I've heard these kinds of quotes a lot, and tended to agree
with them, but lately I've begun to wonder if they are
confusing "garbage in" with a bad program.
Personally, I developed critical thinking skills in college. I was
wholly undisciplined -- as likely to get a mediocre grade on a
course I didn't care about, as to ace a course I liked. Generally,
it was one or the other, with not much in the middle.
But the courses I *did* care about were philosophy, poli sci,
and abstract math. Those courses were like lifting weights for
my critical thinking skills. I still find myself thinking through
the implications of design decisions as though they were
philosophical premises, and coming up with rather good insights
(and good programs) as a result.
I note, too, that the originators of the quotes seem to have been
at no great loss in the thinking department. In fact, they were
original, insightful, and generally brilliant thinkers.
If there was any problem with school, it is a problem that is even
worse when it comes to life in general -- that such thinkers do not
have the freedom to follow their intellectual curiosity to whereever
it may lead.
At the moment, for example, I am writing what may turn out to be
the first really useful link checker for large, multi-user
The reason I'm able to do that -- because I just went ahead and did
it. I wrote a proposal for it a week ago, but never heard back on it.
Not that I expected to -- but they asked for the proposal, so I wrote
When I got tired of waiting to hear, and even more fed up with the
ridiculous excuse for a link checker we're using, I just sat down and
got started. It's based on a utility I wrote a few weeks ago that
lets you make mass changes to the links in HTML files, using the
regular expression package in Java.
The point here is not so much the cool programs (which I'm proud
of) but the fact that the technology matured to the point that I could
just sit down and kick them out in a week or two, without requiring
anyone's permission to do it. That was the same basis on which I
wrote the DocCheck utility, which is now published at Sun. (It checks
API-comments for completeness, to be sure they adquately cover the
But the big problems, the ones we would really like to take a stab at,
require that "permission", in the form of funding that will give me the
freedom to devote time to them. So I am not currently making much
headway on them.
Now, I do note that we were moving more towards "creative schooling"",
and that the timing was right for me to take advantage of that in
Now that we are moving back towards a more rote education, these
quotes may take on some of their former meaning -- as I found grammar
school and even most of high school.
But, in general, I think that the quality of the educational process may
more reflective of the quality of the people who purport to be
in it. I saw many students who relied on memory and regurgitation
in addition to just plain copying, to get the grades they needed.
To blame the educational institution for the quality of the education
got is, I think, unjust.
It probably makes more sense to blame the policies that utilize grades
selection criteria for jobs and for higher education.
In Cambridge, if memory serves me (and it may not), I believe that one
simply graduates, or does not. There are no grades. There are
recommendations from one's teachers -- so the reputation of that
teacher and the wording of the recommendation counts for a lot --
and there are entrance examinations, but there is little reliance on
"grades" as an indicator of performance.
Thinking about it, that is probably a very good thing.
Jack Park wrote:
> Found at http://www.alike.com/html/main_html/inspirations.html
> "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." Mark
> "It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." Albert
> "Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire." William
> "Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there
> Isaac Asimov
> "We are students of words; we are shut up in schools, and colleges,
> recitation rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with
> a bag
> of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing." Ralph Waldo
> "Too often we give our children answers to remember rather than
> problems to
> solve." Roger Lewin
> "Education is a private matter between the person and the world of
> knowledge and experience, and has little to do with school or
> Lillian Smith
> "Education is not received. It is achieved." Author Unknown
> "Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the
> equalizer of the conditions of men, -- the balance-wheel of the social
> machinery." Horace Mann
> "What we call education and culture is for the most part nothing but
> substitution of reading for experience, of literature for life, of the
> obsolete fictitious for the contemporary real."George Bernard Shaw
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Fri Oct 19 2001 - 21:48:58 PDT