STATE OF AMERICAN EDUCATION
From a QUANTA Magazine interview with Freeman Dyson, “A ‘Rebel’ Without a Ph.D” by Thomas Lin, we find an arresting introduction to today’s subject:
Dyson, the world-renowned mathematical physicist and now 90, when asked, “You became a professor at Cornell without ever having received a Ph.D. You seem proud of that fact?”
“Oh, yes. I’m very proud of not having a Ph.D. I think the Ph.D. system is an abomination. It was invented as a system for educating German professors in the 19th century, and it works well under those conditions. It’s good for a very small number of people who are going to spend their lives being professors. But it has become now a kind of union card that you have to have in order to have a job, whether it’s being a professor or other things, and it’s quite inappropriate for that. It forces people to waste years and years of their lives sort of pretending to do research for which they’re not at all well-suited. In the end, they have this piece of paper which says they’re qualified, but it really doesn’t mean anything. The Ph.D. takes far too long and discourages women from becoming scientists, which I consider a great tragedy. So I have opposed it all my life without any success at all.”
But, let’s not stop there. In addition to the questionable worthiness of the Ph.D., the pursuit of an undergraduate college degree has morphed, in many ways, into a trade school activity with the emphasis on skills acquisition.
So, too, in our public education system —- elementary, middle and high schools.
John D. Sutter in a CNN.com posting wrote, “Sir Ken Robinson says that our education system works like a factory. It is based on models of mass production and conformity that actually prevent kids from finding their passions and succeeding. . . . Instead of trying to mass-produce children who are good at taking tests and memorizing things, schools should emphasize personal development. Not all kids are good at the same things, and the education system shouldn’t pretend they should all turn out the same.” (Sutter is the author of “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything”)
Education used to be about either of two things: liberal arts immersion or trade school preparation. Each served a very useful and important purpose. Today, sadly, only the latter has survived as still-important. Even our finest universities are, too often, abandoning their liberal arts history in order to push students into job-specific memorization and skills acquisition. Consequently, far too many graduates have little preparation for multi-subject thinking as they myopically prepare for a particular profession’s skill set.
More on Wednesday – – –
— Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning
April 24, 2017
www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Mondays & Wednesdays)