Who are you? and What's your IQ?

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AuthorTopic: Who are you? and What's your IQ?
This Side Towards Enemy
Member # 3098
Profile #175
Social skills can be an issue if you aren't a naturally gregarious person. But, and I speak as a stutterer who finds prolonged time in social situations extremely uncomfortable, picking up the phone and calling someone after having thought through what you're going to say is not going to be too much of a challenge unless you've got really serious issues in respect of conversation.

That said, Creator's point does not apply universally by any means. There are a lot of jobs, particularly in my part of the world, where specialist training or a university degree are a prerequisite to even be considered.

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Voice of Reasonable Morality
Posts: 961 | Registered: Thursday, June 12 2003 07:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 4445
Profile #176
Actually, I hate the phone more than anything. I'm fine talking to people face to face, or talking on the phone to someone who called me, but I will do almost anything to avoid calling someone on the phone. I hate the feeling of interrupting someone in the middle of whatever they're doing.

EDIT: Now that I think about it, I guess I'm both naturally gregarious and extremely insecure, because, when I feel comfortable talking, I talk a lot, but if I don't, then I don't.

[ Sunday, June 05, 2005 06:09: Message edited by: PoD person ]
Posts: 293 | Registered: Saturday, May 29 2004 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #177
What did I learn in my undergraduate education?
Well, since I immediately went on to graduate school and stayed in the academic world after that, the actual content of my physics courses really was important to me. Partial differential equations and the calculus of variations have been my bread and butter.

But I think I learned more general things as well. I took a two-semester 'history of western thought' course that has kept me in the loop for a very wide range of discussions for twenty years. I took a bunch of English lit courses, and learned to write a lot better -- the best way to learn to write is to write a lot of papers and get them critiqued.

I took enough pure math courses to absorb something of what truly rigorous thinking is like. There are good reasons why rigor only happens in math (like the fact that rigor depends on meaninglessness), but it makes you valuably more hard-nosed about all other kinds of thinking, to have seen the mathematical elephant.

[Archaic reference to US civil war slang, as gleaned from Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage: to 'see the elephant' was to see combat -- something unforgettable but impossible to describe.]

And physics itself is a great way to learn critical thinking, because it teaches you two wonderful basic facts about the universe: that things are often a lot simpler than they seem, but that there are also an awful lot of subtle ways of being simply wrong. These are platitudes if all you do is mention them, but if they infect your instincts, like benign viruses, they make you a different kind of person. A really good undergraduate physics education can be, at least for some people, a sort of psychic geneforge.

Here, though, is my concern. All these great transferrable skills, that can be picked up from a good undergraduate education, come as side-effects and by-products, of a curriculum which is not explicitly devoted to them. Could we perhaps do even better, for more people, by deliberately and explicitly training the 'side effects'?

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It is not enough to discover how things seem to seem. We must discover how things really seem.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Off With Their Heads
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Profile Homepage #178
I'm going to college not to get a degree that will be directly useful, but to become educated. That's why my classes span such a wide range of non-pre-professional categories. In having that goal, I'm probably the exception (but maybe not alone), which is why college has worked so well for me so far.

Physics professors in particular like to wax philosophical about their subjects. I've always hated it when they did. I think if you tried to teach "that things are often a lot simpler than they seem, but that there are also an awful lot of subtle ways of being simply wrong," most of your students would tune out, even if you demonstrated it with examples.

I think the side-effects and by-products will come only if you teach the material, especially since everyone gets something different out of the education that he or she receives.

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.

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Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
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Kel - Have you ever read anything by John Barrow out of Cambridge? He was up in Portland a few years ago and I sat in on this discussion on the anthropic principle. While a real egoist, he did have valuable insights which rather than explain things, made me start thinking in different ways, or along different lines.
The stuff he was mostly talking about was constants, but seeing as they are universal in nature, I feel comfortable ignoring them. :P
Anyway hearing you mention philosophy and science reminded me of this.
Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #180
What exactly do you hate about philosophizing physics professors? Why would everyone tune out if someone tried to teach them explicitly the very things that everyone cites as the only practical benefits of their education?

I'm not saying you're wrong, necessarily. It's just that it strikes me as a pretty reasonable proposal, to actually try to do the things we currently do accidentally, but claim as the main justification of all our work. So it seems strange to me to give up on this proposal so quickly.

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It is not enough to discover how things seem to seem. We must discover how things really seem.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Off With Their Heads
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Profile Homepage #181
quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:

What exactly do you hate about philosophizing physics professors?
Because what they come up with is usually pretty mundane. "It's easy to be wrong." Well, forgive me, but I didn't need to study physics to know that.

What you realized from your physics education was something deeper than that — under what circumstances you can be sure and be wrong, or in what manner you have to be careful, or something — but turning that into a simple aphorism eliminates the complexity, and the complexity was the only thing that made the lesson worth learning!

quote:
Why would everyone tune out if someone tried to teach them explicitly the very things that everyone cites as the only practical benefits of their education?
I think "everyone" is the problem in that sentence. People take different things out of their education. Telling people what to think instead of showing them the evidence that led you to your conclusion is a good way to get people to stop listening to you.

Besides, a lot of students will care most about what affects their grades. First teach what you will test; then you can do whatever you want with the time left over.

EDIT: That said, I've never heard of John Barrow, but Richard Feynman was pretty cool.

[ Sunday, June 05, 2005 10:27: Message edited by: Kelandon ]

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.

Kelandon's Pink and Pretty Page!!: the authorized location for all things by me
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Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Shaper
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Profile Homepage #182
quote:
First teach what you will test; then you can do whatever you want with the time left over.

Very True.

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Posts: 2395 | Registered: Friday, November 2 2001 08:00
E Equals MC What!!!!
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quote:
Originally written by Custer XVI:

I particularly enjoy your consistent assessments of the value of information gleaned from universities vis a vis the 'real world' - e.g. same level of drunkenness, but less profound things to be said of and during it - while considering that your career depends primarily upon the high-learning-heavy skill of talking into a metal cylinder.
I don't understand this sentence.

Once again, I freely recognise that there are many professions in which a degree is not only useful, but essential. I'm not referring to those.

As for social skills, I'm not all that amazing myself. I feel uncomfortable in large groups of people, and I've had to overcome a hatred of using the telephone (which has now subsided to a simple disliking). But really, just making a couple of calls with a prepared list of questions is nothing to worry about.

To those who advocate Uni on the basis of becoming well-educated regardless of employment opportunities, well, your choice. I don't think you'd learn anything more than you would by just going out and doing stuff, but I'm hardly an authority on education. :)

As for going to Uni for fun, well, your idea of fun is pretty different to mine. But if that's what you like, hey, whatever.

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Posts: 1861 | Registered: Friday, February 11 2005 08:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #184
quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:

[quote=Student of Trinity]
[qb]What exactly do you hate about philosophizing physics professors?

Because what they come up with is usually pretty mundane. "It's easy to be wrong." Well, forgive me, but I didn't need to study physics to know that.
[/quote]I guess I wasn't clear enough when I tried to distinguish between hearing that as a platitude, and having it infect your instincts. In suggesting that colleges make deliberate and explicit efforts to teach such things, I did not mean to assume that these efforts would consist of announcing empty phrases to dozing students. That doesn't work very well even for conveying ordinary lecture course subject matter.

Most people do not actually have any idea how many ways there are to be wrong; they do need to study physics, or perhaps something else, in order to begin to get an idea. This is an example of something valuable to learn in college.

It certainly isn't to be learned just by hearing somebody tell you it in so many words. But that doesn't mean that it couldn't be learned faster and by more people, if colleges made deliberate efforts to teach it, instead of simply patting themselves on the back when people pick it up along the way.

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It is not enough to discover how things seem to seem. We must discover how things really seem.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Master
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Profile Homepage #185
Well, professors generally don't want to teach, but they'll have to do it if they want to keep doing their research. It's probably why most of them have their TA's do the teaching in the summer, although said TA's aren't exactly good. My Algebra lecturer is quiet enough that his writing on the blackboard effectively drowns out his mumbles.

As for the physics and how you need to take some of it to see the many ways in which you can be wrong - I think that studying any math/science/Comp Sci, or at least taking a course, should be enough. I'm biased though, seeing how I took first year Physics and ended up barely passing.

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Posts: 3323 | Registered: Thursday, April 25 2002 07:00
Off With Their Heads
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quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:

I guess I wasn't clear enough when I tried to distinguish between hearing that as a platitude, and having it infect your instincts.
No, I understood what you meant. My next paragraph in that post reflects that.

quote:
But that doesn't mean that it couldn't be learned faster and by more people, if colleges made deliberate efforts to teach it, instead of simply patting themselves on the back when people pick it up along the way.
How do you propose to do this? It sounds fine in theory, but so do many things, some of which turn out pretty bad in practice.

[ Sunday, June 05, 2005 20:34: Message edited by: Kelandon ]

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.

Kelandon's Pink and Pretty Page!!: the authorized location for all things by me
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Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 1546
Profile Homepage #187
For perspective.

I graduated from High School in '03, glowing marks, service awards, all that BS.

I spent last year doing a Commerce degree, units in IT, Economics, Accounting, and some Maths. It was pretty lame. I learned about 2 things last year, how GDP worked, and how i can use vlookup to create a horse betting database in excel.

I took up a job in an Insurance Brokerage this year. I got the job on the merits of my references/personality, not my grades. I've learned more about "commerce" in the last 3 months than i learnt in a year of STUDYING "commerce", there is no comparison.

Even for the corporate positions in this industry, or the high-rating international brokers, experience, personality and referencing all come before pieces of paper that say "Bachelor of."

Personally, i find Tertiary Education to be somewhat of a necessity for obtaining specialist or executive roles in industry. However, dont ever think they are what will get you the jobs. They simply mean you are (apparently) qualified to do them. The actual getting of jobs, has almost nothing to do with your qualifications.

For someone who has finished school, gone to uni, deferred for work (and currently doing a paid traineeship in the industry) i would recommend WORKING after school, not full-time study. Especially with university benefits given to workplaces, i think part-time study is the way to go.

My two cents, at any rate.

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Posts: 269 | Registered: Friday, July 19 2002 07:00
Off With Their Heads
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But obviously this varies depending on what your goals are.

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.

Kelandon's Pink and Pretty Page!!: the authorized location for all things by me
The Archive of all released BoE scenarios ever
Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
BANNED
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Profile Homepage #189
For instance, how is someone who plans on teaching English going to get relevant experience of any shape, sort or size? It don't seem possible to me is all. I mean, maybe for somethings, but...

PS- How many of the macro models did you cover? We technically covered IS-LN, but my understanding doesn't cover that one because it's crazy-tuff and we only had three days to learn it. As for Keynesnian Cross, Money Market et al, I'd like to say I've got those covered.

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Posts: 6936 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
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quote:
Originally written by Dervish Malachai:

For instance, how is someone who plans on teaching English going to get relevant experience of any shape, sort or size?
...I really hope that was a hypothetical question.

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Sex is easier than love.
Posts: 1861 | Registered: Friday, February 11 2005 08:00
...b10010b...
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Profile Homepage #191
quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:

Most people do not actually have any idea how many ways there are to be wrong; they do need to study physics, or perhaps something else, in order to begin to get an idea. This is an example of something valuable to learn in college.

It certainly isn't to be learned just by hearing somebody tell you it in so many words. But that doesn't mean that it couldn't be learned faster and by more people, if colleges made deliberate efforts to teach it, instead of simply patting themselves on the back when people pick it up along the way.

Is there any way to teach this more directly than an understanding of the sources of experimental error in your field (which requires a fairly deep and specific understanding of the field itself) combined with a statistics subject that covers the various kinds of bias (which doesn't really merit an entire course for its own sake)?

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Triad Mage
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... student teachers, TM?

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Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 4445
Profile #193
quote:
Originally written by Thuryl:

quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:

Most people do not actually have any idea how many ways there are to be wrong; they do need to study physics, or perhaps something else, in order to begin to get an idea. This is an example of something valuable to learn in college.

It certainly isn't to be learned just by hearing somebody tell you it in so many words. But that doesn't mean that it couldn't be learned faster and by more people, if colleges made deliberate efforts to teach it, instead of simply patting themselves on the back when people pick it up along the way.

Is there any way to teach this more directly than an understanding of the sources of experimental error in your field (which requires a fairly deep and specific understanding of the field itself) combined with a statistics subject that covers the various kinds of bias (which doesn't really merit an entire course for its own sake)?

I think the best analogy to be made here is working out. Sure, we'd all love some way to become sculpted like a Greek god without all the effort, but it just doesn't exist. To build the intellectual muscle, you've got to lift the intellectual weight.
Posts: 293 | Registered: Saturday, May 29 2004 07:00
...b10010b...
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I don't think anyone here is suggesting that there ought to be some "easy way" to make people wise. But SoT here seems essentially to be suggesting universities could offer intensive courses in critical thinking, and I'm not convinced that it's possible to teach that in isolation. Now if he means that it ought to be taught by means of a broad range of instructive examples from various disciplines, that would be another matter -- but I think there are humanities courses that offer something fairly close to that already.

[ Monday, June 06, 2005 03:46: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

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I think the "critical thinking" component of my liberal arts education, as opposed to my major, was the ultimate end-point of the process. The major, while interesting and in a few cases directly applicable to real life, was merely the means for achieving this end; while I chose to study Classics, I could have just as easily chosen math, poli. sci., or English and probably arrived at the same point.

I realized this within the last two weeks of my undergrad education. It's amusing that it's almost a byproduct of the process, and it's certainly the case that many people don't get this, or at least stop to realize that it's happened. I think I will agree that critical thinking is something that can't be taught directly (a course in symbolic logic may come closest, and I recommend taking such a course to anyone in school); it can only be learned through application.

Beyond critical thinking, I think it's definitely the case that some majors are worth more than others in the real world. Obviously, any major that provides trade-oriented skills, like comp. sci. or engineering will provide access to higher paying positions. However, I firmly believe that the critical thinking education I received vis a vis my Classics degree was worth every penny.

[ Monday, June 06, 2005 04:38: Message edited by: Andrew Miller ]
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Infiltrator
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It's interesting to note that in surveys of engineering grads, recent graduates wish most strongly that they had been able to take more course at the undergrad level in their field of practice, while older grads wished they had been able to take more "horizon expanding" courses in arts, sciences and humanities.

University is more about developing the ability to be a critical thinker, to have skills of acquiring new knowledge, determining its value and finding use for that knowledge then about developing a specific skill set. The ability to learn is not a natural skill, but is acquired through time and effort.

That being said, university still plays a vital role in acquiring specific skill sets needed by employers and needs to work better with employers in meeting those needs of its graduates.
Posts: 687 | Registered: Wednesday, January 19 2005 08:00
This Side Towards Enemy
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I've been hearing for years that the critical thinking part and the ability to write your degree on your CV are the bits of university that will count in later life. It's certainly the basis I'm working on. Otherwise I am royally screwed.

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Voice of Reasonable Morality
Posts: 961 | Registered: Thursday, June 12 2003 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #198
Yeah, this is what I'm getting at. Critical thinking (and maybe one or two similarly vague but vital talents) are the active ingredient in undergraduate college education, but they come as accidental byproducts. I just think we could do more to focus on them deliberately.

As to how, the only idea I have at the moment is indeed the one Thuryl mentioned, of just exposing students to inspirational examples from a range of different disciplines. Forcing everyone to take some more formal math or logic courses would also be great. Forcing everyone to write a lot of short essays would be good, too. And I'm keen on the exercise of precis writing. I actually did that in high school, and never since, but I think it's fantastic training.

But beyond those initial guesses, I have a lot of faith in the power of focused attention. If we actually set about doing something like this, I'd bet we'd figure out how to do it better. For instance, if you start putting together edifying examples, and discover that something people are supposed to be learning in a history course actually has some overlap with something people should learn from a physics course, then that would help a lot.

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It is not enough to discover how things seem to seem. We must discover how things really seem.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Nuke and Pave
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I think it would be hard to directly teach "critical thinking" as a "life skill", because only life can teach you life skills. I might use statistics or quantum physics as a metaphor for politics and relations between people, but I wouldn't be able to do that without real-life experience of how politics works and how people interact. Somebody who studied art, or plant biology instead of math would have different metaphors for describing the same things.

These metaphors enhance our understanding of events, but they can only form after we understand both the event and the material which we use for the metaphor. So I think it would be better to just give people a good understanding of the material you are teaching and let them apply that understanding to other areas of life as much or as little as they wish.

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Be careful with a word, as you would with a sword,
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Posts: 2649 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00

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