Saturday, June 30, 2007

Education as the Final Frontier? - No, just the road maker

I was having a discussion with a friend recently and found that we were trying to solve the same problem (a philosophic one) by different routes. I was calling it Marketing, but she was calling it Education.

Both of use were right. Because we were using the same tools, just called different things.

Each seeks to improve the quality of life of their participants. Both require that a person constantly update his skill sets through involving herself in new activities and data.

In schooling, our government has recognized that it is essential that people learn and educate themselves. But their monopoly on elementary and secondary education, plus their subsidies of higher schools has led to a stagnation. Our students are no longer the best of the best.

This is proved internally, not just by test scores. The winner of the Spelling Bee and Geography Bee are now routinely home-schooled. A few years ago (when I last checked), three of the top five richest people in America were college drop-outs.

I could name you examples, like W. Clement Stone - who was worth half a billion dollars on his death, although known as a philanthropist - and who dropped out of school twice. Sam Walton of Wal-Mart fame did finish college, but at the University of Missouri in Columbia - not some Ivy League, over-priced, down-their-nose Academic Ivory Tower. (Although my current opinion of M.U. is similar, compared to the education you can get through community colleges and online.)

The argument here is that independent study, particularly the school of hard knocks, is superior to anything government can dish out. And neither can claim that their failures are more spectacular than the other - for both areas are responsible for any failure in our society for anyone to fail to "make it" in these days.

I argue that any schooling should be entirely self-paced. Some people will take fewer years learning their selected skill-sets than others. Some will opt for work in service industries, others in management - both requiring more "people skills" than a mechanic, machinist, or computer programmer. Leaving people to their own pace will create the best product. No two people learn at the same pace or in the same manner.

The trick is to know when you've achieved your goal.

Degrees and diplomas are arbitrary. Education is lifelong and continual from first breath to last. Anyone who thinks they are done at a certain point is kidding themselves. (And such thinking has lead to some very unpleasant premature deaths.)

Once you've achieved such a goal, then you select another and go off after that. The point is to enjoy yourself along the way - and enjoy the world around you.

Mind is said to be the Final Frontier, at least by one quantum physicist. But the paths here will be blazed and paved and widened by education.

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