Does schooling interfere with education?

I’ve been feeling rather under-done on the formal education front recently, with my BA being trumped by friend’s, colleague’s and client’s MAs, MBAs, MScs and even PhDs.

But then I remember how my insistence that there was more than one right answer, tendency to put random magazine articles in my bibliographies and to ask ‘why’ rather a lot didn’t go down too well with academia and I think that perhaps I’d be better sticking with self development.

Via Only Dead Fish comes this great video from college drop out Dan Brown, who quit the University of Nebraska because as he put it, “my schooling was interfering with my education”:

His point is that traditionally, the majority of education was based on being told facts, memorising them and regurgitating them come examination time.  Because knowledge used to mean power.  Students migrated to where lecturers could be found at universities because they wanted to learn the facts that the lecturers knew.

Except that now, thanks to the internet, facts are free.  Education should be more about teaching students how to access information – and more importantly, empowering them to analyse and use information creatively to make things better.

Sadly, the traditional model of ‘sit in a lecture hall with 200 other students and scribble facts down’ still abounds at UK universities – and if the proposed cuts in university funding happen, this can only get worse. 

I actually did strike lucky with my degree (Business Studies at Hull Uni) – while 50% of it was lecture hall scribbling and treasure-hunt-in-the-library essays (heaven help you if someone else got the last copy of the vital textbook checked out before you got there), the rest seemed geared up to preparing us for the Real World.  We worked on projects in groups, presented back with PowerPoint, did a pitch instead of a dissertation and I still use some of the analysis tools they taught me today. 

Hull also had a very cool programme where in the 2nd and 3rd years you could chose one module a semester from anywhere on campus, so long as the timetable worked out.  I mainly went for psychology and strategy – in hindsight it was Teach Yourself Planning. 

This would go down very well with Steve Jobs, who in his commencement speech to the Stamford class of 2005 (thanks to IFIABTWC) talks about how the best thing HE ever did was drop of out college:

Steve “stopped taking the classes that didn’t interest me and began dropping in on the ones that looked far more interesting”.  As he puts it, “most of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on”.  Thanks to Steve’s attendance at calligraphy class, the Mac was the first computer with beautiful typography.

So what I guess I’m trying to say is that education beyond the 3 Rs should be less about fact recall and box ticking and more about learning how to seek out interestingness and do something with it.

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