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Author Topic: End the University as We Know It
Lalo
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quote:
Abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs. These constantly evolving programs would have sunset clauses, and every seven years each one should be evaluated and either abolished, continued or significantly changed. It is possible to imagine a broad range of topics around which such zones of inquiry could be organized: Mind, Body, Law, Information, Networks, Language, Space, Time, Media, Money, Life and Water.

Consider, for example, a Water program. In the coming decades, water will become a more pressing problem than oil, and the quantity, quality and distribution of water will pose significant scientific, technological and ecological difficulties as well as serious political and economic challenges. These vexing practical problems cannot be adequately addressed without also considering important philosophical, religious and ethical issues. After all, beliefs shape practices as much as practices shape beliefs.

A Water program would bring together people in the humanities, arts, social and natural sciences with representatives from professional schools like medicine, law, business, engineering, social work, theology and architecture. Through the intersection of multiple perspectives and approaches, new theoretical insights will develop and unexpected practical solutions will emerge.


http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/27/opinion/27taylor.html?em=&pagewanted=all

Simply BRILLIANT. I wish a program like this existed when I was younger -- my entire academic career's been dedicated to busywork nobody reads or cares about, least of all me or my professor. I've always been impossible envious of Harvard's Berkman Center for using its students to do something.

I swear I'll teach in this program if it's ever put in place. The lecture-paper-rinse-repeat model is irreparably broken.

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Jhai
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This sounds incredibly stupid, especially for undergraduates. And I'm a strong believer in the liberal arts.
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ReikoDemosthenes
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I would far, far, FAR rather see the Trivium and Quadrivium brought back. I do not in the least trust our modern society to re-invent that wheel, as we're already doing a haphazard job of trying to be interdisciplinary. Give me grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, and arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. And after that, law, medicine, and theology.

I agree that the system we have going now in many universities does not at all fit my learning style, but far better that we should return to the seven liberal arts than try to reinvent them in this society.

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Teshi
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Now, from my comments in the other university-related thread, you will be able to tell that I think that certain aspects of the university education are broken:

-- People educated beyond the requirements of the job.
-- Huge amounts of research that rarely gets applied.
-- Publish or perish culture (see above).

My question is--How do people get into, "humanities, arts, social and natural sciences" in the first place without the standard undergraduate basis-- how do people get into medicine without doing the requisite biology major? I feel like this would work better in addition to more standard majors rather than in replacement.

I feel like in order to really be fruitful, and still produce students with interests and specialized knowledge, this kind of interaction should be a parallel minor alongside normal coursework.

At university, I 'worked' in a group of people distributing media data (shall we say) to the population of residence. I swear, it was the only place at the university where real discussions took place between engineers, scientists and artists, graduate and undergraduates, first and fourth years.

I would have loved to participate in a more formal real-life group like this (but with fewer penis jokes*) that pitted interested people from different parts and stages of the university together once a week. This would constitute a minor (as opposed to a major). So someone could study English and History with a 'group' in Energy, for example.

*But plenty of humour. If it got too serious, it would take the fun out of it.

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Lisa
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You left out the idiotic bit about tight government regulation.
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Teshi
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Hi Reiko!
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nik
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We have a Water program. It's called Civil Engineering. Commonly associated focus groups would be Hydrology, Geotechnical/Soil Studies, and Environmental Engineering.

I'm all about getting diverse students and thinkers together to solve problems. For instance, in my senior design project to design a new parking deck for the campus, we worked with transportation, structural, geotechnical, and environmental students and professors. Very problem-focused, very community-thinking focused.

But where on EARTH does religious theology need to be anywhere near my parking deck? No where.
quote:
Originally posted by Lalo:
After all, beliefs shape practices as much as practices shape beliefs.

Beliefs stopped shaping the scientific community when we developed the Scientific Method. If it weren't for this, we would still *believe* the world to be flat and the sun to rotate around the earth.

The closest I can come to including philosophical debate into the sciences is environmental and practical civil ethics. But please keep philosophy and religion out of the scientific community. /rant

[ April 28, 2009, 08:11 PM: Message edited by: nik ]

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Teshi
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nik: I think that certain specializations would be more suited to certain Groups more than others.

People who study religion might be more suited to a Group that studies International Relations, Communications or Information, for example.

That said, I think scientific thinkers, as thinkers, are useful to arts discussions and arts thinkers, as thinkers, are useful to scientific discussions or problem solving.

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Tatiana
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The world's not round?

Hmmm, why am I always the last to know these things?

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Tatiana
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I personally think universities are good places to learn stuff, if you want to learn. My objections are mostly with primary and secondary education, which is completely broken in my opinion.
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fugu13
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Lalo: feel free. There's no barrier to you starting a college or university using such a setup. I doubt you'd even have a problem becoming accredited and having your students be eligible for loans.
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nik
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^^Whoops!

Yes. And add Early Childhood development to that as well.

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Strider
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This is somewhat similar to what Persig talked about in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I always thought it would be a much better way to learn.
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The White Whale
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quote:
Originally posted by nik:
We have a Water program. It's called Civil Engineering. Commonly associated focus groups would be Hydrology, Geotechnical/Soil Studies, and Environmental Engineering.

Yes, that's true. In fact, I started as a Civil Engineer, realized how boring and specified it was, switched to environmental engineering, also noticed how specified it was, and now am a graduate working on climate and the atmosphere. In my experience, the civil and environmental engineering programs did not come close to covering what this proposed "Water Program" would cover. They were mostly to train you to work for a firm that does what their clients want, within the rules and regulations. Nothing about justice or the big picture things that deal with water.

That being said, I don't agree with the NY Times article. This semester I've been a part of a interdisciplinary seminar called Climate Change Controversies (CCC) that has economists, ecologists, atmospheric scientists and modelers ( [Big Grin] ), urban planners, philosophers, applied mathematicians, and agriculturalists. It's a wonderful class, and from what I've heard and understand it's a rare type of seminar. There's no need to knock down all the existing universities and build new ones, but there is a need for more interdisciplinary work.

It's not easy. Have you ever tried to get a economist, scientist, and philosopher to agree to anything? It's a nightmare, but a very educational nightmare.

And after I finish my degree, I would rather get a position working for a Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department than at a sun setting "Information" or "Water" or "Life" program.

That list of potential departments sounds too hippie-free-love to me.

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scholarette
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I think that it would work well at a graduate level, but I think in some ways, you are producing people specialized in the wrong areas. Biology can be useful for water or body or many things, but specializing in water doesn't seem as applicable to other fields.
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Lalo
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I'm genuinely surprised at the general reaction in this thread.

Has anyone heard of Martha Groom? She's a professor at the University of Washington-Bothell, and recently conducted an experiment in which her students were assigned her students the creation of a Wikipedia page rather than just another essay. I think that was simply genius -- it wouldn't incorporate the same critical analysis of a term paper, but it would be excellent training in a practical application of publishing, peer review, and higher scrutiny from more people. As well as doing a demonstrable public service. Taylor's applying this on a much grander scale which would yield far better results.

Students have enormous creative potential that goes to absolute waste in the current system. I'm a passionate advocate of homosexual rights and a supporter of illegal immigrants, but any work I do in those arenas must necessarily be extracurricular -- my university in no way supports or organizes student political action, not even in politics classes! Perhaps they shouldn't take positions, but universities should at least organize students in fundamental, practical efforts to contact Congressmen, organize funding, prepare public debates... which require not only poli sci kids, but business, information technology, history, religion, and so on in an vastly multidisciplinary list.

Give us real work and make it meaningful, or we'll tune out and play Xbox. I'm impossibly jealous of Harvard for having the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where just last year a professor used a team of students to fight the RIAA in the Tenenbaum case. At the same time, I was writing an essay nobody would read on a subject I don't care about (post-modern fiction, which no decent person should care about) for a degree with no practical purpose. Like every other student I know, I'm idling my engines waiting for the chance to do something.

If I were a high school student again, I would leap at the chance to study at an alternative Columbia "taskforce" program dedicated to solving the riddle of a specific problem -- whether that's homosexual rights (politics, history, law, genetics, theology), oil depletion (Middle Eastern studies, geology, electrical engineering, environmental science, urban planning), illegal immigration (economics, Middle Eastern studies, sociology, international relations, law), or really any global issue that requires addressing.

With the Tesla car company, a bunch of IT nerds got together and designed a car. And it's goddamn brilliant. Paul Krugman's an economist who went into journalism. Cross-disciplinary studies, particularly ones aimed at solving a specific problem, are absolutely genius.

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The White Whale
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Here at Cornell, as a graduate, you have to have three advisers on your committee, one in your department and two that are required to be outside of your department. So there is a interdisciplinary requirement here, at least on paper.
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Kwea
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Meh. Sounds like a nightmare.
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Mocke
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This is foolish.
First - If you don't pick up interdisciplinary study at school, then chances are you are doing it wrong.

Second - if you want to solve a problem while you are at school, what is stopping you? I have seen students form companies while still in school. They saw a need and filled it using their knowledge and the resources the university put at their disposal. Instead of tuning out and playing x-box, why not get involved?

Finally - I prefer going to study in a Physics and Astronomy department, using my time to do experiments, learning how to experiment, using telescopes, and analysing data. I do not want to join some group where we spend half the time talking about the implications of our work. Annnnnd, I know most people around me feel the same.

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Lalo
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quote:
Originally posted by Mocke:
I prefer going to study in a Physics and Astronomy department, using my time to do experiments, learning how to experiment, using telescopes, and analysing data. I do not want to join some group where we spend half the time talking about the implications of our work. Annnnnd, I know most people around me feel the same.

I'd be disappointed if the group did nothing but talk about the implications of astronomy, too. Let's set it against a realistic problem -- would you like to work in a concentration dedicated to solving the problem of establishing colonies on other planets? Or in designing a better spacecraft and deciding where to send it? You'd really rather jump the hurdles of general coursework?

I'm not saying there isn't still a role for traditional "pure" sciences and arts, but I'd MUCH rather have the majority of disciplines dedicated at least in some degree to solving specific issues.

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Jhai
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Why do you consider general coursework hurdles to be jumped through? Or, as you mentioned above, busywork? It sounds like your particular educational experience was lacking - a good undergraduate education should mean that you were learning important foundational material in all of your classes.
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ketchupqueen
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I have met very few people who didn't have at least a semester's worth (all together) of classes that were pretty useless but were required (or were their only available option to meet the requirements) for graduation.
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Paul Goldner
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I don't consider my art history course, roman culture course, intro political science course, or english writing course, to have been useless. And those were my requirements that I might not have taken on my own.
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ketchupqueen
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Well, you are lucky, then. [Smile]
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Eaquae Legit
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quote:
Originally posted by nik:
But where on EARTH does religious theology need to be anywhere near my parking deck? No where.

The closest I can come to including philosophical debate into the sciences is environmental and practical civil ethics. But please keep philosophy and religion out of the scientific community. /rant

When your proposed parking deck involves digging up an ancient Jewish cemetery (as happened in my current town), having someone on hand to deal with the sensitive religion issues might actually be useful. There are cases where science needs a hand to be palatable to a community.

quote:
Beliefs stopped shaping the scientific community when we developed the Scientific Method. If it weren't for this, we would still *believe* the world to be flat and the sun to rotate around the earth.
And while we're at it, here's an example of belief still shaping at least one scientist's thoughts. Your complete fail at applying the scientific method to history, specifically. "People believed the world was flat!" is a ridiculous and easily disproved myth.

By all means, continue your pure and pristine experimentation, but stop sneering at those of us in the arts and humanities.

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Jhai
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quote:
Originally posted by ketchupqueen:
I have met very few people who didn't have at least a semester's worth (all together) of classes that were pretty useless but were required (or were their only available option to meet the requirements) for graduation.

I don't have any post-secondary classes in my past that I think were useless - and that's having maxed out every quarter on the number of credits you were allowed to take at the CC I attended while "in" high school, and then auditing an extra class every semester (you got one free) while at my university. If you're required to take classes that you think are useless, either you're at a bad institution, or you aren't applying yourself appropriately to the classes you need to take.

Most faculty don't dream up their curriculum requirements to frustrate the students. Every class you're required to take - or the gen ed requirements that you meet - are there for a reason.

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ambyr
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I did have useless college classes--but they were useless because the specific professors I had were poor, a problem that's unlikely to be overcome by any restructuring of the university. I would be hard-pressed to think of any useless -subjects- I took.
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ketchupqueen
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quote:
Originally posted by ambyr:
I did have useless college classes--but they were useless because the specific professors I had were poor, a problem that's unlikely to be overcome by any restructuring of the university. I would be hard-pressed to think of any useless -subjects- I took.

That was the specific experience of most of the students I have heard this from-- that the class could have been non-useless but the way it was presented made it pretty darned useless.
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katharina
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quote:
I have met very few people who didn't have at least a semester's worth (all together) of classes that were pretty useless but were required (or were their only available option to meet the requirements) for graduation.
I don't think I took a single useless class, and I graduated with 187 semester hours.

I agree with Jhai. Even the tiny handful of classes with bad teachers had books assigned during the semester I wouldn't have read otherwise.

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zgator
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quote:
When your proposed parking deck involves digging up an ancient Jewish cemetery (as happened in my current town), having someone on hand to deal with the sensitive religion issues might actually be useful. There are cases where science needs a hand to be palatable to a community.
And in a case like that, people who have expertise in those matters are hired. I worked on a bridge which a Native American midden was known to be close to and there was a possibility of a burial site. It didn't require any of the engineers to be familiar with Native American studies, just that we have enough common sense to contact the right people.
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Teshi
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Although I think one of my majors (English) is generally taught poorly, there was only one class out of 20 that I took in university for which I checked the box, "I would not have taken this class knowing what I know now about it." (It was a political science course and it could have been quite interesting, but the professor was really abysmal and the class ended up being so vague as to be meaningless.)

I do think more interdisciplinary university-run extracurricular or side-courses/opportunities should be available, but I think it is important to focus and develop knowledge in one or two fields, otherwise we will lack in true experts.

quote:
Give us real work...
It would be nice, as I said above, for universities to provide more interdisciplinary opportunities and I agree with you there. However, if you're tuning out, if I'm tuning out, it's us who's doing the tuning out.
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ambyr
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To be specific, the classes I consider to have been useless were:

Intro to Linguistics. Through a serious of unfortunate coincidences (I believe one professor was on sabbatical somewhere unreachable and two were unexpectedly hospitalized), the linguistics department ended up incredibly short-handed the semester I took this. Since the remaining actual professor was needed to teach the upper-level classes, they pulled a former professor out of retirement to teach the intro course. He was a charming and personable fellow who was very happy to be there. He was also extremely hard of hearing, and he spoke with a thick Scottish accent. Trying to learn phonology (the focus of the class) from someone who could neither hear the sounds his students were making nor make his own sounds understandable to us was, well, not terribly successful.

Intro to Statistics. The problem here was not the teacher but the students, an unfortunate number of whom were unfamiliar with basic algebra and concepts like mean, median, and mode. We spent about three quarters of the class reviewing those grade-school topics. That meant subjects that I actually wanted to learn, like chi-square tests, were rushed through or skipped entirely. The textbook showed me how to mechanically apply those tests, but it didn't contain any material on how or why they worked.

There was also one upper-level politics course that I took at a different college that almost perfectly replicated the material--including reading list and essay prompts--from one of the lower-level courses I'd taken at my own college. That, I suppose, you can blame on me, for not dropping it the moment I saw the syllabus. I had a vague hope that, as an upper-level class, it would let me re-examine the material in more depth. The hope was unfounded.

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nik
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quote:
Originally posted by zgator:
[QUOTE] It didn't require any of the engineers to be familiar with Native American studies, just that we have enough common sense to contact the right people.

Thank you.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
quote:
I have met very few people who didn't have at least a semester's worth (all together) of classes that were pretty useless but were required (or were their only available option to meet the requirements) for graduation.
I don't think I took a single useless class, and I graduated with 187 semester hours.

I agree with Jhai. Even the tiny handful of classes with bad teachers had books assigned during the semester I wouldn't have read otherwise.

Me three.
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Tresopax
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quote:
I did have useless college classes--but they were useless because the specific professors I had were poor, a problem that's unlikely to be overcome by any restructuring of the university. I would be hard-pressed to think of any useless -subjects- I took.
Agreed.
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Eaquae Legit
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You asked "But where on EARTH does religious theology need to be anywhere near my parking deck?" If you're designing a parking deck on top of a cemetery, religious theology (of one form or another) will be "anywhere near." You didn't ask "Why do I need theology to design a parking deck?" which is a different question altogether. I answered the question you asked. I don't care who has to deal with the theology of it, but the fact is that it can be relevant to the building of parking decks.
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theamazeeaz
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quote:
Originally posted by Lalo:
quote:
Originally posted by Mocke:
I prefer going to study in a Physics and Astronomy department, using my time to do experiments, learning how to experiment, using telescopes, and analysing data. I do not want to join some group where we spend half the time talking about the implications of our work. Annnnnd, I know most people around me feel the same.

I'd be disappointed if the group did nothing but talk about the implications of astronomy, too. Let's set it against a realistic problem -- would you like to work in a concentration dedicated to solving the problem of establishing colonies on other planets? Or in designing a better spacecraft and deciding where to send it? You'd really rather jump the hurdles of general coursework?

I'm not saying there isn't still a role for traditional "pure" sciences and arts, but I'd MUCH rather have the majority of disciplines dedicated at least in some degree to solving specific issues.

Lalo, it's called astronautical engineering. Actually, most of what you are describing happens at engineering schools.
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zgator
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Eaquae Legit, the example you presented and the one I did are by far the exceptions. I would love to spend time studying religious theology, but only for my own benefit. It wouldn't help me as an engineer at all.
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Eaquae Legit
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No, probably not. I never said it would, and I'm not advocating the proposed overhaul of university education. Engineer undergrads have enough on their plates learning the necessities for their profession. I was responding to the specific statement nik made, because it got on my nerves, nothing more.
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Hobbes
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The main problem I see is that, also coming from the engineering field, most undergrads are totally useless at solving the kind of problems that are being dealt with beyond manual labor. There are a lot of things you have to know before your useful, and that's why there's prescribed course work for different fields. Maybe it is stupid in liberal arts, I wouldn't know, but there are definitely some fields were it's impractical to induct undergrads into a program where they just solve specific problems. If it makes you feel better though, that's basically what my graduate experience is here, in that there's three required courses for graduation and other than that we can take, and do research, on whatever we want as long as it's somewhat related to Structural engineering (my field). Actually it really doesn't even have to meet that last requirement, at least not all of it.

Hobbes [Smile]

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Hobbes
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By the way, Hi ZGator! Long time no see, good to hear from you again! [Wave]

Hobbes [Smile]

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Juxtapose
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It'd be nice to see at least some universities try teaching in different ways. The classical approach didn't work for me at all.

I don't think doing that requires ending the university as we know it, though. As this thread testifies, that learning style works well for a lot of people.

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scholarette
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There are definitely universities that teach in alternative ways, it just takes some research. For example, Evergreen in Washington State does an interesting no grade system, with small class sizes and interesting projects. I went to a conference there and the students loved it. I don't know anything about accreditation or student loans though.
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TheGrimace
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I gotta echo Hobbes here... while we had a few design project classes in my engineering undergrad (which were definitely interesting) you just don't know enough to be coherent in any of these big-project designs until the end of your undergrad... Our senior design project (a series of unmanned and manned missions to set up habitats on Mars) is a great example. After 4-5 years of rigorous coursework we (a class of 40+) were able to cobble together the mission equivalent of a treehouse (i.e. Our project was to a real mission what a treehouse is to a 8000 square foot ranch house).

There's far too much technical background for most of these kind of problems than you have until the end of your undergrad years (optimistically). Now certainly as a side project, or as a very very top-level thought experiment it can be neat and somewhat useful to discuss this kind of thing, but I don't think that would fit well in an official course or something like that.

Really I have to agree with what some have been mentioning (and I realize I'm going to sound like a jerk here) that this idea seems like someone in liberal arts saying "my major doesn't teach me anything, I wish I was in engineering."

My best suggestion for anyone in that position would be to try to choose your projects and papers and classes such that they deal with topics you're interested in. i.e. if you're assigned some random essay (the intent of which is primarily to show your critical thinking) ask if you can write yours on a different topic (i.e. the water problem). Take inter-disciplinary courses when you can, and start petitioning for them to count towards your major etc.

An additional problem I have with the concept of doing away with the traditional majors is this. Especially in the technical field, there is great value in employers being able to quickly size-up the basic topics a prospective employee is familiar with. If I see someone has a mechanical or aerospace engineering degree I know that they've had some exposure to programming, fluids, statics, thermodynamics etc.

If I see someone with a "Water Problem" degree I have no idea what they know. Even assuming I'm hiring for a company that exclusively deals with the "water problem" I don't know if this person is versed in the engineering involved, or the politics, or the finances etc... Realistically, you only really need that kind of big-picture view of the problem when you start getting into the management side of things (it's helpful to have for reference purposes when you're low on the totem-pole, but not necessary).

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Dr Strangelove
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I wish I had more time to respond to all the things which interest me in this thread.

I really really want to respond to the science/religion cracks, but I don't have time. Maybe I'll start a fun thread this summer. Out of curiosity, do many of you intelligent folks know of a Dr. Michael Ruse?

As for the educational reform ... I'm in agreement that the current system isn't too great, especially the analysis of grad students carrying the load in universities. I had two soon to be graduated doctoral students in my office today who were complaining about it. On a personal experience level, it's been way too easy for me, who's not really that smart, and way too hard for some people I know who are very very smart.

That being said, for the most part I don't agree with his proposals. In my humble opinion, the root of the problem lies well below the university level. Feel free to shoot me down if you think I'm way off base, but to me the last year of highschool (maybe two) and the first two of college are a colossal waste of time and talent. 3 years are spent learning "General Education" that should have, and often was taught in middle school and the first three years of highschool. Imagine if those three years (either before or after specific education) were dedicated to research, field work, whatever you want to call it. Or even to hiking the Appalachian Trail, or starting a business.
Of course, the first issue is "Well, if we only teach people specific things, they'll be of no use." I completely agree. It would be stupid to have a history or science or math specific area of study. Rather, students who are more inclined to math or science or history learn about the other disicplines, and business, and art, and whatever, through the lens of their first love. Me, I love history. I live and breathe it. And I learn best through it. I learn math best by studying the history of mathematics, or even history mathematically. I learn science best by studying the history of science or history scientifically (you get the point). Maybe I'm an exception, but when I've tutored people (and I've tutored quite a few people from ages 17 to 65 in both Math and English), I've found the most effective way to impart information is through relating it to something that they love.

I think learning should be a joy, and it should be engaged in with a passion. I'm not saying that students are unable to find passion and joy in the current system. I have. It sure sounds like a lot of engineers have. But its hard to deny that "the system" is not built in a way that encourages this for the majority. If you want some sort of vision of what I'm saying, I would like to see around age 16 some sort of decision put before students. Maybe some kind of aptitude test, but there never will be an infallible one, so perhaps a test just to get the conversation started. Then a choice, or a series of choices, determining "higher education." This path of higher education groups together people who learn in the same way. No more 150 person American History courses where about 10 are actually interested in history. Instead, teach that same history through the lens of business, math, psychology, whatever.

And yeah, this is not exactly a practical "plan," so to speak. One of the more obvious difficulties is categories. Do we go with "Water" or "Mind" or whatever? Or maybe "Tactile Mechanical," "Theoretical/Mental Mechanical," "Historical Theory," "Historical Writing," etc etc etc? Or maybe the categories be defined not in an external way, where "History" exists outside of any real world definition or practicality, but instead is "History Profession" and then a group of professions (museum curators, archivists, historians, history teachers) who have need of someone educated in history. Not just history of course but also business, math, science, etc. But all through the lens of history. Meh. I'm not sure.

Heh. Even as I write this I hear the scathing critiques from my fellow jatraqueros. Oh well. Here's my perspective: I'm someone who's not too bright. But I was homeschooled and found early on what I loved: History. I also found what I was at least somewhat good at: Teaching. So from age 8 I wanted to be a history professor. Sure I flirted with dreams of the NBA, but at a point I made the decision to focus on my mental skills, not my physical ones. I think I was 11 or 12. Now I'm 20 and about a year away from my Masters. And I'm not that smart.
My secret, that I tell everyone, is that I absolutely love what I do. I love school. I love learning. I love talking about what I learned, telling other people. I love it so much that it gets me in trouble with my fiancee. And I want to believe that this same love can exist for everyone, or if not everyone at least the majority of people. I want a system that promotes others like it did me. And while your view may vary, from where I sit in the middle of a not-quite-respectable public university, the majority of students couldn't care less about their education. And, back to my initial point, they haven't cared for a good long while.

Anyways, that was longer than I intended. Quick and dirty - Change the secondary educational system if you want to change the post-secondary.

And crap, I want to edit this more, but work is closing, so off I go.

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Mocke
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If I wanted to build a ship I would be an engineer. If I wanted to work out the problem of establishing colonies, I would build a think tanks composed of educated people.
I want to look up in space. General coursework gives me the understanding I need to decipher what I am looking at. Astronomy is more than pretty pictures from hubble.
Sorry your classes are useless to you. Mine....aren't.

Still, you only touched on that one aspect, and neglected all the other points pertinent to this topic. The stuff you talk about gets done outside of school. Rather than wishing you could be in some program or that your school did something for homosexuals, do it yourself. Be a leader...or don't. But the world doesn't remember people who sit around wishing.

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Lalo
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quote:
Originally posted by TheGrimace:
An additional problem I have with the concept of doing away with the traditional majors is this. Especially in the technical field, there is great value in employers being able to quickly size-up the basic topics a prospective employee is familiar with. If I see someone has a mechanical or aerospace engineering degree I know that they've had some exposure to programming, fluids, statics, thermodynamics etc.

If I see someone with a "Water Problem" degree I have no idea what they know. Even assuming I'm hiring for a company that exclusively deals with the "water problem" I don't know if this person is versed in the engineering involved, or the politics, or the finances etc... Realistically, you only really need that kind of big-picture view of the problem when you start getting into the management side of things (it's helpful to have for reference purposes when you're low on the totem-pole, but not necessary).

I think you misunderstand the nature of this proposal. I'm very much against abolishing majors to establish a "Water degree." What Taylor's idea is, as I understand it, is basically organizing people from different disciplines to tackle a problem. Biology majors will remain biology majors, and economists economists -- but they'll be working together in applying their knowledge, as they learn it, toward a specific goal.

So no, we're not going to let someone take one math course and two philosophy courses and say they're solving East Asian wars. But there'll be greater communication and cooperation between the cloistered disciplines we have today, and their academic career will have a goal of doing something rather than simply jumping through hoops.

I was pre-med for a year, and this is already the basic model. You take your classes, and in your free time you try to work in labs or hospitals, and never the two shall meet. Taylor's trying to solve that, and I applaud him.

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Dr Strangelove
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quote:
Originally posted by Mocke:
If I wanted to build a ship I would be an engineer. If I wanted to work out the problem of establishing colonies, I would build a think tanks composed of educated people.
I want to look up in space. General coursework gives me the understanding I need to decipher what I am looking at. Astronomy is more than pretty pictures from hubble.
Sorry your classes are useless to you. Mine....aren't.
Still, you only touched on that one aspect, and neglected all the other points pertinent to this topic. The stuff you talk about gets done outside of school. Rather than wishing you could be in some program or that your school did something for homosexuals, do it yourself. Be a leader...or don't. But the world doesn't remember people who sit around wishing.

I'm not sure who you're referring to here, but as far as motivational speeches go, this one lacked some zing.

Do you have any particular critique other than asserting that in order to look up in space you need to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars and spend who knows how many hours in a class?

edit: Just realized that could be taken as slightly snarky. Apologies. My brain is somewhat fried.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Dr Strangelove:
Feel free to shoot me down if you think I'm way off base

Ok. You're way off base. [Razz]

Are there people for whom it is true? Definitely. Are they the majority of college students?

Definitely NOT. The level of remediation colleges -- even the top-tier schools -- are having to expend resources on is ridiculously high and getting higher. Maybe students should have gotten those gen ed classes in HS or earlier, but if they did, they didn't take in all too many cases. [Razz]

Why that is and what should be done about it is another issue. But in many ways it is an issue completely outside of the ability of college administrations to do much about. (They may have the ability to do something. My father's disgust over the lack of preparation that Caltech students (who mind, are among the very best math students in the country, and who invariably got a 5 of the Calculus BC AP test) for freshman calculus led him to write an L.A. Times editorial which in turn led to him being on the selection committee for math textbooks for L.A. County high schools. But much of that was serendipitous, and similar opportunities simply don't exist for most college administrators concerned about the state of secondary education.)

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andi330
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The problem with secondary education in America is that its goal is to have all students attend college, an unrealistic expectation for any number of reasons. First, there are some people in this world who simply are not intelligent enough for the American idea of post-secondary education (college etc.). This doesn't mean that they are stupid, they are valuable members of society, but since the goal of secondary education is to prepare people for college, they get left by the wayside.

Secondary education has to cater to everyone. Because we have no separation among those who intend to move on to post-secondary education, and those who are not, the curriculum needs to be geared towards everyone learning the same things. Yes, there are AP courses, but for the most part, the various courses have the same basic requirements. I have long been a proponent (though not on these boards) of a restructuring of the educational system to something like the German educational system, which prepares those going to University for higher education, and those who will not be going on to University for job training in an area or vocation which they show aptitude for. Being placed initially in one branch of education does not mean that you can't change if you want to, there are still opportunities to go on to higher education if you have the drive and the desire to do so. But it ensures that people get the education that they really need to succeed in life, not just so that they can go to college.

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