Saturday, 3 November 2007

College Courses - Now Garbage! - The Kryptonite Factor

Digg reports that In the hallowed halls of some of America's most elite — and expensive — educational institutions, students are taking classes in subjects like garbage, superpowers and zombies.

Now,before we all express a socially networked 'tut' and swing our electronic 'net-curtains' in dismay, you might consider what YOUR assumptions are about the purpose and methods of adult education

Instinctively we tend to react to such stories with incredulity and dismay...what possible use to man or beast are such courses we all ask. The prevailing assumption is that the 'content' of course has to be vocational. i.e. I can fix things, people, businesses, better after I have learned more stuff in more detail.

What seems to get lost in the wash however is, that ANY form of higher education regardless of the content changes the way a person thinks about their world and how they operate (the vocational bit) in it. School education is about being taught, undergraduate education is about learning how to learn. This means that by going through the process of education your ability to identify sources of information, analyse it, synthesise it (look for patterns that connect themes and issues) and critically evaluate it is the same for any subject. Fundamentally higher education makes you aware of your prior assumptions and the prior assumptions of others, it sensitises you other peoples 'hidden agendas' and inoculates you against dogma.

So what if Supermancould be used a metaphor here? What if the Man of Steel represents hard and fast beliefs that are believed to be invincible and that the rebels amongst us are the Green or Red Kryptonite, imagine...never being duped again.


  1. Although higher education is a place to "stretch" the mind, expose it to new ideas, concepts, theories and apply it to whatever profession we choose, it's a sad fact that some of today's students don't see the relevance in that. I see many students who are only after the big money that they think their degree will give them, so they don't bother with exciting electives that may expand their knowledge in new ways. If only they could have superpowers to foresee the future and see how valuable courses like "garbage" would be!

  2. Thanks for commenting Barbara, someone with direct experience I sense! I completely agree, I wonder if it it might be related to the disjunction between learning theory and practical learning. That's why I am fan of Donald Schon and the Reflective Practioner. So many students seem to have trouble abstracting any direct practical relevance from theoretical ideas. I often suggest 'keep it simple' In Business Management (my area) I often use 'boy friend/girlfriend' relationships for all sorts of things such a Value Proposition, Differentiation, Strategic PLanning etc etc etc. As they say Garbage in Garbage out...and judging by the increasing number of some of the incoherent illegible scripts I mark I wonder - what value any degree sometimes!!