TWiT 197

Since you’re a self-proclaimed radical liberal, the only way to reach you in a form that you might actually process is through an entry in my blog. Yes, I am a self-identified conservative so I understand that your attention span for anything I say will be very limited (even without your adult ADD J). I’m writing this entry as an open response to episode 197 of TWiT, where you and your guests asserted that university-style education is in crisis. I agree with you for the most part, but I think you missed the primary purpose of the whole college system. Obviously, colleges aren’t trade schools, and they don’t pretend to be. In fact, very little of what they teach the average four-year student has direct application in real-life. I’m your age, and I have a Computer Science degree so I have some first-hand experience with how colleges work. What I was told at the beginning of my college career was that college actually teaches you to learn. Please really think that through for a moment while I explain further.


I am reasonably intelligent, and I found high school to be a breeze. That was partly because I had some excellent teachers who took a personal interest in me, in addition to caring parents. However, colleges–especially large universities–are environments where students succeed or fail based on their own merits. Although support services do usually exist, it’s up to the students to use them if needed. That’s part of the overall point of the college system: choice. College is generally the first time young people are out on their own, making their own choices and facing the consequences. They can excel, but only if they really apply themselves. That’s what I mean by learning to learn. The college system isn’t going to reach out and proactively save the students who are failing. My conservative mind finds that to be a positive thing.


Remember that colleges are still relatively shielded environments where young people can mature safely (recent events notwithstanding). In that sort of situation, tuition becomes more than simply cost-recovery. Most of the people I knew the best in college were disabled so I can most accurately write about them. Unfortunately, very few even aspired to graduate. It’s true that things outside in the "real world" really aren’t good for the Disabled, but that’s well beyond the scope of this blog entry. The fact remains that virtually none the disabled people I attended college with graduated. They were quite comfortable staying where they were and receiving state support. I also knew some able-bodied students who were also quite content to be there as long as someone paid their way. This is why I believe tuition must fulfill a secondary role. Agreed, tuition shouldn’t preclude anyone who is serious about learning, but it should be high enough to deter so-called "professional students." those are more common than you may realize.


Yet, colleges serve another function that I think you and your guests glossed over. Where I went to school, the first two years went to learning the basics. You know, small stuff like proper English writing, literature, and (gasp!) history. Also thrown in was a smattering of Math, Physics, Sociology, Political Science, and Biology. In short, the first two years went mainly to learning about humanity and what it means to be a human. True, that learning didn’t make me a better programmer, but it definitely helped me to understand the world around me. I call that sort of teaching "deep learning,” and I daresay you won’t get it in a trade school. If, as was suggested on your show, doctors and lawyers went to trade schools, would they as fully appreciate such niceties as ethics and human rights? Perhaps, but I say not. I say that upbringing and the first two-to-four years of college are what creates most liberals (though a few people are lucky enough to, well, reboot J).  Surely you wouldn’t want to end that?


Lastly, I’ll respectfully remind you that even Sarah Lane has told you that you live in a bubble. She was talking about both technology and the way you view the world. Sarah’s comment was even more memorable because she freely admitted to being right there with you, being a child of Haight-Ashbury and all that went with it. At least she has the mental compass to recognize that.  Not all conservatives are Bible-pounding zealots. Indeed, most of us aren’t. We even use much of the same technology as you do, but we don’t find all of it to be anywhere nearly so valuable! I too have a Twitter account, but I was amused today when a friend described his perception of Twitter as "mostly mental gas-passing." Bing! Don’t get me started about “Fiendfeed” either! J I’ve followed you for over ten years, and I understand that you have a need to broadcast your views. I apparently have a bit of that needed since I have a blog going into its fourth year. I’m also W5RUA. However, my blog is mostly about daily life with a disability so I’m a little less ambitious.


By the way, your perception of “teaching to the test” will largely vanish after Abby encounters her first essay exam. Expect tears, as Jennifer will probably tell you.


Scott (W5RUA) Royall


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