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wae
wae UltimaDork
4/23/24 8:37 a.m.

I have a little bit of a struggle with this right now in my own experience.  I graduated high school in 1992 and made my first attempt at college immediately after.  I ran up a decent amount of debt in the process, but I had a hard time maintaining focus on school.  I started out as a computer science major and after I failed some stupid calculus class for the third time, I discovered that there was another track available called information systems.  The basic difference being that CS was all theoretical and mathy and was about how computers worked while IS was much more practical, required way less math, and was all about how you could take what the CS geeks dreamed up and actually do things.  Meanwhile, I had already started my career job and was making good money and advancing pretty well.  What I was learning at work was about 10 years ahead of anything they were teaching at school, technology-wise, and I found myself in conflict with professors who were teaching things that were often 180 degrees opposed to what I was experiencing.  It finally came down to the fact that I was making pretty good money and learning a lot more at work so I could focus on that or give that up and focus on spending a lot of money to not get any useful knowledge and slow down my career path.  Not to say that I didn't learn anything at school - I would have taken all the philosophy, theology, and music/theater appreciation classes they could throw at me.

About a year ago, as I was helping my eldest daughter shop colleges, I decided to go ahead and take advantage of the free $5000/yr that the IRS says my employer is allowed to give me to try to wrap up my degree.  I guess it was just because I didn't really have enough going on in my life.  Not that I think I particularly need it at this stage, but just because I'm a tiny bit more mature than I was the first time around and it's unfinished business.  I've taken a total of 4 classes at this point and I'm about to sprain a muscle in my head from rolling my eyes so hard so frequently at these people.  So far, what I've been taking have been basically the gen-ed classes to sort of synchronize my 25 year old transcript with what they're doing now and so much of it is just absolute crap.  First of all, there's a raft of classes that I cannot take because I haven't completed their 6 hours' worth of English credits.  No matter that I'm the person in the office that whenever any written work needs to be sent to a customer, it comes to me first.  No matter that I have reams of customer deliverables that I've written - I'm talking 100+ page analyses* - to provide as evidence that my ability to use the written word exceeds anything that they're currently teaching in ENG101 and 102.  They'll let me take a CLEP test to test out of 101, but I've still got to take 102.  I've studied for that test and the amount of time that they spend in the study material on the concept of the differences between "they're", "there", and "their" makes me wonder what in the hell is going on in elementary schools these days.  The rest of the time is spent on trying to convince me that if I put a comma in the wrong place in an in-line citation to a source that I've committed the sin of plagiarism (which, by the way, they have misspelled in a couple places as "plagaraism" or something similar to that), am a very bad person, and should be dragged out to the middle of campus and shot as a warning to others.  Or, I guess, be qualified for an $800k/year job at Harvard. 

But what I'm really struggling with is this "World Cultures" class which is nearing completion.  One of my last assignments is to write a couple paragraphs on the topic of what I think I have learned this semester.  I know what the "right" answer is supposed to be, of course.  I'm supposed to have learned that other cultures exist in the world and they do things differently and just because it's different doesn't mean that I can judge that based on my own culture and I can't apply my values to those cultures and white people are bad and people living in grass huts in the jungle are good.  Which is fine and all and not really anything that I learned because of this class; I'm a pretty big proponent of "can't we all just get along" and for the most part don't give a damn about what other people are doing in their cultures.  Except that the real lesson that has been taught in the class is that we should be shocked and dismayed when there's a culture out there that subjugates women and we should talk about how bad that is.  And a culture that doesn't use money or gather material wealth is good and free and unburdened from the anchors that weigh us down in our culture.  Now, I'm not here to debate either of those points.  I'm against subjugation in pretty much all its forms.  But if you're going to spend several weeks' worth of classes comparing two different cultures primarily on the basis of how good one culture is because it's so egalitarian and gender roles are so fluid while the other must be miserable for women because they get to thatch the huts and watch the kids while the men go hunting, that sort of sounds to me like you're judging a culture based on your own culture and applying your values to those cultures.  So it's either okay to do that or it's not okay to do that, but you sort of need to pick one.

Anyway, despite the fact that I would probably find myself on the "school bad, experience good" side of the battle line that is being drawn, I don't know that I'm very invested in that fight.  I think the real solution is in how formal education and training is approached.  Certainly, much of it is not tremendously useful.  I have VMS command-line knowledge that was useful to me while in school and absolutely nowhere else.  Being able to properly cite sources is a skill that I have used exactly zero times in my 30 year career.  What I picked up in philosophy and theology is basically useless to my ability to do performance analytics.  I dropped number theory after a couple classes because it was some bullE36 M3, but never have I ever needed to know WHY 2+2=4, I've been doing just fine accepting the fact that it is.  That said, though, if you can sit through the bullE36 M3 that a school can throw at you, then you'll be just fine dealing with the bullE36 M3 of corporate America.  If I'm going to hire someone to do any sort of work where your brain might need to be engaged, I want to have someone that has some level of intellectual curiosity.  You don't need to care why math works, but I've dealt with people that know their specialty really well and are wholly uncurious about anything else in the world and they're awful to try to work with.  So while a lot of formal education is like so much fart gas, there's definitely value in learning things just for the purpose of learning things.  Even if it can't be readily applied to what you're doing today.

 

 

* Case in point:  I can tell you with 100% certainty that the plural of analysis is analyses which is something even the spellchecker that the forum uses doesn't seem to know.

Opti
Opti UltraDork
4/23/24 6:35 p.m.

I went to college on an academic scholarship and paid for the rest myself. Right out of high school I got a job in a trade, and worked full time to pay for school. I broke my neck one year, and had to get a small student loan to pay for the following semester because I couldn't work. I managed to graduate pretty much debt free, and proceeded to never use my degree. It's only use has been a "thing" I put on my resume, and I occasionally get asked about. I can count the useful classes on one hand, and they were all taught by someone from industry, not career educators. There seemed to be very little teaching and quite a bit of activism, which didn't help me much, because I tended to take a combative approach every chance I could. If a professor was going to tell me a certain school of thought was correct, instead of just teaching us about it including its pros and cons, I was going to make a case for the other side, whether I believed it or not. 

My wife works in the field of her degree, is quite successful and generally has a more optimistic take on schooling and college than I do. Our decision is to put money away for our children so they can buy a home early (home ownership one of the biggest indicators of net worth in the US), and if they choose to go to school, we will help if we can, but the money set aside is only for a home. Our recommendation to them is to only attend college if they have a specific career in mind and a specific degree or certification is required for that career.

We are both college-educated and walked away thinking in most cases its not very useful.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
4/23/24 7:03 p.m.
prodarwin said:

These threads are always so productive.

Yes, I get so tired of the Us versus Them mentality.  College is good for some people, working in a trade is good for others.  The key aspect is either way, a person needs education to get ahead in the world.

jharry3
jharry3 GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/23/24 7:11 p.m.

If you take the right classes you learn how to think.  If you take the wrong classes you are taught what to think.   Think about it. 

wae
wae UltimaDork
4/23/24 7:24 p.m.

You will think I am making this up, but I promise you that this is the truth.  A few hours after my screed, I got an email from my world cultures professor.  She thought one of my writings for the class was so great that she wants to nominate it for the departmental publication or whatever.  It is a complete pandering and, of course, I obviously know nothing about college composition.  But there you go.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/23/24 8:45 p.m.
RonnieFnD said:

So this morning I have to go take a three hour electrical exam on star connectors in a Chrysler Pacifica because Stellantis distributes half the cars on earth.   As I'm taking this completely worthless (for me) exam this is the service drive at work.....something doesn't line up here.

 

I'm old, grumpy, and I want everyone off my lawn lol.

What the hell is so difficult about star connectors that they feel a need for a three hour exam?  It's easily explained in like two paragraphs and a small handful of wiring diagrams.

03Panther
03Panther PowerDork
4/23/24 9:02 p.m.

In reply to wae :

Case in point:  I can tell you with 100% certainty that the plural of analysis is analyses which is something even the spellchecker that the forum uses doesn't seem to know.

I haven't read your wall of text (and also don't have a clue what the OP's point was)

But is there any real world case where that matters?

I can say it's not something I would know, but also something I'm not going to remember. Don't think I'd ever regret not remembering. 
EDIT: I also, outside of working concrete, have never head the word "screed" (and concrete work may be spelled different. )

Duke
Duke MegaDork
4/23/24 9:08 p.m.
stuart in mn said:
prodarwin said:

These threads are always so productive.

Yes, I get so tired of the Us versus Them mentality.  College is good for some people, working in a trade is good for others.  The key aspect is either way, a person needs education to get ahead in the world.

And I need to buy you and jharry beers.

My chosen field requires a minimum 5-year Bachelor of Science degree for professional licensure.  I have  7-year Masters.

I was taught very little of the technical knowledge necessary in those 7 years.  I had to learn it on the job during my mandatory 3-year internship.

What I WAS taught in those 7 years:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creative problem solving
  • Communication - written, verbal, and graphic
  • How to conceive an idea, develop it, present it, defend it, and learn from criticism of it
  • Research and investigation
  • Interaction with other professionals and laypeople
  • History, art, and culture
  • Philosophy

With the possible exception of philosophy, I use all of those things professionally every week, despite none of them having a direct technical bearing on my actual job.

So, yeah.  Education is not automatically valueless if it's not technical.

 

Opti
Opti UltraDork
4/23/24 10:01 p.m.

In reply to Duke :

I don't think education is useless, even if it's not technical. I think in practical terms the higher education industry in the US isn't very useful to the majority of customers.

I wish we did more "educating" in modern colleges.

In my experience, I was told about the ideals of critical thinking and creative problem solving but in practice those skills were not welcome. I learned more and faster by working in the real world and by being generally curious.

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
4/23/24 11:18 p.m.

I did a few years at UCLA in the useless (unless you are really good - and lucky) area of performing arts. Honestly, other than sharing a class with Heather Locklear, my major classes made no significant effect on my brain. What I did get a lot out of was working for the school newspaper and classes like sociology, history and physics.  Now I run a sheet metal/HVAC shop, yet I'm really glad for my college experience. Why? because in addition to what I learned, it made me able to comfortably converse with and relate to people who are much more educated than myself. So when working with professionals of various stripes, I can speak their language in a way that I'd never been able to  had I gone directly into the trades. This is very useful.

But it's different for everyone. There are a lot of self-taught people out there who are very much thriving. What I would say to a young person who wants a measure of success is that A- you need to be willing to work  hard when necessary and smart when necessary. And smart usually trumps hard. B - you need to be able to fill a need. And the more exclusive your expertise is in that area, the more leverage/opportunity you will have. C - you need to keep growing and changing, because that's what the world is doing and you'll have to keep up.   Lastly, you need to enjoy or at least be engaged by what you do. If you don't like it, you will be unhappy and get burnt out quickly. 

College is a set of tools that you may or may not need.    

ddavidv
ddavidv UltimaDork
4/24/24 7:01 a.m.
stuart in mn said:
prodarwin said:

These threads are always so productive.

Yes, I get so tired of the Us versus Them mentality.  College is good for some people, working in a trade is good for others.  The key aspect is either way, a person needs education to get ahead in the world.

'Needs'...well, maybe. Perhaps 'usually'. But not 'always'.

I don't view the discussion as a 'college is useless vs trade school' argument. Historically, you usually did need a college education to get really good paying, 'career' style jobs that weren't in the trades. Colleges used to teach practical topics combined with critical thinking. And while not cheap, the education could be achieved with a reasonable expenditure.

Things have changed. The cost of college in most cases has far outstripped normal inflation, a direct result of easy to get student loans that can go on in perpetuity. Colleges charge absurd amounts because people who buy into the you need to go to college or you'll be homeless! just pay what they are asking. What students and parents aren't doing is looking at the return on investment. Will your eventual career pay you back in a reasonable amount of time for what you are spending? If you plan on being a doctor, yes...eventually. If you plan on being a curator at the local art museum, highly unlikely. 

Critical thinking seems to be a lost concept at a lot of 'prestigious' universities, as if you don't write your paper to suit the professor's world view you aren't going to get a passing grade. Dissenting argument used to be celebrated and challenged. Now it seems to get you blacklisted for not towing the line.

I've worked for over a half-dozen employers in the insurance/financial services field. While a lot of them do require a degree to move into management positions,, the degree itself or where it came from seems to matter little. As long as you have a diploma from the University of Anywhere in liberal basket weaving, it's good enough. Spending hundreds of thousands more on a diploma from a name brand school doesn't really get you any further unless you are going really high up in the hierarchy. 

The point in many of these discussions is not that college is useless. It is that it is no longer the default answer to starting one's adult life. Additionally, parents pushing kids in the direction of college, when they have yet to decide on a path in life, is a failure waiting to happen.

P3PPY
P3PPY GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
4/24/24 7:48 a.m.

Yeah, I don't have anything terribly useful to add here, but I'll give it a stab anyway. 
 

So something foreign to me is that this comparison belies an expectation that college is to be an advanced form of trade school where you learn the specific, practical steps to accomplish a task. 

I was under the impression that college was intended to open your mind to new ways of thinking and new philosophies of being and make you a more well-rounded, cultured individual.

I went into it not expecting it to be particularly applicable to my career, but I guess I didn't realize how many fields there are where it is actually a kind of trade school. Huh.

Now that I think of it:

nursing, ed, computer programming... 

sure enough 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
4/24/24 9:10 a.m.
ddavidv said:
stuart in mn said:
prodarwin said:

These threads are always so productive.

Yes, I get so tired of the Us versus Them mentality.  College is good for some people, working in a trade is good for others.  The key aspect is either way, a person needs education to get ahead in the world.

'Needs'...well, maybe. Perhaps 'usually'. But not 'always'.

To be clear, my point was unless you want to be a ditch digger or a convenience store cashier, you need an education in something and it doesn't necessarily happen in a classroom. 

Peabody
Peabody MegaDork
4/24/24 9:42 a.m.
stuart in mn said:
prodarwin said:

These threads are always so productive.

Yes, I get so tired of the Us versus Them mentality.  College is good for some people, working in a trade is good for others.  The key aspect is either way, a person needs education to get ahead in the world.

To both quotes.

The discussion is productive, as people are now realizing that trades are a viable career option without the stigma of being for the dumb kids. There's still work to do but people are seeing the trades differently now than they have in the past, especially on this forum where tradespeople have often been regarded as nothing more than ditch diggers that will be crippled by hard labour the time they're 50.

I'm not sure how you ever considered it to be us vs them, I've never seen it that way, and always considered it to be that one need not get a degree to have a rewarding and productive career. If there is any us vs them component, it's us trying to educate them that you shouldn't be looking down on the trades.

In Canada if you want to get licensed, or at least educated in your trade, you go to college.

ShawnG
ShawnG MegaDork
4/24/24 9:47 a.m.

There's a lot of people who simply wouldn't have learned well in a university situation. I could probably handle it now, but it would have been a waste of money when I finished high school.

 

Toyman!
Toyman! GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/24/24 10:17 a.m.
stuart in mn said:
ddavidv said:
stuart in mn said:
prodarwin said:

These threads are always so productive.

Yes, I get so tired of the Us versus Them mentality.  College is good for some people, working in a trade is good for others.  The key aspect is either way, a person needs education to get ahead in the world.

'Needs'...well, maybe. Perhaps 'usually'. But not 'always'.

To be clear, my point was unless you want to be a ditch digger or a convenience store cashier, you need an education in something and it doesn't necessarily happen in a classroom. 

Stuart, do you consider education to be all learning? I've always considered education to be knowledge imparted in a formal atmosphere. Either a classroom of some kind of structured OJT. 

Much like Shawn, college would have been wasted on me and honestly, trade school would have been a waste as well. By the time I dropped out of high school, I was so disgusted with the education system that I would have failed at anything I was stuck in. That's not to say I didn't like to learn new things, I just didn't want to be educated on them.  

 

 

 

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
4/24/24 10:38 a.m.
P3PPY said:

computer programming... 

There is actually a fairly large difference between a computer programming trade school ("coding boot camp" is the term often used) and a 4-year bachelor's degree in computer science.  The trade school is going to focus on specific popular languages, libraries in those languages used for building common applications (web frameworks, for example), and use of common tool chains (compilers, source control systems like git, code review applications, etc).

By contrast a CS degree is much higher level and more general.  What is a computer, how do they work, what's the history of them?  What are the various types of software that run on them (OS, applications, embeded systems).  Algorithms, state machines, P vs NP, compiler theory, networking, queuing theory, OS design, file systems, distributed systems, AI neural networks, etc.  A lot of it is closer to math than engineering.  Sure, a CS degree will have a couple of lower division courses on programming, but that's just to get you enough skill so that you can use it to complete assignments in the upper division courses teaching more abstract concepts.  Programming is to CS what spelling and grammar are to English classes.

A lot of software engineering jobs these days are looking for master's degrees -- that's all of the above plus a lot of review of current research papers and a little bit of your own original research.

 

Beer Baron 🍺
Beer Baron 🍺 MegaDork
4/24/24 10:48 a.m.

These threads always become dysfunctional because the only thing everyone posts are hyperbolic absolute statements.

No one should ever make absolute statements.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
4/24/24 10:50 a.m.
Beer Baron 🍺 said:

No one should ever make absolute statements.

Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
4/24/24 11:28 a.m.
Beer Baron 🍺 said:

These threads always become dysfunctional because the only thing everyone posts are hyperbolic absolute statements.

No one should ever make absolute statements.

"The less a man makes declarative statements, the less apt he is to look foolish in retrospect."

My first job out of college, didn't really have anything to do with my degree. That one lasted 18 months. Every job since then has absolutely required my degree. 

Technical Writer, degree in Journalism, minor in Philosophy, with some engineering classes throw in (I was originally an MET major). 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/24/24 11:30 a.m.
Peabody said:
stuart in mn said:
prodarwin said:

These threads are always so productive.

Yes, I get so tired of the Us versus Them mentality.  College is good for some people, working in a trade is good for others.  The key aspect is either way, a person needs education to get ahead in the world.

To both quotes.

The discussion is productive, as people are now realizing that trades are a viable career option without the stigma of it being for the dumb kids. There's still work to do but people are seeing the trades differently now than they have in the past, especially on this forum where tradespeople have, in the past, been regarded as nothing more than ditch diggers that will be crippled by hard labour the time they're 50.

I'm not sure how you ever considered it to be us vs them, I've never seen it that way, and always considered it to be that one need not get a degree to have a rewarding and productive career. If there is any us vs them component, it's us trying to educate them that you shouldn't be looking down on the trades.

In Canada if you want to get licensed, or at least educated in your trade, you go to college.

There's a terminology difference here. From what I can tell, a college in Canada would be called a trade school in the US. A Canadian university is a degree-granting institution. College and university are used almost interchangeably south of the border, although there is some status difference based on reactions observed in casual conversation.

I went to both a Canadian college and a Canadian university - the college got my foot in the door at a company by teaching me some specific skills that were obsolete a couple of years later, the university taught me more about how to think. In the long run, what I've learned since has been most useful to me. My actual credentials haven't helped other than giving me a salary bump in a company where salaries were based on math and your credentials.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
4/24/24 12:03 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Yeah, most people don't bother to make the distinction, because for all intensive purposes, it doesn't really matter. 

I went to the College of X (I can't remember exactly which Journalism is in) at Oklahoma State University. 

If I had an Engineering degree, I would have attended CEAT (College of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology) at OSU.

Here "trade schools" are typically referred to as Vocational Technology Schools. Or Vo-Tech. 

Duke
Duke MegaDork
4/24/24 12:21 p.m.

In my experience, "college" denotes either a smaller institution with a limited number of programs (usually liberal arts, but not always) or a subdivision of a larger university (such as the College of Engineering, etc).

"University" is typically reserved for a larger institution, with a wider variety of programs in both arts and sciences.  But no matter which they attend, people in the US will informally say "I'm going to college" the way a Brit would say "I'm at university."  Almost no one in the US uses that phrasing.

Then there is the University of Maryland University College.  I've never known what to make of that one.

Trade schools tend to be called "institutes".

 

ShawnG
ShawnG MegaDork
4/24/24 12:35 p.m.

Once I was asked by a customer, after making a new universal joint assembly for his 1913 Buick. "Are you a machinist?"

My answer was "No, people go to school to be called machinists, but I can make whatever part you need for your car."

Beer Baron 🍺
Beer Baron 🍺 MegaDork
4/24/24 12:52 p.m.
Duke said:

Trade schools tend to be called "institutes".

I got my Certified Brewmaster credential at a Lehranstalt. Translates to a "training institute" but is a compound of "learning place".

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