Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Unlearned

Teaching and learning are two separate actions. The teaching can be standardized into curriculums or "schools of thought." In the past, great institutions were identified by their particular take on what should be taught. This produced centers of excellence for particular interests. Students could choose a vocation in alignment with their education and probably receive the best advice and guidance in that particular endeavor available within their society. The British are brilliant at doing this.

In America we compete for dollars on every campus. We attract dollars in the form of students by mainly having a valued sports program. All colleges are ranked by their sports teams’ recognition. This has nothing to do with education or being taught career skills. Parents are rampant about getting their kids into colleges, any college, just get that "sheep skin." They don't see the forest for the trees and will pay any amount thrown at them in desperation.

As a result, the colleges don't cater to those that come for an education; they cater to a collection of barbarians. The campus life is a screaming joke. If you want to start life with an alcohol problem or a drug addiction, go to college. If you want to have a valued career...what do you do? So many Americans spend half their lives trying to find themselves, mainly because the launching pad slung them way off in the weeds and they had to wander back into civilization and start over again.

Learning, the other side of the coin. I once had a very wise couple (both PhDs in clinical psychology) tell me that an educated person is one that has learned where to go to get information and with that information, teach themselves. If colleges focused on the skills to seek and find information and gave you a taste of what's out there, the student would take it from there. Just listening to inspiring speeches from the experienced scholars can be life changing. Then if there were follow-on schools that specialized (vocational schools) in some particular discipline, young people would be anxious to learn and would become highly valued citizens. Notice that would take a minimum of administration!

Every college I've been connected with, including the one I'm teaching at now, has the same dumb concept that undergraduates must average a 2.75 grade point and graduate students a 3.25. There is no consideration on what that means just do it. Generate crap exams so enough students do poorly to guarantee this desired outcome, which is based on standards to gain credibility certification. Artificial standards based, not on humans, but idealistic statistics that match a political agenda. We mold our children to become political animals from the very first semester in college. You have to push down the competition by any means available to make sure you land on the high side of the curve. This is totally bogus.

I taught in the Air Force Navigation School, it was a true vocational institution, where we taught until each and every student could achieve 100%. They were all A-students or they were dropped out. The delimiter was time. You had to achieve in a reasonable amount of time. We couldn't have a critical skill not be learned or that lieutenant would be a danger to himself and those around him. These are the kinds of programs that you grow in; you are motivated by, and are proud of when you make it. All education should be so designed.

We just don't get it in this country. We are total conformist to commercial marketeering. We eat, buy, and do what the rock stars, movie stars, and sports figures do and have no clue as to how the real world functions. Parents don't get it, teachers don't get it, and administrators are on another planet. We all want to be petted and loved, then everything else will come to us. That's a very Christian attitude - sit on your hands and let God run your life. Bull feathers. Our ancestors were guided by the ethics of their religion, but had the common sense to invent, manipulate, and accomplish by using their heads and not living a life of excuses.

John Wolf