Thursday, 26 May 2011

Is University Knowledge The Same As Knowing?

The BBC reports that India aims to be the next university superpower and the metric chosen to indicate this 'super-powerness' is the number of graduates.

Just stop and think for a minute. Is that really the most appropriate measure of how intellectually powerful your nation is? It's the same as a student claiming that an assignment of 10,000 words is better than than an assignment of 2,000 words.

The other issue is that churning people out of university with extant knowledge is not really an adequate measure either. What about new ideas, new ways of characterising problems and deriving solutions? As Casanova might claim 'its not the size of the boat, its the motion on the ocean'

Knowledge is a crude nominalisation of the adverb knowing. Knowing implies insight and wisdom. Knowledge implies collecting and hoarding. Knowing implies an awareness of one's own pre-suppositions and how they affect our approach to the world, the nature of reality and what are claims to certitude are based on. I wish India all the very best in her ambitions. She should not mistake the filling of undergraduate heads with 'stuff' as an indicator of knowing, and then multiplying the amount of stuff collected by the number of people with that stuff as how good her universities are.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Is A Degree Worth It?

If you think a university degree is going to get you a job just because you have got one then you might be very gullible. The BBC report today that the Graduate Jobs Market Is Tough Competition. I have problem with the whole idea of a 'graduate jobs market' because it suggests that it is somehow separate and different from any other form of employment. A job is a job is a job.

 An investment in a higher education is simply a personal investment that is about developing your intellectual capability. There are of course 'practical' elements to most courses, but the point of higher education is to develop the way you think about the world, problems and yourself.  This might have a tendency to set you apart when applying for a job but it can never guarantee a job. It might make you more employable but it will never get you employed. You can also create a mistaken sense of superiority (hubris) by thinking that there are 'graduate jobs' and other jobs. There are plenty of good forms of employment that demand every day practical knowledge. A higher education provides a capability for conceptual thinking and of sure many courses include lots of applied work too.

The fundamental point is that assuming you stand more chance of getting a job because you have a degree is misleading. Sure the big corporates sift applicants for their corporate 'soldier' jobs by 2:1 status. If ever there was an example of like recruiting like by like there it is. Of course many Public Service roles filter applicants by educational level,  to develop an academic career you need academic qualifications, and vocational professions demand higher education qualification is a necessary part of the professional career.  This I suppose is what is meant by the 'graduate job market'. But think small medium sized enterprises (where many graduates go job hunting) and they'll foreground 'you' and background your certificates.

For holders of more general social science based degrees its easy to be duped into thinking that we should 'love' our work (and the the employer will love us back). Nonsense. A job is primarily to earn a living. Now that said if you have a university degree, they can't take it away from you. Use it to your advantage. The priority is to get into paid work first, then use your education and that income stream as a platform for change. And if you land a corporate job? beguiled with promises of bonuses and fast track managerial careers? and corporate cultures that emulate the some of the excessive behaviours of The Apprentice then keep this blog in your bookmarks and come back when your 35 and tell me all about it.

Oh yes, and natural science degrees are different. Aren't they? If you do choose to go to a university then it is wise to find out more about them, hopefully this free Best University Guide will put you on the right track. If recently graduated, then how about using all that intellectual horse power to start your own business. Now that would be standing out from the crowd!

Monday, 9 May 2011

The Mistakes Of Headline and Copywriting

It's funny how meaning is made and how it relies on the correct context. The BBC science and nature website link headline of 6th May 2011 read Mass culling 'may be unnecessary'

I thought immediately that Richard Dawkins had perhaps made a U Turn. The idea that either the religious act itself was deemed necessary for culling or that the people who attended them needed culling seemed like a very extreme idea indeed.

Now recognising that there is always a 'hidden agenda' and that I do not suffer from 'critico-deductive minimilisitis' or gullibility as it is termed in psychology circles, I reckon a bored copywriter at the BBC knew exactly what they were doing. It worked, because I then went on to read the article, which is further proof of Eagly and Chaiken's dual process model of information processing.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Someone Has Explained The Gullible Mind

I was delighted to read this article called The Gullible Mind Explained by Mike Adams.

Mike has captured several aspects of gullibility in this piece. The lack of critical thinking, undue deference to authority, not suspecting hidden agendas etc. This is a good article. It does of course emphasise the angle that its the failing of the individual that creates gullibility. I still feel that situation plays a major part. That said you are always cruising for a bruising if you have misplaced confidence in your own infallibility.

Also like any social phenomenon Gullibilty might be better explained by Structuration Theory which accounts for both agency and structure.