Posts Tagged ‘education’

The tension of knowledge versus credentials

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Let’s face it: the major advantage of college is often not the accumulation of knowledge, which a dedicated person can accumulate on his own through personal study and experience, but the granting of credentials, which is controlled by the institutional academic system. Because of the monopoly the academic system has on credentials, people who have already accumulated knowledge have very few ways to vet themselves when it comes to what they may already know.

At one time, many people just accepted this process and went ahead and got degrees because there was no other way. Now, however, the pathway is not as simple and is far more onerous than it was before.

First, there is the problem of the cost of modern education. Granted that people with degrees make more than people without them, the cost of a paying off the debt accrued to get a degree also represents a significant drag on the finances of otherwise successful people. Many people fail to get degrees because of the financial hardship such a pursuit creates rather than because they academically incapable of finishing.

Second, there is the problem of “general education”. The academic system has determined that, in order to be well rounded, every degree candidate must accumulate dozens of hours in academic subjects that have little or anything to do with their actual academic pursuit. When coupled with cost, this phenomenon is, I believe, the predominant reason that many people fail to graduate.

Of course, the solutions to these problems are difficult and complex, but the problems themselves bring up a powerful question: should someone pursue a degree simply to have the credentials? Is the value of the credentials worth the cost of obtaining them?

I am curious what the rest of you think.

DLH

Complex and evolving: Education 2011

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

My views on education are complex and evolving. On one hand, I love learning and want to learn all I can. On the other hand, I am coming to the realization that I hate the process of formal education.

My hatred of the process of formal education comes from the fact that it presumes too much about the commonality of the people involved in the process and denies too much about their differences. Formal education is, by definition, a process catering to the lowest common denominator. As a result, it stifles the most advanced so that everyone can advance.

In realizing that I hate the process of formal education, I have come to a point of view far more in keeping with the idea most famously expressed in the movie Good Will Hunting: “See the sad thing about a guy like you, is in about 50 years you’re gonna start doin’ some thinkin’ on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don’t do that. And two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin’ education you coulda’ got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library.”

As I see it, the fact of the matter is not that formal education educates someone but that it vets someone by comparing what they have learned, really on their own, to what someone else says they should know in order to be able to claim they know it. I find that whole idea repugnant because it denies that I can learn on my own, vet myself, and demonstrate my knowledge without someone else’s approval.

Now, I know there are all kinds of people who have benefited from the formal education process and are all the better for it, but I now realize the reason I am not one of those people is because I find the process too constraining.

Of course, now the problem becomes what to do. How do I educate myself, establish myself, and promote myself if I intend to reject the process 99 percent of the modern world believes is the only way to do those things? I think I will do so by accomplishing those tasks on my own terms and by succeeding at what I intend to do. In order to do so, I must do them myself, and the only barrier, then, between me and success is myself.

So what does that mean for 2011? I think this will be a year for exploring the idea of self-education to its fullest extent, and I plan to share that journey with anyone who cares as much as I can.

DLH