Friday, June 06, 2008

Where Will Learning Take Place?

It seems as if the schools in America are not producing the quality of output many Americans desire. There is a lot of "woe is me" out there. However, it does not reflect in any way what is really going on.

Let us take my case, an impecunious student with a lot of time on my hands. I want to learn something useful. What do I do? I get on the internet and start studying. What else do I know? I know a high school drop out who is studying Fortran to improve his mental skills. What else? I saw a community develop over the last year and three-quarters to learn plasma physics, electrodynamics, vacuum tube design principles, high voltage construction and laboratory safety, and a whole host of other disciplines and sub disciplines all with the idea of furthering the study of the Bussard Fusion Reactor. What are its strengths? Where will it need improvement? Where are the "and then you do the Magic" steps? All done to the point where the old hands can teach the newbies. At this point I'd say we have 50 to 200 people well enough trained to form design teams to build and install test reactors and power reactors (if and when they become available). And how did that all evolve? About 5 or 10 people started discussing the idea at the NASA Spaceflight blog and then all of a sudden there was a critical mass. A news group formed, a discussion group, and a number of blogs were created. All through the magic of the Internet.

So yeah. The motivated can get an education that is down right amazing. So how do we get them all motivated? I don't know. Bright kids always seem to find a way. That is very encouraging. It means our knowledge capital will be expanded. The not so bright watch American idol. There may be something you can do about it. I don't know what it is.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Joseph Sixpack said...

What is most disturbing about this is that there seems to be no efforts in most job application processes to weed out those who have solid understanding and enthusiasm of/for a body of knowledge. HR departments rely more on credentials.

Though schools like to portray themselves as above such motives as profit, they are indeed after it. And following the profit motive, schools are focused on churning out well-credentialed students, rather than well-educated students. Schools continue to be populated with students seeking a degree while avoiding the knowledge signified. Businesses continue to hire based upon the knowledge signified. Meanwhile, kids (and adults) who are really passionate about a subject but do not want to deal with the structured, stifling, anti-creative environment of most schools are simply learning the material, learning how to apply it, but have no "credentials" to demonstrate this in the 30 seconds that an HR worker dedicates to scanning resumes.

Our obsession with credentials creates an unnecessary and quickly expanding cost for individuals seeking certain careers, creates unnecessary pressure upon businesses to increase wages to a degree that justifies those tuition costs (whether incurred before employment or as part of a compensation package), wastes significant time for all involved, causes fundamental changes in academia that shift it away from an institution of learning and scholarship towards one of mass production of credentialed know-nothings, and it skews the labor force towards individuals with acumen for finger-drilling an academic curriculum rather than individuals with acumen for what they are hired for.

M. Simon said...


I agree with all your points. I can't tell you how many jobs I have had where I was "unqualified" for the position I held.

That will change over time. It is early days yet.