Monday, October 22, 2007

Hey, Dept of Education - the Janitor Understands Better than You Do!

In a famous scence in the movie, Good Will Hunting, Will (a janitor) decides to put a Harvard boy who's been lording it over his blue collar buddies, making them look the fool, in his place. Will bests this pedant at his own game by showing off the superior body of knowledge he's given himself without attending college formally. In doing so he puts the real worth of University for MOST attendees in perspective stating:

" See the sad thing about a guy like you, is in about 50 years you’re gonna start doin' some thinkin' on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don't do that. And two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin’ education you coulda' got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library."

The best retort his trounced intellectual adversary can come up with is "Yeah, but I 'll have a degree, and you'll be serving my kids fries at a drive-thru on our way to a skiing trip."

Will smiles and says "Yeah, maybe. But at least I won't be unoriginal. "

(complete dialogue available at: )


  • If a motivated, un-schooled janitor is better educated than a Harvard attending drone who's plodding his way through the lock step knowledge transfer drudgery of a degree that means little more to him than making more money than the next guy, then should University be the standard for TRULY being educated?
  • And how does it work when EVERYONE goes to college; if a degree is no longer a hammer with which to defeat your economic adversaries (because they are ALL now your classmates) then why go?
  • What's the real purpose of a University Education? Should all go? After all, even though we may all agree that all should have the right to go, is that the same as ensuring that they all do?

Clearly the framers of the plan described in the article below need to do a little of the sort of thinking that Will Hunting, janitor, would prescribe!


From: NEWS

"Plan requires high schoolers to apply to college to get diploma"
"October 20, 2007
AUGUSTA, Maine --A state law encouraging high school seniors to continue their education by completing at least one postsecondary school application took effect last month, but Maine's top education official is looking to take the approach a step further.

Education Commissioner Susan Gendron proposes a requirement that seniors apply to college before becoming eligible for a diploma. The change in state rules on graduation requirements would require approval by the Legislature..."

Read complete article at:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lamenting Loss of the Linear?

From: Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Education Online: Bit by bit, computers alter how we read"
"Unlike generations before them who trudged to the campus library, college students these days can read a Shakespearean sonnet or an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel without ever cracking the spine of a book. With a few computer keystrokes in their dorm room, they can tap into more volumes than a scholar could finish in a lifetime, a vast reservoir of literature, history and scholarly journals, all of it online.
It's fast and convenient -- so much so that they can do it in their pajamas.

But is something subtle being lost in this rush of the written word?
Even as academics applaud what the Internet and digitization have done for research and classroom learning, some also express concern that the technology has changed the way students read..."
Read the full article:

It seems to me that just a few years back many of us thought that one of the great, unexpected pluses of how the Internet changes the way people read is that through the use of hyperlinks the human species was freed from linear presentation of information. In just a few short years this perception apparently has shifted yet again. This article quotes some very smart people, professors in fact, who see something being lost...and much of that something has to do with linear text.

Luddites? I was tempted to go there too. But no, these are some very tech savvy brains weighing in here. And much of what they say is true, the question though is "how much does it matter?" and above all, in our tech changed paradigm of post 'EITHER/OR' thinking, is it really a loss or is it a loss/gain?

These "book-centric" heavy Internet users also talk about "...the tone of a writer's voice and the continuousness of things." - "...what gets lost in the digitazation of knowledge are the feel of the leather and the smell of the paper." -

Is it true as one Literature prof states speaking of his students "...They simply don't read ... Some of them are excellent readers -- faster than me. That's not the issue. It's the capacity to pay attention and sustain that attention." ?

And then, of course, there are the ways that these professors cope with this sort of change. One states "I ask them to bring me back a Xerox of the opening page of the journal article." (imagine that, a professor who requires proof produced on an outmoded technology, that reading was accomplished strictly via hard copy and NOT through a digital display!), but another states "I can only see an upside."

Hey, no one ever said paradigms shift easily! :)


And Now that We Know???

Yes, 'Shift Happens', but do we notice - respond - and appreciate its import?
It is remarkable that this set of ideas was archived as a video and shared virally worldwide. It is also remarkable in the number of times that individuals discovered it personally and shared it with the world on YouTube!

And now that we know... well, those at the highest levels of Education policy and administration still report what they want us all to see as their significant success in terms of scores on standardized tests, tests that measure skills that were mission critical in an agricultural era before the dynamics that shape and reshape our current world were even dreamed of!