Education from OWS thread

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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Nov 22, 2011 9:51 pm UTC

History, English, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry, Studio Art, Acting, Language Studies, Communication. It's a joke, it's tongue in cheek. I'm not judging anyone as an inferior person for selecting these majors, I'm simply pointing to the fact that they are, to various extents, less likely to ensure employment after graduating. If you find it offensive, I urge you to take a look in the many, MANY threads created about 'hardness' or 'purity' of various sciences.
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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby ShootTheChicken » Tue Nov 22, 2011 9:53 pm UTC

lutzj wrote:
There are plenty of non-STEM fields that wouldn't earn the pejorative "basket-weaving," like law, education, management, and business. People are using the term here to refer to courses that are potentially very enriching but aren't directly useful for many careers outside of a very narrow band of academia and don't help at all for most jobs.


I don't think you can accurately claim that for every person in this thread.

EDIT:

Izawwlgood wrote:History, English, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry, Studio Art, Acting, Language Studies, Communication. It's a joke, it's tongue in cheek. I'm not judging anyone as an inferior person for selecting these majors, I'm simply pointing to the fact that they are, to various extents, less likely to ensure employment after graduating.


Your way of 'simply' pointing this out is pretty pathetic, insulting, and indeed greatly offensive to everyone who doesn't experience an erection every time math is mentioned. I think it was accepted a long time ago that many of these things don't guarantee employment in the same way that some subjects do. I don't know who is arguing that anymore. The discussion has since moved on, I just don't think that you've come with it.
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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Nov 22, 2011 9:54 pm UTC

Griffin wrote:
For people who subsequently need to get a credential or to get job training to work in their desired field, we have community colleges, technical institutes, vocational schools, etc.
For people who want to get more educated, we have universities.


Argh! ALL OF THE ABOVE PROVIDE EDUCATION.


I'm using "education" here in the classical sense of the term:
ed·u·ca·tion  [ej-oo-key-shuhn] the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.


I am specifically distinguishing this type of education from training, which is where one is taught to be able to accomplish a specific goal or task. My contention is that universities ought to be focused on educating people, and have grossly overextended their mandate by trying also to train people, especially when they attempt to shoehorn training programs into education programs (or vice versa). That does not mean that training necessarily needs to be a shorter process--if it takes ten years to train a doctor, well, it's a difficult profession with little room for error, and that's fine--but rather that if someone wants to learn a specific set of skills to go out and work, we should have somewhere for them to do that relatively quickly and relatively cheaply.

lutzj wrote:There are plenty of non-STEM fields that wouldn't earn the pejorative "basket-weaving," like law, education, management, and business. People are using the term here to refer to courses that are potentially very enriching but aren't directly useful for many careers outside of a very narrow band of academia and don't help at all for most jobs.


My impression was that basket-weaving was mostly used as a pejorative to refer to joke degree programs where pretty much everybody in it is on an athletic scholarship and just needs to take some courses so they can be officially enrolled while they play football, not necessarily programs where job prospects are less than stellar.

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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Nov 22, 2011 9:56 pm UTC

And I don't think you can claim that everyone here (maybe anyone here?) is using the term Basketweaving as a pejorative.
LaserGuy wrote:My impression was that basket-weaving was mostly used as a pejorative to refer to joke degree programs where pretty much everybody in it is on an athletic scholarship and just needs to take some courses so they can be officially enrolled while they play football, not necessarily programs where job prospects are less than stellar.

I would say that is incorrect. When thinking of 'rocks for jocks' type classes, I would point to Communication or Psych majors as likely to be athletes just looking for a bachelors to sustain their athletic career. I'm using 'basketweaving' to refer to any esoteric field of study that is unlikely to find you gainful employment after graduation. But that said, obviously, there are tons of Psych majors who want to go into Psychology. Making a career out of academia makes sense for any of these basketweaving courses. I just don't think many people major in these fields with the intent of doing so.
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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Belial » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:02 pm UTC

Ahh, yes, I believe it was the great philosopher Tony Danza who said "Those who do not study history are doomed to make shoddy baskets"

Edit: Oh hey, I missed a whole page, and yet we're still pretending that it's not important for the populace to know anything other than what's necessary to be useful to their employers. I'll just leave this here.
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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Zamfir » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:14 pm UTC

I am going to split off the last pages on education to their own thread, give me a few minutes

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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby sophyturtle » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:16 pm UTC

It is funny that high schools not teaching enough and calling English majors some version of lazy/not useful are on the same page.

Clearly high school students don't need people who focus on the subject they need to learn to teach them.
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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Dark567 » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:20 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Are you sure this is true for engineers in general? In my experience, demand for engineers can be very specific to certain sectors or disciplines, which easily leads to mismatches. So you get un- or underemployed engineers in field x coming out of schools while employers still complain about the lack of suitable candidates for field y, blaming the lazy kids of today.
I mean, in the US its true for the most part, with the exception of a couple disciplines(notably Civil and Enviromental Engineering). At least looking at the lists of most desired degrees by employers, Mechanical, Petroleum, Computer, Industrial, and Electrical are all in demand. That's a fairly large chunk of the engineering field.

JudeMorrigan wrote:Labor productivity has pretty consistently increased in this country. I am deeply skeptical of the idea that the U.S.'s problem is that its citizenry doesn't work hard enough.
Labor productivity isn't the same thing as working hard still. I would be willing to bet that most of the gains are due to technological advances and automation.

Belial wrote:Edit: Oh hey, I missed a whole page, and yet we're still pretending that it's not important for the populace to know anything other than what's necessary to be useful to their employers. I'll just leave this here.
No, we are not. We are saying its important to have education in the necessary skills and knowledge to be employed.
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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Belial » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:28 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:
Belial wrote:Edit: Oh hey, I missed a whole page, and yet we're still pretending that it's not important for the populace to know anything other than what's necessary to be useful to their employers. I'll just leave this here.
No, we are not. We are saying its important to have education in the necessary skills and knowledge to be employed.


If that's what you're arguing, grand. I was referring to the argument over whether it was really necessary to teach people anything else.
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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby stevey_frac » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:39 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
Dark567 wrote:
Belial wrote:Edit: Oh hey, I missed a whole page, and yet we're still pretending that it's not important for the populace to know anything other than what's necessary to be useful to their employers. I'll just leave this here.
No, we are not. We are saying its important to have education in the necessary skills and knowledge to be employed.


If that's what you're arguing, grand. I was referring to the argument over whether it was really necessary to teach people anything else.


I'm an engineer. They made us take the 'Don't be a myopic fuckhead' courses. We had to take 4 of them. (because we were already taking a 120% course load most of the time)

I chose to study history for the most part. And a course in micro-econ.
Most of my peers studied some form of business or econ for these courses.

Overall, the majority of those people who took those courses squeaked out a low passing grade, while they focused on the courses that mattered. Overall, people were not enriched, nor did they do anything useful with this knowledge. They are not well rounded people; they are engineers. The two are damned near mutually exclusive.

I'd have to argue that, at least for engineers, these courses were a distraction at best, and a hinderence at worst. And that's coming from somone who loved taking the history courses.

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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Cleverbeans » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:41 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Choosing a non-professional or non-income increasing degree is not a 'sign of moral weakness', but a sign of poor investment judgement. Judgement, which as we've said, may be clouded due to misinformation.


Perhaps you'll be surprised to find that accounting and information system majors are having a harder time finding work than music majors, and that theology and vocational studies are more employable than all of the engineering majors. This certainly doesn't reflect the full financial impact of the decision. In fact, it seems psychology majors in their various incarnations is a more useful specialization than "non-professional" degree. But of course, I think we all know that finding work has a lot more to do with the size of your social circle and work experience than the degree you earn. In fact, I feel that the primary benefit college graduates have is the social network they built while taking classes. We can certainly debate the financial merits of a college education, but our inability to firmly place a dollar value on the social and personal value of education doesn't detract from the non-financial benefits provided. However, unless one considers the only purpose of education to create "workplace cogs" as opposed to say, advancing the human condition through arts, science and technology the financial benefits are a secondary consideration anyway.

As an aside, I found it enlightening to compare major milestones in American public education with American financial history.

Izawwlgood wrote:EDIT: Also, I contest the claim that continuing to look for a job indicates that you're hard working. I would say willingness to take any job would indicate that you are hard working.


This seems to be a rather flawed metric, I think it confuses work ethic with desperation. For example, would you say that a homeless drug-addict who seeks any employment they can find to support their habit, but have a history of missing work and stealing from their employer as hard working? Or when Sal Khan decided he was unwilling to continue managing a hedge fund and instead founded Khan academy pro-bono would you characterize him as lazy since he was unwilling to work at all? Mother Teresa took a vow of poverty, and was unwilling to accept any employment for her entire life, but even her most staunch detractors would never characterize her as the "laziest person on earth".

One of the reasons I support the Occupy movement is that there is a fundamental disconnection between what most people feel would make the world a better place, and what they do for a living. This stems from the fact that our laws are structured to value the freedom to accumulate material wealth over the freedom to choose how we spend our time. If we want to do something we're passionate about, we generally require the permission of a wealthy benefactor or a lot of luck to do so, and I want to see this change.
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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Belial » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:42 pm UTC

stevey_frac wrote:They are not well rounded people; they are engineers. The two are damned near mutually exclusive.


That must be why every single engineering team I've ever worked with has needed a staff of "basketweavers" to make them useful.

Mostly because they couldn't find their ass with two hands, a gps beacon, and three people pointing to it screaming "it's right there you fuckwit".
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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby stevey_frac » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:47 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
That must be why every single engineering team I've ever worked with has needed a staff of "basketweavers" to make them useful.

Mostly because they couldn't find their ass with two hands, a gps beacon, and three people pointing to it screaming "it's right there you fuckwit".


Really? So, every software engineer at microsoft, every person who worked on the space shuttle, and myself... requires a team of 'basketweavers' to be useful?

I'm sorry that you haven't had the luck to deal with competent people, but virtually every engineer I know is a whiz inside their technical field... that doesn't mean they are well rounded people....

Also, could you make this a little more inflamatory, please?

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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Belial » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:49 pm UTC

stevey_frac wrote:I'm sorry that you haven't had the luck to deal with competent people, but virtually every engineer I know is a whiz inside their technical field...


Yes, but it turns out that any given *task* requires more than just technical expertise to happen.
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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby stevey_frac » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:55 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
stevey_frac wrote:I'm sorry that you haven't had the luck to deal with competent people, but virtually every engineer I know is a whiz inside their technical field...


Yes, but it turns out that any given *task* requires more than just technical expertise to happen.



Solution: tell your managers to stop being fucktards, get the engineers to solve the technical problems, and get people with the appropriate skill set to accomplish the other portions of the task.

I am rarely ever handed tasks that are not purely technical, and when I am, it's because i'm liasing with an engineer with another company.... in which case, it takes an engineer to communicate properly with an engineer...

Furthermore, gen. ed requirements don't solve your problem. You can't train someone to be a people person with any premise of cost-effectivness.

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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Zamfir » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:57 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Are you sure this is true for engineers in general? In my experience, demand for engineers can be very specific to certain sectors or disciplines, which easily leads to mismatches. So you get un- or underemployed engineers in field x coming out of schools while employers still complain about the lack of suitable candidates for field y, blaming the lazy kids of today.
I mean, in the US its true for the most part, with the exception of a couple disciplines(notably Civil and Enviromental Engineering). At least looking at the lists of most desired degrees by employers, Mechanical, Petroleum, Computer, Industrial, and Electrical are all in demand. That's a fairly large chunk of the engineering field.

On the other hand, your bls promises large job growth in the coming decade for civil engineers and environmental engineers, and below average to none for mechanical, computer hardware, electrical and electronics. Perhaps the result of a different time outlook or different data, but if someone uses your list to pick a field and the BLS's prediction comes true (or the reverse) they could easily find themselves in a bind while believeing they were playing it safe. Oil is a notorious field for this, between the start and finish of a degree the oil price can easily collapse, leading to massive lay-offs, and newcomers find themselves faced with experienced competition everywhere.

Engineer is probably still an OK bet overall, but it's often vaunted as the gold standard of a job-safe education, which can be misleading.

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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:58 pm UTC

stevey_frac wrote:I'd have to argue that, at least for engineers, these courses were a distraction at best, and a hinderence at worst. And that's coming from somone who loved taking the history courses.

I disagree strongly.

Those courses are far more important than the average engineering course to the creation of a successful engineer. Failure of an individual to "feel enriched" is far from conclusive proof that the courses are needless or ineffective.
stevey_frac wrote:Furthermore, gen. ed requirements don't solve your problem. You can't train someone to be a people person with any premise of cost-effectivness.

Yes they do. And yes you can.

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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby stevey_frac » Tue Nov 22, 2011 11:23 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
I disagree strongly.

Those courses are far more important than the average engineering course to the creation of a successful engineer. Failure of an individual to "feel enriched" is far from conclusive proof that the courses are needless or ineffective.


Yes they do. And yes you can.



That's crap. Being an effective 'people person' requires a different personality then the one required to be a good engineer. Go look at the breakdown of personality type by profession, and you will find that engineers are overwhelmingly in a pretty narrow band, and HR reps are something completely different. You can't send me to a couple of courses and give me a profound understanding of human nature that allows me to interact with people better. When I come out the other side, I'm still going to be borderline autistic.

And tell me.... how has my courses in history helped me be a successful engineer? I came out feeling quite 'enriched' and I will dare go as far as to say I personally enjoyed them, I just argue that it hasn't made any difference whatsoever in my career that I knew some of the history of Vietnam in the early 1800's. Or that I understood some of the political complexity that made WWI possible. But, because I was taking those courses, I wasn't learning as much from the data structures course I was taking at the same time, and as a result, I am a worse engineer for it.

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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Crius » Tue Nov 22, 2011 11:26 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:On the other hand, your bls promises large job growth in the coming decade for civil engineers and environmental engineers, and below average to none for mechanical, computer hardware, electrical and electronics. Perhaps the result of a different time outlook or different data, but if someone uses your list to pick a field and the BLS's prediction comes true (or the reverse) they could easily find themselves in a bind while believeing they were playing it safe. Oil is a notorious field for this, between the start and finish of a degree the oil price can easily collapse, leading to massive lay-offs, and newcomers find themselves faced with experienced competition everywhere.


Shorter, more focused education would help address this, though, as you'd have less time between choosing your major and getting out in the field.

Heisenberg wrote:
stevey_frac wrote:I'd have to argue that, at least for engineers, these courses were a distraction at best, and a hinderence at worst. And that's coming from somone who loved taking the history courses.

I disagree strongly.

Those courses are far more important than the average engineering course to the creation of a successful engineer. Failure of an individual to "feel enriched" is far from conclusive proof that the courses are needless or ineffective.


Communication skills are important, but that's like two, maybe three courses. Most other general education classes aren't going to offer any benefit to engineering skills.

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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Zamfir » Tue Nov 22, 2011 11:37 pm UTC

Crius wrote:
Zamfir wrote:On the other hand, your bls promises large job growth in the coming decade for civil engineers and environmental engineers, and below average to none for mechanical, computer hardware, electrical and electronics. Perhaps the result of a different time outlook or different data, but if someone uses your list to pick a field and the BLS's prediction comes true (or the reverse) they could easily find themselves in a bind while believeing they were playing it safe. Oil is a notorious field for this, between the start and finish of a degree the oil price can easily collapse, leading to massive lay-offs, and newcomers find themselves faced with experienced competition everywhere.


Shorter, more focused education would help address this, though, as you'd have less time between choosing your major and getting out in the field.

Might be some truth in that, but it carries its own problems. After all, it's not as if current programs are filled with useless junk that can obviously be scrapped. If anything, engineers love to boast how much courses they need to take.

That's not just because people need all that knowledge, it's also social grooming to turn students into engineers, with the engineering views and mentality and habits and all that, and in general to give kids from high school some years to mature. No one is really jumping to give slightly complex and responsible real-life work to 19 year olds.

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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Dark567 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:10 am UTC

Belial wrote:
stevey_frac wrote:They are not well rounded people; they are engineers. The two are damned near mutually exclusive.


That must be why every single engineering team I've ever worked with has needed a staff of "basketweavers" to make them useful.

Mostly because they couldn't find their ass with two hands, a gps beacon, and three people pointing to it screaming "it's right there you fuckwit".
I am not sure if your sarcastic or not, but there are plenty enough engineers that are competent outside of technical fields and didn't need a staff of "basketweavers" to be useful.

Zamfir wrote:On the other hand, your bls promises large job growth in the coming decade for civil engineers and environmental engineers, and below average to none for mechanical, computer hardware, electrical and electronics. Perhaps the result of a different time outlook or different data, but if someone uses your list to pick a field and the BLS's prediction comes true (or the reverse) they could easily find themselves in a bind while believeing they were playing it safe. Oil is a notorious field for this, between the start and finish of a degree the oil price can easily collapse, leading to massive lay-offs, and newcomers find themselves faced with experienced competition everywhere.

Engineer is probably still an OK bet overall, but it's often vaunted as the gold standard of a job-safe education, which can be misleading.
Well, I was looking at current demand, not growth. Its possible that even if CompE has lower growth then CivilE, that demand will still be higher if the number of graduates doesn't increase.

Also, its fairly easy to get a good job outside of engineering with an engineering degree, in areas like finance or consulting. There are also firms (notably GE) that just have general engineering positions, where they need people to be technical apt and have good math skills. Even if your specialty takes a dive, your employment prospects still look pretty good.
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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Crius » Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:18 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Crius wrote:
Zamfir wrote:On the other hand, your bls promises large job growth in the coming decade for civil engineers and environmental engineers, and below average to none for mechanical, computer hardware, electrical and electronics. Perhaps the result of a different time outlook or different data, but if someone uses your list to pick a field and the BLS's prediction comes true (or the reverse) they could easily find themselves in a bind while believeing they were playing it safe. Oil is a notorious field for this, between the start and finish of a degree the oil price can easily collapse, leading to massive lay-offs, and newcomers find themselves faced with experienced competition everywhere.


Shorter, more focused education would help address this, though, as you'd have less time between choosing your major and getting out in the field.

Might be some truth in that, but it carries its own problems. After all, it's not as if current programs are filled with useless junk that can obviously be scrapped. If anything, engineers love to boast how much courses they need to take.

That's not just because people need all that knowledge, it's also social grooming to turn students into engineers, with the engineering views and mentality and habits and all that, and in general to give kids from high school some years to mature. No one is really jumping to give slightly complex and responsible real-life work to 19 year olds.


I think the suggestion would be mainly to take the existing degrees, and chop out the non-degree coursework. Engineering degrees would probably still need to be about 3 years to cover all the necessary coursework. There would still be the risk that the industry could change while you're in school, but it mean it's less likely a major shift occurred while you're in school.

The social grooming and networking I would imagine takes place mostly in the degree-focused classes, so I don't think they would lose much of that.

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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Malice » Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:27 am UTC

In this thread, we somehow leap from "there aren't enough jobs for our workforce" to "our workforce isn't educated correctly" (to do the jobs that don't exist, I guess?).

As for the validity of gen ed courses... I completed a BA in film production, and along the way took classes on astronomy, Eastern cultures, Russian literature, and neuroscience. Thank God, because they all gave me things to make movies about. Engineering is a discipline, not a craft--a way of thinking and problem-solving that must be applied to the real world. Engineering something in a (metaphorical) vacuum is pointless, and unless you intend your engineers to be permanently yoked to the business majors of the world, it behooves you to teach them about areas outside of their expertise--which are in point of fact the only areas to which their expertise can or should be applied.

It's also utterly ridiculous to suggest that we have too much "basket-weavers" and not enough STEM majors, given that the national unemployment figures are dominated and supported by the bleeding construction and industrial sectors, in a recession caused by a financial sector which, dear Christ, I wish had been weaving baskets instead of coming up with new and innovative ways to fuck us all.

It's one thing to say "on a personal level, I advise you take Accounting instead of Russian Literature because you might do better in the job market" and another thing completely to apply that advice to an entire generation. Something tells me it Does Not Work That Way.
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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:45 am UTC

There is all of this talk about STEM majors. Dauric pointed out before that he was educated as a game programmer. Certainly, nothing is more "STEM" than game programming. It is a highly technical field that requires Linear Algebra and an understanding of 3d space. And yet it needs to integrate well with art fields. Even the art can be technical, in that you'll need to understand how to take the data in various formats (Character Models, Voice Data, MIDI files, etc. etc.) and combine them all into a single system.

And yet, Game Programmers are generally underpaid and overworked. Some $10,000 less than a typical programmer, and I sure as hell will tell you. You don't need to know Linear Algebra to program a payroll system. While you need rocket science (and harder) to program a decent game engine.

I don't think the job problem should be looked at as "Enriching yourself". Lets be frank here, certain fields are certainly far more enriching than others. I'm pretty sure game design, with its study of psychology (Human-Computer Interaction), higher mathematics, business, art, and so forth is more "enriching" than a typical programming job. But its not the kind of training that the typical programmer needs. And by "typical", I mean the ones that are in demand. Talking about Network Engineers, Database Administrators, Web Programmers and the like.
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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby stevey_frac » Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:57 am UTC

Malice wrote:In this thread, we somehow leap from "there aren't enough jobs for our workforce" to "our workforce isn't educated correctly" (to do the jobs that don't exist, I guess?).

As for the validity of gen ed courses... I completed a BA in film production, and along the way took classes on astronomy, Eastern cultures, Russian literature, and neuroscience. Thank God, because they all gave me things to make movies about. Engineering is a discipline, not a craft--a way of thinking and problem-solving that must be applied to the real world. Engineering something in a (metaphorical) vacuum is pointless, and unless you intend your engineers to be permanently yoked to the business majors of the world, it behooves you to teach them about areas outside of their expertise--which are in point of fact the only areas to which their expertise can or should be applied.

It's also utterly ridiculous to suggest that we have too much "basket-weavers" and not enough STEM majors, given that the national unemployment figures are dominated and supported by the bleeding construction and industrial sectors, in a recession caused by a financial sector which, dear Christ, I wish had been weaving baskets instead of coming up with new and innovative ways to fuck us all.

It's one thing to say "on a personal level, I advise you take Accounting instead of Russian Literature because you might do better in the job market" and another thing completely to apply that advice to an entire generation. Something tells me it Does Not Work That Way.


I am not arguing that arts majors don't benefit from gen. ed. They do. In fact, i'm not even arguing that STEM majors don't benefit from gen. ed. courses. I'm arguing that in a world of scarce resources, you are better off having engineers take engineering courses, then history courses.

We've had open software engineering positions for months that we can't fill. I believe we aren't not alone in that regard. We keep having people hired away by companies that can pay more. I dare say, we need fewer auto-workers and more software engineers. At least some of our unemployment is structural, with jobs that we can't fill.

I'd also argue, that engineers can and should be yolked to business majors. I worked for an engineer who ran his own business, and it was a nightmare I don't wish to repeat any time soon. He's smart enough to make an innovative product, but has no idea how to market it, sell it, or deliver it. He needs an business major to take his business to the next level. That's the whole point of having business majors....

Furthermore, I'd argue strongly that we benefit from specialists. Specialists are more effective at what they specialize in, then a few people with more general skills. We want engineers to be engineers, not business majors. We want business majors to be business people, not engineers. And in the rare circumstances that we have both, we either have someone who is a true renaisence man, and brilliant, or someone who is mediocre in both. In fact it's probably more then that.

We have a number of software engineers at work, and we are all specialized. One guy does COM, one guy does DirectShow, one guy does SSE2 assembler, one guy works with OpenGL hardware accelerated rendering, one guy does Silverlight, one guy does CLI... And this is optimal. We get far more work done with individuals specializing in specific areas that we know well then we do farming work out round robin style, and having everyone try to learn everyone elses areas.

Specialization is a good thing, and We as a society are better for it.

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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:00 am UTC

Malice wrote:It's one thing to say "on a personal level, I advise you take Accounting instead of Russian Literature because you might do better in the job market" and another thing completely to apply that advice to an entire generation. Something tells me it Does Not Work That Way.

I'd be very curious to find out what %'age of Occupiers had degrees in Russian literature vs, say, Accounting or STEM fields.
My sentiment is that while there are lots of college educated individuals at the Occupy movements, especially compared to the Tea Party, STEM or 'employment related' majors are underrepresented.
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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Jessica » Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:26 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Malice wrote:It's one thing to say "on a personal level, I advise you take Accounting instead of Russian Literature because you might do better in the job market" and another thing completely to apply that advice to an entire generation. Something tells me it Does Not Work That Way.
I'd be very curious to find out what %'age of Occupiers had degrees in Russian literature vs, say, Accounting or STEM fields.
My sentiment is that while there are lots of college educated individuals at the Occupy movements, especially compared to the Tea Party, STEM or 'employment related' majors are underrepresented.
Any evidence, or is this just prejudice against the protesters?

When you say "russian literature" (a very specific degree compared to the group of degrees within the STEM fields), do you mean "all degrees that Izawwlgood thinks are useless"? Or do you have a rigorous definition of not "stem or employment related" majors?
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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:03 am UTC

Do we need to go over this again Jessica? I think we've been pretty crystal fucking clear about what we mean here by 'non-professional' degrees. If your sole contention at this point is going to be 'nuh uh, I majored in English and I have a job', then woo, point made. For the third time, my query about the breakdown of Occupy degrees still stands.
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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Malice » Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:40 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Malice wrote:It's one thing to say "on a personal level, I advise you take Accounting instead of Russian Literature because you might do better in the job market" and another thing completely to apply that advice to an entire generation. Something tells me it Does Not Work That Way.

I'd be very curious to find out what %'age of Occupiers had degrees in Russian literature vs, say, Accounting or STEM fields.
My sentiment is that while there are lots of college educated individuals at the Occupy movements, especially compared to the Tea Party, STEM or 'employment related' majors are underrepresented.


I'm not sure this data exists, although various sources* suggest that the protesters are by and large college educated, about half of them are fully employed, and almost half of them are making less than $25,000 a year.

*http://oag.org/the-demographics-of-occupy-wall-street/
http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2011/10 ... protester/
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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:34 am UTC

Also, cleverbeans, your use of those statistics is quite misleading: claiming that accounting is having a harder time finding work than music majors, when the two unemployment rates are 5.4% and 5.2% respectively, is a mite dishonest, especially so considering accounting has A ) strikingly higher earnings and B ) is the 3rd most popular major, compared to musics 37th, suggesting there are significantly more accounting majors than music majors.

Cleverbeans wrote:However, unless one considers the only purpose of education to create "workplace cogs" as opposed to say, advancing the human condition through arts, science and technology the financial benefits are a secondary consideration anyway.

We've been over this; if the purpose of college education is to 'enrich individuals and therefor society' then that's fabulous, and I encourage it. But not on the tax payers dollar, and, individuals attending college should be informed that a degree in 'Miscellaneous Fine Arts' has an unemployment rate of 16.2%, and a comparatively lower salary. If you're going to college to become enriched as a personal, then fantastic; don't think that means you're now a more desirable employee.
In fact, I'd just direct all college bound students to this data set. While it's interesting that popularity (which I assume is an indicator of number of people pursuing a particular degree, not 'stated happiness with course of study'?) has a fairly low seeming correlation to unemployment rates, I think data like this should be mandatory for colleges to provide incoming students. Or, at the very least, high schools, before they push their students towards getting a degree.
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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby stevey_frac » Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:38 am UTC

I don't think that will do what you want it to Izawlgood.

The intelligent students, or their parents, already know their employment prospects. Those who are not, will ignore your statistics and do whatever the hell they were going to do anyways.

Good thought though.

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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Zamfir » Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:46 am UTC

we've been over this; if the purpose of college education is to 'enrich individuals and therefor society' then that's fabulous, and I encourage it. But not on the tax payers dollar

If universities are indeed enriching for people and society, why shouldn't tax dollars help to make that as widespread as possible?

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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Cheezwhiz Jenkins » Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:39 am UTC

You know, other than "basket weaving," (a ridiculous term which others have already pointed out as loaded, inflammatory, and unnecessary), I keep seeing "history" cited as an area of study which is not just "less likely to get you a job" but actually useless or less relevant to the modern world than the exalted, glorified, holy STEM subjects. I guess I missed the memo that history is sooooooooo useless and irrelevant. I feel so stupid now! I wish someone had explained to me earlier that all that "past stuff" doesn't really matter all that much. I can only hope to find one of my school's engineers and touch the hem of their garments. I mean, they're doing Important Hard Work For The American EconomyTM while I and my department are over there in the corner just being useless and irrelevant at best. Oh man I am so embarrassed.
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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Cleverbeans » Wed Nov 23, 2011 7:38 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:In fact, I'd just direct all college bound students to this data set. While it's interesting that popularity (which I assume is an indicator of number of people pursuing a particular degree, not 'stated happiness with course of study'?) has a fairly low seeming correlation to unemployment rates, I think data like this should be mandatory for colleges to provide incoming students. Or, at the very least, high schools, before they push their students towards getting a degree.


What makes you imagine anyone is "pushing" students to get a degree? Many students want it just for the joy of studying something they're passionate about. I can understand that your primary motivation may be money and they have degrees for that, but not everyone envisions living out their days as efficiently as possible in some corporate hive. I have never encountered a music/psych/fine arts major who had even the slightest delusion about their employment prospects when they take the degree, I'm not sure what makes you feel as though they're all walking into it going "Oh great, with my degree in clinical psych I'm going to make billions, ez right?"

I also think you're missing the point of a well-rounded liberal arts education. Certainly we can agree that specialization is a dominant strategy and should be encouraged whenever possible, but specialization is not always pragmatic in a constantly changing business environment. I understand that after taking one history course that you didn't like damns the entire curriculum, but the simple task of writing a paper by researching, organizing, and articulating your thoughts one virtually any topic provides a fundamental base of skills which can be applied in a variety of positions. Businesses come and go, ambitions rise and fall but some things never change, and demand for articular people who with strong literacy skills who've demonstrated they can learn quickly will find work if they can.

However the problem of finding work is an orthogonal skillset, and seems to have a great deal to do with who you know, and where your parents work, and how socially well connected you are. I think the STEM degrees enjoy greater stability in the workplace because they have a relatively rare aptitude and desire to do mathematics. I have some terrible news for you however, as it turns out, almost everyone is fucking terrible at math, and they still need a productive way to occupy their time.

Also, I find it interesting how engineers tend to "take their work home" so to speak. I can envision you now, pouring over the data outraged at the non-optimal algorithm some people are living their lives by, laughing heartily at intelligent design arguments because if they were intelligent they would have optimized directly instead of using a genetic algorithm. :lol:
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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby aoeu » Wed Nov 23, 2011 7:38 am UTC

Cheezwhiz Jenkins wrote:You know, other than "basket weaving," (a ridiculous term which others have already pointed out as loaded, inflammatory, and unnecessary), I keep seeing "history" cited as an area of study which is not just "less likely to get you a job" but actually useless or less relevant to the modern world than the exalted, glorified, holy STEM subjects. I guess I missed the memo that history is sooooooooo useless and irrelevant. I feel so stupid now! I wish someone had explained to me earlier that all that "past stuff" doesn't really matter all that much. I can only hope to find one of my school's engineers and touch the hem of their garments. I mean, they're doing Important Hard Work For The American EconomyTM while I and my department are over there in the corner just being useless and irrelevant at best. Oh man I am so embarrassed.

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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Zamfir » Wed Nov 23, 2011 7:49 am UTC

Cleverbeans wrote:Also, I find it interesting how engineers tend to "take their work home" so to speak. I can envision you now, pouring over the data outraged at the non-optimal algorithm some people are living their lives by, laughing heartily at intelligent design arguments because if they were intelligent they would have optimized directly instead of using a genetic algorithm.

I think Izawwlgood is a biologist. I am an engineer, and married to a historian. As a first approximation, I'd say historians take their particular professional attitude home just as much as other people.

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Re: Occupy Wall Street - Spreading. Check your town.

Postby Ghostbear » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:04 am UTC

stevey_frac wrote:I'm an engineer. They made us take the 'Don't be a myopic fuckhead' courses. We had to take 4 of them. (because we were already taking a 120% course load most of the time)

I chose to study history for the most part. And a course in micro-econ.
Most of my peers studied some form of business or econ for these courses.

Overall, the majority of those people who took those courses squeaked out a low passing grade, while they focused on the courses that mattered. Overall, people were not enriched, nor did they do anything useful with this knowledge. They are not well rounded people; they are engineers. The two are damned near mutually exclusive.

I'd have to argue that, at least for engineers, these courses were a distraction at best, and a hinderence at worst. And that's coming from somone who loved taking the history courses.

My experience is completely opposite yours. My peers in engineering all whizzed by their gen ed classes, while still focusing on their core classes. Many of the people I talked to actually found something interesting in their classes. Many did not, but overall the only regrets people had were the ones that took geography ("Can you find this river on a map?" for a whole semester, apparently). I also very very strongly disagree with your notion that well rounded people and engineers are mutually exclusive. Just about every person in my classes was a well adjusted, normal person. It wasn't a perfect guarantee, but generally the more "normal" they were, the better at their classes they were as well. So, there's my anecdote vs. yours. Neither of them prove anything.

Izawwlgood wrote:We've been over this; if the purpose of college education is to 'enrich individuals and therefor society' then that's fabulous, and I encourage it. But not on the tax payers dollar,[...]

I'm going to have to reiterate Zamfir here: why, exactly, should something that enriches society not be funded by tax dollars (aka, society)? Tax money spent on education shouldn't just me a training subsidy for corporations, making it cheaper for them to get employees. That might turn out to be a positive side effect, but it should not be the main goal.

Also, as a general aside, I find it very sad that people keep labeling STEM as the "boring" subjects that people only take because it can make money. I enjoyed my engineering degree; in fact, when I signed up for it I didn't consider that it paid better or was "safer" (and it isn't perfectly safe either- I'm unemployed). All I knew was that in taking that subject, I could learn more about computers, which have nearly always fascinated me. Certainly, many people sign up for STEM fields for the chance to earn money, but if it wasn't a subject they enjoyed, they probably wouldn't be very good at it. I feel enriched as a person for having learned about it, even if I never get to apply that knowledge to the real world (though, if that happened it'd make me very, very sad, considering that it's expected that you can). Engineering is more than just a ticket to money; it can be just as personally rewarding as any other subject.

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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Zamfir » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:49 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:Also, as a general aside, I find it very sad that people keep labeling STEM as the "boring" subjects that people only take because it can make money. I enjoyed my engineering degree; in fact, when I signed up for it I didn't consider that it paid better or was "safer" (and it isn't perfectly safe either- I'm unemployed). All I knew was that in taking that subject, I could learn more about computers, which have nearly always fascinated me. Certainly, many people sign up for STEM fields for the chance to earn money, but if it wasn't a subject they enjoyed, they probably wouldn't be very good at it. I feel enriched as a person for having learned about it, even if I never get to apply that knowledge to the real world (though, if that happened it'd make me very, very sad, considering that it's expected that you can). Engineering is more than just a ticket to money; it can be just as personally rewarding as any other subject.

Of course, but in this context we're mainly talking about people who wouldn't choose such a subject from their own choice. Which is often because they consider the subject uninteresting, and would prefer not to spend the coming years, let alone a career on it. If you (like me) personally like engineering, you can use some other field as example. I bet you can point out a field you personally consider boring, but does offer a fairly good job security.

This is strongly implied in discussions about students debts and government funding. There's a widespread idea (perhaps at least somewhat justified) that the pressure of debt and the lure of income and job security is needed to make people choose the 'right' fields that are perceived as economically most productive. The implication of that is that personal interest alone won't encourage enough people to become engineers, or accountants, or bankers or whatever. It might encourage some, but those are apparently not enough.

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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Ghostbear » Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:53 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Ghostbear wrote:Also, as a general aside, I find it very sad that people keep labeling STEM as the "boring" subjects that people only take because it can make money. I enjoyed my engineering degree; in fact, when I signed up for it I didn't consider that it paid better or was "safer" (and it isn't perfectly safe either- I'm unemployed). All I knew was that in taking that subject, I could learn more about computers, which have nearly always fascinated me. Certainly, many people sign up for STEM fields for the chance to earn money, but if it wasn't a subject they enjoyed, they probably wouldn't be very good at it. I feel enriched as a person for having learned about it, even if I never get to apply that knowledge to the real world (though, if that happened it'd make me very, very sad, considering that it's expected that you can). Engineering is more than just a ticket to money; it can be just as personally rewarding as any other subject.

Of course, but in this context we're mainly talking about people who wouldn't choose such a subject from their own choice. Which is often because they consider the subject uninteresting, and would prefer not to spend the coming years, let alone a career on it. If you (like me) personally like engineering, you can use some other field as example. I bet you can point out a field you personally consider boring, but does offer a fairly good job security.

This is strongly implied in discussions about students debts and government funding. There's a widespread idea (perhaps at least somewhat justified) that the pressure of debt and the lure of income and job security is needed to make people choose the 'right' fields that are perceived as economically most productive. The implication of that is that personal interest alone won't encourage enough people to become engineers, or accountants, or bankers or whatever. It might encourage some, but those are apparently not enough.

I agree with everything you said there, I was more bemoaning the attitude from many people in the thread (and also, people in general) that nobody would take such a "boring" subject as something in the STEM fields if not for their concern for future employment, and that other fields, such as liberal arts, are all amazingly interesting by comparison. It denigrates engineering as purely a money making discipline, and not something that one can enjoy. To me, as an engineer, it seems like the counterpart insult to calling the other fields "basket-weaving". It treats the only benefit of being learned in the STEM (or business, or medicine, or law, etc.) fields as that which allows you to earn more money.

I expect that if not for the income and job security, that we would probably have an even greater shortage of engineers and the like, so again, I do agree with your point. I just find it sad that everyone here seems to feel that engineering is a boring discipline only chosen for those traits, and can not "enrich" (I don't like that word, but I can't think of a good replacement) a person in the same way that Russian Literature, Roman History, Philosophy, etc. can. The only reason engineers made sense as an example with respect to gen ed classes, is because unlike the comparative majors mentioned above, finding time to squeeze in enough subjects to make them well rounded at graduation is difficult. An English major is going to have time to take a class on film study, or french history, or anthropology, or music, or even all of them, easily enough, so nobody worries about them becoming "myopic fuckheads".

I'm not sure if I'm phrasing any of this well.

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Re: Education from OWS thread

Postby Zamfir » Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:22 am UTC

Mmm, I think it's two somewhat different views on the purpose of a higher education.

In one view, formal education is mostly complimentary to job-related skills and knowledge. You learn those in the field, while formal education is to shape your personality, and for a wider basis of general knowledge and critical thinking. The well-rounded education that you won't easily get on the job. This might be helpful in getting a job, but that's a lucky secondary side effect.

In the other view, the primary purpose of higher education is to teach you job-related skills and knowledge, because you won't get the chance to learn those on the job. Because it's not suitable for learning through experience, because employers underinvest in training of employees who might leave, because you need high skills before you even get a chance at learning at the job. You might also develop a base of more generally important knowledge and skills, but that's a lucky side effect.

From the second view, studying Russian literature (or astrophysics, for that matter) is either a mistake or a luxury study, with the deserving condecension in both cases. But from the other side, engineering (or law) is a sign of a closed mind, because you had this opportunity to learn and you spent it one the same stuff as your job. Or it's a sign that you don't value learning in itself, only the money it might get you.

That division doesn't run simply between disciplines. Most 'non-vocational' studies are also vocational training for specialized academics. It's basically the core assumption of modern universities that job training for academics is also suitable wider education for others. And on the other side, engineers do pride themselves on how their training gives them a generally valuable way of thinking even in unrelated fields, even when they are ridiculing that "basket weaving" studies might build similarly wider skills.


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