Educated idiots
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25-11-2011, 12:34 PM
Educated idiots
I could not think of a truly clever title but the above title will suffice and there did not seem to be a truly appropriate section for this but education has to do with health and psychology so that too will suffice.

The main topic for this thread is the state of education. The great thing about this forum is that I have noticed multiple countries being represented, so we should be able to get a good general view of what is going on in classrooms in countries other than our own.

Let me first start by saying that I love to learn and that my goal is to remain in academia by eventually becoming a professor at the collegiate level (preferrably at a small college that is teaching-focused as opposed to research-focused). So, I am certainly pro-education and I believe that most individuals would benefit with a college education, but only if they take it seriously and get a degree that is useful. And by useful I mean a degree that actually requires them to develop critical thinking skills and to learn the material as opposed to memorization.

So, education in America is something that I see as in a great state of peril (too many things are). The quality of education has been greatly compromised by several factors
1) an attitude of "teaching to the test" and not actually requiring students to learn anything.
2) a general lack of enthusiasm for learning. There are far to many college students who are only there because they think they have to be and not because they are there to learn
3) a lack of responsibility and accountability for your own grade. Grades are arbitrary and often times don't reflect your actual amount of knowledge in a given subject but they are necessary in our current system for delineating the amount of knowledge the student has gained. I don't think that most students would want to go back to the original system of all oral exams in order to pass. But most students don't take responsibility for the grade they earn. If they do poorly, they blame the teacher or complain that the material was "too hard" or that "the professor did not cover that in class."
4) a restructuring of the degrees available for a student to obtain that has created too many options. The number of majors and minors is staggering for most institutions and most of them are useless options because they don't promote learning and instead promote memorization. Or the major takes them on a course of class that have no application except to a very small portion of the population and becomes information that is never used and wasted time. Example: going to a private institution and majoring in "retail management." No joke, I had a girl in one of my classes doing just this very thing. $50,000 a year in tuition to get a degree in retail management. First off, get a business degree instead and secondly get it from an institution that costs half as much and still get the same quality of education.
5) cost. The cost for a 4 year degree is outrageous (even for state universities). Tuition continues to go up and the quality of the education continues to go down.
6) admission standards are on the decline. Schools are allowing more students in that ever and in order to do so, they are lowering their admission standards. This means larger classes, which means less one on one instruction and an almost required decrease in the amount of material covered in each class. Not to mention a need to make the material easier so a larger portion passes (the idealistic approach of letting half the class fail is not reasonable because the university would quickly can your ass).

What else do you guys have and what examples from your experiences can you provide?

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley
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25-11-2011, 04:54 PM
RE: Educated idiots
All I can tell you is that Canada has taken a very negative attitude towards education. They still tell you that education is good an necessary but then while you aren't lookin they close down school after school. Within four years and two cities I've seen 8 schools close down and only two of those got reopened. I saw two schools merge into a middle school and lay off all the old staff. Just today I saw a commercial for one of the few museums we have begging for money before they get closed down.
Meanwhile our city continues opening malls. And takes bribes from contractors so that they can build more condos that no one lives in. Also thy spent money on a water plan that was in the hundreds o thousands. And it was rejected when voted on. Clearly the priority where I live is for the council members to retire happily while my city turns to a steaming pile of shit. Oh and we are heavily Mennonite.... Related? Probably.

"I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments." -Jim Morrison
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25-11-2011, 06:10 PM (This post was last modified: 25-11-2011 06:23 PM by Peterkin.)
RE: Educated idiots
A couple of things have been sticking in my craw:

Far too many courses are business oriented. When the product is disgorged, it will be able to do only one generic thing: sit behind a manager's desk and order people around who actually know how to solve technical problems - and s/he won't let them. Even if the degree is not explicitly in business administration, the end purpose of post-secondary education must be a slot in the business machine.

University and college instructors are politically hobbled. Can't have opinions or convictions, can't write controversial papers or letters, can't lecture on topics they feel strongly about, can't piss off the conservative alumni or corporate sponsor, can't take part in political actions, can't take a public stand against religion in the classroom or military domination of the laboratory.
Students are similarly restricted in their self-expression, but, sadly, most of them don't seem to mind - or even notice. The ones who care are often in trouble.
Many people may say this is all to the good: I'm not forking out all that money to have my kid radicalized. But social change, creative departure and innovation used to come from involved youth. What chance is there without their energy and passion?

Too little is demanded of students throughout their education. Way down in elementary school, they're not challenged to venture out of their tv and computer game circumscribed comfort zone. Critical thinking, originality and fresh approaches are not encouraged; full competence in basic skill is not required. The work is too easy, and repetitious - with no negative consequences if they don't bother to learn.... which, who cares, anyway? It's booooring.

Socially, i think it's a terrible idea to isolate people into age- or peer-groups, with little access to adults with different skill-sets and to children of different ages, backgrounds and abilities from their own.

I have - have had for a very long time - an alternate proposal for education at the 6 to 18 age levels, but it's never going to happen, because it's work intensive and demanding of attention to real live children instead of desk units or dollar sinks.

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25-11-2011, 06:53 PM
RE: Educated idiots
(25-11-2011 06:10 PM)Peterkin Wrote:  A couple of things have been sticking in my craw:

Far too many courses are business oriented. When the product is disgorged, it will be able to do only one generic thing: sit behind a manager's desk and order people around who actually know how to solve technical problems - and s/he won't let them. Even if the degree is not explicitly in business administration, the end purpose of post-secondary education must be a slot in the business machine.

University and college instructors are politically hobbled. Can't have opinions or convictions, can't write controversial papers or letters, can't lecture on topics they feel strongly about, can't piss off the conservative alumni or corporate sponsor, can't take part in political actions, can't take a public stand against religion in the classroom or military domination of the laboratory.
Students are similarly restricted in their self-expression, but, sadly, most of them don't seem to mind - or even notice. The ones who care are often in trouble.
Many people may say this is all to the good: I'm not forking out all that money to have my kid radicalized. But social change, creative departure and innovation used to come from involved youth. What chance is there without their energy and passion?

Too little is demanded of students throughout their education. Way down in elementary school, they're not challenged to venture out of their tv and computer game circumscribed comfort zone. Critical thinking, originality and fresh approaches are not encouraged; full competence in basic skill is not required. The work is too easy, and repetitious - with no negative consequences if they don't bother to learn.... which, who cares, anyway? It's booooring.

Socially, i think it's a terrible idea to isolate people into age- or peer-groups, with little access to adults with different skill-sets and to children of different ages, backgrounds and abilities from their own.

I have - have had for a very long time - an alternate proposal for education at the 6 to 18 age levels, but it's never going to happen, because it's work intensive and demanding of attention to real live children instead of desk units or dollar sinks.

I am VERY interested to hear your alternate proposal to education. I too, think that the way children are educated is abhorrant (ok, well you didn't say that, but I think I may have an ally here).

Please share more!

So many cats, so few good recipes.
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25-11-2011, 07:22 PM
RE: Educated idiots
As a university student in Western Canada, I am frustrated with the education system here. The president of my university has basically said that the market determines which faculties or programs get money because corporations are only going to invest in things that they think are going to be economically viable. So, of course, the Arts faculty gets squat. (Oh, and did I mention that all the faculties are getting budget cuts while the top admins have been getting raises? While Alberta has the second-highest tuition rates in Canada, at that. Makes me despair some days.)

Also, the quality of teaching in post-secondary institutions is touch-and-go. It's really a gamble choosing your classes 'cause you might get a prof who's an excellent teacher, who inspires you to learn, who makes you care about the stuff you're learning; or you'll get someone who knows their stuff really well, but can't teach worth shit. I think that post-secondary institutions should place at least some focus on teaching, rather than only on research. In reality, an elementary or high-school teacher has to go through a lot of training before being able to teach, but a prof doesn't even have to know anything about education to teach students. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

Finally, in a large institution like the one I'm at, I feel like a cog in the machine. I'm just another walking, talking, tuition-paying organism who doesn't get a say in my own education. I want a degree that combines both art and science? Nope, sorry, doesn't work that way. You can major in an art or a science, but you're gonna be a part of the faculty that your major belongs to, and there's no effort in promoting inter-disciplinary learning. I'm in the Arts, so I only have to take 2 science courses (though I've taken about 4 or 5, but I have only so much room for options...). Basically, what I'm trying to say is that everything is so damned segregated that I don't feel like I'm getting the comprehensive learning experience that I desire Sad

"Remember, my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker." - Dr. Van Helsing, Dracula
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25-11-2011, 10:35 PM
RE: Educated idiots
(25-11-2011 06:53 PM)Stark Raving Wrote:  I am VERY interested to hear your alternate proposal to education. I too, think that the way children are educated is abhorrant (ok, well you didn't say that, but I think I may have an ally here).

Please share more!

Ho - my opening! Abhorrent isn't too strong.
Our children are so, so, so precious, right? And yet, as a society, we don't care about schools, or the process of learning and developing. It's not that hard to figure out: we and they are the same species! Pay attention to them and see how each one responds to different methods of instruction: some are tactile, some are verbal, some are visual; quick and slow, intuitive and reflective; some need more time alone; some learn best in pairs or teams. A good elementary school teacher does figure out how to reach every student, but s/he has too many kids and not enough time or freedom.

This could get far too long. Briefly, the main points are:
- An environment that's rich in material - and i don't mean electronics; i mean real stuff: mud and cookie dough, fabric and wood, water and stone. Very young children are exposed to far too much garishly-coloured plastic crap. They need to be outdoors more, introduced to more kinds of environment and be included in more social activities - and taught how to behave in various social situations.
Schools don't all have to be the same - they just all have to be good.

- 16-20 in a classroom is enough.

- Big kids should instruct little kids for part of every day, especially in sports and games; look out for them, set and example, and play with them.

- Between 12 and 16, classroom time is largely wasted. Adolescents can't concentrate well on academic subjects. During those years, they should be out on practical projects: build things, repair stuff, grow vegetables, drive vehicles, milk cows, cook, sew, dig, paint, scrub, weld, hammer... do real work under the tutelage of adults who know how to use tools and draw plans. In their spare time, they can learn music and art, read, dance, play sports and moon over the opposite sex. But, for heaven's sake, don't give them so much leisure to agonize over what they think of one another. Keep them busy and get them physically tired - while growing strong, independent, competent and confident.
(In these projects, they will see exactly what math is good for, and why clear, precise communication is important: they will appreciate the role of theory; why you need to understand how things work.)

- At somewhere between 16 and 18, let those who desire it back into the classroom. Now they know what interests them, what they have aptitude for and can focus on their studies.
- Those who do not fit in the classroom can go on to trades, and learn things like literature, philosophy and history in a less formal setting, not aimed at exams or grades, under the guidance of adults who know these subjects.

- At every level, children and adolescents should be given talks by people with special knowledge and have regular small-group discussions on a variety of subjects.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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26-11-2011, 09:34 AM
 
RE: Educated idiots
(25-11-2011 10:35 PM)Peterkin Wrote:  Between 12 and 16, classroom time is largely wasted. Adolescents can't concentrate well on academic subjects. During those years, they should be out on practical projects: build things, repair stuff, grow vegetables, drive vehicles, milk cows, cook, sew, dig, paint, scrub, weld, hammer... do real work under the tutelage of adults who know how to use tools and draw plans.

I couldn't agree more with Peterkin on this one.

When I was 12, one day I did not feel well enough to participate in Phys Ed class, so the teacher sent me to the shop to help our resident handyman. He was building a drawer for a desk, from pine boards, on a table saw. He was making dove-tail joints for the sides of the drawer and I still feel, today, almost 60 years later, the thrill and the excitement of discovery: so that is how you make dove-tail fittings!. It resulted in a life-long love of carpentry, construction and even wood-carving.

Just one episode out of the classroom!
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26-11-2011, 08:24 PM
 
RE: Educated idiots
I started a new thread on The best teacher you ever head / were for those stories that you want to tell about the positive side of education, so this thread can be used for analyzing the problems we have with the current one.

I hope a lot of you will participate in both threads because these are extremely important topics. Smile
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27-11-2011, 12:05 AM
RE: Educated idiots
Mr Peterkin, I couldn’t agree more.
If anything you may need to further though…
By the age of ten to twelve or so most kids know what they can and can’t do and what they want/don’t want to do.

Interested in history? Or the arts? Then put them in those classes that will teach them the things that make them passionate about learning.
And have them linked in, history and modern social reform with current events and philosophy.
Arts with social studies and history along with modern media.
Engineering with physics and drafting, drafting linking in with freehand art classes.
Biology and horticulture with chemistry and linked into a little physics.

Those staples like maths and English would need to remain but be throttled back as those whose futures are in another direction pass a proper competency exam.
Driving/road craft should be taught from a younger age and maybe we will see the road toll drop.
Debating is so important yet is neglected.
Sport is good for fitness but aside from the lucky 0.01% there is little future in it, so why is so much time and money put into it?

I could go on for pages with suggestions, and would argue your case till I ran out of breath.

I know where you’re coming from though.
Apprenticeships where dropped across the board back in the late 80’s in NZ and only in the last decade or so have been making a comeback.
I have worked with a few “mechanics” and I use the term loosely, where all their training was done in a classroom.
Handwriting was beautiful…
But workmanship was in some cases criminally negligent.
All had the paperwork, but dangerous and often clueless on why I was constantly telling them to pull it apart again and wait for me.

But I fear with our PCness wrapping the world in cotton wool and the “easy to use” dumbing down of everything from cars being safe for us so we no longer have to be, to computer games giving achievements for the simplest of tasks your dream may remain just that.
“You hit a button! Achievement unlocked!”

But I hope I’m so wrong, for the sake of our future as a species I hope I’m wrong.

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. Friedrich Nietzsche
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27-11-2011, 12:35 AM
RE: Educated idiots
Brilliant Peterkin!

I too believe that during those early teenage years children should be taken from the classroom and taught 'life' skills. That is when they require the most guidance and direction as these are crucial years which ultimately shape their future.
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