nor any intention of utilizing said knowledge to further not only my dreams or aspirations, but the betterment of society?

Your view is somewhat Jack of All Trades (pun intended), whereas mine is Master of One.
Yaya wrote:But what I'm saying is, even if you do woodwork, you an still do those other things if you have that desire. The desire for knowledge is one of those unquenchable things for some people. But such knowledge often does not put food on the table or support a family in many instances. For that, you need a skill, and if I'm going to pay a university for anything, it is to provide me the tools to acquire such a skill, not to satisfy intellectual curiosities.
And it's somewhat mortifying that you think of it merely in terms of 'satisfying intellectual curiosity', as if thinking outside the box isn't responsible for a huge amount of the genuine moral and intellectual progress we've made as a species.
I have nothing against nor do I devalue the importance of satisfying one's intellectual curiosity for the greater good. In fact, I would encourage it. But not by symbolically casting shackles upon my hands and feet for four years before I'm set free to achieve that which I have my heart set on.

Optional. Not mandatory. That's the main point I'm making. The system in the U.S. is set up so that, without that bachelors degree, you have no chance for medical school, law school, etc.
Yaya wrote:But what about those who are ready to move on? Why hold us back, taking our money and our time?
I never said it shouldn't be entirely optional, and I believe that vocational courses should be fully integrated into higher education, so that universities can turn out carpenters, economists, doctors, bankers, artists and thinkers all at once. Every single one is a good investment for society and for the government (allowing, of course, for the life-long slackers in every area.)
I think, for the most part, we're on pretty much the same page, and only differ in our view regarding the importance of university in our personal and intellectual development.

I don't begrudge that university does a lot for many people. Like Karl said, it helped him. It helped you. It helps many others. But for some, it ties them down for too long.

Moreover, I am a firm believer that greater education and personal growth can be garnered by another very practical hands-on experience, that being travel to a foreign land.

I can't speak for Smooth, but I would predict that by living in a foreign land and experiencing another culture, he has achieved greater personal and intellectual growth simply by being there than he would sitting in a classroom on some U.S. college campus. I can say this of myself. My travel to foreign lands and seeing different people has broadened my horizons far more than four years of college.

Now that was money well spent.
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Post by bumblemusprime » Wed Dec 15, 2010 4:46 am

I see where Ya is going, but I'm afraid it reduces the general intellectual development of the masses. Also, it puts me out of a job. I'm trying to find the right way to phrase it... optical surgery is a necessity. Some people have cataracts and cataracts gotta be fixed. Things like LASIK are a luxury, but much of what you do is an inarguable necessity.

I teach freshman comp. A whole ****-ton of freshman comp. Granted, the university I teach at doesn't have an English major, and we focus pretty heavily on real-world skills, including cover letters for jobs.

I think my job is indispensable. You just can't fold freshman comp into other fields or expect students to be able to write for other disciplines without some rigor. We write much more than we used to because of the Internet. Most white-collar jobs can be done at least partially from home these days, and will require people to write clearly. Everyone's got to write cover letters for jobs. Your kids are going to want you to read Harry Potter to them. There are tons of functionally illiterate adults, many of whom are my students, but their lives sure as hell get easier when they learn to write.

But there's a good argument that my job IS dispensable. Because you may not have to write much for optical surgery. You may just learn to write well by arguing on Transfans--which is, by the way, a good way to learn, and probably a better way to learn rhetoric than ENG 101.

You can skip writing and math altogether and just do your discipline. One might argue that a psychologist is better off learning to write from writing entirely in their own discipline. That's the same argument for abolishing algebra requirements. "When will we need logarithms?"

God knows that few of my students want to take the class.

So is everyone with a degree or some college better off for having to take ENG 101? I still think so. People need to have a certain set of intellectual skills, and freshman comp sets those skills in motion. It doesn't teach you your discipline, and you'll spend a lot of time on irrelevant things, in the end, but you will start to examine rhetoric, which is one of the most useful skills in all existence. The same goes for abstract thinking and mathematics. Certain muscles just need to be developed, and college does that.

[EDooT] The system is broken, but I say blame the profit-seekers, not the education system. Our parents expected a one-earner, company-loyalty nine-to-five world. The business world has learned that they can make increasingly larger profits by employing more people part-time with no security. I have three part-time jobs, soon to be four, and each company I work for is set up for freelancers and adjuncts. Why not? The guys at the top make a huge profit by hiring so many part-timers and paying so few medical benefits.

If we get rid of college and go all-trade-school, we feed into that mentality. The mentality of "will this person do the task for six months" instead of "will this person be a well-rounded, clear-thinking, resilient and affable addition to the company?"

We have to focus on employers who take care of their employees and value them as people. One way to do that is to tout the usefulness of degrees.
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Post by Warcry » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:00 am

Jack Cade wrote:The quality of teaching and marking is insanely variable, by all accounts.
This is a universal problem and IMO the biggest issue that universities face worldwide. Professors are evaluated on a lot of things, including the degrees they hold, the strength of the research they've published and what they want to research in the future. Their ability to actually teach is pretty far down the list. Some professors are very enthusiastic about passing on their knowledge. But there are also quite a few who just want to lock themselves in a lab or in their office writing articles 24/7, and those people see teaching as a necessary evil at best. The university system would be immeasurably improved if the people in the second group were kept as far away from a classroom as possible while still being on campus.

That said I believe that modern society puts far, far too much emphasis on university education. In Canada it's gotten to the point where it's next to impossible to get a decent job without a vocational diploma or university degree, even if the job doesn't require a university education and even if your degree has absolutely nothing to do with the job.

The job I have now absolutely doesn't require a university degree. It requires about a month of on-the-job training and then a bit of supplemental training for the next few months as you go forward. I know that because I'm in the process of helping to train someone right now. But we'll be damned if we'd hire someone without a degree, because...uh...um... The funny thing is that my boss doesn't have a degree -- she dropped out of university after a year. And her boss, IIRC, didn't finish his degree either. They know damn well that you don't need a degree to do the work and they still fall into the trap.

I think talking about the "general intellectual development of the masses" is a bit dishonest, because the truth is that most of the people going to university these days are people like Yaya -- they're not going because they want to. They're going because they have to if they want to pursue the career they've chosen, and they don't give half a damn about the unrelated things that they're forced to study. Most of them won't challenge themselves or expand their horizons any more than they absolutely have to to pick up the elective credits they need to graduate. Those people really aren't getting any benefit at all from the extra years they're putting into university, and they'd be better off taking a vocational program instead if one existed.

Of course that's not always how it works out. I went into university grumbling that they were making me take courses in anything other than the computer science stream I was majoring in. When I graduated five years later it was as someone with an abiding love of history and an appetite (if not necessarily an aptitude) for high-level math, and wishing that I'd been able to cram in another year's worth of electives. Also I got a wife out of the deal, so I'm not complaining on my account -- but I also know a lot of people who absolutely slogged through the experience and even more who didn't make it at all.

University isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to all of society's educational needs and we need to stop treating it as if it is.

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Post by Jack Cade » Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:56 pm

Yaya - another thing we can easily drop is any notion that I think university should be compulsory, and that you or anyone else should be 'shackled' if you have no inclination to go to one. Not sure where you get this from. I'm only saying as an institution it should be supported and encouraged, so that ideally, every school-leaver - and more people besides - have the choice of attending (and not at £36,000 a pop) and can make a properly informed decision, not based on pervasive myths that wrongfoot them as to its purpose or value.

In that respect, I see the sense in what Warcry says about the sort of false 'pomp' of degrees, although I'd say it cuts both ways - there are a tonne of jobs you can't get after graduating because you're considered to be overqualified, which is equally bizarre.
Yaya wrote:No, I'm speaking specifically about education and intellectual development, not material success. There is a big difference. I do believe that if a person has the drive and the time to learn, the sky is the limit on the amount of knowledge one can acquire, provided they have ample access to literature, whether it be from a university, the library, a bookstore, the Internet, etc.
I'm not going to say that someone outside of university has *no* opportunity to develop intellectually, but you seem to be completely discounting the difference in the degree and depth of opportunity, which is crucial. Even if 'access' were the only factor, I've already pointed out that university students enjoy access to a far greater wealth of material than everyone else, because universities pay high subscription fees for specialist journals and recent research.

But access isn't the only factor. There's also time. And then there's social pressures - what the people around you are doing. These affect people's choices, the ease with which they can respond to that voice inside them saying there might be something better out there for them.

In short Yaya, it's like you're looking across a vast country and saying, "Anyone can cross this country" but discounting the difference between someone setting off into that wilderness with a good pair of shoes, a compass, a map and a Satnav link, and someone else who has to drag an eighteen-wheeler behind them. And on the side of that eighteen-wheeler is the logo for "OTHER PRESSING OBLIGATIONS".

Now, I'm not sure if you're being kind of deterministic in saying that those who will cross that country will cross that country no matter what, and those who won't were never going to anyway because they didn't want to. That's the only way I can figure out the logic of what you're saying. But surely you can't deny that a society which temporarily disconnects the eighteen-wheeler and hands out shoes, maps and compasses will be one in which many more people make the choice to strike out into that country.

In a way, Bumblemus summed it up better - if you make education more expensive, you stunt most people's intellectual growth.
Warcry wrote:I think talking about the "general intellectual development of the masses" is a bit dishonest, because the truth is that most of the people going to university these days are people like Yaya -- they're not going because they want to.
That involves quite a substantial simplification of the concept of the choice. In the strictest sense, sure, they 'don't want to', but what are the factors in that decision? That it's too expensive? That they don't see the point? That they think it's three or four years of sitting around learning stuff that has no application? That they've been sold a line about money making you happy? Peer pressure? The need to get a job now in order to support a family? That their education has let them down thus far, to the point where they don't think they'll be able to perform well or don't really understand what books or philosophy have ever done that's important?

Until you can eliminate these factors, you can't rest any argument on people's supposed 'free choice'. That's super-size me logic; obese people are obese because they choose to eat too much.
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Post by Yaya » Wed Dec 15, 2010 7:12 pm

bumblemusprime wrote: But there's a good argument that my job IS dispensable. Because you may not have to write much for optical surgery. You may just learn to write well by arguing on Transfans--which is, by the way, a good way to learn, and probably a better way to learn rhetoric than ENG 101.
Actually, im my opinion, English 101 never falls under the category of "just keeping me here so I can pay the university more money" classes. English 101 is the foundation for being able to communicate in English speaking nations, a requirement irrespective of final job placement or profession. Hence, it's placement usually within the first two years of college, years I feel are necessary regardless.
So is everyone with a degree or some college better off for having to take ENG 101? I still think so.
No argument here.
The system is broken, but I say blame the profit-seekers, not the education system.
It's a corrupt system because it restrains students who have already decided what they want to do with their lives, and does so during some their most formative and energetic years.
If we get rid of college and go all-trade-school, we feed into that mentality. The mentality of "will this person do the task for six months" instead of "will this person be a well-rounded, clear-thinking, resilient and affable addition to the company?"
I certainly am not calling for the abolishment of college. There are too many people who will swear by how important it was in their development. How can you argue with that?
I think talking about the "general intellectual development of the masses" is a bit dishonest, because the truth is that most of the people going to university these days are people like Yaya -- they're not going because they want to. They're going because they have to if they want to pursue the career they've chosen, and they don't give half a damn about the unrelated things that they're forced to study. Most of them won't challenge themselves or expand their horizons any more than they absolutely have to to pick up the elective credits they need to graduate. Those people really aren't getting any benefit at all from the extra years they're putting into university, and they'd be better off taking a vocational program instead if one existed.

You make my point better than I do.
But access isn't the only factor. There's also time. And then there's social pressures - what the people around you are doing. These affect people's choices, the ease with which they can respond to that voice inside them saying there might be something better out there for them.
Yes, I don't discount the benefit of 'peer pressure' in pushing individuals to achieve. Healthy competition can be academically invaluable But such pressures need but two years to have said effect, not four. If you can't get motivated by the motivation of others by that time, you'r there just to party.
In short Yaya, it's like you're looking across a vast country and saying, "Anyone can cross this country" but discounting the difference between someone setting off into that wilderness with a good pair of shoes, a compass, a map and a Satnav link, and someone else who has to drag an eighteen-wheeler behind them. And on the side of that eighteen-wheeler is the logo for "OTHER PRESSING OBLIGATIONS".
That's an exaggeration, I would say. I mean, I recognize that college can be facilitative in intellectual development, but again, not crucial, particulary when all citizens have access to books at the public library and used books for cheap, even the very same books used in college, on Amazon.

In a nut shell, for many, the price of college is too costly for the benefit gained from it.

And you know what we call something that isn't worth the price we pay for it. Yep. A rip off.
"But the Costa story featuring Starscream? Fantastic! This guy is "The One", I just know it, just from these few pages. "--Yaya, who is never wrong.

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Post by bumblemusprime » Wed Dec 15, 2010 8:28 pm

What you seem to be arguing for, Yaya, is exactly what places like University of Phoenix (who I teach for, by the way, therefore this is actually a qualified opinion for once) do--they provide only a few specialized degrees based on practicality, encourage specialization to the point of offering quick doctorates, offer mostly online classes so that students can be working professionals, and emphasize REEEE-SULTS in short time.

Place like U of Phoenix scare the hell out of traditional academia, because they appear to offer all the benefits without the sacrifice of campus living. I definitely think that U-Phoenix and its ten thousand bastard offspring (some of whom I teach for as well) fill a gap. Most of my students are working adults returning to school. Some of them only want a degree because they will get a raise, or because they might maybe look for another job down the line. Many of them have to take care of families and work, and so they need flexible, quick schooling.

It is very nice to be able to teach to that demographic. I love how I am needed.

BUT. When I taught in an actual classroom in graduate school, there were many things that I can't replicate online or even in a U-Phoenix classroom. For one, U of Phoenix and its spawn are all for-profit, so the curriculum is controlled much more tightly, whereas my faculty mentor and I were given the freedom to create a class out of whole cloth. We had a relaxed atmosphere. Our class fulfilled a general requirement, but was just one of many general English classes, whereas a smaller, profit-based school like Argosy (another one I teach for) has one or two English electives, and when I taught Argosy's "Survey of Literature" class, I had to go from ******* Gilgamesh to Chekhov in six weeks, bottom-line being that it was a money-loss to offer individual classes on different eras of lit.

At my alma mater, a student could take our class in Ethnic Lit, or could take Chaucer, or could take Medieval Visionaries, or Milton, or Victorian Images of the City, etc... my point being that a traditional university can be so much more enriching because it offers students a range of classes and many chances to enrich themselves.

Also on this subject, I was rejected for a PhD at the University of Manchester, and Best First and Karl should burn it down.
Best First wrote:I didn't like it. They don't have mums, or dads, or children. And they turn into stuff. And they don't eat Monster Munch or watch Xena: Warrior Princess. Or do one big poo in the morning and another one in the afternoon. I bet they weren't even excited by and then subsequently disappointed by Star Wars Prequels. Or have a glass full of spare change near their beds. That they don't have.

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Post by Kaylee » Wed Dec 15, 2010 8:43 pm

I'm on it! I'm on it!

Jeez!

Zzzzzzzzz...

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Post by Professor Smooth » Wed Dec 15, 2010 9:45 pm

I often wondered if certain courses were added to degree programs just to inflate the tuition costs. For example, I majored in English. Why? Because I wanted to teach and possibly write. However, in order get my degree, I needed no less than FOUR semesters of a foreign language. Plus two semesters of college-level math. Now, I could understand ONE semester of a foreign language. If you're going to teach something, it's good to get an idea of what your students are going through. But four?!? By the end of four semesters, you're expected to be pretty close to fluent. And yet, it's treated a little side-project.

"What are you doing this year?" "Well, I've got about 1,000 pages worth of papers and essays to write. Oh, and I need to learn to speak a foreign language. And some physics and calculus." "That sucks. Why do you need those for your major?" "I dunno. Apparently I need them more than I need the thousands of dollars I'm paying for them."

That first semester of Spanish was a great experience, though. I had a horrible teacher. I didn't learn a word of the language. At the start, when I actually cared about getting something out of the class, I'd ask questions about the material. And the teacher would reply entirely in Spanish. That class taught me, very well, what NOT to do as an foreign language teacher.

The best part was, in most of the English classes I was taking, the teachers would be very clear that learning a foreign language through "total immersion" does not work in a classroom setting if you're over the age of about 9 years old. Not from the start, anyway.

As to the cuts in the University system. All I can really say is that cuts on education should be the LAST cuts made. Not among the first.
snarl wrote:Just... really... what the **** have [IDW] been taking for the last 2 years?
Brendocon wrote:Yaya's money.

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Post by Yaya » Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:27 pm

Professor Smooth wrote:I often wondered if certain courses were added to degree programs just to inflate the tuition costs. For example, I majored in English. Why? Because I wanted to teach and possibly write. However, in order get my degree, I needed no less than FOUR semesters of a foreign language. Plus two semesters of college-level math. Now, I could understand ONE semester of a foreign language. If you're going to teach something, it's good to get an idea of what your students are going through. But four?!? By the end of four semesters, you're expected to be pretty close to fluent. And yet, it's treated a little side-project.
And therein lies my argument, that these things are a business that use the smokescreen of "higher education" to tack on costs. Much like a cell phone business or insurance company, who know you need that phone and that insurance, so they're going to add in those 'necessary' hidden fees and costs...just because.

This is what governments should step in and regulate. It's not being just to students who are already living day to day to get that degree that they just know they are going to need to move up the ladder.

I don't know why it is that, when I make this argument, I get lambasted for it here in America, that I attacked the hollowed ground of college life because it's become part of the 'American way', like I'm attacking the Constitution or I spit on the Founding Fathers or something.

I just don't like to see people being used under the pretense of something noble. It's one thing to just steal from somebody. That, I think I have an easier time accepting.

Incidently Smooth, would you say it's true what I said about your experience in Japan or is it just me who finds great value in expanding one's horizons by visiting other lands? Cause if I had my druthers, I'd take that college tuition and spend it one travel around the world. I think in my case, I would find that more beneficial and educational that being forced to pay for some class I have no interest in.
"But the Costa story featuring Starscream? Fantastic! This guy is "The One", I just know it, just from these few pages. "--Yaya, who is never wrong.

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Post by bumblemusprime » Wed Dec 15, 2010 11:43 pm

I spent money to study in England and learn about how much Emvee can drink.

I needed no less than FOUR semesters of math, Smooth, although two were 90-level prep classes. I also needed the two years of Spanish. However, both subjects have come in really handy when I tutor high-school kids. Honestly, I can't think of a lot of useless classes I had in college. I've never really used anything I learned in Sociology 101, but it was fun.

Also, Yaya, stop pretending. We all know you hate America. ;)
Best First wrote:I didn't like it. They don't have mums, or dads, or children. And they turn into stuff. And they don't eat Monster Munch or watch Xena: Warrior Princess. Or do one big poo in the morning and another one in the afternoon. I bet they weren't even excited by and then subsequently disappointed by Star Wars Prequels. Or have a glass full of spare change near their beds. That they don't have.

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Post by Denyer » Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:30 am

Jack Cade wrote:The quality of teaching and marking is insanely variable, by all accounts. You can't begin to generalise.
It's coloured by having studied a primary subject with very little innovation in the last thirty years or so, but I'm also going on a few years of working with teams of undergrads from a range of universities, postgrad study, proofing postgrad work, etc. The undergrad side of things doesn't tend to get priority in arts faculties, and academics often don't have the grasp of teaching to back up their knowledge.

You can generalise in the other direction (courses produce capable writers, most lecturers are good teachers, etc) but the number of marked submissions and amount of contact time for many courses isn't promising.
Jack Cade wrote:1) Pushed you to research/investigate theory/argument/material that you would normally find off-putting because it's (a) dense, and (b) challenging to your way of thinking.
Dense theory, to give a slightly biased opinion, tends to be so either because the author is exercising a particular vocabulary (these type like to redefine terms) or because they genuinely believe they've come up with something new and either haven't found or don't cite large amounts of material covering much the same thing.

There's something to be said for being in situations in which you're forced to read and engage with material you wouldn't otherwise, but the question is whether a traditional university setup justifies the costs. Personally I think students are failed at successive levels of education when it comes to imparting writing skills, some degrees should cover more or be shorter, and teaching in higher education should be qualitatively assessed far more than is now the case.
Jack Cade wrote:2) Gave you access to material that is still not available except by an expensive subscription to something like JStore. [...]
3) Gave you the structure, space and environment that actually fostered serious study and thinking.
How many people took those opportunities? How many wouldn't be the ones with the drive to follow a distance learning programme, for example?
Jack Cade wrote:I'm talking about making some kind of progress towards knowing how to effect change on a large scale
If this is a measure of success for universities, the outputs seem to be poor to the point one could conclude that it's become just another mechanism for producing sheep.
Jack Cade wrote:how do I use this computer program that will be redundant in five years?
Skills that aren't exercised tend to atrophy, but even so an effective learning experience is one that produces skills that transfer. Software use, as well as engineering, can be as much a craft as anything else involving tools.
Jack Cade wrote:In short, I did more useful learning in my years there than I've managed in the seven or so since I finished, despite the fact that I appreciate the value of that learning more than ever, because it's key to how I've got as far as I have (however pitiful a distance that may be) in actually being able to articulate my thoughts properly and engage with people and subjects coming from a completely different direction.
Talking to people'll do that -- which can (and should) include a lot of writing and reading. Again, it's not something inherent to formal academia, although conversely there's a tendency for academics to marginalise others who come at things from other backgrounds. (For example, appropriation of the word 'racism' to cover a limited spectrum of same.)

Quite some time post-university, university education doesn't seem to have exercised a monopoly on intelligence amongst people I've encountered, nor vice-versa. The better communicators and organisers (IMNSHO) have been those who've done a lot of those things.
Jack Cade wrote:Take away professional/serious thinkers and you give up the world
Reduce the availability of traditional university courses and I don't think you give up serious thought. The merits of 'professional' thought against the thus-defined 'amateur' are a whole other argument.
Jack Cade wrote:You don't learn how narrative and rhetoric works on our rational minds, or how popular mythology is created and sustained, or what happened the last time the superpowers started carving up Africa, from doing woodwork.
True, but degree level is the wrong focus. The place of deconstructing newspaper writing is in formative curriculums (and gratifyingly seems to be in decently-taught KS3/KS4 provision.) Leave emphasis of it any later and it'd reach only a very limited audience.
Jack Cade wrote:If you're sitting there [...] thinking there might be a better way of doing it, you're not 'working'.
I'd say the opposite is true for better-run organisations in most sectors, and also that "follow the prescribed path" is something that's ingrained into academia. It's just a different regurgitation process.
Jack Cade wrote:And art? Art is either a means to profit by entertaining people, or something you do on your day off to relax.
There's more of a case for funding activities for groups with minimal other income streams, IMO. For the others art doesn't go away in the absence of subsidies any more than it goes away in the absence of big record companies.

The core is people creating or performing because they want to -- why would them doing it on their day off or for enjoyment lessen the act? For that matter, why would them generating a profit invalidate the enjoyment or the art? Should 'serious', 'worthy' art be non-profit and not to kick back and have fun?

FWIW, I think investment in universities can be justified if there's more accountability, but there's probably no getting around the public perception that degrees are of increasingly limited worth.

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Post by Yaya » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:34 am

bumblemusprime wrote:What you seem to be arguing for, Yaya, is exactly what places like University of Phoenix (who I teach for, by the way, therefore this is actually a qualified opinion for once) do--they provide only a few specialized degrees based on practicality, encourage specialization to the point of offering quick doctorates, offer mostly online classes so that students can be working professionals, and emphasize REEEE-SULTS in short time..
Now you're talkin.
"But the Costa story featuring Starscream? Fantastic! This guy is "The One", I just know it, just from these few pages. "--Yaya, who is never wrong.

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Post by Warcry » Thu Dec 16, 2010 4:10 am

Denyer wrote:If this is a measure of success for universities, the outputs seem to be poor to the point one could conclude that it's become just another mechanism for producing sheep.
This. Universities have shifted from being a place for the best and brightest to expand their knowledge and become a factory to mass-produce white-collar workers and professionals. In Canada at least most institutions don't even bother making any pretence otherwise anymore and structure their advertising around the jobs you can get and the money you can make with one of their degrees in hand. They're degree mills and the government encourages it by pumping more and more money into post-secondary job training for occupations that never used to require it, which only increases the pressure on anyone who wants to earn more than minimum wage to go to school.
Jack Cade wrote:That involves quite a substantial simplification of the concept of the choice.
It's not about choice at all -- it's about lack of choice. If someone wants to pursue a higher education then that door should be open to them. But the problem is that large numbers of students are being funnelled into post-secondary schooling for absolutely no reason other than the paycheque.

Most of the people that I went to university with were only there because they needed that piece of paper to get the job that they wanted. A few of us were lucky enough to really enjoy our time, but most of my peers didn't. There should be an option for those people that lets them get the job training they need without the extra years' worth of academics, and right now there just isn't.

The irony is that most of the students who were there because they wanted to broaden their horizons were, ahem, "mature students" -- people in their thirties and forties who made the decision to go to school not because they had to but because they wanted to. Most of the younger students were only there for a job (excepting the scarce few who were there to dabble in far-left politics before settling down and becoming The Man that the next generation of student politicians rails against).

Most of the kids who were there because they had to be there ended up soured on the idea of higher education and see it not as a means to self-improvement but as an imposition, just like a fourteen year old sees high school. What good does it do to drag those people through school? Left to their own devices some of them might decide to attend later in life of their own accord and actually take something away from the experience, and that would be a better result for everyone.
Jack Cade wrote:In that respect, I see the sense in what Warcry says about the sort of false 'pomp' of degrees, although I'd say it cuts both ways - there are a tonne of jobs you can't get after graduating because you're considered to be overqualified, which is equally bizarre.
I don't think the comparison is especially fair, really. Someone with a degree will have a harder time finding a menial low-paying job because the employer (quite rightly) assumes they'll jump ship as soon as something better comes along. Someone without a degree is stuck in that some menial low-paying job for life and can't even hope for something better, unless they win the proverbial lottery and somehow get promoted to management from the shop floor. And even if they do, they'd have a much harder time finding another job at that level than someone with far less experience but a piece of paper that says BA or BSc. It's easy to see who's better off in the long run.

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Post by Yaya » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:34 pm

Warcry wrote: Most of the people that I went to university with were only there because they needed that piece of paper to get the job that they wanted. A few of us were lucky enough to really enjoy our time, but most of my peers didn't. There should be an option for those people that lets them get the job training they need without the extra years' worth of academics, and right now there just isn't.

The irony is that most of the students who were there because they wanted to broaden their horizons were, ahem, "mature students" -- people in their thirties and forties who made the decision to go to school not because they had to but because they wanted to. Most of the younger students were only there for a job (excepting the scarce few who were there to dabble in far-left politics before settling down and becoming The Man that the next generation of student politicians rails against).

Most of the kids who were there because they had to be there ended up soured on the idea of higher education and see it not as a means to self-improvement but as an imposition, just like a fourteen year old sees high school. What good does it do to drag those people through school? Left to their own devices some of them might decide to attend later in life of their own accord and actually take something away from the experience, and that would be a better result for everyone.
This. All this.
"But the Costa story featuring Starscream? Fantastic! This guy is "The One", I just know it, just from these few pages. "--Yaya, who is never wrong.

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Post by bumblemusprime » Thu Dec 16, 2010 8:09 pm

Yaya wrote:
bumblemusprime wrote:What you seem to be arguing for, Yaya, is exactly what places like University of Phoenix (who I teach for, by the way, therefore this is actually a qualified opinion for once) do--they provide only a few specialized degrees based on practicality, encourage specialization to the point of offering quick doctorates, offer mostly online classes so that students can be working professionals, and emphasize REEEE-SULTS in short time..
Now you're talkin.
But the quality of education is lower. There's no way around it. I didn't have Warcry's experience in my undergrad or Master's--a factory producing specific white-collar workers--but with the for-profit schools, that is exactly what we are going for. It's a marriage of college with trade school, which you see as a good thing, but which cuts out much of the enriching experience of college.

I mean, if you're getting a business degree and you're a flaming Creationist who believes that biology is a bunch of bunk, I'm sorry, but you need to be in a curriculum that forces you to take biology. Traditional college exposes students to ideas and experiences they could actively avoid, and that is GOOD for them.
Best First wrote:I didn't like it. They don't have mums, or dads, or children. And they turn into stuff. And they don't eat Monster Munch or watch Xena: Warrior Princess. Or do one big poo in the morning and another one in the afternoon. I bet they weren't even excited by and then subsequently disappointed by Star Wars Prequels. Or have a glass full of spare change near their beds. That they don't have.

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Post by Yaya » Fri Dec 17, 2010 5:40 am

bumblemusprime wrote:
I mean, if you're getting a business degree and you're a flaming Creationist who believes that biology is a bunch of bunk, I'm sorry, but you need to be in a curriculum that forces you to take biology. Traditional college exposes students to ideas and experiences they could actively avoid, and that is GOOD for them.
Unless I've taken biology before in, oh, I don't know, 9th or 10th grade of high school, which also has a forced curriculum.

Again, many of the classes I took in college I had already taken in high school. Chemistry, biology, physics, literature, social studies, algebra, history, Western civilization, Spanish. All in high school, like most students.

Taking higher levels of these classes in college didn't make them more appealing to me.

So why is it that I should go to college and be forced to take these again?
"But the Costa story featuring Starscream? Fantastic! This guy is "The One", I just know it, just from these few pages. "--Yaya, who is never wrong.

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Post by Jack Cade » Fri Dec 17, 2010 3:11 pm

Yaya wrote:That's an exaggeration, I would say. I mean, I recognize that college can be facilitative in intellectual development, but again, not crucial, particulary when all citizens have access to books at the public library and used books for cheap, even the very same books used in college, on Amazon.

In a nut shell, for many, the price of college is too costly for the benefit gained from it.

And you know what we call something that isn't worth the price we pay for it. Yep. A rip off.
That's exactly why it's preferable for the state to bear some of the burden. It should be made to be worth the price.

So take, for example, the case of the bright kid and has been told by some teachers that he could do really well academically. But he also wants to make a quick buck because he's young and wants a car of his own, and feels like he's ready to work hard. He's got a choice here. There's no 'destiny' - he could go one way or t'other, and things will probably work out for him either way.

The higher you put the fees, the more likely he is to choose the latter option. So what, you say, as long as he's happy? The 'so what' is that both our countries need intellectuals and intellectual discussion, and people who have studied subjects deeply for a long time are better placed to engage in that.

I just don't see how you can say having a local library is enough, even *if* they stocked work of the quantity and quality that university libraries do (which they don't). I can agree with you that further education isn't 'crucial' to being able to engage, but I don't agree that my example was much of an exaggeration - it is extremely advantageous to those who are (or, through education, become) serious.

We're already in a position where the ordinary citizen has a hard time responding to arguments for change that impact them directly, and ends up quoting some claptrap from a newspaper because it's the only place they get their facts. Governments and big businesses employ armies of brainboxes to come up with complex and ingenious ways to cloak their agendas in 'friendly' terms, and we desperately need people who can critically analyse what they're doing, from the perspectives of multifarious disciplines. It's just not enough to have a world of Yayas and Jack Cades reading library books in their spare time. You need people who don't have to look on wikipedia to come up with a dozen counter-examples, people who can spot a non-sequitur a mile away, people who come up with big ideas and theories, people who translate them into ordinary language, people who put them into art, etc etc.
Denyer wrote:Dense theory, to give a slightly biased opinion, tends to be so either because the author is exercising a particular vocabulary (these type like to redefine terms) or because they genuinely believe they've come up with something new and either haven't found or don't cite large amounts of material covering much the same thing.
Where does Heidegger fit into this? Or Locke? Or Shakespeare? I'm not talking about students getting right up to date with everything happening in a given area - three years of higher education is barely enough to get down the fundamentals in a particular area of most arts and humanities. Human knowledge is vast, and we come out of school knowing pretty much sweet FA - enough to get by, sure, but not to keep this standard of civilisation going.
Denyer wrote:There's something to be said for being in situations in which you're forced to read and engage with material you wouldn't otherwise, but the question is whether a traditional university setup justifies the costs.
And that question depends on what we mean when we talk about the 'value' of education. The current administration seems to think it comes down entirely to what you put into the economy. I can't be sure, but you seem to be confining the notion of value to individual gains and social mobility, which is only part of it.
Denyer wrote:If this is a measure of success for universities, the outputs seem to be poor to the point one could conclude that it's become just another mechanism for producing sheep.
Not a 'measure' in terms of: everyone should be coming out of the doors as revolutionaries. Even if they're only producing only a handful of professional intellects every year, that's something. It's not as if the others all might as well not have bothered - different people will get different things from it. For some, sure, it's just a qualification. For others, it means getting out of the town they grew up in. For some, it's an important step towards them becoming an active intellectual force.
Denyer wrote:Skills that aren't exercised tend to atrophy, but even so an effective learning experience is one that produces skills that transfer. Software use, as well as engineering, can be as much a craft as anything else involving tools.
I don't mean general software use. I mean, say, specifically learning to use your company's clunky in-house software (when you already know how to use similar software), in the context of a never-ending stream of learning obligations that don't really exercise any part of your brain other than the one that imitates.
Denyer wrote:Quite some time post-university, university education doesn't seem to have exercised a monopoly on intelligence amongst people I've encountered, nor vice-versa.
Why should it? The point is the use the intelligence has been put to. The 'better communicators and organisers' could equally be making the BP defence case run smoothly and efficiently or they could be working out ways to solve long-standing social problems. What's truly so offensive about this legislation isn't that it 'destroys' the university system but that it is attempting to make it an arm of corporate culture. It hijacks, rather than defeats intelligence. Of course the arts and humanities should suffer because a well-developed set of moral/philosophical principles or an awareness of long-term sociological impact could get in the way of making money.
Denyer wrote:Reduce the availability of traditional university courses and I don't think you give up serious thought.
Oh, not entirely. After all, we had it while unis were only open to the elite. But scupper traditional university courses entirely, replacing them not with a better modern equivalent but glorified business training centres, and you land a fairly palpable hit.
Denyer wrote:True, but degree level is the wrong focus. The place of deconstructing newspaper writing is in formative curriculums (and gratifyingly seems to be in decently-taught KS3/KS4 provision.) Leave emphasis of it any later and it'd reach only a very limited audience.
Sure, start it off sooner. But it's only a fragment of a larger subject, and even that can't just be taught, done and dusted in a couple of years. If we could stuff the teaching of all important knowledge, skill and discipline into the school syllabus, then we wouldn't need any higher education at all. But I don't think we can get very much of it in at all.
Denyer wrote:I'd say the opposite is true for better-run organisations in most sectors, and also that "follow the prescribed path" is something that's ingrained into academia. It's just a different regurgitation process.
You follow the prescribed path to get the grades. But at the same time, if you're there just to get the grades, then something has gone wrong. The prescription is more of a kick-start and watermark to the processes that should be put into motion, rather than the desired end result of the discipline. In other words, no one really wants or has a use for those undergrad essays.

Better-run organisations? Maybe. In which case, most are badly run.
Denyer wrote:For the others art doesn't go away in the absence of subsidies any more than it goes away in the absence of big record companies.
Again, not entirely, but it's sufficiently dimmed or watered down when you reduce the proportion who can understand it on any level beyond entertainment.

The 'people creating or performing because they want to' are still influenced in what they create by the environment around them, and it takes particular strength to persevere with something 'serious' when the apparent better reaction comes from dumbing down. That strength can come from an understanding of art beyond the immediate environment, one which is, ideally, nurtured by a deeper education into that art.
Sidekick Books - Dangerously untested collaborative literature

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bumblemusprime
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Post by bumblemusprime » Mon Dec 20, 2010 2:13 am

To revive this slightly flagging debate:

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_c ... digms.html
Best First wrote:I didn't like it. They don't have mums, or dads, or children. And they turn into stuff. And they don't eat Monster Munch or watch Xena: Warrior Princess. Or do one big poo in the morning and another one in the afternoon. I bet they weren't even excited by and then subsequently disappointed by Star Wars Prequels. Or have a glass full of spare change near their beds. That they don't have.

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Post by Jack Cade » Mon Dec 20, 2010 3:08 pm

Good video!
Sidekick Books - Dangerously untested collaborative literature

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