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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 1:56 am 
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Our current educational system is highly flawed. Some example problems:

1) University education is considered to be necessary in order to get a decent job. This leads to two problems: A) Those who don't go to university are often unfairly excluded from good positions, and B) University is stuffed full of people who don't have any desire to be there.
2) University is expensive enough that only those who intend to use it to make money, or the very rich, can reasonably afford to go there, meaning those interested in learning for learning's sake are excluded.
3) Universities often have a great deal of "non academic" courses, which distract from what I see to be the true goal of the university: the furthering, advancement of, and collection of knowledge.
4) High schools typically have mandatory courses which teach non-essential things and optional courses which teach essential things. This leads to people graduating high school and having to survive in the real world without knowing how to cook, do basic home maintenance, or how to pay a bill... but they know calculus, can properly appreciate Shakespeare, and know the chemical composition of DNA.
5) Most (nearly all) jobs require very little actual training to be performed well, yet it is generally necessary to complete four years of unrelated training to obtain them.
6) Community colleges are somewhat redundant, where they offer the same courses as universities but are seen as "inferior."

To solve these and other problems, I propose a four tiered educational system.

I) Basic education. This would include our current elementary school and high school system, except that high school would take a radically different form. Basic maintenance and repair, cooking, basic economics, computer use (including typing), etc would all be completely mandatory for every student. Basic math and language (reading, writing, etc) would be covered in elementary school, and periodic tests to ensure the basics are known by all would be mandatory at all grades, with students unable to pass the tests not being penalized, but required to take refresher courses every year until they pass.

All other courses, deemed non-essential for survival in adulthood, would be completely optional, where each student can pick as many courses as he or she wants up to the number of credits required per year. This would include sciences, literature, arts, programming, philosophy, history, etc.

II) College. This would include all forms of job training, and would require payment per course. Likewise, you would be unable to enroll in a program, and instead would take courses on an individual basis, many having others as prerequisites; thus, you would list on your resume all the courses that you have passed. This would include courses in business, pharmacy, some kinds of engineering (anything not theoretical in nature), creative writing, journalism, &c.

III) University. This would be completely free, and would offer only courses which are not immediately practical in some obvious way, their primary goal being knowledge itself. Unlike college, this would work on a program system, as students would be encouraged to pursue a wide range of topics, and degrees would represent learnedness in general. Philosophy, linguistics, sociology, science, anthropology &c would all be found here.

IV) Community Centres. These would offer as shorter, less intensive courses, non academic, non directly practical courses. In short, everything that isn't College or University. For example, this is where you would come to learn a language, how to paint, how to do Tai Chi or Yoga, etc.

Zero overlap between any of II through IV is the ideal. Result is that businesses no longer expect ridiculous amounts of education, merely the courses pertinent to their field of study. Likewise, it would be very easy to develop your job skills, take time off, and come back to enhance one of them -- and being able to show that on your resume at all steps of the process. Further, university would become far more academic; students would no longer be able to major in "German," nobody would be there except those who wanted to learn, and anyone could attend withouthaving to incur a large financial burden.

What do you think? This is all preliminary, just some ideas I've been bouncing around for a couple days.

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:19 am 
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Looks like a pretty decent concept. The only problem, of course, being where do you get the teachers for the Universities?

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:38 am 
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You get the teachers for the universities... from the universities. Since universities grant degrees, those with higher levels of degrees teach those with lower, within the same program. That's basically what we have now, anyway... so you could get a Bach of Philosophy and be done with it, or you could get a Masters and teach Philosophy to other people, or get a Doctorate and supervise/lead/teach the Masters people.

Staff for the universities (registrar, accounting, etc) would all come from the Colleges, of course.

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:52 am 
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You don't need a PhD to teach. A PhD lets you do research. You need a Master's degree to teach bachelors. You need a Master's degree to lead would be Masters to the Master's level.

Hell, you probably only need a Master's degree to lead would be PhDs to their research topics and then approve their papers.

I can tell you that when it comes to science, earning a PhD means having enough intellect to sit in front of a machine 8 hours a day for three years, let your advisor write three papers on it, then prove you can answer questions in front of three people who probably don't give a damn about you to begin with and woul rather be doing something they find interesting.

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:01 am 
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WCH wrote:
You get the teachers for the universities... from the universities. Since universities grant degrees, those with higher levels of degrees teach those with lower, within the same program. That's basically what we have now, anyway... so you could get a Bach of Philosophy and be done with it, or you could get a Masters and teach Philosophy to other people, or get a Doctorate and supervise/lead/teach the Masters people.

Staff for the universities (registrar, accounting, etc) would all come from the Colleges, of course.


No... How do you pay for the teachers?

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:36 am 
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I agree that there needs to be less of an emphasis on university level education and more of an emphasis within the system of technical level education, but I would also make the point that WCH seems to be underestimating the value of knowledge for knowledge's sake. Far more important than the learning of simple facts is learning how to think with rigour, how to interact with people on large scale projects, and how to communicate and write effectively. This is what, more than anything, our current university system provides, in addition too, and this is important, being a proving ground for ability.
It is noteworthy that employers value Harvard MBA's not for the fact that they are Harvard MBAs, but for the fact that they are people who have proved that they can work and think. Note also that the new fad in business schools is admitting students with liberal arts degrees, or at least students from traditionally liberal arts colleges.
Surgoshan wrote:
I can tell you that when it comes to science, earning a PhD means having enough intellect to sit in front of a machine 8 hours a day for three years, let your advisor write three papers on it, then prove you can answer questions in front of three people who probably don't give a damn about you to begin with and woul rather be doing something they find interesting.

Speaking as both a current college student and a professor's brat at a fairly major research university, I pity you in your choice of grad schools and thesis advisors.

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:21 pm 
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WCH wrote:

III) University. This would be completely free, and would offer only courses which are not immediately practical in some obvious way, their primary goal being knowledge itself. Unlike college, this would work on a program system, as students would be encouraged to pursue a wide range of topics, and degrees would represent learnedness in general. Philosophy, linguistics[/i], sociology, science, anthropology &c would all be found here.

IV) Community Centres. These would offer as shorter, less intensive courses, non academic, non directly practical courses. In short, everything that isn't College or University. For example, this is where you [[i]b]would come to learn a language[/b],
how to paint, how to do Tai Chi or Yoga, etc.

Zero overlap between any of II through IV is the ideal. Result is that businesses no longer expect ridiculous amounts of education, merely the courses pertinent to their field of study. Likewise, it would be very easy to develop your job skills, take time off, and come back to enhance one of them -- and being able to show that on your resume at all steps of the process. Further, university would become far more academic; students would no longer be able to major in "German," nobody would be there except those who wanted to learn, and anyone could attend withouthaving to incur a large financial burden.


Bold and Italics mine.

You seem to have a low opinion on people majoring in other languages.
This is despite a vast and growing need for translators in all fields for a number of languages. Wouldn't that fit better in your "College" than your university.

Surely multiple languages is good for a International Business, Health Care & Law Enforcement (particuarly in high immigrant areas), Politics, Scientists, etc.

Were you trying to differentiate between introductory language learning/learning a langauge for fun & travel versus course delving into the literature by placing them in Universities versus Community Centers?

What about studies that show the best time to learn a second language is in elementary?

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:02 pm 
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I have to say, that all sounds really good. However, it misses a major issue: positional externality. The best schools only take the best students, so as the student population grows larger any given student must study more and harder to win acceptance to the same exact school.

As a member of the largest high-school graduating class in history, this affects me immensely.

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:31 pm 
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Malice wrote:
No... How do you pay for the teachers?

Government funding, public and private sponsorship. The businesses would gladly sponsor an institution that does research that they can take advantage of and provides them with new high-level workforce. Even non-tech related sciences are able to find sponsors as long as the lead figures have good enough contacts. Naturally, there should be a firm backbone of government funding to prevent the universities from becoming too dependant on the sponsors.

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:44 pm 
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Jusander wrote:
Government funding, public and private sponsorship. The businesses would gladly sponsor an institution that does research that they can take advantage of and provides them with new high-level workforce.


This, unfortunately, is not a given. In particular, in many, many industries, it is far cheaper to import skills and knowledge from other countries than it is to sponsor the training of home-grown talent. In particular, imported workers will work for less, and even better, they're trained somewhere else, so the level of training that the business needs to sponsor is, of course, zero. Sure, you don't have quite the guarantee of talent that you do with home-grown employees, but there's a point that even that guarantee is pretty slender...

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 7:02 pm 
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Surgoshan wrote:
You don't need a PhD to teach. A PhD lets you do research. You need a Master's degree to teach bachelors. You need a Master's degree to lead would be Masters to the Master's level.
Of course. In my system, you would need a Masters degree to teach Bachelor's students, and a Doctorate to teach Masters students... each new level can teach the lower ones.
[quote"Malice"]No... How do you pay for the teachers?[/quote]Government funding. I thought that was obvious; I'm a Critical Sociologist, aka a Neo Marxist in new clothes. Not a libertarian. Money is generated by other areas of government, including the Colleges, and used to fund the Universities.
Fael wrote:
but I would also make the point that WCH seems to be underestimating the value of knowledge for knowledge's sake.
Quite the contrary, I believe that knowledge for knowledge's sake is the "highest" most "noble" goal of education; my suggestions for educational reform are designed to make it so that this will be the sole aim of the university. Obviously people from the university will be employed elsewhere -- they will go on to be politicians, lawyers, etc, using the analytical skills and theoretical insight that university has given them. The difference between these and other lines of work, however, is that, while lawyers are likely to have studied philosophy, philosophy is not technically job training to be a lawyer.
wyoarmadillo wrote:
You seem to have a low opinion on people majoring in other languages.
I do. Learning a language is not what university is for; American universities, for example, grant credits for learning French on a level that all Canadians are required to have by grade 7; that's insane. There is nothing theoretical or academic about learning a language. Studying a culture through a language, or studying what makes language work are academic and should be in universities... but those are Anthropology, Sociology and Linguistics courses. If you want to take university in a foreign language, I'd be all for courses being offered in other languages, but simply learning that language is not a course.
wyoarmadillo wrote:
This is despite a vast and growing need for translators in all fields for a number of languages. Wouldn't that fit better in your "College" than your university.
No. College is for specific skill training; courses on translating protocol, for example, could reasonably be offered in the college -- however, learning a language is not itself a job skill, but rather a life skill, and therefore something to be learned either in high school, or at a local community centre. Once you have learned a language in one of those places, by all means go on to do translating work -- if anything, my system makes so doing far easier, because it means you can get the education locally through short courses and not be forced to take a four year, almost entirely irrelevent, program.
Crazed123 wrote:
However, it misses a major issue: positional externality. The best schools only take the best students, so as the student population grows larger any given student must study more and harder to win acceptance to the same exact school.

As a member of the largest high-school graduating class in history, this affects me immensely.
The way my system addresses this is by dividing higher education up more evenly. In Canadian society, University is seen as the place smart people who want good jobs go, and College is seen as the place where average people who want average jobs go; thus, everyone applies to University, not to College. Further, Colleges are full of people taking far more courses than are needed to gain the employment they desire. Under my system, both are fixed, as University will only be attended by those who seek to learn, not those who simply want a better job, and likewise those who are seeking jobs can get their training without clogging up the system for too long. Thus, less people enroll in Universities, and people spend less time in Colleges. Satisfactory?

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 7:10 pm 
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Ah, but how do you forbid employers from demanding a higher grade of education as a simple way to eliminate most of the folks looking for a job?

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 7:17 pm 
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kirby1024 wrote:
This, unfortunately, is not a given. In particular, in many, many industries, it is far cheaper to import skills and knowledge from other countries than it is to sponsor the training of home-grown talent. In particular, imported workers will work for less, and even better, they're trained somewhere else, so the level of training that the business needs to sponsor is, of course, zero. Sure, you don't have quite the guarantee of talent that you do with home-grown employees, but there's a point that even that guarantee is pretty slender...

This system is actually working in Finland at the moment - at least partly. Specially the economics and computer science faculties, their research and their student organizations are heavily sponsored by the tech companies and there's also deeper co-operation than only sponsorship. Also the natural and medical sciences have quite strong sponsorships. The problem area in this model are the sciences who don't produce immediate advantage to the businesses and in these areas the personal networks and people skills of the university high staff become important to gather sponsors. In this area the government funding is needed the most but it's also important in all the areas to make sure that the research is not tailored to benefit only the companies. From the university's point of view the commercial applications of the results of the research are only a secondary result; the main thing is the research itself and the information gained.

I admit that I only realized after reading your post the difference of the economical sectors between here and in the States. Our companies are not usually large enough to do research alone so they have to co-operate with the universities and the other companies and share resources. The big boys in the US might not be all that interested in this system since they have the resources to do all the research by themselves. On the other hand, this system could provide a competitive option for mid-sized businesses to take part in the research and perhaps compete with the bigger companies.

*Disclaimer: I have very little actual knowledge of the US economical sector and how much they currently co-operate with the universities. I'm purely speculating here...*

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 7:37 pm 
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Weremensh wrote:
Ah, but how do you forbid employers from demanding a higher grade of education as a simple way to eliminate most of the folks looking for a job?
Mainly by making it impractical to do so; under this system it becomes very clear that they're not learning anything useful for anything but the most theoretical work. So, employers could still require it, but they would no longer be able to assume that every smart person goes through the higher education system.

Anyway, not saying it's perfect.. just saying it'd be a massive improvement. If someone would like to suggest further safeguards, I'm open to suggestions.

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:06 pm 
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Jusander wrote:
*Disclaimer: I have very little actual knowledge of the US economical sector and how much they currently co-operate with the universities. I'm purely speculating here...*


That's okay, neither do I - I'm Australian, and have never set foot in the US.

But, I do know that the globalisation of the workforce does mean that incentives exist for hiring overseas talent at the expense of local talent. In certain countries these incentives may not overcome the patriotism of funding local talent, but I know that in many countries this is not the case. The issue of illegal Mexican workers, I think, highlights this problem well in the US. Of course, it's a poor comparison when talking about skilled labour, but even then, I can provide examples, although I'll bet that Weremensh can provide more detailed ones than I could.

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