North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

Spinning wheels in higher education

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This is well said: What’s Wrong With Vocational School?

It’s not mean spirited to say it, either. It is mean spirited to look down your nose at people who provide things you need, and which you cannot easily do yourself.


In engineering and most of the natural sciences, the demarcation between high-school material and college-level material is brutally obvious. If you cannot handle the math, you cannot pass the courses. In the humanities and social sciences, the demarcation is fuzzier. It is possible for someone with an IQ of 100 to sit in the lectures of Economics 1, read the textbook, and write answers in an examination book. But students who cannot follow complex arguments accurately are not really learning economics. They are taking away a mishmash of half-understood information and outright misunderstandings that probably leave them under the illusion that they know something they do not. (A depressing research literature documents one’s inability to recognize one’s own incompetence.) Traditionally and properly understood, a four-year college education teaches advanced analytic skills and information at a level that exceeds the intellectual capacity of most people.

In my student days I met lots of other students who were brilliant, and a pleasure to have in the class. I also recall a large number who had no intellectual ambitions and who were clearly just passing the time until they could get in the ‘real world’. I don’t think we should be holding them back and risk watering down what higher education means.

(Via The Tiger in Exile.)

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Written by Curt

January 17, 2007 at 7:44 pm

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