Archive for ‘Education’

August 25, 2012

The Roles and Values of Colleges and Universities

I love this letter: Charles Negy, Professor, Says Students Showed ‘Religious Arrogance And Bigotry’ In A Letter Later Posted On Reddit

The purpose of a university, and my course in particular, is to struggle intellectually with some of life’s most difficult topics that may not have one right answer, and try to come to some conclusion about what may be “the better answer” (It typically is not the case that all views are equally valid; some views are more defensible than others). Another purpose of a university, and my course in particular, is to engage in open discussion in order to critically examine beliefs, behaviors, and customs. Finally, another purpose of a university education is to help students who typically are not accustomed to thinking independently or applying a critical analysis to views or beliefs, to start learning how to do so. We are not in class to learn “facts” and simply regurgitate the facts in a mindless way to items on a test. Critical thinking is a skill that develops over time. Independent thinking does not occur overnight. Critical thinkers are open to having their cherished beliefs challenged, and must learn how to “defend” their views based on evidence or logic, rather than simply “pounding their chest” and merely proclaiming that their views are “valid.”

This is why, despite the derogatory monikers of ivory towers and liberal indoctrination mills, universities are vital to society and our nation. It’s not about indoctrination, it’s about exposing you to a wider world than you’ve ever experienced before.

Colleges and universities are needed to make our kids smarter about the world, period.

August 10, 2012

Would the Delhi public charter school have kicked out the Virgin Mary?

“A public charter school in Louisiana is getting national attention for requiring female students to take pregnancy tests if they are suspected of being pregnant and, if they are, forcing them to leave school.”

I know I’m late to the game on this story, but I just want to point out something that few people actually point out.

Let’s put aside the fact that schools should do everything in their power to make sure pregnant teens actually stay in school and get a decent education.
Let’s also put aside how unconstitutional or illegal the policy might be.
I want to know one thing: What was the reason behind the policy in the first place?

My guess is: It is primarily meant to deter teen sex by punishing those who are caught or suspected. The easiest way to tell is when a girl is pregnant.

Let’s put aside how ineffective and illogical such a policy is.

If that is indeed the case, shouldn’t they also kick out the boys who got the girls pregnant? Obviously, there are not the same telltale signs that girls have, so the school would have no recourse except some sort of invasive test. Paternity test, or polygraph come to mind as the most relevant. In either case, the school is bound to get into invasion of privacy trouble. Then again, pregnancy tests would also qualify, so the school has already set the precedent that invasive testing is on the table. And it seems to me, that’s the only way that the policy could ever be seen as anything except discriminatory against the young women.

Unless they think these girls conceived on their own. Which brings up my next point.

If it’s partly religiously motivated, and I feel like that probably had something to do with it, would the Delhi Charter School have kicked out the Virgin Mary? According to the biblical account, she would have been twelve at the time, so she fits the criteria. So they would kick her out, too, right? I wonder how Christians will treat that realization.

June 4, 2012

This is why we need to invest more in education

When asked to name a film in which a woman is depicted in a positive way during the Q&A round, the blonde 23-year-old raised eyebrows when she chose Julia Roberts’s role in Pretty Woman.

Enough said.
May 4, 2012

Why we should really work on improving education

When politicians want to show they support education, they often make claims along the lines that increasing the number of college graduates stimulates the economy. The most-used evidence for this are the statistics that show that, the more education you have, the more money you end up making, and the more likely you are to be employed.

First, while these two claims are generally true, they are far from the guarantee that politicians and educators make them sound.

Second, more education does not necessarily improve the economy, and I like the analogy that this guy uses:

Implicit in the first point is that a majority of working-age individuals don’t work because they choose not to (i.e. they are lazy scroungers), or because unemployment is caused by laziness or lack of training. The argument they often use is that “I can get a job, therefore all the unemployed could get jobs if only they tried harder, or got better education and training.”

The way I go about demonstrating that fallacy is a dogs-and-bones example. Say we have 10 dogs and we bury nine bones in the backyard. We send the dogs out to find bones. At least one dog will come back without a bone.

We decide that the problem is lack of training. We put that dog through rigorous training in the latest bone-finding techniques. We bury nine bones and send the 10 dogs out again. The trained dog ends up with a bone, but some other dog comes back without a bone (empty-mouthed, so to speak).

Third, it implies that the less educated are more of a burden on society/the economy. If only they would go get a higher degree, they would be doing better than they are now.

So, does that mean we shouldn’t encourage people to go to college and strive for higher educations?

Far from it. We should definitely encourage and invest in higher education for more people, but let’s end the canard that it pays off directly in employment and income, or we should encourage it because it helps the economy. It does, but that’s not why we want more people with high education.

The real reason we should be telling people to graduate from high school, college, or graduate school, is that, overall, people who are more educated are better for society.

The more educated you are:

1. The better you can take care of yourself. When you’re unemployed, it often requires several skills and qualities to find a job. Often these skills are only gained through practice, like the kind of practice that gaining a degree offers.

2. The better you can take care of others. Similar to number one.

3. The more opportunities you have. Someone with a general high school education will only be able to find certain jobs. Someone with an advanced degree with be able to find those same jobs, plus others. Have a degree in a scientific field? You also have the ability to find a job in a related field.

4. The better you are at choosing the people who govern over you. And you will be better at monitoring how well they do. And better at rewarding or punishing them for the job they do.

5. The better you are at handling anything life throws at you. Serious illness, loss of job, tricky legal battle? Having a good education better prepares you for any of these things.

If we want to live in a better society than we have now, having more educated people is practically a requirement.

In arguing that we should always seek to improve the education levels in our population, it may seem like I’m reinforcing the third issue I mentioned above, that the less educated are a burden. However, I am not making this claim.

For example, a person may be in a job that merely requires a high school education, such as a garbage collector. It would be a mistake to say they do not serve a role in our society; this job needs someone to do it, and he’s filling that need. However, if that person were to get a college education, it doesn’t mean they are suddenly going to be doing their job better, and at the same time, it does not necessarily mean that they are wasting their capabilities if they have this college degree but still collect garbage; this is still a needed role that they are filling. My argument is that the person should seek a college education for the way it improves their lives in areas other than employment/the economy.

Like health care, I think education should not be treated as a privilege, but as a basic need, and the government (us, as a society) should facilitate individual people raising their levels of education. Because education itself is a benefit to society.

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