Friday, January 31, 2014

The State of the Education

This week we had the State of the Union and State of the State addresses. I didn't listen to or watch either. I guess I'm a bit disillusioned with our government right now. Maybe I don't want to listen to our president talk about creating jobs, when he has never had a real job himself. Maybe I don't want to listen to our governor talk about how he wants 2/3 of adults in our state to have college degrees, when he does not have a college degree himself.

I think jobs and education are important, but I think we're doing it all wrong. It shouldn't be surprising that these all came across my feed reader or FB almost all at the exact same time a day or two ago, given the mix of RSS readers I subscribe to, but I thought they all fit together nicely.

First is Roger Schank's post about the need for a different kind of university that trains people for jobs instead of training people to be professors.
Most universities have copied the “training of intellectuals and professors model of education” and have disregarded the idea that future employment might be of major concern to students. Professors can do this because they are forced by no one to teach job skills. They don’t really know much about job skills in any case. The major focus of a professor at any research university is research. Teaching is low on their priority list and teaching job skills is far very from any real concern. So, economics departments teach theories of economics and not how to run a business, and law schools teach the theory of law and not how to be a lawyer, and medical schools teach the science of the human body but not how to be a doctor. Psychology focusses on how to run an experiment, when students really want to know why they are screwed up or why they can’t get along. Mathematics departments teach stuff that no one will ever use, and education departments forget to teach people how to teach.

Still we hear that everyone must go to college. Why?
Right after that came this about regulators in California threatening to fine and shut down schools that teach students how to code and practically guarantee them a job immediately upon completion of the program.
In the learn-to-code movement, online schools and in-person courses are springing up to meet a huge need for more developers across a wide range of industries. For a price, these schools offer training in digital skills, such as software development, data science, and user experience design.

Many of these boot camps have a strong social purpose: They specialize in bringing diversity to the tech sector and in helping underemployed or unemployed Californians find jobs. Hackbright, for instance, specializes in teaching women to code so they can compete for lucrative computer engineering jobs.

These bootcamps have not yet been approved by the [the government] and are therefore being classified as unlicensed postsecondary educational institutions that must seek compliance or be forcibly shut down.
And finally this brilliant Ted Talk by Temple Grandin, where she explains how we need all kinds of minds, including both verbal and visual thinkers.
The thing is, the normal brain ignores the details. Well, if you're building a bridge, details are pretty important because it will fall down if you ignore the details. And one of my big concerns with a lot of policy things today is things are getting too abstract. People are getting away from doing hands-on stuff. I'm really concerned that a lot of the schools have taken out the hands-on classes, because art, and classes like that, those are the classes where I excelled.

What can visual thinkers do when they grow up? They can do graphic design, all kinds of stuff with computers, photography, industrial design. The pattern thinkers, they're the ones that are going to be your mathematicians, your software engineers, your computer programmers, all of those kinds of jobs. And then you've got the word minds. They make great journalists, and they also make really, really good stage actors.

The world needs different kinds of minds to work together.
...not more professors