Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On Schooling's Failure And Journalism's Doom

Tall Dark and Mysterious posted aboutme to this article from a University Newspaper yesterday. Rather than quote the whole thing here before I expound on its ridiculousness I will request that you go read and then come back. Are you back? Good. Take a deep breath, it will be okay.

So, the problem this fine young writer seems to have with the education system is that it is forcing her to take classes in things unrelated to her career. Her career in journalism. The thing that confuses me about this, is that Journalism isn't really a topic, so much as a set of skills that give one the ability to report information effectively to ones audience. So, if you think about it, is anything REALLY unrelated to journalism? What if you have to write a peice about the guy who won the Nobel Prize in Physics? Wouldn't it behoove you to have at least a HighSchool level grasp of physics? Or Statistics! Which she even mentions in her post. Everyone hates Statistics, I know this, but if you don't understand it how can you effectively report on polls? (Or in her case the wildly innaccurate surveys that people send in to the magazines.)

You can't. I truly think that an effective journalist has to understand their subject matter as well as possible in order to explain it well to the reader. Fortunately since all Stacey with an e y wants is to work at Glamour magazine the most complex concept she will need to grasp is what color eyeshadow looks good on what skin tones. Sadly though I don't think it is uncommon for journalists to become journalists because they are too lazy to learn other subjects and this is reflected in the quality of the reporting we are generally exposed to. (Though there are some truly exceptional reporters out there, unfortunately I think they are a minority.) Thank god the age of the blogger is begining.

But what about non journalists who feel this way about the subjects they are being forced to learn? Well I can relate, sometimes you have to learn stuff in school that is boring. Really boring. Like that class they made me take on writing. I hated it, but I did my best and tried to learn, even though it brought down my GPA. And now I try to remember what I learned in that class every day when I write my blog, and as you can see, I don't. Though it might not be fun to learn some things, I have never really wished I hadn't bothered to learn a thing, though I have frequently wished the opposite.

So while Stacy's desire not to learn stuff is understandable, it isn't really a problem with school as she seems to think it is. It is in fact her own fault for being too lazy to learn things just because she isn't interested in them. Sometimes in life you have to do things you don't want to do, and just trust that someone older and wiser than you thinks you should know this stuff. At the very least it will help you learn how to learn boring stuff, and who knows you might even find it interesting.


Averroes said...

Shinobi, I'm almost sorry you linked to that article. It has enough amzingly bad statements in it to fund a dozen papers. fortunately for you, I will try to rein myself in to making just a couple of comments.....now.

Back in the dark ages when I toiled in primary school, before new math, an education was purposely general, "liberal," as it was called. It was not supposed to provide one with the specific tools for employment, but to train the mind and provide the general background upon which specific employment skills could be weeded. Corporations and business would rather train their own employees, who, after all, tended to stay with them for 30 years.

This Iowan is actually the victim of three trends in education. The first comes from the 60s, the demand that education be "relevant." Relevancy was defined gby the student, of course. At the same time, grade inflation caused every student to expect top grades, almost as a right.

[For an example, here is a true story that would not apply today. At the first university i attended, the president told us that when the outgoing president gave him advice, it was this: "Always be kind to your A students, for their way in life will be difficult, often rising or falling on the fit of their lofty ideas with society. And always be kind to your B students, because they are talented and serious, will go off to graduate school, and may return to make you fine professors someday. but be especially kind to your C students, becasaue these students know how to overcome difficulties, no the value of perseverence, know how to do what is necessary, and will go out to become successful scions of industry and leaders of business, and will make hefty contributions to the university."

Meanwhile, education theory identified the 10% of students who did not fare so well with the historic education regime, the "instrumental" learners. These learners are often described as "hands omn," but another characteristic is that they find it difficult to become engageed in learning when they can't how the learning relates to their own life. For instnce, in teaching maps to this group, the strategy is to have them map their own bedroom, then their houise, their street, their neighborhood, only then moving on to the city, the county, the state, the country, and so on. Starting with a map of ancient Egypt is doomed to failure. Education practice has come to try to always include this group in the mainstream, resulting in a loss of liberality from the curriculum.

latly, for many reasons, businesses have applied pressure to states to tailor education to specific skills for employment in their industry, often threatening to leave the state if it is not done. this means, of course, more specific "skill" courses, which students select on skill.

I was influenced by a high school teacher who took the "boring" notion, and put the responsibility right on the student. he quoted Chesterton (or maybe it was Newman) As saying that "education is the creation of an interest." What he was saying was that to be educated, you must develop the ability to become interestede in just about anything. It is obvious that someomne finds any course interesting (except, of course, statistics). This teacher argued that it is up to the student to find what is interesting in any subject, and relate it to his own already established interests. In fact, this approach may even allow the student to develop new interests all his life, instead of being trapped in the interests that he had at age 14.

I'm not going to here argue that i have been perfect in following this ideal. In fact, some things have been put off. but if you had told me in high school that i would have degrees in microbiology and philosophy, and that i would actually have more credits in other areas, I would have thought you were daft.

The sad thing about the Iowan is that this student is not open to any field outside the already defined interest. This student want professors who are entertaining, I bet, rather than boringly informative. I feel that these developments have gone a long way to killing liberal education, that broad knowledge in the arts and scientists, and this is a sad development. And this iowan is a sad example of the sad effects.

Shinobi said...

Yeah. Sad is a good word for it.

You know Av, you do have a lot of interesting viewpoints to ad, you should consider getting your own blog so You can post this stuff there and not have to bother with pesky commenting feilds. It is free you know.