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Author Topic: Are too many dumb people attending college?
The Rabbit
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quote:
Otherwise, what Sala said about diagramming sentences is worse than that. Not once have I been taught anything other than the most basic grammar structures. As a high-school senior in AP English I could not even start to show you how to diagram a sentence.
I don't see this as necessarily a problem at all. No one needs to know how to diagram sentences and very few people need to know more than the basic grammar structures. You need to know how to write a good sentence and you need to know how to properly parse a sentence you read. Learning formal grammar can help with that, but that isn't the only way to learn good reading and writing skills. Its probably not even the best way.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
No one needs to know how to diagram sentences

The people analyzing Palin's speeches did
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steven
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
I majored in English and Music in school[/QB]

I'm going to ask you a question, and I don't want you to take it as insulting--I don't mean it as such. The question is--were you this pretentious before you got those two degrees, or not? I'm not saying you're a bad guy. I'd rather have 100 of you than 1 Lisa. I probably qualify as part of your own little definition of worthy--I have my degree in classical music performance, and can discuss music history (and theory, to a lesser degree) at a relatively high level. I'm just asking to know.
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aeolusdallas
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quote:
Originally posted by Launchywiggin:
quote:
This is largely because employers are lazy.
I don't get it.
They cut corners at on the job training and only higher college graduates even when most of the jobs they offer don't really need a 4 year degree. I mean really why does a data entry job , receptionist job or cubical drone need a degree that takes tens of thousands of jobs to get?
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Launchywiggin
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Heh--why would you use the word "pretentious" if you didn't want to insult him? It's an insulting word--it has no positive connotations. I've never heard Orincoro telling people that they're "worthy" or "not worthy" to converse with.
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steven
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quote:
Originally posted by Launchywiggin:
Heh--why would you use the word "pretentious" if you didn't want to insult him? It's an insulting word--it has no positive connotations. I've never heard Orincoro telling people that they're "worthy" or "not worthy" to converse with.

If you don't like my wording, come up with your own. I am honestly curious, though.
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Raymond Arnold
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The point was if you're attempting to not be insulting, you should find a way to say something that isn't insulting. Finding a wording that means what you want it to is your responsibility, not his. (If you don't particularly care that much whether you're being insulting or not, that's fine, just be aware what you're saying).

I don't think Orincoro is particularly pretentious. I do think he's obnoxious at times but usually it's in a manner I find clever and funny. In this case I think his point was all around pretty valid. There are plenty of schools (whether California is set up this way I have no idea) that let students who are lazy and ignorant cruise through with good grades, and I can definitely see those students being a drain on a degree than hinges on everyone working together.

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steven
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
The point was if you're attempting to not be insulting, you should find a way to say something that isn't insulting. Finding a wording that means what you want it to is your responsibility, not his. (If you don't particularly care that much whether you're being insulting or not, that's fine, just be aware what you're saying).

I don't think Orincoro is particularly pretentious. I do think he's obnoxious at times but usually it's in a manner I find clever and funny. In this case I think his point was all around pretty valid. There are plenty of schools (whether California is set up this way I have no idea) that let students who are lazy and ignorant cruise through with good grades, and I can definitely see those students being a drain on a degree than hinges on everyone working together.

I don't see why my wording is an issue, but I don't really care if it was less-than-entirely gentle. He himself is often less-than-gentle, which I accept. I am honestly curious, though, because a fair number of music majors (and a LOT of English majors) are pretentious, and it is a semi-interesting chicken-and-egg conundrum. I seriously doubt that an extremely unpretentious person would choose those two majors, and no others, for their undergrad. However, I can see either/both as making it...worse, particularly with certain professors.

What I have observed in the music field is that the pretentious ones are in the loner areas like solo performance and composition. Vocalists and composers are often tremendously arrogant and snobbish (though not always...however, some male tenors are so snobbish it becomes hilariously effeminate), and violinists and pianists often have the disease too. People who have to be part of an ensemble, just another cog in the wheel, tend not to be as bad, like brass/woodwinds/percussion. When they are arrogant, it's often because they really are that good. I do understand that the pretentiousness is often limited to certain areas, it's just that, between those two majors, and specifically because Orincoro is a composer, he's got at least 2.5 strikes against him, just statistically speaking. And no, I don't care if I'm being jerky. I had to put up with that nonsense for 4 years in my undergrad, laughing down my sleeve at the tenors and composers and pianists. OK, some of the pianists and violinists really were excellent, but the arrogant undergrad tenors and composers are hilarious. I mean, really...you voice doesn't even mature until you hit 30 or so, and composers rarely do their best work when they're still in their late teens, and are basically NEVER famous that young, so...what is all that about?

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Kwea
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lol
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Launchywiggin
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Your views aren't universal, steven. Maybe you were surrounded by pretentious people in your music department. My music department had lots of soloists and composers--all were very supportive of each other. The *best* singers/soloists/composers were always the most humble, also.

And you're laughing down your sleeve at them. Who's arrogant?

~Pianist, composer, tenor

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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
No one needs to know how to diagram sentences. . . .

I do. [Razz]
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:

G.W. Bush has a B.A. in History from Yale. Sarah Palin holds a B.A. in Communications from UofI. So its pretty clear that a liberal education is neither sufficient nor necessary for development of critical thinking skills.

Neither of these individuals had what anyone would characterize as a stellar academic career.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by steven:
I'd rather have 100 of you than 1 Lisa.

We get it, you hate lisa a lot, got the message, thanks for making sure to drive it in as often as you can manage
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Jon Boy:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
No one needs to know how to diagram sentences. . . .

I do. [Razz]
I'll amend that. No one who is not doing graduate level work in linguistics needs to know how to diagram sentences.

I'm also curious Jon Boy, do you really need to know how to diagram sentences for the work you are doing or could some other method work as well?

I actually loved diagramming sentences. It appealed to my mathematical/visual spacial side. I think it's a good way to teach at least some people grammar. What I object to, is the idea that diagramming sentences is an important skill for its own sake. The important life skill involved is communication and a mastery of grammar in the abstract isn't an essential part of that. It is far more important to be able to write a cogent sentence and to be able to read a complex sentence, than it is to know how to diagram sentences. Certainly, diagramming sentences can help people learn to read and write more clearly, but it isn't the only way to do it. And unfortunately, many students and teachers never really make transition from being able to diagram sentences to being able to write them.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:

G.W. Bush has a B.A. in History from Yale. Sarah Palin holds a B.A. in Communications from UofI. So its pretty clear that a liberal education is neither sufficient nor necessary for development of critical thinking skills.

Neither of these individuals had what anyone would characterize as a stellar academic career.
No one ever said anything about having a stellar academic career. The claim was made that the "knowledge" obtained by studying the liberal arts was essential to full participation in a democratic society. Its an absurd claim.

First off, Alcon specifically cited the "knowledge" obtained as being essential. He didn't say "analysis skills" or "reasoning skills" he said "knowledge" and as an educator that means something very specific to me. Knowledge means ability to recall data and information. Quite honestly, I can't think of a single byte of information I learned reading Shakespeare, or Kant or studying history that I think is essentially for me to know as a member of a democratic society. And neither you nor Alcon has given me a clear example of one.

Second, even if we presume that Alcon did not intend such a narrow definition of knowledge, the basic point does not change. Reasoning and analysis are relevant in every curriculum and can be learned in many contexts. If one is arguing that studying the liberal arts provides something essential, it must be something that is unique to the liberal arts curriculum. The only thing truly unique to the study of history, which can't be found and learned in the study of other subjects, is the historical data and information. The only thing truly unique to studying Shakespeare, that can only be learned by studying Shakespeare, is the content of Shakespeare's writing.

Third, there is an enormous difference between claiming that you, a particular individual, learned essential things by studying the liberal arts and claiming that studying the liberal arts is essential. For the latter to be true, you would need to demonstrate that formal study of the liberal arts was the only way to learn those things and that nearly everyone who studied the liberal arts did in fact learn those essential things. Both those claims are demonstrably untrue, which was the point of my giving Bush and Pallin as examples. Consider your example of how studying history has helped you understand racial issues. Do you think someone who grew up in the projects and had never been to college but who heard first hand stories of the civil rights marches from Grandma and Grandpa and experienced profiling from the police, might have as a good a grasp of the racial issues?

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Alcon
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Rabbit, you're clearly missing the point.

But first, a little defense.

quote:
I'm sorry, but I see that as a bit elitist and perhaps an attempt to justify a degree that has little or no market value.
I find that deeply insulting. My degree is in Physics and Computer Science. While it is a BA, it is not in the traditional Liberal Arts fields. And I do not need to justify its value. I have had absolutely no trouble finding jobs - even before I had this degree. I don't give a rat's rear end whether or not people think a BA is valuable degree. I have every intention of going on to get a masters in my field and maybe more. Furthermore, I took very few history, philosophy or English classes while at a Liberal Arts college - just enough to get my degree, plus one or two for fun.

I came to my beliefs from several data points. First - myself. I grew up in a university town. I had the option - if I so chose - to take classes at the university while I was still at high school. I didn't have to though, because the quality of my high school classes fell just short of the quality of the classes I later took at a top ranked Liberal Arts college. I was lucky to take AP American History and AP European History classes that were nearly equivalent to the introductory classes that I would have received at many Liberal Arts colleges.

The second data point is my girlfriend. She grew up in a small coal town in central Pennsylvania. A dying coal town at that. Few people in her town ever even went to college, let alone a Liberal Arts college. Her high school transcript looks nearly the same as mine - yet she feels she is miles behind me in knowledge and skills. She has her BA in Neuroscience and Studio Art from the same Liberal Arts college I do, but I often have to illuminate points of history or government for her that she was simply never exposed to. She's now reading ferociously to catch up - and catching up she is.

I grew up with an education that wasn't far removed at times from a Liberal Arts education at a college and I received it in High School. She got a High School education that more closely matches the average in America.

When she arrived at college she knew that her high school education left her way behind. She spent the whole first year depressed and feeling like she would never catch up. She didn't even know the extent of the knowledge she was missing. Didn't really know where to start looking for it. Even after taking a few semester long courses in history and government she only received bits and pieces of the puzzle. There were still gaping holes.

Now my girlfriend is very smart. As smart as or smarter than I am. I would like to think the education she received was bottom quarter of the US, but every day I see more evidence suggesting that it may in fact have only been bottom half - or even average.

I'm going to have to ask her forgiveness for this, but she had trouble keeping straight World War I and World War II. She didn't know enough about the Vietnam War to understand why people were making comparisons between it and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. I had to explain the significance of the comparisons. Her dad fought in the Vietnam War, and she didn't know hardly anything about it.

I'll repeat. She's very smart. She majored in neuroscience! But she didn't take enough history classes to fill in the gaps left by her High School. Are you going to tell me that someone can judge whether or not we should be fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well enough to decide between a candidate for fighting them and a candidate against fighting them with out any knowledge of the previous wars we've fought? Of any previous wars [/i]ever[/i] fought? Heck, even with the Education I've received I feel under qualified to make these judgments. Even with the extensive Education I've received - both in and out of the class room - I feel deeply under qualified to be voting in this country.

And I am.

When I vote I have to choose between candidates who espouse different positions on all sorts of issues. I have to judge whether or not their positions are reasonable, first of all. Then I have to determine which one makes the most sense. Which one will work, will last, and won't lead to suffering. Then I have to take all these various issue positions and decide their importance in relation to each other.

I'm lucky if I can understand one issue well enough to make a rational, sound judgement. Let alone the whole pile we typically see. And the time spent trying to make that judgement would be vastly greater if I didn't already have a (relatively) large base of knowledge about history and philosophy to pull from.

In order to work, Democracy requires an educated electorate. An electorate that understands what we have done so that we may not repeat our mistakes.

In order to know what to look for you have to have been exposed to it. You have to know what's out there. Most people in this country probably wouldn't know that we've been fighting the health insurance battle since the great depression. I sure didn't until I read it in the news. And that's with the education I got.

Honestly, I don't even think that giving people a high school education that is equivalent to what a minor in each history, government and English at a good Liberal Arts institution teach is enough. But I think that's the minimum - absolute minimum - amount of exposure to those topics that we can get by with. Notice I'm talking about exposure and not absorption. Such a High School education would allow the people who can and are ready to absorb the knowledge to absorb it. And those that weren't ready to absorb it would at least know it was out there for the finding.

quote:
Do you think someone who grew up in the projects and had never been to college but who heard first hand stories of the civil rights marches from Grandma and Grandpa and experienced profiling from the police, might have as a good a grasp of the racial issues?
Of course they will. But will they have a good grasp of the issues surrounding the Vietnam War? How about an understanding Islam? Or the events and mistakes that lead to the Great Depression?

And yes, they could educate themselves in these things - but what if they don't even know these things are out there to be studied? How will they understand the conflict in the Middle East if the name of Islam is only a vague name to them connected to a distant war?

I need to get back to work - and I apologize for the someone rambling and disconnected nature of my post. I feel very strongly about this subject.

Also, as for the elitism bit, is it elitist to feel that I don't have enough knowledge to participate well enough? And to wish for everyone to have more knowledge than I have? To feel that we'd all be a lot better off if everyone had been exposed to these things?

[ October 27, 2009, 11:31 AM: Message edited by: Alcon ]

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
I find that deeply insulting. My degree is in Physics and Computer Science. While it is a BA
You have a BA in Physics and Computer Science? That's...unusual.

What does that even mean? What is a BA in Physics and Computer science?

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by steven:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
I majored in English and Music in school

I'm going to ask you a question, and I don't want you to take it as insulting--I don't mean it as such. The question is--were you this pretentious before you got those two degrees, or not? [/QB]
I'm going tell you something, and I don't want you to take it as insulting, but that was a stupid question. On the order of, as I think I posted recently (for which I was admonished): "do you still beat your wife."

So you can cram your passive aggressive question, thank you.


quote:
What I have observed in the music field is that the pretentious ones are in the loner areas like solo performance and composition. Vocalists and composers are often tremendously arrogant and snobbish (though not always...however, some male tenors are so snobbish it becomes hilariously effeminate), and violinists and pianists often have the disease too.
Were you so terribly jealous of these people, that you actually managed to hold all these silly prejudices through a four year program? I guess I'm a little impressed, actually. I "knew" less leaving college than I did when I entered- anyone I know could tell you that. Doesn't mean I didn't learn anything, but what I didn't gain from the experience was a large degree of self-assurance, despite what you may believe.
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King of Men
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quote:
I'll amend that. No one who is not doing graduate level work in linguistics needs to know how to diagram sentences.
Or learning (as an adult) some language that isn't English, with its much-simplified sentence structure due to its origin as a French/Anglo-Saxon/Norse pidgin and its weirdly parochial speakers. Try studying German and you'll either diagram sentences or talk like widdle baby. Foreign kitteh no has grammars!
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Alcon
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A bachelor of the arts - with a double major in Physics and Computer Science?

I dunno. It means I went to a Liberal Arts School and completed the school's requirements for the major in Physics and the major in Computer Science. For what ever that's worth... Probably not that much honestly. The major in Computer Science was all of eight courses actually in Computer Science along with four to six courses in Math. The Physics major was more like ten to fourteen courses in Physics with six or more courses in Math. I forget the exact number (hence the ranges).

Honestly, I don't feel like it was enough. I sure wouldn't count myself an expert or anywhere near an expert in either field from the knowledge I gained in those courses.

And I got my job in the software development industry on the basis of having been writing code since I was thirteen years old - and having several programs to show for it.

I'm not arguing that having the history, government and English knowledge is necessary for a job. Or that having a BA from a Liberal Arts college is. I'm a glaring counter example to that argument. My work requires me to know exactly nil about any of those things. And it uses very little of the knowledge from even my Computer Science degree. (Okay, it does pull a little from my Physics degree, since I work in the energy industry.)

It's not jobs that I think require the knowledge. It's voting. It's active participation in state and national government. And in the world community as a whole. And again, it's not a BA - it's the knowledge and classroom experience roughly equivalent to what is gained from minoring in those topics.

I also think that my life is generally fuller and better for having some of that knowledge - and for having been instilled with the wish to gain more. But that's a different story.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Also, as for the elitism bit, is it elitist to feel that I don't have enough knowledge to participate well enough? And to wish for everyone to have more knowledge than I have? To feel that we'd all be a lot better off if everyone had been exposed to these things?
It's kinda elitist to think "we'd be a lot better off if everyone were like me, only moreso."

Not that that's entirely a bad thing -- I personally believe pretty much the same thing.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
quote:
I'll amend that. No one who is not doing graduate level work in linguistics needs to know how to diagram sentences.
Or learning (as an adult) some language that isn't English, with its much-simplified sentence structure due to its origin as a French/Anglo-Saxon/Norse pidgin and its weirdly parochial speakers. Try studying German and you'll either diagram sentences or talk like widdle baby. Foreign kitteh no has grammars!
As an English teacher and a part-time student of two languages in different language families, I have to agree here.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Did you choose to not get BS degrees, or was your school not equipped to provide BS degrees?
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Try studying German and you'll either diagram sentences or talk like widdle baby. Foreign kitteh no has grammars!
I have studied German, three years at a University level. I've also lived for extended periods in Germany and Austria. I speak fluent German. When I was at a scientific conference last month I ended up sitting next to a German during a banquet. I spoke German with him for about an hour after which he told me my German grammar was impeccable -- which shocked the socks off me to be honest. But the point is, I have studied German, I've never diagrammed a German sentence and I don't sound like a widdle kiddy. There are ways to learn grammar that don't involve diagramming sentences.
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Alcon
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quote:
Did you choose to not get BS degrees, or was your school not equipped to provide BS degrees?
My school didn't provide a BS in those fields. Honestly, I probably went to the wrong school for those fields. But I'm glad for my time at that school. I learned many things that I wouldn't have had I merely been focused on earning a BS in Physics and/or Computer Science.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
It's kinda elitist to think "we'd be a lot better off if everyone were like me, only moreso."

Not that that's entirely a bad thing -- I personally believe pretty much the same thing.

Indeed.

Everyone needs a BMath, I scoff at these BA and BS degrees [Wink]

But seriously, I see no problem with being a bit elitist as you've defined it. Elitism being used as a pejorative kinda puzzles me, I don't quite understand the history there.

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Alcon
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quote:
But seriously, I see no problem with being a bit elitist as you've defined it. Elitism being used as a pejorative in the kinda puzzles me, I don't quite understand the history there.
I don't really get it either [Dont Know]

Edited because I'm being too wordy today.

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Paul Goldner
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I have a B.A in Physics for the following reasons:

I knew I was going into teaching. This meant that following the B.A path was recommended by my university.

Upper level physics classes would eat up massive amounts of time and lowering my GPA (I earned B's in my upper level physics course, and A's in every liberal arts course I ever took).

Upper level physics courses, while interesting, would provide no real benefit in my career that could not be gleaned by doing outside reading for a fraction of the time and difficulty.

The B.S. in physics required math and computer programing classes that would serve no purpose to me, and which I am not interested in, while the B.A. did not.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Also, as for the elitism bit, is it elitist to feel that I don't have enough knowledge to participate well enough? And to wish for everyone to have more knowledge than I have? To feel that we'd all be a lot better off if everyone had been exposed to these things?
Yes, it is elitist. Believing you are one of the elite is not a requisite to being an elitist.

I'm not the one missing the point. I have never claimed that a liberal education isn't of value. My background is similar to yours in many ways and I value my liberal education. My point is that a liberal education isn't essential to being a good citizen and informed voter. All kinds of experience are important in making political decisions. The experience of the soldier whose been on the front lines in Afghanistan, the experience of the war protestor, the experience of the Palestinian immigrant, the experience of the Jew whose parents survived the holocaust, the experience of the doctor who has volunteered in region, the experience of the retired grandma who is teaching English to refugees and the experience of the history professor who has been studying the region, who are you to say that any one of those experiences is more important for understanding the issues?

You still haven't given me a single example of something you learned in your liberal education and how that was critical for you to make an informed vote in an election. But even it if was, it is elitist to say that your experience is only one or even the best one to prepare people for civil life.

No one person can be an expert in everything. But I don't need to be an expert on the middle east conflict to make an informed voting decision. Representative democracy is about voting for people you think have the expertise and share your values.

Its a pity that in all your liberal education, you never gained a real appreciation for the strength of democracy. The underlying ideal behind democracy is the idea that better decisions are made when all perspectives are represented. It is a recognition of the fact that no one individual can be an expert in everything, so we need to listen to each other.

I'm quite confident that if you tried, you'd find that there are many valuable things your girl friend learned growing up in a small depressed coal mining town that are every bit as important as academic learning. Its a genuine pity that neither one of you seems to appreciate that real world experience she shares with lots of common people and only think of her as being behind because she didn't attend a college prep high school.

Yes, your attitudes are elitist. You have taken one kind of experience, liberal education, and elevated it about all other types of learning and experience.

This is something I also feel very passionately about.

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MrSquicky
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quote:
Its a pity that in all your liberal education, you never gained a real appreciation for the strength of democracy. The underlying ideal behind democracy is the idea that better decisions are made when all perspectives are represented. It is a recognition of the fact that no one individual can be an expert in everything, so we need to listen to each other.
That's the ideal of one perspective on democracy. If it were the only way of believing in democracy, I'd be strongly against it.

Instead, I believe that we be better served demolishing this populist myth. But then, I'm an elitist who thinks that smart people who are educated about something on the whole generally make better decisions about this thing than stupid people who are ignorant of it and that the right to have your say in a democracy is morally (though I'd view attempts to make this a legal constraint as a very bad idea) contingent on fulfilling your responsibility to educate yourself about it.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Honestly, I don't even think that giving people a high school education that is equivalent to what a minor in each history, government and English at a good Liberal Arts institution teach is enough. But I think that's the minimum - absolute minimum - amount of exposure to those topics that we can get by with.
Why? You have selected an arbitrary set of skills and said, this is the minimum people need. Why? For what reason? You of course have to recognize that life is finite and by requiring one set of learning experiences, you necessarily exclude another. Why is that set the most important, aside from the fact that it is the experience you have.

I think everyone should spend at least a year of their life living as a disadvantaged minority. Everyone should spend at least a year working as unskilled labor and living off those wages. Everyone should be president of their own company and understand the demands of making payroll. Everyone should spend at least a year volunteering in an inner city. Everyone should spend at least a year traveling abroad. Everyone should be fluent in at least two languages. Everyone should know enough science to be able to read the scientific literature. Everyone should go through basic military training. Everyone should be able to do differential calculous. Everyone should be able to play a musical instrument. Everyone should have enough medical training to make informed decisions about their own health care. Everyone should have friends who immigrated from an under developed country. Everyone should have to go hungry for a week. Everyone should have a disabled family member. Everyone should be on a championship football team.

Not.

Everyone of those experience is of value for making decisions in our society and no one person can have all those experiences. Why do you think the experiences liberal education are the minimum everyone should have?

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Lyrhawn
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Wow, this thread took a surprising turn in the last day.

It's turned into yet another "argue over how useless or useful liberal arts is" thread.

Neat.

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Alcon
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quote:
You still haven't given me a single example of something you learned in your liberal education and how that was critical for you to make an informed vote in an election. But even it if was, it is elitist to say that your experience is only one or even the best one to prepare people for civil life.
It's not about a single piece of knowledge gleaned being critical to making an informed vote. It's about the aggregate value of understanding those people and events that have come before us to get us here. No, of course I can't point to a single thing I learned from my education that is critical.

quote:
All kinds of experience are important in making political decisions. The experience of the soldier whose been on the front lines in Afghanistan, the experience of the war protestor, the experience of the Palestinian immigrant, the experience of the Jew whose parents survived the holocaust, the experience of the doctor who has volunteered in region, the experience of the retired grandma who is teaching English to refugees and the experience of the history professor who has been studying the region, who are you to say that any one of those experiences is more important for understanding the issues?
I'm not discounting any experience. Every single one of the experiences you mentioned is valuable in making an informed vote. And every single one of those people could teach the rest of us so much that we do not know. Those experiences grant knowledge and understanding that can't be obtained in any other way, knowledge and understanding that a Liberal Arts education cannot replace. Knowledge which I will probably never gain.

I'm not saying what you think I am saying. I'm not saying that the experience of a Liberal Arts education replaces any other experience. I'm saying it that it can form a basis for a deeper understanding of all experience.

Imagine if all of those people had their years of education - however many that happened to be and whatever form it happened to take - replaced by the same number of years studying in a way equivalent to minoring in all history, philosophy, government, religion, culture, and English. Think about how much more that soldier on the front lines might understand those he is fighting and what is happening around him if he knows and understands the history of the region? It's certainly possible that he could gain that in the field, but how about an understanding of past similar conflicts? That knowledge could be enormously useful to him in many ways. Ways that are not always easy to pinpoint, but that exist non-the-less. What about knowledge of the Islamic religion and philosophy?

And those are just specific examples of knowledge that might be gleaned from studying history, religion, philosophy that could be useful to him. What if he had a broad education in history, culture, philosophy, religion? What connections might he make in understanding that would aid him in both fighting and connecting with the people on the front lines?

None of those experiences would be any lessened if those experiencing had first gone through a Liberal Arts equivalent education while in High School. I'm not talking about going to college. I'm talking about a high school - and even middle and elementary school education - that rigorously addresses, studies and examines these topics. Such that, by the time the student is done with schooling at the end of high school, they will have completed studies that are roughly equivalent to the studies they would complete while minoring in each of these topics at a Liberal Arts institution.

quote:
But even it if was, it is elitist to say that your experience is only one or even the best one to prepare people for civil life.
This assumes that my experience precludes other experience. And I'm not saying people should have my experience. My experience was not the sort of education I believe is required. It fell far short of that.

The education of which I am speaking does not preclude or prevent any other experience. It is an education that is rigorous and broad, but that none-the-less could fit into the frame work of the thirteen years of education we already require of all our citizens. And why do we require thirteen years of education for our citizens if there wasn't some value to that education?

quote:
Its a pity that in all your liberal education, you never gained a real appreciation for the strength of democracy. The underlying ideal behind democracy is the idea that better decisions are made when all perspectives are represented. It is a recognition of the fact that no one individual can be an expert in everything, so we need to listen to each other.
Listening to each other is something we seem to be utterly failing to do these days and this is one of the things a Liberal Arts education is supposed to teach! Don't you think we could fulfill this value of discussion and deliberation in democracy and comparing and contrasting all our widely varied experiences if we'd all been first educated in that which came before. And if we'd all been first given a glimpse of the myriad of beliefs and viewpoints that exist around the world? Our current high school education barely provides the merest of glimpses into other cultures, into history, into philosophy! I used to scoff at needing these things. I used to say "I'm going to become a scientist, I don't need philosophy!" and "I'm going to be a scientist, I don't need to know about other cultures, if I want to learn about them I'll travel to where they are!" You really think I was right to say that? To dive only to my experience studying science and to attempt to ignore other experiences?

quote:
I'm quite confident that if you tried, you'd find that there are many valuable things your girl friend learned growing up in a small depressed coal mining town that are every bit as important as academic learning. Its a genuine pity that neither one of you seems to appreciate that real world experience she shares with lots of common people and only think of her as being behind because she didn't attend a college prep high school.
Behind only in knowledge of what came before. I learn things from her every day and we are both well aware of the value of what she learned. But that real world experience she gained - and the experience I have gained by visiting her in her home town - have only strengthened both of our beliefs in education.

I didn't attend a college prep high school either, I attended a public high school. It just happened to be a very, very good one.

My attitudes, may be considered elitist in this day and age. By I am not taking one experience and elevating it above all others. I am not saying that a liberal education is a replacement for or some how better than any other experience that may be gained as we find our ways through life. I'm saying that a liberal education gained when one is young and starting out can serve to enrich many other forms of experience in ways nothing else can.

And that the knowledge that is gained from an education in history, philosophy, religion and culture is necessary for the population of a Democracy because that population needs to make judgments on where we are going. In those judgments they need to avoid the mistakes we have made in that past. In order to avoid those mistakes, they need to know what those mistakes are.

I'm saying that the knowledge that is gained from an education in history, philosophy, religion and culture is necessary for the population of a Democracy that is as multicultural, multilingual and multifaceted as ours is because it provides everyone with a common base of knowledge - however rudimentary - of each other. Of each other's past, history, and beliefs. It provides us with exposure to beliefs and experiences that are outside our own that many people would never get or seek or even be aware of otherwise.

Is this sort of education a replacement for real world experience? NO! But it's a good starting point.

The people in Shelly's home town. Many of them never leave it. They rarely venture outside of it. Until she came to college she had never met a Jewish person! She thought the Jews were nearly extinct! She'd never even met someone who wasn't a Christian. Or even heard of many of the other religions in the world. For many of the people who live in her town, their experience never goes beyond this. Their experience of the world remains narrowed to one small town in a small part of central Pennsylvania. They don't learn much more than they can learn from local newspapers, browsing facebook and what they are taught in high school. They never get the taste for knowledge or learning because they are never exposed to it. As far as they are concerned it is limited to the boring lectures of their teachers in high school, many of whom grew up in the same town as they are still in and have no more experience of the rest of the world than those they are teaching.

You're telling me that these people are prepared to vote on the issues facing our country in a national election? Many of them simply vote as their parents did, who voted as their parents did. Is that any way a Democracy will survive?

Is their experience worthwhile in making decisions? Certainly. Do they know things I have no knowledge of? ABSOLUTELY! But do they have the breadth of knowledge truly necessary to make informed decisions? Absolutely not. Do they have the experience of culture and history and philosophy to view the world with more than the narrow view granted them by the small town they are restricted to?

If giving them an education of the sort I am talking about will lead them to vote on a basis different than simply that's how their parents voted, then how is that education not necessary?

And I'm not generalizing from my girlfriend. I have spent weeks with her in her town and met many of her family and friends. They are wonderful people. And I truly believe that given the chance and the choice, they would flourish in that sort of education. It would deepen and enrich their lives and the experience of the whole world.

And yes, going back to your Sarah Palin and George Bush example. You can't force a love of learning or a knowledge of things past on anyone. And yes there are other ways than this sort of education to come by those two things. But the easiest and thus far best way we know of is by giving them an education that exposes them to it. You have to offer people the chance. You really don't think it is an imperative of living in a democracy to offer them that chance? That a love of learning and a knowledge of what has come before are not necessary to move forward in to the future?

Would you rather people close their eyes and minds to so many things, as far too many do now, simply because they never encountered anything that would open them?

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Alcon
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quote:
Why is that set the most important, aside from the fact that it is the experience you have.
How bloody many times do I have to say this? The education I am advocating as the minimum we should require is nowhere near the experience I have. The experience I have is far, far less than what I am advocating.

And what I am advocating can be summed up as a love of learning, a love of discussion, a basic knowledge of the other peoples of the world and a knowledge of what has come before us. And yes, the level of knowledge I have chosen as being "basic" is slightly arbitrary - but frankly even that level of knowledge is not entirely deep or detailed.

A minor at many Liberal Arts institutions consists of no more than six courses. Including Intro courses. I'm advocating knowledge equivalent to a minor in each history, philosophy, government, religion, culture and English (I should say "reading", "writing" and "literature" but that's sort of covered under "English" currently.) So the equivalent of 36 semester long courses. Assuming two semesters a year and 4 courses a semester that becomes exactly 9 semesters of college level study or four and a half years. Don't you think we could shoehorn that into 13 years worth of study? Assuming we allow middle school and high schoolers actual credit for their intelligence and don't under estimate it?

Is it really that elitist to suggest that we could teach this sort of education over the course of our children's educational careers? How exactly would that replace or preclude any other sort of experience?

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
Wow, this thread took a surprising turn in the last day.

It's turned into yet another "argue over how useless or useful liberal arts is" thread.

To be fair, it's not much of a tangent from the original topic, and certainly not a surprising one.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
I find that deeply insulting. My degree is in Physics and Computer Science. While it is a BA
You have a BA in Physics and Computer Science? That's...unusual.
It's really not very. Plenty of schools give only or primarily BA's, often in fields where BS's are the norm, and sometimes with requirements almost identical to the equivalent BS at other schools.

Generally this has to do with the school's history, particularly their accreditation history.

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scholarette
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I have a master's of ARTS in biochemistry. I find that disturbing. When I turned it in, even the people at the school were confused. One even called my department to check. The department secretary also called the department chair because she couldn't believe it was not an ms.

ETA- fixed rivka's correction.

[ October 27, 2009, 03:00 PM: Message edited by: scholarette ]

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rivka
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Not art, arts.
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katharina
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At my school, the difference between a B.S. and a B.A. was two years of a language. That's it.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
Wow, this thread took a surprising turn in the last day.

It's turned into yet another "argue over how useless or useful liberal arts is" thread.

To be fair, it's not much of a tangent from the original topic, and certainly not a surprising one.
To be fair, I haven't been arguing that the liberal arts are useless. I'm argue that the liberal arts aren't necessary. There is a big difference.
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mr_porteiro_head
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That is fair, and correct.
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Sala
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quote:
No one needs to know how to diagram sentences and very few people need to know more than the basic grammar structures. You need to know how to write a good sentence and you need to know how to properly parse a sentence you read. Learning formal grammar can help with that, but that isn't the only way to learn good reading and writing skills. Its probably not even the best way.
I totally agree that learning formal grammar isn't the only way, nor even the best way, to learn to read and write. However, having the vocabulary to be able to talk knowledgeably about writing is very helpful. That's the usefulness I see in teaching it in elementary school. And I would hope that things would have moved beyond the simple sentences once kids are in high school, but the sentence I saw in the video clip on the tv news was very, very simple.
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Belle
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It has to be applied...studying grammar in isolation isn't all that helpful except for the few people who really love grammar and get into it.

For example, my course of study has verbals on it - gerunds, participles, infinitives. The purpose of teaching them about verbals isn't just so they can point to one on a standardized test, but to enrich their writing. Today, a week after we did the "grammar unit" on verbals, we were working on essays and I had them do a quick exercise where we re-stated sentences by creating gerund phrases and making them the subjects of our topic sentences. This was part of a larger lesson on using sentence variety to take their writing to a higher level.

In a perfect world, my students will see that grammar lessons are practical - that we use what we learn to make our writing better so we can communicate more effectively. That's in a perfect world. In the world I live and teach in though, I'm just happy to have students spend an entire week at school without getting suspended for drug or weapons offenses. [Razz]

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Alcon
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And to be fair, I'm not arguing that the Liberal Arts are necessary to live a good and full life, to be smart or to be a good person.

I'm only arguing that they are necessary to make a fully informed voting decision.

And when I say Liberal Arts - I don't mean what we think of today as a "Liberal Arts Education".

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Farmgirl
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quote:
Originally posted by andi330:
As college has become more and more emphasized by society and high schools and colleges themselves, many employers have stopped hiring people with only high school diplomas, including many employers who could engage in on-the-job training or even apprenticeships to develop their employees have instead started requiring college degrees.


. . . but it does show a lack of respect for those who work in jobs that require a lower level of education, or that provide on-the-job training and development, rather than requiring college. What those people fail to realize is that these jobs are an important part of our economy, and that people working in them, showing up on time every day, and choosing to do that job to the best of their ability, deserve just as much respect as a college professor, or someone with a higher education.

I want to jump back here to what Andi said on page 1 (yeah, I just now read this thread) because that is the crux of the issue as it applies to my family.

My child #1 and child #3 were very aptly suited for higher education/college and thrived there. Child #2 is not like that. He is not dumb (tested high in intelligence) but let's just say he is a much more hands-on learner, and the classroom environment doesn't accentuate his strengths or learning styles. He excels in math, but struggles with some of the language arts.

He is a perfect candidate for on-the-job training, apprenticeship or trade schools. He is bright and learns quickly and thinks of new, more efficient ways of doing things once he has been shown what is expected of him.

But do you think any of those talents are quantifiable and can get him a job? No. No one will look at a "GED graduate" and be willing to take the risk to hire and mentor. There is no more of the "8th-grade-education-worked my way up the company by my bootstraps" type people that existed last generation. He can't get a decent interview with anyone besides McDonalds, even though he is a dependable, trustworthy employee.

I've tried to get him to just take one, or two, college courses, not toward a degree, but just enough to put on a resume that he has taken a course in [whatever].

But I'm very disheartened that there aren't more employers willing to mentor these types of young adults. They would get their loyalty for life.

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Teshi
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I've got quite a few things I want to address.

1. The concept of employers requiring higher and higher education.

There are fewer and fewer jobs that are willing to train on the job, at least in Canada. All librarians must have a two year MA in Library Sciences. This is more education than is required to be a teacher in Canada (one year B.Ed.) As far as I can tell, although a few librarians with this level of education would be beneficial, especially to big libraries, there is nothing about a smaller library that wouldn't be able to hire people holding B.A.s who simply love books, love libraries and are capable of learning a few intellectually basic skills.

Very few employers are hiring people who 'just' have four years of education at a university, regardless of how much dedication and work that person put into it. Entry-level positions in which the company trains you on the job are very few and far between unless you already have a professional degree e.g. Business, Pharmacy, Nursing. Basically, employers are realising they don't have to offer much training. They can get people to do it elsewhere-- at school, at an unpaid internship, volunteering. I gape at stories from the sixties and before where people straight out of highschool got a job knowing almost nothing except having some tangentially related skill-- they wrote good essays therefore they were hired for a Newspaper. They could fix radios, therefore they were hired to be a sound technician. Both of these are now skills that require a reasonably high level of education and/or experience that can only be gained through paying money or working for free for a considerable period.

2. B.A.s are therefore, as standalone courses, functionally useless, except as a gateway to further education such as Teacher's College.

In my experience this is largely true. However, the two retail jobs I got hired me because of my university degree and one initially paid me 25c more because of my degree.

Aside from that, I always loved learning and never stop learning, so I would not take my University degree back for anything.

I do think that most university grads are better prepared, generally, than they were four years ago when they graduated university. They are better at writing, better at reading. THey have a wider experience of things like History and Science; this gives them more understanding of what is going on in the news-- in my experience just talking with people of various educational backgrounds, this has been the case.

People who go to university seem to be generally more able to spend time thinking critically. Perhaps it's not the classes but the exposure to people like professors and colleagues. Whatever it is, it does seem to make an average difference.

3. High School is poorly preparing students for University.

I would counter that and say school is poorly preparing students for learning. As far as I can tell, teachers at the elementary level are now required to take on a lot of used-to-be parenting roles, depending on the school and the curriculum they're working under-- and the fact that somebody's got to do it.

Recently in Ontario there was a movement to get K-3 classes under 20 students. However, all this meant is that 4-8 teachers were rerouted to teach the younger grades. Older-grade classes are now as high as close to fourty students.

I am not sure, but I suspect that grade eight students are coming into High School behind where they are supposed to be. I suspect that there is a 'behindness' dragging all the way through the entire school system that is being noticed at the top level.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
As far as I can tell, although a few librarians with this level of education would be beneficial, especially to big libraries, there is nothing about a smaller library that wouldn't be able to hire people holding B.A.s who simply love books, love libraries and are capable of learning a few intellectually basic skills.
I'll go one further: there is nothing a librarian does that requires a college degree.
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Teshi
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Well, I feel like my college degree in English (incl. children's lit) and History and knowing how to study for things (so I can help others) would be exceptionally useful if I were a librarian.

Perhaps it wouldn't require me to have it, but I feel that I would be a better librarian for it. I'm not sure I would get that much out of Librarian Sciences.

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King of Men
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quote:
They could fix radios, therefore they were hired to be a sound technician. Both of these are now skills that require a reasonably high level of education and/or experience that can only be gained through paying money or working for free for a considerable period.
Note that those sixties radios could likely be repaired with a basic soldering kit. The circuits weren't integrated, they consisted of transistors the size of your smallest fingernail connected with actual wires - the sort of stuff that today you would only see in a university physics lab. (Indeed, I built a radio like this in my second lab course. Couldn't tell you how it worked, though - it wasn't a very good course. They just gave you the wiring diagram and the components.) Similarly, cars of the time could be repaired by banging on the metal; try that with today's tolerances. It's the tradeoff for having Really Great Stuff: It just requires more skill and training to build and repair. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the ethics of companies.
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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
I'll amend that. No one who is not doing graduate level work in linguistics needs to know how to diagram sentences.

I'm also curious Jon Boy, do you really need to know how to diagram sentences for the work you are doing or could some other method work as well?

I'm not sure if you're talking about my research or my employment as an editor. Strictly speaking, you don't need to know how to draw sentence trees in order to be an editor, though knowing how to parse a sentence is pretty much essential. And I'm not working with syntax in my research, so that question is moot, though it's obviously essential for people in that field.

I really don't understand why these discussions always degenerate into arguments about what people need to know. I think there's a lot of value in understanding the world around us, even if that knowledge does not translate into job skills.

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