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Liberal arts schools (Page 3)
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Jun 12, 2013, 10:22 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
Since then, the undergraduate degree has become the new high school diploma, and having a BS or BA is essentially entry level for jobs that used to be filled by people who worked up to them from lower level jobs. Think about a variety of management jobs, and how many now require a business degree... Do business degrees actually teach management skills? I don't think so, and I have had a lot of management jobs.

So now, much public opinion is based on the (unspoken and unacknowledged) assumption that a bachelor of... degree is basically a vocational certificate, and the "professional" concept that used to be associated with those degrees is lost. Because of that, a degree that doesn't imply training for a "real world job" appears to be useless. It doesn't help that there are plenty of apparent "easy courses" and plenty of people who look for all the world like super slackers who "avoid hard courses where there is only one right answer for each problem," either.
I'm not trying to pick on you, Glenn, but I think that sentiment (which I agree exists) and much of the discussion in this thread comes from a place of privilege. Currently, the percent of people in the U.S. with a bachelors degree or more is only about 30%. Even among new high school grads, only about two-thirds of them immediately go on to college. One would have to go way back to the '40s and '50s to find comparable stats for high school attainment.

So my basic point, I guess, is that for the kind of people we are discussing in this thread who have to make the decision between a liberal arts major track and a technical/engineering major track, they will likely be "fine" (in some baseline way) either way, and their career success relative to each other is probably going to be determined by a host of other factors.

Disclaimer: I went to a large four year university and majored in political science. My current work does not directly draw on anything I intellectually learned, though it's in a vaguely related "field." I would say that the biggest things I gained from college were: 1) experience working/socializing/otherwise interacting with people who were very different from me, and 2) exposure to ideas I would not have sought out on my own, and 3) the ability to write well.

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Jun 12, 2013, 03:14 PM
 
Yay! SpaceMonkey is back!
     
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Jun 12, 2013, 03:32 PM
 
Originally Posted by SpaceMonkey View Post
I'm not trying to pick on you, Glenn, but I think that sentiment (which I agree exists) and much of the discussion in this thread comes from a place of privilege. Currently, the percent of people in the U.S. with a bachelors degree or more is only about 30%. Even among new high school grads, only about two-thirds of them immediately go on to college. One would have to go way back to the '40s and '50s to find comparable stats for high school attainment.

So my basic point, I guess, is that for the kind of people we are discussing in this thread who have to make the decision between a liberal arts major track and a technical/engineering major track, they will likely be "fine" (in some baseline way) either way, and their career success relative to each other is probably going to be determined by a host of other factors.

Disclaimer: I went to a large four year university and majored in political science. My current work does not directly draw on anything I intellectually learned, though it's in a vaguely related "field." I would say that the biggest things I gained from college were: 1) experience working/socializing/otherwise interacting with people who were very different from me, and 2) exposure to ideas I would not have sought out on my own, and 3) the ability to write well.

This infographic is very interesting, but if it covers 25 years or more that includes all of our senior citizens, where very few of them had college/university as an option. This infographic would be more interesting if it broke down by age groups, leaving out old people.
     
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Jun 12, 2013, 04:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by SpaceMonkey View Post
I'm not trying to pick on you, Glenn, but I think that sentiment (which I agree exists) and much of the discussion in this thread comes from a place of privilege. Currently, the percent of people in the U.S. with a bachelors degree or more is only about 30%. Even among new high school grads, only about two-thirds of them immediately go on to college. One would have to go way back to the '40s and '50s to find comparable stats for high school attainment.

So my basic point, I guess, is that for the kind of people we are discussing in this thread who have to make the decision between a liberal arts major track and a technical/engineering major track, they will likely be "fine" (in some baseline way) either way, and their career success relative to each other is probably going to be determined by a host of other factors.

Disclaimer: I went to a large four year university and majored in political science. My current work does not directly draw on anything I intellectually learned, though it's in a vaguely related "field." I would say that the biggest things I gained from college were: 1) experience working/socializing/otherwise interacting with people who were very different from me, and 2) exposure to ideas I would not have sought out on my own, and 3) the ability to write well.
The number of non-service-sector jobs that require a degree (even an AA/AS degree) is growing, and the service-sector jobs that don't require more than high school, while becoming more common, are also in the lower end of the income spectrum. Here in San Antonio, a lot of business types crow about how "we've added hundreds of jobs" without pointing out that they are low-level food service or housekeeping jobs, or similarly low paid and poor-advancement jobs.

Jobs that high school graduates want are seldom "floor sweeper" or "second line breakfast grill cook." They are jobs that are interesting and that pay more than minimum wage. Finding a combination of schooling and position that will get them into those jobs is a very large challenge, and the way guidance counselors and college recruiters present things, it's "get a technical degree or figure out how to say 'do you want fries with that?' until you're 55." High school students don't have a way to see past this unless they get some outside guidance, which does not seem to be very common.

I agree that either a "technical" or liberal arts choice can be good for generalist preparation. What bugs me is that the utility of either technical or non-technical degrees has been watered down by HR departments who require some sort of degree for an entry level job that should really only require high school and some common sense.

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Jun 13, 2013, 10:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
What bugs me is that the utility of either technical or non-technical degrees has been watered down by HR departments who require some sort of degree for an entry level job that should really only require high school and some common sense.
There's also the fact that HR departments can only go off the job description they are given by the hiring manager. In a lot of companies, HR departments have no choice but to follow a job description's requirements to the letter because of how easily people try to bring the smackdown with discrimination lawsuits. So, if a position claims it requires a degree in a technology field, even if someone with a BA is more than qualified for the position because of past employment, they'll be put in the "pass" pile due to that one requirement.

I keep getting passed up for opportunities that I damn well know I'm qualified for, because something specific is missing from my resume. The same thing happens to recent grads.
     
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Jun 15, 2013, 01:22 PM
 
There are people who get worthless degrees. That will always be the case. But I'd point out that the biggest american success story, Apple, was someone who valued creatives, industrial design, typography, and other things that are 'for homos'.

Having a trade is great... you feel rewarded for your labor, and if you aren't being undercut by illegal immigrants, the pay is pretty good. However... I don't want to be doing that stuff when I'm older. Much happier working in an office environment, where I can walk into a shop full of every tool imaginable and create something from my brain than brazing pipes together.
     
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Jun 15, 2013, 05:11 PM
 
Originally Posted by knifecarrier2 View Post
But I'd point out that the biggest american success story, Apple, was someone who valued creatives, industrial design, typography, and other things that are 'for homos'.
...except that Apple never would have existed if it hadn't been for the engineer of the duo, Steve Wozniak. Mental creativity will not get you very far if you lack the technical skills to bring your ideas to fruition.
     
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Jun 16, 2013, 02:13 AM
 
Originally Posted by shifuimam View Post
...except that Apple never would have existed if it hadn't been for the engineer of the duo, Steve Wozniak. Mental creativity will not get you very far if you lack the technical skills to bring your ideas to fruition.

But Steve Wozniak was very creative. There is a definite creative element to engineering, programming, and many things computer related.
     
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Jun 16, 2013, 08:02 AM
 
Want a future? Electrical/Mechanical Engineering, Bio-Medical Research, Prosthetics Design and Engineering, Robotics Engineer (Nano). And know how to implement your education.
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Jun 16, 2013, 11:59 AM
 
Everyone has their own anecdotes, but this one always amused me...

The place I used to work was brought in by a state agency to do some development work. We went through the bidding process, amaze-ball'ed the entire board and got the contract. Bust ass, everyone is pleased and we get payed (rather well). Towards the end of the project, the board asks me for recommendations for a candidate to inherit the project and manage it going forward. Since it's a state job, they have to be extremely specific with the requirements and whatnot. Anyway, since they're inheriting my baby, they inquire about my education and background. I just let them know that I dropped out after the 9th grade and can barely write about a 6th grade level. Everyone laughs and the jokes roll. One extra amused guy casually drops "Hey, you realize that we couldn't hire you to manage this project internally for $35k a year, but we have zero problems bringing you in as a consultant at $250k for 6 months."

I guess it was funny.

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Jun 18, 2013, 05:30 PM
 
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Jun 18, 2013, 05:39 PM
 
Originally Posted by Shaddim View Post

The whole premise is flawed.

A liberal arts school (which are probably the majority of them) is not designed to lead to job X or job Y. The sooner that people can drop this preconceived notion, the better.
     
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Jun 18, 2013, 07:35 PM
 
Not liking a premise doesn't mean it's flawed. I believe what they're saying is that a Liberal Arts degree usually doesn't lead to gainful employment at all, except as a barista, which is a funny coincidence when you take into account the anecdote I posted earlier in the thread.
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Jun 18, 2013, 07:57 PM
 
The whole concept is still bogus, and my preferences are irrelevant.

We've gone over all the reasons, but I'll circle back to one: many jobs require some sort of undergrad degree, but not a specific one. If people cannot put themselves in a position to find one of these numerous jobs where this applies, and this is the majority of them since we know that the majority of people work outside their field of study, the problem is with the individual and not the degree itself. It is probably true that certain degrees attract certain personalities and certain intelligence levels, but again, this is not a problem with the degree itself.
     
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Jun 18, 2013, 09:01 PM
 
How you guys feel abou this online course business?

"Being a Professor Will No Longer Be a Viable Career." | History News Network
     
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Jun 18, 2013, 09:09 PM
 
I think this guy has it pretty much figured out with his five main problems behind higher education. The bit about most professors being adjuncts is interesting, as are the economics of higher ed:

How The American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps | The Homeless Adjunct
     
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Jun 19, 2013, 03:11 PM
 
First, an online course done right is both a boon for students AND an excellent venue for a professor. "Distance learning" was once the flavor of the day when technical training seemed to be too pricy. This led to a number of very poor attempts at producing what can be called "exportable courses" or simply courses designed for "non-resident" students. They turned into PowerPoint presentations that are even more painful than simply having some schlep read his slides to you (this is grounds for sentencing to the 9th level of Hell, by the way), or some audio track droning about text in a book that is "recommended" but not mandatory, etc. In other words, it's like an in-person class without the opportunity to stand up from your chair and say "will you repeat that-all of it?" Times have changed, and there are more than a few educators today who actually know what they're doing with this sort of course.

Adjunct professorship is something that is common, but not the norm. My graduate program had 3 adjuncts who provided specialized course material, while the other 5 profs were full time. The medical school portion of my university has plenty of adjuncts, but they are also practicing surgeons, gerontologists, dentists of various specialties, etc., so again, they provide a specialty slant to the courses they teach. For example, Gross Anatomy was taught by an MD who was also an anatomist, but he specialized in the lab, while the classroom part of the course was taught by the chief of the dental school, a couple of MDs who work in molecular biology, and so on. Their particular perspective was excellent in getting across the parts they taught. Their presence didn't jeopardize the full time professors' jobs in any way.

I have investigated teaching at either the nearby community college or the slightly less nearby university. They always need someone who can both teach and teach something useful. If I go that route, I would not be looking at a full time position, and I would be considered "adjunct faculty," whether I taught a course in medical terminology or technical writing. The key here is not that "non-professional professors" are involved, it is that far too many people with "professor" for a title are not in the least suited or trained to be teachers. The assumption that just because someone has a graduate degree that he or she knows how to teach is idiotic (and egotistical on the part of the faculty who got there simply by collecting diplomas). It takes more than just subject matter knowledge to be able to present and explain that material in a way that Joe and Jan Student will actually pick up even a tiny bit of it. One can obtain the extra skills to do this through training and practice, but there aren't too many motivators for college educators to bother, so we continue to have "that one course that you need but is taught by Dr. Brainkiller..."

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Jun 19, 2013, 03:22 PM
 
The article I linked to claims that 1 of the 1.5 million professors are hired as adjuncts, and often exploited.
     
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Jun 20, 2013, 02:55 AM
 
Online schools are a fraud or can easily be frauded I knew a guy who got a graduate degree from a highly ranked university. He needed someone to proctor his examination. Basically anyone could qualify and no one actually watched him take his examination. He could have easily looked at a cheat sheet, googled an answer, asked a friend, or anything else. Additionally, online schools never have quizzes every week like I had in college. And since he was an engineering major, how can you graduate without taking any lab courses like I did when I was in a similar major in a non-online school?
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Jun 20, 2013, 10:23 AM
 
I only had a handful of full-time faculty teaching courses in my program at IUPUI, and they were all past-middle-aged men and women who had been professors for decades.

I rather liked that most of my profs were part-time instructors. They all worked daily in the field they taught, so we got to learn real-world information and examples in our classes, rather than the same regurgitated crap day after day.

Of course, this was a degree program where you were learning tangible, real skills that could easily translate into job opportunities....

Trollolololololololol.
     
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Jun 20, 2013, 02:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by knifecarrier2 View Post
There are people who get worthless degrees. That will always be the case. But I'd point out that the biggest american success story, Apple, was someone who valued creatives, industrial design, typography, and other things that are 'for homos'.
True, but Steve didn't need a liberal arts degree for any of that, No? Most the time genius and creativity are something you either have or don't; and if you need to learn it it can usually be done in the off time in much less expensive ways.
Having a trade is great... you feel rewarded for your labor, and if you aren't being undercut by illegal immigrants, the pay is pretty good. However... I don't want to be doing that stuff when I'm older. Much happier working in an office environment, where I can walk into a shop full of every tool imaginable and create something from my brain than brazing pipes together.
Nobody wuants to, but it is possible. Besides we have too many perfectly fit young people not wanting to settle for anything less than old people work. To some extent real work is the lost art in this country.

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Jun 20, 2013, 11:38 PM
 
Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I kinda like physical labor if I can supplement it with some mental labor.
     
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Jun 21, 2013, 12:28 AM
 
Originally Posted by shifuimam View Post
I only had a handful of full-time faculty teaching courses in my program at IUPUI, and they were all past-middle-aged men and women who had been professors for decades.

I rather liked that most of my profs were part-time instructors. They all worked daily in the field they taught, so we got to learn real-world information and examples in our classes, rather than the same regurgitated crap day after day.

Of course, this was a degree program where you were learning tangible, real skills that could easily translate into job opportunities....

Trollolololololololol.
My art school did this. The rationale was to provide the students with teachers who have current working experience to skate on providing benefits.
     
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Jun 21, 2013, 04:45 AM
 
Originally Posted by el chupacabra View Post
True, but Steve didn't need a liberal arts degree for any of that, No? Most the time genius and creativity are something you either have or don't;
Steve Jobs was known to have first learned about typography at Reed College in Oregon, and mentioned that this interest in typography was a crucial aspect of what made Macintosh.

He dropped out, but it's difficult to imagine the Mac having the same impact upon the publishing industry (and even single-handedly creating an entirely new one) if the emphasis had not been WYSIWYG and typefaces and LaserWriters.

The way the liberal arts broaden horizons can benefit individuals in unexpected and spectacular ways.
     
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Jun 21, 2013, 04:56 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Steve Jobs was known to have first learned about typography at Reed College in Oregon, and mentioned that this interest in typography was a crucial aspect of what made Macintosh.

He dropped out, but it's difficult to imagine the Mac having the same impact upon the publishing industry (and even single-handedly creating an entirely new one) if the emphasis had not been WYSIWYG and typefaces and LaserWriters.

The way the liberal arts broaden horizons can benefit individuals in unexpected and spectacular ways.

Sometimes the influence of a course and immersion of subject matter can really have a lasting impact in just a few classes, like it seems like it did with Jobs. Sometimes you have no idea that there was an impact until years later. Maybe sometimes you never identify the impact despite its actual influence.

This is another reason why measuring the whole liberal arts approach in terms of what kind of job it lands you is silly.


I'm opinionated about this subject because while I'm doing well now in computers, I maintain that my greatest life lessons were learned through music, and this helps me nearly every day.
     
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Jun 21, 2013, 09:57 AM
 
Google staffing boss: Our old hiring procedures were 'worthless' • The Register

Candidates' past academic performance wasn't predictive either, Bock said – a stunning admission for a company that's notoriously stuffed to the gills with PhDs.

"Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.'s and test scores, but we don't anymore, unless you're just a few years out of school," Bock said. "We found that they don't predict anything."
     
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Jun 22, 2013, 06:39 PM
 
Shhhh: don't tell anyone, but SAT and GRE scores don't predict performance or success in school, either...*

*My school's associate dean wrote one of a number of studies that showed these "entrance exams" to be worthless in saying anything at all about how a student would perform in any course of study, nor whether or not they'd succeed in graduating, nor any other measure of success. They are essentially worthless as predictors. Why? These tests are a snapshot of performance on an artificial task, and do not have any connection with future tasks. Your GPA in college can't predict how you'll do at work, because you won't be "the same person" at work as when you dug that nice hole for your GPA to start in during your freshman year, either. "Past performance does not predict future earnings" is a disclaimer on any investment you buy into, and it is true of just about any other attempt to use the past as a predictor.

In general, you can find that people with good to very good GPAs have organized study habits, a decent work ethic, and some attention to managing their lives such that they can actually succeed in a task they attempt, but getting good grades doesn't mean that someone is going to be capable of doing "task X" just because the person who wrote the job description figured that a given minimum GPA and/or coursework history would equate to capacity to do that task. It's kind of because people who write job descriptions don't necessarily know much about those jobs.

I am trained in something called "task analysis," which in the context of course development and job descriptions means the same thing: breaking down "task X" into the essential and atomic skills, knowledges and capabilities needed to do each part of that task. Human resources departments don't have people who understand task analysis (or almost never do), so they use traditional tools for establishing job requirements. That means using intuition because they don't know how to get data. And it is axiomatic that management by fact is far superior to management by "guess."

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Jun 23, 2013, 03:14 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Steve Jobs was known to have first learned about typography at Reed College in Oregon, and mentioned that this interest in typography was a crucial aspect of what made Macintosh.

He dropped out, but it's difficult to imagine the Mac having the same impact upon the publishing industry (and even single-handedly creating an entirely new one) if the emphasis had not been WYSIWYG and typefaces and LaserWriters.

The way the liberal arts broaden horizons can benefit individuals in unexpected and spectacular ways.
I agree, but from what I understand all Steve had to do to acquire these talents was "drop in" on classes. Supposedly he didn't actually enroll in the calligraphy class; just sat in. Who knows how much of the work he actually did since it was voluntary.
"If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts." -Jobs
The idea that half the mac is everything it is because he sat in on a calligraphy class and maybe a few other arts, should be considered questionable; and doesn't build a great case for the value in acquiring an actual degree in such a liberal arts program. The classes definitely serve a valuable purpose for certain things, such as how Steve used them, for free; but I thought the thread's premise was more centered on how liberal arts degrees are valuable because they teach critical thinking. Because critical thinking was the primary purpose to acquire such a degree, no?

I asked the thread earlier if there was anyone who wasn't a critical thinker so we could get their take on all this. This wasn't trolling. It's kinda hard to discern the value of these degrees when there is no ruler of which to measure the value of critical thinking, and there's no ruler to measure someone's critical thinking abilities (is there?). Since it's un-pc to point fingers judging the critical thinking skills of others we would have to have people voluntarily self proclaim their lack of critical thinking abilities and how it's hurt them in order to help in creating that ruler. But see everybody thinks they're a critical thinker... And a fallacy is born

It may seem superficial but the standard way of measuring the value of such programs has become fulfillment of goals, which lead to the jobs which lead to financial success; or at the very least doing a poorman's dream job; because this type of success leads to the most content people. Where as most the baristas didn't picture themselves working in coffee shops while studying for their degree. Most likely if one had asked them what their goals were before starting the program their answer would have much to do with 'future work' and little to do with developing critical thinking.

Besson3c who loves stats, is now stepping into el chupacabra's shoes with anecdotes about his success with liberal arts, and questioning the value of stats relating to this subject, which is fine of course. Im glad to see him take a step in this direction. I don't know if besson has a degree in liberal arts, a minor, or just took a few classes like Steve Jobs; maybe he learned all about music on his own like many people do. He has proven the subjects are valuable but not that liberal art degrees are valuable or that the investment that goes into them pays off.
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Jun 23, 2013, 12:57 PM
 
El Chup: I don't know what direction you think I'm heading towards, but it is certainly not using anecdotes as a replacement for information that is not sample size skewed. I did not use any of my anecdotes for anything other than to explain my steadfast nature towards this subject matter. I don't know why you'd hope for anybody to take a step in the direction of basing arguments on foolishly small sample sizes, that is just silly.

I think your line of questioning is flawed too, but not for the reason you cited in not being able to find somebody that would admit that they had no critical thinking abilities until they attended University x where *presto* out they came a critical thinker. Critical thinking is not necessarily a skill you can learn in four years, and it is not necessarily a skill you either have or don't have in some sort of binary fashion, there are varying degrees of it. It's more of a set of habits, an attitude of intellectual curiosity and an existence coupled with an ability to process information, research, etc.. Universities can play a role in *shaping* this, but it all depends on the individual. I would say that the ability to research in particular is something that is emphasized in most graduate programs, but perhaps for some people it is just a matter of fine tuning this ability. Maybe for others it is using what the student already had... It all depends. You aren't going to find many stats on subject matter with so much individual variability.

I'm not surprised to find that nobody in here can pinpoint learning critical thinking from University because most of us likely are critical thinkers, and the time in which this was developed was probably a very transformative period in our lives when a lot of things were taking shape.
     
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Jun 23, 2013, 04:05 PM
 
There's "critical thinking" and there's "intelligently analyzing." Critical thought is so downplayed in today's public education system that it's easy to get a generic 20 year old to believe just about anything. What is supposed to be going on in a college program is learning to use one's knowledge base and skills learned in one's program to analyze what one reads, hears, sees, etc., to make useful decisions about that information and then act on the information appropriately.

What I found I got out of my first bachelor degree was the ability to plan out what to do based on the information I could get about a situation. That was pretty important to me, since I was in computer science and the concepts of developing a product based on what a customer needed (the foundation of software engineering is "what does the customer need" (even if he doesn't know he needs that)). It includes "task analysis," which I described earlier, but it also includes looking for info that the customer may not know you need. Let's call that "level 1" analysis.

My graduate program included substantial amounts of time and effort involving formal research: how to set up, get funding for, get authorization for, perform, document, analyze, and publish research, and also how to evaluate and potentially apply someone else's research. It meant knowing how statistics work and what you can and can't get out of any given stat, and how to do the actual statistical calculations as well - because maybe the researcher you're looking at didn't have a statistician in his team and messed up on his math. Or maybe somebody fudged that math to support a conclusion they started out with... Let's call that "level 2" analysis. Level 3? That's "here's all this research, and it doesn't tell me stuff I need to know, so what new research needs to be done to connect all these other dots?"

The customarily expected common denominator of post-secondary education is usually thought of as "he can think things out well," but it's really more "he can think critically and analyze all sorts of stuff really well." With increasing specialization in college programs, this seems to be less stressed than it used to be. I bet most of us have run into more than a few people who assumed that their advanced but highly specialized education meant that they were not just smarter than everyone else but more informed...yet they needed help setting the clock on their microwave, or couldn't figure out how to change the tire on their car without roadside assistance. Being more specialized shouldn't mean not knowing that the foundation of every specialty is a bunch of generic tools, the most important of which is critical thought and careful analysis of any kind of information.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
 
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