As it seems to happen, by chance I’ve had more than a few conversations about different aspects of education over the past little while. Not only that, but my recent post about MBA schools not respecting MBAs and the B School at Yale’s decision to force a curve has wound me up to the point that I have to post something.
Education is broken at all levels and needs to be rethought.
I’ve long thought that the restrictive nature of the majority of my childhood education (memorize and repeat) was not conclusive to the the best learning experience to most people. While I was lucky enough to blessed with a pretty good level of recall, I couldn’t imagine what it was like for my peers with different learning styles.
What I want to focus on more is the post-secondary education system, because I think we’re at a breaking point. We need to rethink the structure of a good amount of what is taught in universities and how relevant it is outside of an academic setting.
The first conversation was with a friend who enlightened me about the realities of a post-doctorate. Essentially, many to most of those who are attempting to earn their PhD would like to work in academia, but there are too many graduating and not enough professors retiring, so there is a job shortage. Since there is a shortage, newly-minted PhDs need to stay relevant in their field by research and publishing papers, so they hope to get a post-doctorate position. Hired by a school for a 2ish year contract to research and write, in the hopes of a number of publications.
Being someone who has less than no interest in attempting a PhD at this point, I didn’t know anything about this and the conversation was shocking. Hearing someone speak of earning a PhD in the same flippant nature I would mention my bachelors degree was definitely a surprise.
Not only that, but I instantly started feeling bad for all the PhDs that “don’t make it” so-to-speak. Who earn their degree after a decade or more of hard work, only to find out that there are no jobs for them at schools and therefore they need to do a complete 180 and find a job in industry. Which may be hard because they have spent their entire adult life narrowing their level of expertise to a fine point that may not have much “real-world” application. No offense meant to any PhDs.
The other conversation was with a friend who expressed frustration that people in his field graduation from a fairly rigorous university program, without any skills to actually do the work that they went to school for. In his mind, his company has to do all the training, anyway. In this case the university education is a barrier of entry, but not a indication of skill.
Although these examples are very different, I think that they arise from the same issue: Universities being out of touch with the other 99% of the world.
Contributing to academia at the lowest cost is the goal of most universities, therefore all schools are filled with academics. Those academics write for other academics, while the majority of graduates work in industry and would greatly benefit in learning a few less high-level theories and more practical applications.
I have no regrets pursuing my degree, but from where I’m sitting right now certain vocational schools may have been a pretty good option. Not only that, but I can honestly say that there are very few times that the theories I learned from textbooks have ever come up in one of my jobs.
I think that universities still have a place in society, but there needs to be more of a focus on correctly educating those who don’t plan to continue on with higher-education. And for those who do, some more hope at a job would be nice.
Come back on Thursday to see what I have to say about that Yale thing…