How long do bloggers think lockdowns last?

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eido
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Re: How long do bloggers think lockdowns last?

Postby eido » Tue Aug 11, 2020 7:03 pm

Cainntear wrote:I'd say the biggest problem for universities in recent decades is that industry and government have been pushing them constantly away from teaching people how to think to teaching people how to do -- this idea that a university has failed if a graduate can't immediately do a productive day in an office from day one. They don't want education, they want training, and why should we be taking corporate training courses at our own expense or at the expense of the public purse?
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Then there's all the subjects that used to get taught at FE colleges that now have so-called "vocational degrees" -- 100% how to do.

I was supposed to graduate university in 2019 if everything went right, but from a young age I'd been debating what sort of career to go into. University education and career goals were completely married in my first year of high school, when I really started thinking about it. Luckily, more people had started posting on the Internet about how to get by without a degree or with having different types of degrees, so I didn't feel as bad for being lost.

However, there was just one problem: I didn't know what to choose, because my high school education wasn't adequately preparing me for the rigor of college, despite most of my classes being Advanced Placement (AP) or Honors. I felt an idiot.

I knew I wanted a PhD and I knew I wanted to be a proper thinker, but I didn't think my mind moved fast enough for 4 years of writing papers to make a difference. So the watering down and career-factory mindset of my local college seemed appropriate. But I always felt there was something more out there, you know?

At a nearby community college, they had seemingly more practical degrees, like audio-visual production, HVAC systems, nursing, phlebotomy, etc. I had a good idea of what I wanted to do but not how to apply it.

At the time, and even now, I wanted to be careful with my money. But none of the options seemed good. They all seemed dead.

I don't know if the 4-year model works as efficiently as it used to. As we've said, college used to make us thinkers and well-rounded citizens, but there's a need for people to show results and affect the tangible world around them now, more than ever before, as opposed to just philosophizing. A shame in some respects, but true. "Thinking" is valued in the context of what sort of profit it can rake in, not what kind of mental rigor it can create, define, or renew. And that's reflected in the changing structure of the curricula in a wide range of fields, as well as the popping up of self-learning models (i.e. Khan Academy) and group cohort models like MOOCs. People want skills now. They need them now. And as always, many are blocked by a price tag. But with more being found out about learning and how people process information, and data moving rapidly across the Web, Internet- or app-based platforms can adapt quickly to market new products according to research even if they take studies out of context and don't actually increase knowledge retention.

Can we get the traditional 4-year degree to hold hands with practicality to meet what society is demanding from colleges now? Should we try that? Or what is the best option?

I still haven't found the best place for me and I've been mulling over it for almost 10 years. It seems in the open field of the Internet, education is evolving more rapidly than in brick-and-mortar schools, ones which have dominated that field as hunters for years. Now they're the prey. Those real-life schools, even if they have online options, often have outdated course models. Trust me, I've tried quite a few.

But yet I still can't decide which is better, and which would ultimately advance my career for all the nitpick. Having people to actually connect with is always good, and even before COVID-19 I was taking online classes; and even before COVID-19, I longed for human connection and the natural, academic competition that comes from being in a classroom. Online learning can't provide the true "cohort feel" even if it's organized in such a manner, in my opinion. But maybe I'm just too noisy an extrovert.

But online learning is more open and malleable.

Since it seems that in the not so distant future, school buildings could be a thing of the past, I suppose we'll have to accept e-learning as all-comprehensive and all-good, but I just can't help thinking that there must be a middle ground that doesn't require people to choose strictly thinking over doing, since humans are creatures of both.

For all us (still, as of this moment) youngins, I wish someone would come up with a learning model that didn't force us to choose to be either academic or blue collar, but rather have us all working toward the shared goal of obtaining knowledge and getting it. And for God's sake, being able to pick a major and not switch three times! (And end up with buyer's remorse after graduating with a degree in psychology, when we really wanted to be an entrepreneur... and we are indeed buying.)
Last edited by eido on Tue Aug 11, 2020 7:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How long do bloggers think lockdowns last?

Postby Querneus » Tue Aug 11, 2020 7:07 pm

Cainntear wrote:I'd say the biggest problem for universities in recent decades is that industry and government have been pushing them constantly away from teaching people how to think to teaching people how to do -- this idea that a university has failed if a graduate can't immediately do a productive day in an office from day one. They don't want education, they want training, and why should we be taking corporate training courses at our own expense or at the expense of the public purse?

My first degree was Computer Science, in a traditional Computer Science department that held to the idea that it was their job to teach us to understand computers, and then it was the employers' job to train new recruits on the specific technologies that they needed. I don't know how well they held out against that particular tide, but even the year after me were taught Java because of industry demand.

Then there's all the subjects that used to get taught at FE colleges that now have so-called "vocational degrees" -- 100% how to do.

I feel this is an issue that's a bit particular to computer science though, because so many jobs these days are compsci-adjacent. It's not just industry, but the students themselves very often, probably much more often than not, want practical industry training in it. Meanwhile, degrees in music, linguistics, or Middle Eastern studies have more dubious ties to job positions, even in their most practical sides like speech therapy and translation. So I feel the complaint in this one post of yours is very specific to compsci.

I've heard this "university teaches you how to think" meme many many times, but I'd say I've never understood it. That phrase sounds very generalist and akin to critical thinking and philosophy (in the sense of constantly seeking definitions of what people mean, and considering and debating opposite views), which I wouldn't say are things that get taught well to most undergraduates to be honest.

Here I just wrote two reactions about this post though, I have overall been appreciating your recent few comments (I haven't read all of this thread though).
Migla wrote:
Cainntear wrote:Having your name rendered in an approximation in the script they write in is a whole lot different from being given a new name.

Most of my classmates lived with completely made up names, or, in case of Japanese classmates, with their names in Japanese read out in Chinese pronunciation, as in, completely different sounding. I only managed to get away with approximation in the script, because I would not pick up an extra name. I have a name.

But then again, I've seen some fresh Chinese learners be quite excited to get a brand new "Chinese names", I've seen Chinese parents happily picking up "English names" for their kiddos, so I'd say it depends. Some may feel it's forced on them, some may not, some may even embrace it.

And here I am, very happily embracing four different names depending on whether Spanish, English/French, Arabic or Chinese are involved... Regular naming conventions in Canada are of course different from El Salvador's, and I've found it useful to adopt an English format of my name, which is also readily understood by French speakers, with my mother's surname removed and with no acute accents for good measure, and with my segundo nombre 'second name' mapped as a middle name. In Arabic, I've simply found it amusing to do the thing of removing my surnames entirely using my father's and paternal grandfather's names instead, plus the city I grew up in.
Last edited by Querneus on Tue Aug 11, 2020 7:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How long do bloggers think lockdowns last?

Postby tangleweeds » Wed Aug 12, 2020 1:06 am

Ser wrote:I've heard this "university teaches you how to think" meme many many times, but I'd say I've never understood it. That phrase sounds very generalist and akin to critical thinking and philosophy (in the sense of constantly seeking definitions of what people mean, and considering and debating opposite views), which I wouldn't say are things that get taught well to most undergraduates to be honest..
I attended both a selective (private) small liberal arts college, and a large state university, and while the state university absolutely did not do this, the SLAC most definitely did. And that's why a selective SLAC degree is a ticket toward advanced degrees and certain sorts of jobs that the state university degree just isn't.
eido wrote:However, there was just one problem: I didn't know what to choose, because my high school education wasn't adequately preparing me for the rigor of college, despite most of my classes being Advanced Placement (AP) or Honors. I felt an idiot.
This was true of most of my classmates at the SLAC who came from public schools, even from very good districts. But coming from a prep school, this was not an issue for me--I spent most of my freshman year spinning my wheels while my classmates were catching up.

Both of these illustrate why I have such major beefs with the US educational system. One gets so much more from private institutions that one can get from public ones, and it gives yet another unfair advantage to the already privileged class. Yet another reason why you can't argue that the US doesn't have a very well-entrenched class system.
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Re: How long do bloggers think lockdowns last?

Postby tangleweeds » Wed Aug 12, 2020 4:26 am

I just wanted to add some numbers so people outside the US have an idea how crazy the tuition(/wealth) divide is.

The prep school I attended now costs $30,00/year *
The selective SLAC I attended now costs $60,000/year
While a year at a state university for residents of my state is "only" $10,00-13,000/year, so a full 4 year degree costs less than a single year at a selective SLAC.

* $30,000/year for high school, around $25,000 for earlier grades. But multiply that by 14 years, since the Ivy League/top-tier SLAC track I graduated from required students to qualify for that particular track prior to middle school, where one began skipping years of math and adding languages, so that graduates from that track had 6 years each of two different languages plus two years of calculus (there were other less demanding tracks, plus another AP track for students who only enrolled for high school). But even during grade school, our classes used textbooks a year ahead of when public schools did.
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Re: How long do bloggers think lockdowns last?

Postby Cainntear » Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:33 am

Ser wrote:I feel this is an issue that's a bit particular to computer science though, because so many jobs these days are compsci-adjacent. It's not just industry, but the students themselves very often, probably much more often than not, want practical industry training in it. Meanwhile, degrees in music, linguistics, or Middle Eastern studies have more dubious ties to job positions, even in their most practical sides like speech therapy and translation. So I feel the complaint in this one post of yours is very specific to compsci.

I said my first degree... I've got 3 undergrads and 2 masters.

Computing is the most clear-cut example, because it can easily go either towards computer science or towards software and/or hardware development and now there are innumerable degrees in very specific applied computing fields out there at degree level -- data science, information security, games programming etc. In fact, I say it can go 2 ways, but there's really 3: science, engineering and practical. My problem isn't the existence of the 3, but the false equivalence of them -- they are all fundamentally different from each other, which is not adequately reflected by them all being "a degree".

But this lack of equivalence exists in the university system as a whole -- computing is unusual only in that it acts as it embodies many of the divisions in academia within one disciplinary area.

I mean, it used to be that nurses went to a vocational college and got a certificate; now they go to university and get a degree. Why? What is it in the highly technical skillset of a nurse that's equivalent to the highly abstract life of a mathematician? I've heard the argument that trying to make a distinction between a degree and a professional qualification is "elitist", but I don't buy it: for one thing, academics are often less well paid than skilled technical workers (there are legendary stories of university lecturers in the UK retraining as plumbers to nearly double their annual income), and for another... well... is it elitist to say a horse is not a dog? No way -- even if most people think dogs are better than horses, it's still not elitist to call a dog a dog and a horse a horse, because that's what they are. Calling every qualification a "degree" removes one degree of information -- in the old days, even if you didn't know the specific discipline, the type of qualification would be a good indicator of the sort of thinking and working that the bearer favoured and/or was used to.

I've heard this "university teaches you how to think" meme many many times, but I'd say I've never understood it. That phrase sounds very generalist and akin to critical thinking and philosophy (in the sense of constantly seeking definitions of what people mean, and considering and debating opposite views), which I wouldn't say are things that get taught well to most undergraduates to be honest.

Well yes, but that's at least in part a symptom of the problem I'm describing -- the more university becomes "how to do", the less it teaches "how to think", and even those who are actively trying to teach "how to think" are often doing it in the abstract, rather than as part of their discipline. (You can't learn to think without thinking about something, after all.)

But as for thinking, consider the difference between so-called fast thinking and slow thinking. Fast thinking is making a snap judgement based on previous experience, habit and (let's be honest) bias. Slow thinking is about consciously analysing the variables. One of the criticisms of university from the world of work is that it traditionally applies mostly slow thinking, which gets (theoretically) perfect results at the cost of an immense amount of work time, whereas real-world tasks favour fast thinking, which gets acceptable, "good enough" results in a short period of time.

To me, the biggest benefit of a slow-thinking education is that it builds up a lot of pre-existing knowledge that we can then integrate into fast thinking later; whereas if you start your career on fast thinking, you're making decisions based on the assumption that your limited knowledge is good enough. Essentially, slow thinking requires an open mind, but fast thinking requires a closed one; so you'd best be damn sure that the mind's full of good info before you close it down.

But employers are demanding "real-world" tasks, and you're now getting increasing numbers of "project-based masters" where you spend a year playing in a simulation of a single company going through a series of stages. You get lots of experience of... 1 thing. With theory, you can examine how different cases respond differently to different techniques; in a practical project you only evaluate one particular problem and see the results of one particular solution.


Or to look at things in slightly different terms, what the corporate world is asking universities is for graduates who are ready to work from day 1 (i.e. need no training whatsoever). Much of the most useful stuff I learned at university wasn't needed in day 1, month 1, year 1, or even in some cases decade 1 of my career. But when I left IT 10 years into my career to start teaching English overseas, my understanding of formal grammars and search algorithms let me produce a piece of adaptive learning software that I used to teach myself a new language. Yes, I was rusty; yes, I had to look some of the stuff up. But I wouldn't even have known where to start looking if I didn't already have a fundamental understanding of the concepts from having worked with them before. A course that trains you to be a useful worker from day 1 trains you to do nothing new. Do we want our graduates to be imitators or innovators?
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Re: How long do bloggers think lockdowns last?

Postby Migla » Wed Aug 12, 2020 12:57 pm

On the topics of lockdowns, classroom teaching, language learning and apps such a Duolingo:

I've spent all morning looking at various live Chinese class recordings that have been replacing classroom teaching due to the lockdowns. Here are a few examples: https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1Hf4y197Y5 Beginners Chinese; https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1mK411n7UV?p=1 Intermediate Chinese. The reason I'm bringing this up is I've been back in classroom learning Chinese lately and, well, these are fairly good representations of what I see in class these days.

I look at this, and I cannot stop thinking this is far from the best way to spend class time. Personally, I'd prefer to watch such a video at home (for example, buy the service from commercial providers such as Chinese zero to hero, Confucius institute or anyone else), do exercises and vocab practice in an app and use class time for speaking practice, where I'd get CORRECTIONS of my mistakes (a thing I miss a lot).

I do believe many of you have had vastly different experiences in the classroom, I'd like to compare notes. How widespread is this specific approach to (Chinese) language teaching?
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