Wednesday, April 29, 2009


That doesn’t mean, though, that Silicon Valley is still not a huge, critical, important part of our economy, and Wall Street will remain a big, important part of our economy, just as it was in the ’70s and the ’80s. It just won’t be half of our economy. And that means that more talent, more resources will be going to other sectors of the economy. And I actually think that’s healthy. We don’t want every single college grad with mathematical aptitude to become a derivatives trader. We want some of them to go into engineering, and we want some of them to be going into computer design.

-President Obama via NYT magazine

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The main points of the NYT article

But our graduate system has been in crisis for decades, and the seeds of this crisis go as far back as the formation of modern universities. Kant, in his 1798 work “The Conflict of the Faculties,” wrote that universities should “handle the entire content of learning by mass production, so to speak, by a division of labor, so that for every branch of the sciences there would be a public teacher or professor appointed as its trustee.”

Unfortunately this mass-production university model has led to separation where there ought to be collaboration and to ever-increasing specialization. In my own religion department, for example, we have 10 faculty members, working in eight subfields, with little overlap. And as departments fragment, research and publication become more and more about less and less. Each academic becomes the trustee not of a branch of the sciences, but of limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems

If American higher education is to thrive in the 21st century, colleges and universities, like Wall Street and Detroit, must be rigorously regulated and completely restructured. The long process to make higher learning more agile, adaptive and imaginative can begin with six major steps:

1. Restructure the curriculum, beginning with graduate programs and proceeding as quickly as possible to undergraduate programs. The division-of-labor model of separate departments is obsolete and must be replaced with a curriculum structured like a web or complex adaptive network. Responsible teaching and scholarship must become cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural.

2. Abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs. These constantly evolving programs would have sunset clauses, and every seven years each one should be evaluated and either abolished, continued or significantly changed. It is possible to imagine a broad range of topics around which such zones of inquiry could be organized: Mind, Body, Law, Information, Networks, Language, Space, Time, Media, Money, Life and Water.

3. Increase collaboration among institutions. All institutions do not need to do all things and technology makes it possible for schools to form partnerships to share students and faculty.

4. Transform the traditional dissertation. The average university press print run of a dissertation that has been converted into a book is less than 500, and sales are usually considerably lower.) For many years, I have taught undergraduate courses in which students do not write traditional papers but develop analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games. Graduate students should likewise be encouraged to produce “theses” in alternative formats.

5. Expand the range of professional options for graduate students. Most graduate students will never hold the kind of job for which they are being trained. It is, therefore, necessary to help them prepare for work in fields other than higher education.

This is alot of the stuff we've been talking about.

What Colleges AREN'T Producing

College Sucks. Times op-ed.

Via NY Times

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fun Fact about Math

This is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Mathematicians held about 3,000 jobs in 2006. Many people with mathematical backgrounds also worked in other occupations. For example, there were about 54,000 jobs as postsecondary mathematical science teachers in 2006.

Out of 57,000 mathameticians, 94.7% of them teach math at colleges. Talk about a masturbatory field.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tim's cheating and attempts at obtaining an education.

I cheated my way through high school. Why? Because it was easy and few subjects could retain my interest for more than a semester. And if I were placed in that same educational setting, I would do it again. I would start the school year in a enthusiastic and optimistic mind set, I would finish all my home work as soon as I got home, I would study for at least 2 hours at night; but after a month of that I would get bored out of mind and would just copy someone else's work. And once that mentality set in it only got worse, copying a homework assignments and involves little effort, but that lead me to not studying and eventually skipping out on classes. I would often have to cut deals like this with my teachers; "If I pass the final with whatever grade, you'll pass me for the year", some teachers said agreed to the deal, but others dismissed my slacker initiative as a cop out for doing work, which it was. Every school year ended with me trying to learn a year's worth of material in about two weeks. Sometimes it worked, more often than not it didn't. So ended up at summer school quite often.

The actually test and retaining the information was never the problem, whatever state mandated test we had I would usually pass with no problem, it was the test that were given periodically throughout the quarter, say every two weeks that would kill me. It felt like there was never anytime to see how information I was learning was relevant or related, or at least see at it all works together. It was like bam, learn A, test, ok learn B, test; I was like "Whoa, how are A and B related or relevant to one another." I asked every teacher "Why I'm I learning this?", "When am I going to need to know about quadratic equations ever?" So high school was a bust, I graduated at some ungodly low rank, didn't even know we had a rankings system until senior year; I made a feeble attempt to move up but soon realize it was impossible and then actually moved down in the rankings, go figure. I did well on the SAT's even though the first time I took it I forgot to bring a calculator. So I got into college, some how.

Then it all clicked. When I had the opportunity to pick whatever subjects I wanted to learn, I instantly become invested in my education. It was never about trying a bunch of random classes, but about having the opportunity to say "This interest me. I want to learn more about it" and be given the opportunity to do so.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

John's Schooling

I went to what was once the 25th best high school in the country, and got to see the best and the worst of what the educational system can offer.

I'll start from the beginning though. I went to Palm Beach Public Elementary School, which was considered a great elementary school. What the hell did I know? I was like 8 years old. But the year before I was supposed to start 6th grade at Palm Beach Public Middle School, they closed it down. I now had to go to my local school, Conniston.

It felt like I was going to school in Compton. It was mostly hispanic, and I was scronny, white and nerdy, and so were my friends. I took a gym class and tried to tell the teacher when I found my trapper keeper in the locker room toilet one day. She told me I shouldn't have left it out.

The 8th graders smoked, I took all the normal classes, and spent free time drawing dinosaurs and Mortal Kombat characters. Towards the end of the year, two 7th graders got in a fight over a wrist watch, which was resolved by a gunshot to the chest. I don't believe they let you have watches in jail or when you're dead and buried in the ground, not that it would do you much good in either place.

The next year, my grandmother offered to pay for me to go somewhere safe, like Catholic school. My mom thought it would be better to have options, which was fortunate because a new Middle School of the Arts was opening up in time for me to audition. I grabbed all of my dinosaur and Mortal Kombat drawings and hoped that pencil and paint would save me from yardsticks and uniforms.

7th and 8th grade were mostly normal, but because I went to a magnet school, at least two of my classes were art classes. The rest of my classes were identical to any other school, but what made my school "better" was that I could take classes I wanted in the fine arts.

High school was basically a continuation of that. Normal high school classes supplemented with electives in the arts. My grades were below average, even though I discovered a knack for design and film. I aced my AP Statistics midterm, and almost failed my final exam. Physics was the only class I really excelled at because, outside of my art classes, it was the only subject I had an interest in. I graduated with a 2.8 GPA and a fairly decent portfolio for a 17 year old.

I went to three different state/community colleges, and found all of them a useless continuation of high school, except that now they charged me.

Friday, April 10, 2009

High School Experience

Before I describe my high school experience, I should probably give you an idea of the type of student I was back then. First and foremost I was an athlete. (I would have used the term jock, but for someone who stood at 5’10 and weighed 150 lbs., the title didn’t seem to fit.) Every waking hour revolved around some extra curricular activity, sports related of course. If I wasn’t practicing or playing I was focusing on socializing or in other words goofing off. I never enjoyed being in the classroom. I probably slept through 5 of the 8 classes I had each day. Needless to say that my drive to learn was almost none existent.
The school I went to was very small and very private. I say very private because no one really knew of it. The student population was about 180, yes that is 9th through 12th grade. My class was probably around 50 students, which was obviously one of the larger classes. You would think with such a small student to teacher ratio that the level of learning would be comparably higher then say to a high school of 2,000 students. Think again. The school as a whole seemed to care more about your obedience then your education. For example, I rarely turned in homework on time or at all with little to no punishment. Yet I was in detention almost every other week for a uniform infraction. I don’t know about you but that seems a little ass backwards. Not to say that there wasn’t any good teachers at the school, but they were few and far between. Now that I think about it, the money spent on tuition was pretty much paying for your grades. To put this in perspective, I graduated with a 3.2 GPA which was somewhat of a surprise considering the fact that I was in summer school prior to graduating. Now, I know its possible to bring your grades up in a year, but there was one underlying factor that didn’t make sense. Which was the fact that every single student in my class graduated with a 3.0 GPA or better. Also, for a Georgia resident to qualify for the Hope scholarship he/she must graduate with a 3.0 GPA or higher. That just seems a little too coincidental to me.