Did you get a little shiver when you saw the title of this post? I'm sitting in a room with 28 sweating college students right now, proctoring a computer science midterm exam as a favor for a colleague, and all I can think is that I'm glad I'm at the front of the room. I spend a lot of time around college students, and they are never this quiet and intense simultaneously. In fact, I'm not sure anything in civilian adult life produces the same sort of crisis of concentration as a hard, important exam, unless it's impending nuclear meltdown, or maybe blue lights in the rear view.
It's a little disconcerting to think about all the ways that education is disconnected from the skills we need in life today. It probably worked well enough when the idea was to produce good factory workers. Sit down, shut up, line up straight and don't share with your neighbor helped prepare people for a life of mentally unengaged drone work.*
Using these same techniques to produce creative information workers may be less effective. When I talk to business owners and managers, I hear repeatedly how they need people who can collaborate effectively, communicate, and think outside the box. That's about the time the buzzwords really start to fly and my attention starts to drift.
There is a growing movement among the academic elites to bring art, music, and drama back into the fold of serious learning, partially because people with these degrees are succeeding in all sorts of technical areas, flying in the face of everything their parents tried to tell them. At the same time, the unemployment lines are saying hello to engineers and MBA's for the first time in a very long time. This is all happening while schools and communities continue to cut funding for arts and humanities, so that they can focus on teaching kids to pass a written test.
I don't really have a point. I was just looking for something to keep me from watching these kids suffer for an hour and a half. Also, did you know that computer science students almost all have really nice mechanical pencils? Except for the ones who take exams in ink. They are the ones who scare me.
*This is in no way meant to disparage manual labor or industrial work. I have done enough of it in my life to have great respect for what I still think of as "working people." But this sort of thing does tend to be repetitive, and there is usually plenty of mental space for daydreaming. Just like in school.