A lost art

I’ve written before about how the academic world has frustrated me. The feeling is coming back, only this time related to my major, not the required liberal arts courses. And more related to the students than the professors.

I realize this is a dangerous thing to say, as many of my friends read this blog, but I feel like I have to say something.

My entire elementary and high school education was gained through homeschooling. The only other student I came into contact with on a daily basis was my brother. While this restricted my social development, I quickly learned how to teach myself. This resulted in a different frame of mind: education is about the student seeking knowledge. Hanging out online in various computer-related IRC channels further strengthened this notion, as geeks are reluctant to help someone with a problem unless they’ve demonstrated that they’ve tried to solve it on their own and failed.

At college I see the antithesis of this idea played out daily. Students ask for help with trivial homework, expect a direct “this-is-what-you-must-do” answer, and are frustrated when the professor responds with a question that (if the student took any time at all to think about) would solve their problem. I am sick of students who expect to be spoonfed answers. I am even more sick of professors who comply.

This is the machine of education. This is the machine that creates “computer scientists” who barely understand the concept of data type casting, who, if you asked them to modify a simple sorting algorithm to return elements in reverse order, would stare at you as if you had just asked them to change the laws of physics.

Computer science is not memorization of past solutions. It is a constantly changing field, and education is creating students that can barely grasp last year’s technology.

Computer science is a lost art.

2 Replies to “A lost art”

  1. I understand. Did we “ruin” you for regular school? I know I’m “ruined” for teaching in regular classrooms. love, m

  2. No, I think your point is not that computer science is a lost art, it is that education itself is a lost art. My Diction for Singers professor, Dr. Galer, insisted that I use the book’s answers on tests because we were “going by the text.” I had answered the questions based on the principles I’d learned in class rather than the book’s pat answers, and got them “wrong,” when in fact the book was inaccurate. I remember one time I tried to correct her pronunciation of the “open E” vowel, and for some reason she must have thought I was talking about a specific E in the context of a word, because she asserted that she had been to Italy and knew more about the language than me! My correction was against her false representation of the vowel itself, under the umbrella of the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is not restricted to any one language.

    I have struggled myself with the motivation to learn; often video games and other more immediately appealing distractions grab my attention. Several professors at IWU were a bit disappointed in my apparent lack of devotion to my studies, especially Dr. Kindley. I’m still learning to be a student.

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