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Terez
08-21-2009, 01:01 PM
I'm taking Astronomy this semester, and then I'll be done with the non-musical requirements for my degree.

It's shaping up to be a typical general education class, and once again, I have to question why we have general education requirements at university level in the US. Most other countries do not, it seems.

Now, I'm aware that US high school students are lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to general education. I'm sure that most university students in those countries that do not have general education requirements have a better grasp of general subjects upon university entry than entering college students in the US.

To clarify, this course has somewhere between one and two hundred students. The lectures are given on pre-prepared power point presentations that are used every semester. The presentations are available for download on the class website. The tests are based on homework quizzes that are given on the class website. The homework quizzes are available in Word files on the site as well, so that the answers can be worked out before the quiz is taken for credit.

We are quite obviously not required to take notes in class (I don't think they're even taking attendance), and we're rarely called upon to discuss. Since I have no internet in my dorm, I've used the two class periods so far to catch up on Theoryland and whatnot, and even not paying attention, I've been roused out of my browsing by unanswered questions and awkward silences several times now, and was able to give the correct answer on the questions. Most classes, I wouldn't try to get away with browsing the net from the front row of class, but this seems to be one of those classes where it won't be a problem.

So. A recent development in high schools has been the semester system, where kids take four courses each semester rather than 6 or so year-long courses. This allows for more 'general education' in high school, and also more specialized education in high school. Shouldn't the US be able to move toward dropping 'general education' from university degree requirements? I think that it is currently a burden both on university students and professors. 'General education' gives our universities too much of a 'same old, same old' atmosphere, and I think that the students would get a lot more out of higher education if they could concentrate on their respective fields rather than trying to do that, and do high school over again at the same time.

It seems to me that, if we're still lagging on general education, it would be a better idea to do it at the master's level? Where the kids aren't so burned out on general education, and they're in general more studious than the average undergrad?

Crispin's Crispian
08-21-2009, 01:15 PM
Last time I took a core class, it was more weightlifting and aerobics than core, but I digress.

I'm actually quite happy that I had to do the "liberal arts" core, as it helped me narrow down what I wanted to study. And it really was filled with interesting stuff that I never learned in high school. When I graduated high school, I had only vague ideas of what I wanted to study, and spent the next two years figuring it out. Then I studied it, graduated, and promptly started a career that had nothing to do with my major.

I have more to say about your ideas, T, but I have to get back to that career for the moment. If I get some free time this PM, I'll give you s'more thoughts about the whole university system, graduate school, etc.

JSUCamel
08-21-2009, 01:32 PM
I'm sure that most university students in those countries that do not have general education requirements have a better grasp of general subjects upon university entry than entering college students in the US.

Lots of reasons. For one thing, you're completely useless if all you know is music. "Core" classes such as math, science, and English make sure that you're able to do other things: run a cash register, think for yourself, write coherent sentences, read and understand materials. You may already know how to do this, but a huge number of college students don't. And don't forget, you're old and have learned a lot more. Most of these kids are 18, 19, 20 years old.


To clarify, this course has somewhere between one and two hundred students. The lectures are...

(snip)

We are quite obviously not required to take notes in class (I don't think they're even taking attendance), and we're rarely called upon...

(snip)



Unfortunately, most of these types of classes are taught by either TAs who don't care or they're taught by professors who would rather be teaching the higher level courses that they're more interested in. What would you rather teach: basic music theory or the complexity and influence of Bach's music?


So. A recent development in high schools has been the semester system, where kids take four courses each semester rather than 6 or so year-long courses. This allows for more 'general education' in high school, and also more specialized education in high school.

This isn't really recent. It's been going on for as long as I've been in school. I'm not entirely sure it allows for more "general education in high school", so much as it tends to make the load easier on students while covering the same number of subjects. I've never taught or taken classes in a block scheduling school like this, so I don't really know.

Shouldn't the US be able to move toward dropping 'general education' from university degree requirements?

No.

I think that it is currently a burden both on university students and professors. 'General education' gives our universities too much of a 'same old, same old' atmosphere, and I think that the students would get a lot more out of higher education if they could concentrate on their respective fields rather than trying to do that, and do high school over again at the same time.

I disagree. I went into higher education thinking that I wanted to be a computer science major. If I had taken only computer science classes, and no English or Drama or Music or Biology or Chemistry classes, then I never would have discovered theatre, and I never would have learned as much as I did. There's something to be said for exploring an education across a wide breadth of fields.

I can't even begin to describe how many things I learned from my drama classes, from my English classes, from my computer science classes. I can't even describe how much they've influenced the way I think and the way I write. And I never would have learned most of those things if I'd never taken anything but computer science classes.

Not to mention meeting all the phenomenal people I've met who were studying other disciplines.

You've had 10 years to think about what you wanted out of a college education. You've worked in the real world. Most college students haven't. They need general education classes for a variety of reasons: to give them ideas for what they might want to do in life, to give them the basics of those courses, to meet new people they otherwise would never meet, to expand their horizons.

You're rather rare in how obsessive and how focused you are about music. You could talk about music 24/7 and never get tired of it. Most people get tired of talking about the same things. Right now I'm completely burnt out about theatre. I've talked about theatre for so much over the last year that, you know, I just want to focus on other things -- web design, writing my novel, reading new books, meeting new people.

Most people need other things to stay sane.

It seems to me that, if we're still lagging on general education, it would be a better idea to do it at the master's level? Where the kids aren't so burned out on general education, and they're in general more studious than the average undergrad?

Again, no. Your undergraduate career should be spent figuring out what it is that you want to do -- I'm using "you" in the general sense here -- whether it's English literature, European history, or computer science. By the time you graduate with an undergrad degree, to put it in other terms, you should be at what we might call the "journeyman" level of your chosen field. You're good at what you do, but you're certainly not an expert.

The masters level is for focusing on a single subject, such as Middle English literary works (Chaucer, for instance), medieval European history, or artificial intelligence. During this time period, you should be developing skills and absorbing knowledge that are specific to your field, and by the time it's over, you should be what you might call an expert or "master" of your field.

The doctorate level is, of course, for focusing even more tightly on a subject. By the time you're done, you should be one of the foremost experts on your very specific field -- whether it's feminism in Chaucer's literary work, feudal history in Sweden during the 14th to 16th centuries, or using artificial intelligence to power military drones in desert scenarios.

I've always thought of it this way. The undergraduate program should teach you how to think and how to learn on your own. The masters and doctorate programs teach you about your specific subject. Theoretically, as I think of it, you should be able to take just about any undergrad degree and get a masters degree in a completely different subject.

Here's an example:

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama. Let's say I want to get an M.B.A. What can a Drama degree possibly have to do with a business degree?

Well, let's think of all the things drama people learn and think of all the things business people learn and compare.

Here are a few examples.

Drama majors learn the following:
1) Work under deadlines (the show must go on)
2) Work independently (learning lines, etc)
3) Work as a team (ensemble in shows)
4) Speak comfortably in front of large numbers of people
5) Think creatively (create believable characters from text on page)

Business majors learn the following:
1) Work under deadlines (product release date)
2) Work independently (make those sales!)
3) Work as a team (Get the product from concept to release)
4) Speak comfortably in front of large numbers of people (Press releases, pitching to VCs, etc)
5) Think creatively (coming up with new products, marketing campaigns, etc)

Now once I get to the masters level, I've got to focus those skills into a specific area, say, e-commerce or real estate.

So to summarize:

The undergraduate experience should prepare you to think and learn on your own and give you the necessary skills to teach yourself to do pretty much anything you want. The graduate program should prepare you to become an expert in a specific field.

Jokeslayer
08-21-2009, 02:24 PM
Lots of reasons. For one thing, you're completely useless if all you know is music. "Core" classes such as math, science, and English make sure that you're able to do other things: run a cash register, think for yourself, write coherent sentences, read and understand materials. You may already know how to do this, but a huge number of college students don't. And don't forget, you're old and have learned a lot more. Most of these kids are 18, 19, 20 years old.

But why teach this stuff at college? If you're useless without it (an assertion I can't be bothered to argue against right now), why not teach it in high school? Or even earlier. Assuming running a cash register means being able to do basic maths (on the order of "Your bill is $8.57. You pay $10. The register tells the cashier to give you $1.43 change. What coins do you give?), I'd hope most 12 year olds could do that. Who wants to pay tens of thousands of dollars (or whatever it costs, I don't know) to learn shit you should've learned in middle school? If you're not learning that stuff (aside from "thinking for yourself") in high school, what are you learning?

Not to say I don't think general education is a good thing (speaking of the ability to write coherent sentences...). But do I really care if my doctor knows when the battle of Naseby was (you can replace that with Gettysburg, if you like), if my lawyer can integrate linear functions, if my accountant has read To Kill A Mockingbird? Of course not. Same as I don't care if my web designer knows what Checkov's gun is, or the guy directing the play I'm in is capable of complying with web 2.0 standards. (Which raises the question: is a degree meant to make you functional or interesting? I'd argue, given that you're already paying through the nose for the priviledge, it's to make you functional {which doesn't solely apply to vocational degrees like medicine and law}, and in many cases making you interesting is merely an expensive addition)

OTOH, I know nothing about pre-med and pre-law courses, so the above may be a pile of useless nonsense.

Though I do see the benefit with certain types of degree or to certain types of people (as in your example, Camel), wouldn't you be pretty pissed off if you had a load of your time and money wasted in pointless classes when you already know what you want to do. I know I would be. The benefits of broader education to some people isn't an argument for making it compulsory, merely for making it available.

JSUCamel
08-21-2009, 02:54 PM
But why teach this stuff at college? If you're useless without it (an assertion I can't be bothered to argue against right now), why not teach it in high school? Or even earlier.

The sad reality is that colleges can't assume that incoming students actually know this stuff. Yes, there are standardized tests and GPA and stuff that indicate that the student does know, but as any teacher can attest, just because a student has passed a test doesn't mean he's mastered the subject.


But do I really care if my doctor knows when the battle of Naseby was (you can replace that with Gettysburg, if you like), if my lawyer can integrate linear functions, if my accountant has read To Kill A Mockingbird? Of course not. Same as I don't care if my web designer knows what Checkov's gun is, or the guy directing the play I'm in is capable of complying with web 2.0 standards.

I take issue with the assertion that the specific knowledge learned in these classes is crucial. It's not. What's crucial is the exposure to those subjects and the learning processes that these classes utilize.

A dentist doesn't need to know who won the Battle of Naseby, but I'd hope that he at least knows history well enough to know that the Holocaust did, in fact, happen. I don't expect my lawyer to know how to calculate integrals or differentials, but I do expect him to know the problem solving skills that math teaches, that math works, and that even if he doesn't understand it, math is what makes sure his car drives.

Imagine someone comes up to you and says "Did you know this plane can fly faster than the speed of light?" Anyone with a basic understanding of modern physics knows that this is impossible. But you'd be surprised how many people think this is possible.

General knowledge makes you well-educated. It makes you not believe things just because someone else said so. It makes you understand the complexities behind things. It's easy for someone to say "Everyone in Canada hates their health care system!" when it's clearly false. We all know some people in Canada and they tell us that while it's not an ideal system, it works. Education, especially higher education, helps you tell the difference between falsehoods and facts, an educated opinion and an uneducated opinion.

My brother is not well-educated. He can run a pizza shop like nobody's business, but when it comes to anything outside of making pizza, he's clueless. You wouldn't believe the crazy assertions he makes because "it was on TV" or "everyone knows it". He once told me that "the speed of gravity is 187 miles per hour per second." (In case you don't remember, the acceleration of gravity is 9.8 meters per second per second.)

That's why you have to have this general education. Smart kids tend to pick up this general awareness of other disciplines in high school (although this sometimes depends on the school system), but many kids need that college instruction as well.

(Which raises the question: is a degree meant to make you functional or interesting?

I would argue that the purpose of a degree is to teach you to learn on your own. But that's just my definition. Uno or Snow or Crispin or any number of people more educated than I may be able to elaborate more.

Though I do see the benefit with certain types of degree or to certain types of people (as in your example, Camel), wouldn't you be pretty pissed off if you had a load of your time and money wasted in pointless classes when you already know what you want to do.

Short answer: no. I think very few classes are pointless, unless the teacher is literally not teaching at all.

Jokeslayer
08-21-2009, 03:29 PM
The sad reality is that colleges can't assume that incoming students actually know this stuff. Yes, there are standardized tests and GPA and stuff that indicate that the student does know, but as any teacher can attest, just because a student has passed a test doesn't mean he's mastered the subject.

I guess you have a point there. But I think it would be better if high schools taught this stuff (and even as I type this, I'm reminded of the first year of my degree that was spent learning things I already knew but most people didn't seem to)


I take issue with the assertion that the specific knowledge learned in these classes is crucial. It's not. What's crucial is the exposure to those subjects and the learning processes that these classes utilize.

I still don't see why that's important. Or at least, why exposure to English, maths and (less so) science is important. (Though I admit I'm making an assumption about the nature of core courses that may well be wrong). Modern history and politics would be useful, but it doesn't seem that english or maths are.

Also, what makes college the right place to teach this stuff? If it's so important, teach it in high school (where everyone goes), not college. Then don't teach it again in college, because that's a waste of time.

I don't expect my lawyer to know how to calculate integrals or differentials, but I do expect him to know the problem solving skills that math teaches, that math works, and that even if he doesn't understand it, math is what makes sure his car drives.

I expect that if my lawyer needs to know how to solve problems maths-style, his law degree will have (1) exposed him to those situations and (2) taught him to solve them. Wouldn't that be a better system than making him take calc101 and hoping the methods rub off.

General knowledge makes you well-educated. It makes you not believe things just because someone else said so.

OK, so explain why it's impossible for something to move faster than the speed of light.

My brother is not well-educated. He can run a pizza shop like nobody's business, but when it comes to anything outside of making pizza, he's clueless. You wouldn't believe the crazy assertions he makes because "it was on TV" or "everyone knows it". He once told me that "the speed of gravity is 187 miles per hour per second." (In case you don't remember, the acceleration of gravity is 9.8 meters per second per second.)

All very well, but still, who cares if my pizza guy knows about gravity? It's really not important. I can see caring if he knows jack about politics or whatever, since he's part of my democracy (well not mine, but you get the point), though I don't know how much difference it'll make long run (by the time he's 50, is he still going to use the skills he learned 30 years ago? I think in most cases not, but I don't know)

That's why you have to have this general education. Smart kids tend to pick up this general awareness of other disciplines in high school (although this sometimes depends on the school system), but many kids need that college instruction as well.

Can I ask, what proportion of the population do you think should go to college? I'm getting the impression you would send a very high proportion, whereas I would send a much lower amount. Which suggests a fundamental difference in our opinions.

Short answer: no. I think very few classes are pointless, unless the teacher is literally not teaching at all.

Fair enough.

JSUCamel
08-21-2009, 04:11 PM
I guess you have a point there. But I think it would be better if high schools taught this stuff (and even as I type this, I'm reminded of the first year of my degree that was spent learning things I already knew but most people didn't seem to)

You answered your own question(so to speak).

I still don't see why that's important. Or at least, why exposure to English, maths and (less so) science is important. (Though I admit I'm making an assumption about the nature of core courses that may well be wrong). Modern history and politics would be useful, but it doesn't seem that english or maths are.

If someone tells you they need you to invest $10,000 in their company that has developed a plane that can fly faster than the speed of light, and that within 3 years they'll pay you back (with interest) plus a share of the profits... Would you invest?

Of course not. It's not possible under current models of physics to travel faster than the speed of light. This is obviously a scam to take your money.

But let's say that you don't know what the speed of light is or that it's impossible to go faster than that. You might be taken in by this scam.

And that's just a rather obvious example.

Also, what makes college the right place to teach this stuff? If it's so important, teach it in high school (where everyone goes), not college. Then don't teach it again in college, because that's a waste of time.

You answered this earlier. There are many, many people who get to college who DO NOT KNOW this stuff. On top of that, do you know many people who actually enjoyed high school and paid attention? The long and short of it is that universities can't assume that everyone learned the same things in high school.

What if you went to a school where they didn't teach evolution, just creationism, and I went to a school where they taught evolution? Which of us do you think would do better in a Reproductive Biology class?

I expect that if my lawyer needs to know how to solve problems maths-style, his law degree will have (1) exposed him to those situations and (2) taught him to solve them. Wouldn't that be a better system than making him take calc101 and hoping the methods rub off.

You would be wrong on the first count. Lawyers don't have to take calculus. However, if a lawyer were to get into a case where this information was relevant, they would need to A) recognize that it was relevant or B) they would have to either teach themselves or hire someone who knows. Either way, a basic understanding of math concepts is required.

OK, so explain why it's impossible for something to move faster than the speed of light.

I don't know off the top of my head, honestly. Something to do with light being a constant and space/time.. I don't know. I'm not a physicist. But I DO know that under current models of physics, it's impossible. Again, like I said earlier, it's not the individual specific tidbits of knowledge that I think is important, but rather the overall big picture and the thought processes that go into learning that are important.

All very well, but still, who cares if my pizza guy knows about gravity? It's really not important. I can see caring if he knows jack about politics or whatever, since he's part of my democracy (well not mine, but you get the point), though I don't know how much difference it'll make long run (by the time he's 50, is he still going to use the skills he learned 30 years ago? I think in most cases not, but I don't know)

A pizza guy won't need to know the acceleration due to gravity. Again, it was just an example of how wrong popular perception can be. If he's wrong about something as basic to physics as acceleration due to gravity, then how wrong will he be when it comes to concepts such as health care, abortion, military strategy, negotiating the price of a new car, raising a child? How can he possibly make informed decisions if he doesn't understand what he's looking at? Can you imagine if airport security tried to explain to Joe Schmoe why he can't take his bottle of shampoo on the plane, because it might be used somehow to chemically react with something else to make a bomb of some kind? (Weak example, I know) If Joe doesn't understand enough chemistry to know this makes sense (uh, sorta), he might think he's being harassed or singled out, when this is clearly not the case.

An uneducated person who doesn't understand technical terms might fall for the GOP's assertion that the new health care proposals have "death panels" built in to determine who gets to die and who doesn't. An uneducated person who doesn't know anything about statistics might not understand what Obama when he says the median income for America is $XXXX... The median is not the same as the average (or the mean), and can in fact be completely different.

Do you remember a few years ago when RJ was in the Mayo Clinic, he kept saying how the "median" life expectancy was 2 years or 4 years or something. He kept using median as the benchmark as opposed to the mean (average). Why? Well, partly because it sounds better. And partly because the average was probably much lower (and would discourage not only RJ himself, but his fans).

For someone who knows even the basics of statistics, it was clear what RJ was doing. For those who don't, it's easy to get a completely different impression.

Can I ask, what proportion of the population do you think should go to college? I'm getting the impression you would send a very high proportion, whereas I would send a much lower amount. Which suggests a fundamental difference in our opinions.

I don't think college is necessary. I do think education is necessary. I do think the current education system in America is inefficient and deeply flawed. The focus is on test scores and not the processes and learning.

A few months ago, I believe, there was a post on here linking to an article about the education system of.. Sweden, I believe. Higher education is pretty much mandatory there, but it's split into two camps -- university and technical. If you make certain grades and such, you get to go to university. If not, you go to technical. There's leeway to choose, if you really want, but most, I think, tend to go with whichever they want.

There's no stigma against going to technical school instead of university. That's very important and it's something that most Western cultures lack. In our society, if you don't go to college, you're automatically considered an idiot or something.


I'm not going to commit to a number or percentage that I think should go to college, because, quite frankly, I'm not an expert on that.

Anyway, we could get into a whole other thread about whether or not college should be mandatory or encouraged or if it should be rationed out. The original point of this thread was regarding general-ed classes at the university level.

I do think that general ed courses are an integral part of a university experience. You don't HAVE to go to a university and take general ed classes. If Terez so desired, there are any number of musical conservatory programs out there that could provide the training she wants on that particular subject, while ignoring the rest.

Zanguini
08-21-2009, 04:20 PM
including this semester i have 11 classes to go 2 of which are general ed (intro to public speaking, Which i have this semester and bio lab, which will require me to retake bio because i took it 11 years ago but was unable to get into a lab.) I also have an internship which I dont know how i will accomplish two jobs and go to school at the same time. The internship is 400 hours and it must be done in a 3 month time frame.
After that i will be qualified to screw things up for FEMA.

JSUCamel
08-21-2009, 04:23 PM
After that i will be qualified to screw things up for FEMA.

I have this image in my hand of Zan in a white lab coat, mad scientist goggles on his head, cackling horribly while thumbing through a binder with the letters "FEMA" on the front.

Oh, that made my day.

Sarevok
08-21-2009, 04:55 PM
I just typed a nice post, and then hit a wrong button.
Suffice to say, I reference the Dutch system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_the_Netherlands), which is mostly similar to the Swedish one Camel referenced. All of the levels of tertiary education here will only teach relevant subjects.

Also, I read someone in the thread stating some student don't know basic stuff when they leave high school, so the University has to teach them. I fail to see how this is the university's problem.

Jokeslayer
08-21-2009, 04:55 PM
If someone tells you they need you to invest $10,000 in their company that has developed a plane that can fly faster than the speed of light, and that within 3 years they'll pay you back (with interest) plus a share of the profits... Would you invest?

Of course not. It's not possible under current models of physics to travel faster than the speed of light. This is obviously a scam to take your money.

But let's say that you don't know what the speed of light is or that it's impossible to go faster than that. You might be taken in by this scam.

And that's just a rather obvious example.

Not really a good example. Anyone investing that kind of money (meaning a significant sum) without researching the field and the product is dumb. No amount of education can prevent the unscrupulous from taking money from the stupid.


I don't know off the top of my head, honestly. Something to do with light being a constant and space/time.. I don't know. I'm not a physicist. But I DO know that under current models of physics, it's impossible. Again, like I said earlier, it's not the individual specific tidbits of knowledge that I think is important, but rather the overall big picture and the thought processes that go into learning that are important.

It really just becomes an appeal to authority, then, doesn't it? (I've rewritten that sentence/this paragraph a bunch of times trying not to sound like I was laying into your over your physics skillz. I'm really not. My point is just that, like below, I'm not seeing evidence that you've learned any of these thought processes. Not that I have any authority to demand you prove the value of your education, and I don't want it to sound like I'm even trying to do that.)



A pizza guy won't need to know the acceleration due to gravity. Again, it was just an example of how wrong popular perception can be. If he's wrong about something as basic to physics as acceleration due to gravity, then how wrong will he be when it comes to concepts such as health care, abortion, military strategy, negotiating the price of a new car, raising a child? How can he possibly make informed decisions if he doesn't understand what he's looking at? Can you imagine if airport security tried to explain to Joe Schmoe why he can't take his bottle of shampoo on the plane, because it might be used somehow to chemically react with something else to make a bomb of some kind? (Weak example, I know) If Joe doesn't understand enough chemistry to know this makes sense (uh, sorta), he might think he's being harassed or singled out, when this is clearly not the case.

First part makes no sense. How does someone knowing about physics help them with any of that other stuff? It doesn't, not in any way. I agree that if you work a lot in a scientific field and your mind becomes trained to work in a scientific way, it'll help you apply that process to other useful areas, but I don't think a few compulsory courses in Physics or Biology etc. that take a couple of months in college are going to do that.

An uneducated person who doesn't understand technical terms might fall for the GOP's assertion that the new health care proposals have "death panels" built in to determine who gets to die and who doesn't. An uneducated person who doesn't know anything about statistics might not understand what Obama when he says the median income for America is $XXXX... The median is not the same as the average (or the mean), and can in fact be completely different.

What can I say, I think stupid people are going to do that anyway.

I don't think college is necessary. I do think education is necessary. I do think the current education system in America is inefficient and deeply flawed. The focus is on test scores and not the processes and learning.

I agree education is necessary. I can't comment on American education, but the problems sound a lot like those here.


I'm not going to commit to a number or percentage that I think should go to college, because, quite frankly, I'm not an expert on that.

I never meant to imply I thought you should.

Anyway, we could get into a whole other thread about whether or not college should be mandatory or encouraged or if it should be rationed out. The original point of this thread was regarding general-ed classes at the university level.

You're not saying we should keep a thread on topic, are you?;)

Jokeslayer
08-21-2009, 04:57 PM
Also, I read someone in the thread stating some student don't know basic stuff when they leave high school, so the University has to teach them. I fail to see how this is the university's problem.

University doesn't teach them -> University students fail (or University degrees become worthless) -> Students stop going there -> University shuts down

Sarevok
08-21-2009, 05:00 PM
University doesn't teach them -> University students fail (or University degrees become worthless) -> Students stop going there -> University shuts down
I never said it would be easy switching from one system to another.

tworiverswoman
08-21-2009, 05:23 PM
I have no expert opinion on tap, here, but I always got the impression that a general reason for requiring some "non-major" subjects in college was to prevent burn-out - or simply to keep you from getting so "tunnel-visioned" you couldn't function.

Camel's points aren't invalid, but he's not really presenting them very forcefully. And the one thing he's not addressing is a very cogent question: WHY aren't these general knowledge things being learned in High School?

Why are so many students showing up in their first year of "Higher Education" needing to take REMEDIAL ENGLISH, for god's sake? How did they manage to GRADUATE? I have no problem with diversifying the school subjects you need to take - but why are so many of them 'catch-up' classes? Simply saying "well, not everyone learned them in High School" isn't answering the core question: WHY DIDN'T THEY?

Jokeslayer
08-21-2009, 05:26 PM
I never said it would be easy switching from one system to another.

But that's why it is the university's interest to teach them. Unless somehow it's in the university's interest to shut down.

Birgitte
08-21-2009, 06:00 PM
Completely unrelated to the way this thread is going.

Hey Terez! I'm taking my last core class this semester, too! ~high fives~

I'm taking Physics. I took Astronomy as a freshman. It was cool.

Crispin's Crispian
08-21-2009, 06:01 PM
I have this image in my hand of Zan in a white lab coat, mad scientist goggles on his head, cackling horribly while thumbing through a binder with the letters "FEMA" on the front.

Oh, that made my day.
I just keep hearing GWB saying, "Zan, you're doing a great job."

JSUCamel
08-21-2009, 06:05 PM
I think regardless of whether one learns these things in high school, universities have a duty to make sure their students are well-educated across a variety of topics. There are certain standards that must be upheld.

If you want to take just computer science classes, then go get your A+ or MSCE certificates. If you want to take just music theory classes, then go to a music conservatory. If you want to be an auto mechanic, then go to a technical school. There are options for people who want to learn very specific things.

But if you want a degree from a University, then you're expected to be well-educated across a wide variety of topics -- not just your chosen field. It's called a major, not an exclusive.

I've already laid out why I think being educated in a variety of subjects is useful and desirable. I'm not going to rehash that.

If you don't think you should take general ed classes, then go to a specialized institution.

JSUCamel
08-21-2009, 06:06 PM
I just keep hearing GWB saying, "Zan, you're doing a great job."

lmao

Terez
08-21-2009, 07:22 PM
Camel, pretty much everywhere else in the world, a 'university education' does not mean what you say it means. They expect the kids to learn 'general education' in high school, and I think that's exactly the place for it. If they get to college and still don't know these things, then for the most part it is not a problem because it doesn't affect your specialized field. There are some small exceptions - for instance, someone in need of remedial English will have difficulties writing papers for their field - but there are other ways of going about dealing with it than the overly-wasteful, Americans-are-stupid current approach.

Also, my high school didn't switch to a semester system till my senior year, and lots of schools still use the year-round system.

Tru, I can't see how 'general education' would prevent burnout. Most kids go to college rather excited about finally being able to study what they want, rather than the same old stuff they've been studying since pretty much first grade.

Maybe we shouldn't do away with liberal arts studies altogether, but for students like me who know what they want to study, core classes shouldn't be necessary. Cutting them out for the kids who know what they're doing would cut back on the totally pointless and overloaded core classes that we have now.

Anyway, my point was that the core classes are dumbed down for the non-majors, seriously, to the point that the kids aren't actually learning anything. They're just memorizing a few points for a test. This approach to 'general education' classes has obviously evolved over the years in response to apathetic attitudes from non-majors.

Oh, and *high fives B* - yay for being done with core! lol...I thought about doing both astronomy and physics until I figured out which prof is more interesting, but alas, both of the physics labs conflicted with a graduate Bach seminar I'm taking. Oh, and the physics lecture had 144 people registered...and there were only two labs?? And they had a listed capacity of 25....I don't get it...

JSUCamel
08-21-2009, 07:41 PM
Camel, pretty much everywhere else in the world, a 'university education' does not mean what you say it means. They expect the kids to learn 'general education' in high school, and I think that's exactly the place for it.

But we're not talking about "world" universities. We're talking about American universities. When you go to Cambridge, then we'll talk.

I've laid out my reasons for why I'm pro-"core" classes, so I'm bowing out of this conversation until something interesting changes.

Terez
08-21-2009, 09:02 PM
See ya!

I have been mulling this around in my head, and there are a few ideas on how we could go about the change. A good idea to start would be to require a set number of hours of core electives, which could be fulfilled with any kind of 'general education' class. And I'm talking about somewhere around 18-20 hours (6-7 classes) instead of the currently required...somewhere around 40 (the music plans at my school require about 40).

If there are gen ed classes that are particularly beneficial to your degree, then you can tailor them that way.

I don't think that the additional requirement of 'general education' in our universities is helping us. It's probably doing the opposite - it's just another aspect of our system that shows our general laziness about education.

Also, @Birgitte - I now distinctly remember a conversation you and I had about lab science requirements, and you bragging to me that you only had to take one. Did you change your major?

Davian93
08-21-2009, 09:26 PM
I agree with Camel...all students need general ed credits for a variety of reasons.

Whats wrong with knowledge just for the sake of knowledge??? Its called being well-rounded.

Terez
08-21-2009, 09:35 PM
I agree with Camel...all students need general ed credits for a variety of reasons.

Whats wrong with knowledge just for the sake of knowledge??? Its called being well-rounded.
No one's saying that we shouldn't have this knowledge. Pay attention.

1. We should be able to cover general education in high school, like so many other countries do.

2. The general education classes don't really teach you anything most of the time. There are some exceptions, but they're mostly tailored to give students an easy A, rather than to actually make sure they're educated.

3. University isn't about being 'well-rounded'. It's about specializing. Since we focus so much effort on 'general education', our specialization standards at university level don't really compete internationally.

Ivhon
08-21-2009, 09:38 PM
I also agree with the idea of well-rounded education. I "accidentally" found several topics of interest by taking core classes I thought I would hate but turned out to love. Some of those have allowed me to participate intelligently (I hope) on these boards in a way that an all-economics curriculum would not have provided me.

Secondly, I had NO idea what I wanted to study or do with my life when I was 18. None. I took a smorgasboard and am happy of it - just wished I had worked harder.

Thirdly, I have no problem with T's suggestion of a certain number of gen-ed electives with no specific courses to be required. Presumably you will demonstrate and learn to write in at least one of them, no matter what your major.

Fourthly, I, too, am finishing up core classes this semester. Small world.

Terez
08-21-2009, 09:53 PM
I also agree with the idea of well-rounded education. I "accidentally" found several topics of interest by taking core classes I thought I would hate but turned out to love. Some of those have allowed me to participate intelligently (I hope) on these boards in a way that an all-economics curriculum would not have provided me. Yeah, but my guess is that, like me, you didn't really have the opportunity to take any of these classes in high school. With the way their classes are scheduled now, though, it's more than possible. There are only four required classes for each year (math, science, English, and history) and there are generally two semesters of four classes each. Even if you've got a year-long elective, like band or choir or art or theater or weightlifting or whatever your gig is, then you can still take two elective courses each year.

Secondly, I had NO idea what I wanted to study or do with my life when I was 18. None. I took a smorgasboard and am happy of it - just wished I had worked harder. A lot of kids have no idea what they're going to do at 18 - a lot of that has to do with there not being enough career information provided in high school.

Thirdly, I have no problem with T's suggestion of a certain number of gen-ed electives with no specific courses to be required. Presumably you will demonstrate and learn to write in at least one of them, no matter what your major. Exactly - and also, part of the point is to cut down on the number of classes required (preferably, cut it in half). This is especially important for degrees like mine that generally take five years to complete (and the core is even less relevant to the field).

Fourthly, I, too, am finishing up core classes this semester. Small world. You have to take core at master's level?

Davian93
08-21-2009, 09:58 PM
3. University isn't about being 'well-rounded'. It's about specializing. Since we focus so much effort on 'general education', our specialization standards at university level don't really compete internationally.

Regardless of your specialty (that's more what years 3 and 4 are for) you still need a general knowledge base above HS.

And university was originally designed to simply advance a person's general knowledge base to begin with.

If we don't "compete" internationally then why the hell do so many foreign students flock to our universities?

Ivhon
08-21-2009, 09:58 PM
You have to take core at master's level?

More like pre-requisites. They call them core, though, since all three degree tracks require the same 8 courses before splitting off.

Irrelevant stuff like law and ethics. Has nothing to do with fixing people's heads.

Terez
08-21-2009, 10:33 PM
If we don't "compete" internationally then why the hell do so many foreign students flock to our universities?
Sometimes, because it's easier to get in, or because scholarships are offered. There are definitely some schools in the US that are internationally sought-after, but most Americans don't go to those schools.

Ivhon did, but he majored in frat house and got lost somewhere along the way.

DeiwosTheSkyGod
08-21-2009, 10:52 PM
1. We should be able to cover general education in high school, like so many other countries do.

I don't know what gen-eds you've taken, but about half of mine were subjects I would NEVER have had an opportunity to take in high school. Granted, I came from a pretty poor school system, but there was never a course on astronomy or political science or psychology or film studies in my high school. We might have touched on that stuff here and there in other courses, but never an entire course devoted to, say, films of the 1960s. There are subjects that simply can't be hit upon in high school because there are just so many subjects.

2. The general education classes don't really teach you anything most of the time. There are some exceptions, but they're mostly tailored to give students an easy A, rather than to actually make sure they're educated.

That hasn't really been my experience. My hardest two classes ever weren't in either of my majors. Maybe that's just because I'm better at my major classes, but still. I did get As, but I worked my ass off for them. (I will give that to you a little, though, since the easiest class I've ever taken was a gen-ed, as well.)

3. University isn't about being 'well-rounded'. It's about specializing. Since we focus so much effort on 'general education', our specialization standards at university level don't really compete internationally.

I don't know if that's true. Like Dav said, you don't want to be so specialized that you have tunnel vision, and you need more general knowledge than high school provides. And is there a study that says we don't compete internationally, or is that just you not liking your general education classes? :p

Zanguini
08-21-2009, 11:42 PM
Irrelevant stuff like law and ethics.


Hehehe

Terez
08-22-2009, 12:12 AM
I don't know what gen-eds you've taken, but about half of mine were subjects I would NEVER have had an opportunity to take in high school. Granted, I came from a pretty poor school system, but there was never a course on astronomy or political science or psychology or film studies in my high school.
I had astronomy at my high school, and psychology, but not the others. Also, kids who don't get to learn the basic electives in high school could always take those under the plan I suggested above.

We might have touched on that stuff here and there in other courses, but never an entire course devoted to, say, films of the 1960s.
lmao! Yeah, that's important for a well-rounded education.

There are subjects that simply can't be hit upon in high school because there are just so many subjects.
Yeah...some don't really need to be hit on?

I don't know if that's true. Like Dav said, you don't want to be so specialized that you have tunnel vision, and you need more general knowledge than high school provides. And is there a study that says we don't compete internationally, or is that just you not liking your general education classes? :p
Nah, this is based on my own observations in my particular field (as far as what is required for a degree, and what is expected of students).

Dragon Thief
08-22-2009, 01:54 AM
I agree more with Terez than anyone else. Soemeone shoot me. =)

What happens in high school? Most kids take a class, do brief memorization, and then 'dump' that info once they no longer need it. Sure, you might remember some vague details, but that's all.

Why would anyone expect college to be different? All those classes you take but don't use, you forget. Are there exceptions? Sure. But that's just it, they are the exceptions, not the rule. (Mind you, this is anecdotal).

The only two classes I remember any details of that weren't computer related are logic and calculus - and, guess what, both of those are closely related (and used a lot in programming anyways). I remember enjoying philosophy and physics, but I don't remember much of anything from philosophy and not much more from physics - and I enjoyed those classes. Guess how much I remember about English Lit, or French. Hell, i've had 4.5 years of French (3 full years in high school, 3 semesters in college), and I maybe remember 2-3% of it. Literally, that's it.

Now, here's my biggest gripe. Say what you want about needing to be well rounded, but I'm no more well rounded that when i learned and forgot all the crap in high school - except high school didn't cost me several thousands of dollars to forget stuff I could care less about.

I agree you need more than your focused classes. But I think Terez has an ideal solution - a much smaller amount that allows for tailoring. And I think that high school should be teaching the others. As far as the students who don't know their basics and try to get into college? Have the colleges charge more for the 'remedial' crap.

And I can't agree with Camel's saying to go to a tech school either. The US culture tends to look down on certificates, so getting one doesn't mean as much to a lot of employers as a degree does. And it's not about the general education either - most people just assume a degree is better than a certification, without having a real idea of why. My boss is luckily one of the few who know better - I'm the only person at my company with even an associates degree. My boss actually looks for people who are self-taught, as he thinks (and I agree) they tend to actually udnerstand what they are doing instead of just repeating what a school said.

Hell, school still pretend it's "cheating" to collaborate together in your work, except that's exactly what you do in most office workplaces. I program one part, another guy does a different part, the designer does her part - it's not cheating, it's making use of strengths. Schools aren't interested in teaching, they're interested in selling knowledge - and, all too often, that knowledge is simply forgotten.

JSUCamel
08-22-2009, 02:44 AM
And I can't agree with Camel's saying to go to a tech school either.

The example I gave was in Sweden, where there is no social or professional stigma for going to technical school. For them, it's no better or worse than going to college.

That clearly won't work in the US without a serious attitude change. Having said that, not every high school graduate (or drop-out, for that matter) needs to (or deserves to) go to college.

Matoyak
08-22-2009, 02:56 AM
If you do not want "gen-ed" classes, test out of them when you are in high school via AP. Do dual-credit at a junior college, or AP classes within the high school. Don't choose to not take these classes to and then whine about it later. I graduated high school with 30 hrs of college out of the way. This is NOT unusual (The amount might be, I think the average for those actually interesting in getting stuff out of the way is something like 15-20 dual-credit hours).

The way university has been described to me:
First 2 years: Further educate in a variety of topics so as to ensure you choose the correct major for yourself. Goes deeper in general topics and gives you a strong start for your chosen field. This allows you to be certain that you will like your particular field. Similar to high school, but much more rigorous and in-depth than high school. Builds upon knowledge hopefully gained within high school.

Second 2 years: begin specializing within your chosen field.

3rd 2 years: Graduate school. Focus exclusively on your field. In-depth, lots of hands-on work.

Dragon Thief
08-22-2009, 03:12 AM
I took all of the AP coursework available to me - English, History, Calculus. I got college credits for all three. That was it.

Outside of high school, I convinced the college to let me skip the first few computer science courses as well with an informal test, and convinced a few teachers to let me not attend class and turn in large projects for others because I already knew the material. In all honesty, outside of the networking aspects (which I still despise), I knew every bit of 3/4 of all the material that I learned in any class that was for my major (web design). Hell, in the first half of my classes, I knew the material better than the teacher - and I'm not exaggerating, because the teacher would clarify points with me in class - and nearly all of it was self-taught from scouring the web and buying the occasional clearance tech book.

But I didn't have any other chances to take classes that applied to college. I had no choice but to pay to take material that a) I already knew - b) I could care less about and didn't need, and c) it was stuff I hated the first time, I already knew what I wanted for my major. I'm not sure if was the timeline - even tho high school was only ten years ago for me - or just my school, or what.

GonzoTheGreat
08-22-2009, 04:59 AM
I do think that it would be a good idea for university students to look at something else besides their own specialised subjects too. I don't think it is really sensible to do this in the form of dumbed down courses as seems to be discussed here.
Someone getting a university education should be capable to function at university level. Thus, they should really take courses on university level too.

In the case of astronomy taken by music majors (to name a random example), that would be the first year introductory astronomy course which is also given to astronomy students. Perhaps some special grading could be applied to take into account that the music major misses some background information (math and physics, depending on when in that first year this course is given).

But it does not seem sensible to start from the assumption that your university students can't handle university level courses, and devise special "let the idiots get a passing grade" courses to accomodate them.

Of course, when I took that introductory astronomy course, we had about a dozen astronomy* students, and 2 dozen physics* students in that classroom, and that was all. I think the professor would have been rather surprised if his class had been invaded by two hundred music students as well.

Still, I'm glad that I didn't have to take a music course, and if they'd known me, then the music teachers would've been glad of that too.

* At that point, the difference between astronomy and physics was rather theoretical. We had been following the same courses together, done the same practical work together, and the teachers wouldn't have had any idea who studied what unless they looked it up. Even that wouldn't be much help, since about half the astronomy students switched to physics, and a similar number switched from physics to astronomy, in the first year.

Terez
08-22-2009, 07:12 AM
Well...we don't have an astronomy department. We have a department of physics and astronomy. And my prof is a geophysicist. He's kinda boring, but he's got that attitude in his lectures that clearly says he doesn't believe we're paying attention. He's probably right, for the most part...

I tested out of music theory. All 20 hours of it. Sort of. I registered for the classes, and just showed up for tests. I wish it had been allowed to test out differently, but it wasn't - when I failed one semester for attendance, they let me test out of the whole semester when I registered for it again, and they let me start upper-level theory courses my sophomore year (though I dropped out of the one that I signed up for because the professor was an ass - and yay, I have him again this semester, after 12 years, for instrumentation!)

Birgitte
08-22-2009, 11:20 PM
Also, @Birgitte - I now distinctly remember a conversation you and I had about lab science requirements, and you bragging to me that you only had to take one. Did you change your major?

Changed my school :) I moved to Texas since then.

My major's been the same since I was like seven. lol

Terez
08-23-2009, 02:39 AM
Changed my school :) I moved to Texas since then.

My major's been the same since I was like seven. lol haha, I didn't think it was that long ago. Time flies when you're an overloaded student...

My major has been the same since....I dunno. I have always wanted to be a musician (always meaning as long as I can remember...I started playing piano around the time I started walking) but I've considered other things over the years. I thought about other stuff in the nine years that I was out of school, but in the end I knew I didn't want to go back to school for anything else.

Zanguini
08-24-2009, 07:57 AM
This semester I have get ready for the four most exciting sounding classes of all time.

Public Policy with regards to emergency management mitigation.

Social Dimensions in impending or active emergency situations.

Applied Principles in personnel management

Introduction to public speaking.


I dont know about anyone else but when i was in high school I had two classes free that i actually got to choose each year one i picked as band and the other one was picked for me.

Terez
08-24-2009, 09:16 AM
Yeah, that's how it was for me until we went to the semester schedule, sort of - I got to pick my classes all the years of high school. Even the high school 'core', because I got to choose between AP and 'accelerated' and regular classes.

GonzoTheGreat
08-24-2009, 10:40 AM
Applied Principles in personnel managementI thought that in personnel management you weren't supposed to have any principles, let alone apply them? :confused:

Zanguini
08-24-2009, 11:28 AM
principles as in abstract models that have no basis in reality

applied meaning your probrably not going to rock the boat with this new fangled way of doing things.

Mort
08-24-2009, 11:43 AM
Where comes all the hatred of personnel management from? :)

I thought I'd chip in a little... saw Sweden was mentioned :)

Swedish high school consists of three years where you first of all choose your kind of education you want to have.
You have several choices but you only got two if you think you want to be prepped and ready to continue into higher education. Those two are more or less soft science vs hard science. Soft science is basically lots of langauge, psychology, philosophy, economy, geography etc and with medium amount of math. Hard sci is more physics, math, chemistry etc.

If none of that are interesting, you can go and do carpenting, plumber, electrician and a number of other more work related programs where you specialize in a field instantly. Those have just the basic requirements of math, language (don't have to take a much second language, and definetly not a third one if you don't want to).

After that it's either University time, work or do some more specialized education like network specialist or some other type of deal.

I think you in the US pick any kind of courses you want, with maybe exception to a few that you need to take?

Back to the topic at hand.
My belief is that the problem lies ultimately in the high school area. If the kids who go to college can't handle themselves like write correct sentences or do the simplest math problems (or at least the ones that are expected of them to do), the problem lies with the high school. Exactly what the problem is I can't comment on, since I'm no specialist on American education, hardly a generalist either.

I see at least two possibilites. Either the high school in question havn't been able to keep a high enough standard on their education so the students havn't been teached what they should have, which may go against the student plan or whatever you may call it (usually a document stating what a student should achieve by taking this course or programme). Or the high school is too easy with grades, giving someone a pass who clearly shouldn't have one. Or a very ugly combo of those two.

Another problem I see could also be attributed to the university where they accept students who doesn't have good enough credentials to study, let's say Astro physics (rocket science works too as an example...). Those who can pay can of course come and study. "Pass or fail, we don't care" kind of attitude.

I'm all for education. I think it's one of the pillar stones in a healthy society. The questions is: If someone is interested in a bachelor in... journalism. Should we force this person to take an extra year "just" for general classes? If someone is genuinely interested in a subject and wants to learn more, won't they study that aside from their already chosen bachelor? And what guarantee is there that this extra year consists of something actually worth taking? Will most people choose classes that could actually contribute to their worth as a citizen or will they take Bowling 101?

I'm pretty sure a lot of people in the US has taken some real bullshit classes to just "get by". I probably would :) . Is that cheating the system or is it a sign that the system doesn't work as intended?

I see a worth in not only focusing on your specialized field, but only if you yourself want to expand your knowledge beyond that field. I wouldn't want to take more classes than I'm interested in, and I wouldn't want to force anyone else to either.

From my perspective I think I got a very well rounded education in junior- and highschool and don't feel the need to have general classes in university just for the "well roundedness" of my being.

Gilshalos Sedai
08-24-2009, 12:23 PM
See, the problem is, it's a BAD thing to be a plumber or electrician or a carpenter, nowadays. Despite the fact that we need those just as much as lawyers and doctors (if not more than lawyers).

GonzoTheGreat
08-24-2009, 12:43 PM
The questions is: If someone is interested in a bachelor in... journalism. Should we force this person to take an extra year "just" for general classes?If all she ever wants to do is write about journalism, then no. However, if she wants to possibly maybe write about anything else, then having some more general background than a purely journalistic one might be useful.

Journalism is really the wrong choice, here, since that is one of the subjects where general knowledge is (should be, I admit) an absolute requirement.

If someone goes to major in the history of horticulture, then that person probably doesn't need to know how many electrons a Carbon atom has in the twice ionised state. But a journalist who wouldn't know how to at least look that one up would be severely hampered if the issue ever became important in a story to be reported on.

JSUCamel
08-24-2009, 12:46 PM
See, the problem is, it's a BAD thing to be a plumber or electrician or a carpenter, nowadays. Despite the fact that we need those just as much as lawyers and doctors (if not more than lawyers).

It's NOT a bad thing. It's just perceived to be a bad thing in America.

America has gotten used to this idea that we're educated, we're smarter than everyone else (even though we're really not), and we've gotten this notion that since that's the case (and it isn't), we should all have white-collar jobs (we shouldn't) and anyone who isn't is a moron (but they're really not).

This sort of comes back to a point that I've made to my friends several times. You know that stereotype about Jews being doctors and lawyers and bankers and being rich? Well, it's actually kind of true. But it has nothing to do with being God's chosen people, nor does it have to do with any sort of conspiracy to take over the world. No, the reason is quite simple: Jews (at least in my experience) place a very high priority on education. Education is paramount to just about anything else, aside from following God's commandments.

They're lawyers and doctors and bankers and high-level executives because they're smart and very, very well educated. They're rich because they're so well educated.

The following is, of course, a generality, but in my experience, it's true.

Contrast the Jews with the Christians who put more of a focus on going to church and being a "good person" than they do on going to school and being a well-educated person. Going to church on Sunday holds a higher importance in many people's mind than does going to school during the week. Attending mass on Sunday or taking communion holds a higher moral imperative in the minds of Christians than getting an A on a test does.

I don't want to get into a whole religious debate here, but that is one of the main differences that I see between Jews and Christians (aside from the obvious theological divides). And it's one reason why I feel the public education sector is failing -- there's not enough community and parent focus on children doing well in school.

Children are fantastic creatures. They will do their best to meet the expectations of the people they look up to. If their cross-country coach expects them to run 10k, they'll do it. If their football coach expects them to practice 4 hours a day during half the school year, they'll do it. If their parents expect them to do well in school, they'll do it. If their mother likes to cook, they will want to cook with them. I can't tell you how many stories I hear about parents whose children try to emulate them throughout childhood -- from getting a toy vacuum cleaner to clean with his mother to getting a stepladder so she can help her mother cook.

They're so malleable and impressionable at young ages, and the elementary years are the years when the focus on education and learning should be made.

But most parents don't. They may SAY they expect it, but then their actions don't follow the words. It's hard to describe.

Look around at the parents of children who, let's face it, aren't that well-educated. Maybe they're smart kids, but they just don't know anything. Look at their parents, at their authority figures. Who are they?

Now compare it to a kid who's a straight-A student or captain of the football team. What are their parents like? Probably a lot more demanding, with a lot higher expectations.

America needs to step up its attitude towards education. There needs to be a focus on getting our kids educated -- every generation should be better educated than the one before.

Our education problem has nothing to do with money. Nothing at all. It has everything to do with expectations and student performance. And it's just not going to happen the way things are set up right now.

Ishara
08-24-2009, 12:52 PM
See, the problem is, it's a BAD thing to be a plumber or electrician or a carpenter, nowadays. Despite the fact that we need those just as much as lawyers and doctors (if not more than lawyers). I get that you're saying that's a perception - but I just don't see why it is, when many accredited carpenters and electricians make just as much a sa doctor does and likely has far fewer debts.

I don't think the perecption is like that here...it may be for stnadardized blue-collar work like "just" working in a factory, but here if you're certified then it goes without saying that you've endured years of school and training to get there. Not just anyone can call themselves a certified or master <insert trade here>.

Gilshalos Sedai
08-24-2009, 01:00 PM
Yeah, but no one here brags about their daughter the certified master welder.

JSUCamel
08-24-2009, 01:05 PM
Yeah, but no one here brags about their daughter the certified master welder.

Unless they're a Taer, then everyone makes T-shirts.

Ishara
08-24-2009, 02:55 PM
That's too bad...

Terez
08-24-2009, 02:57 PM
Meh, there's a blue collar culture that moves in partially separate circles from the white collar culture. The master artisans are respected among blue collar culture, and the masters/business owners (especially the prosperous ones) are known to mix with white collar types, around where I live at least.

Zanguini
08-24-2009, 04:38 PM
I think in america it has become a culture of prepareing for standardized tests and not preparing you to think or even take knowledge away from the class. Its of you should know this because it is going to be on a test. Not because someday you may need to know why the roman empire fell.

Davian93
08-24-2009, 07:03 PM
I think in america it has become a culture of prepareing for standardized tests and not preparing you to think or even take knowledge away from the class. Its of you should know this because it is going to be on a test. Not because someday you may need to know why the roman empire fell.

Um..."D: All of the above"???

Is that the right answer???

jason wolfbrother
08-24-2009, 11:32 PM
No No No Davian. Standardized tests are always C: Ask again later ;)

My parents pushed me to do the best I could regardless of how I felt about it. My figured once I had proven I could ace the class I had something to shoot for at all times. While my friends would get ice cream for getting that B+ I would be in trouble for receiving the A-. And I'm thankful for that push every day.

Terez
08-26-2009, 09:17 PM
So, yay. I had my first astronomy lab tonight. I was hoping we could skip the first lab assignment (since there are more assignments than class periods), because it deals mainly with practicing scientific notation, and that is so boring and high school (or was it junior high? I think I might have actually learned scientific notation in elementary school). Anyway, I should have known better.

Okay, so we're trying to make scale models of the Sun-Moon-Earth relationship, sort of. We start out using a softball for the Sun, and we do some calculations based on that scale relationship, and discover that we don't have anything small enough to represent Earth, much less the Moon. Moving on, now the softball is Earth, and the Moon is a little red rubber bouncy ball. All is well.

So, we have a question in the lab book that goes like this:

Use the classroom to space out the three model objects. Is the Moon significantly closer to (or further from) the Sun than the Earth? We didn't do the first part, which is good cause it's stupid anyway.

Now, the distance from the moon to Earth averages at about 384,403km. The distance from Earth to the sun averages about 149,597,870.7km. So, whether the moon is on the sun side of Earth, or on the other side, it will never be significantly further from/closer to the sun than Earth, because the moon is close to 400x further away from the sun than from Earth.

So, I write this as my answer, and the lab instructor (who is a grad student named Kumar from India!) says that's wrong. He says it depends on where the moon is in its orbit.

I say, if it depends on the orbit, then why tf did the guy who wrote the lab manual (who is a prof here, btw) use the word 'significantly'? Granted, it's a subjective word. But that's precisely why the use of the word makes no sense unless the answer he was looking for was my answer.

Is it just me? Okay, dumb question, because I know I'm right, because the stated purpose of the lab was to give us some perspective on scale, not to teach us that the moon orbits Earth and is therefore sometimes a mite closer to/further away from the sun than Earth. Should I email the guy who wrote the lab manual? I tried to explain my reasoning to the guy during class, but he wasn't interested...

GonzoTheGreat
08-27-2009, 03:20 AM
But one part in 400 is significant in astronomy.

It is very simple, really. Either you have ludicrously big uncertainties, or you have incredible precision.
As an example of the former: I once attended a conference where an astronomer produced some kind of result, and he could show that this result was within three orders of magnitude of what the real value would be. This amazed everyone, since no one had thought such precision would be possible in this case (can't remember what it was that he'd measured, of course). An explanation of what "within three orders of magnitude" means: Say that you determine something has the value 87. Then the real value might be 0.09, or it could 54,000. Both are within that range of three orders of magnitude (a factor thousand either way).
On the other hand, there is the issue of the precision with which double pulsars (two neutron stars orbiting each other) stay on time. This is at least as good as that of our atomic clocks. We can't be sure it is better, though that seems likely, because we don't have any clock to compare it with that would be good enough.

And yes, as you put it, it was a dumb question.

Terez
08-27-2009, 04:08 AM
But one part in 400 is significant in astronomy.
The lab didn't deal with any particular situation where it might be 'significant'. As the question only deals with comparing the distance moon-sun and the distance earth-sun, with x being the difference, and not with any situation where x=a hill of beans, then it is obviously not 'significant'. :p

Also, the distance earth-sun was rounded to 150*10^6km. The difference between that and the actual distance earth-sun is 402,129.3km, which exceeds x (384,403km), decreasing its significance even further...

GonzoTheGreat
08-27-2009, 06:20 AM
Actually, you're using the mean distance between the Sun and Earth, which may not be the appropriate measure. A better way of looking at it is considering both the Aphelion 152,097,701 km (furthest from the Sun) and Perihelion 147,098,074 km (closest to the Sun).
Of course, if you do that, then your case is strengthened even more, but that's just a detail I'm willing to overlook. :p

Mort
08-27-2009, 07:36 AM
Actually, you're using the mean distance between the Sun and Earth, which may not be the appropriate measure. A better way of looking at it is considering both the Aphelion 152,097,701 km (furthest from the Sun) and Perihelion 147,098,074 km (closest to the Sun).
Of course, if you do that, then your case is strengthened even more, but that's just a detail I'm willing to overlook. :p

If I may Gonzo but... what kind of rocket scientist are you? You seem to be the physics dude around here. You seem to have an in depth knowledge of all things physics. Got curious what, if anything, you do for a living :)

Or are you just one of those supreme wikipedia geeks who lives and breaths wikipedia facts? :)

Zanguini
08-27-2009, 08:25 AM
Astronomy is just something to do when there are no clouds to look at.

GonzoTheGreat
08-27-2009, 08:48 AM
I have a degree in astronomy (not a doctorate), but I couldn't find a job in that direction. There's a saying "Holland produces tulips and astronomers", and while we can sell all the tulips we produce (most to foreigners), the same isn't true for the astronomers*. So, like a lot of others, I went into computer programming and such.

Zan: no clouds? I think that only happens in fairy tales.
I've often thought that the Netherlands and Britain produce so many astronomers because, on the few occasions someone actually sees a star, they go "What's that? What is it doing up there?" whereas for (for instance) Australians clear skies are something to take for granted.

* We do export quite a few of those, though. ESA appoints jobs in principle based on nationality (so many from this country, so many from that). But when it comes to astronomy, Britain and the Netherlands are overrepresented by a factor of four or five (figures are more than a decade old, so they may have changed a bit), while an Italian or Greek astronomer could get a job, no questions asked. Apart possibly whether they'd studied under Galileo or Schiaparelli.

Gilshalos Sedai
08-27-2009, 08:52 AM
Makes me glad I abandoned Astronomy as one of my life's pursuits. ;)

Terez
08-27-2009, 01:06 PM
You could always get a job at NASA, Gonzo!