college study

Liam Proven lproven at
Tue Oct 13 16:59:22 CDT 2020

On Tue, 13 Oct 2020 at 21:17, Paul Koning via cctalk
<cctalk at> wrote:
> It depends.  In sciences, people understand that it's a lot of work.  In what Robert Heinlein called the "fuzzy subjects", you can often be a party animal who does very little real work and get a degree anyway.  If so, it doesn't mean you learned anything and it doesn't mean the field you picked as a major has any merit or usefulness.

I see comments like in this thread a lot, and I have also looked over
some modern uni papers and they look straight forward to me. I only
have a BSc and I have PhD envy, and occasionally idly considered
"dropping out" from work and doing a Master's and a PhD over here in
Czechia. Then I unexpectedly had a daughter, at 52, and it's no longer
an option.

But the thing is -- over here in the former communist bloc, people are
even keener on education and degrees than back in the West. (I had to
bring my degree certificate to prove I had one!) Study is free or very
cheap and not time-limited; I know of people who have been at uni for
over a decade.

*But* saying that, I taught English for a year or so over here, and 2
of my students were also full-time uni students. One was studying
English, because she wanted to be a TEFL teacher. It was her 3rd
attempt at a degree.

Another did physics, dropped out, then did maths, dropped out, then
did computer science, and dropped out.

The real core point of a degree, I feel, is that it shows that you can
pick a subject, knuckle down, study it for several years, subject
yourself to the stress of exams and theses and so on, and _keep doing
it until you have one_.

This is _not_ an idle threat. I personally know smart, motivated
people who just did not have that degree of self-control and

I also have a friend with quite severe ADHD who has a good history
degree. He has _very little_ self-control and a butterfly mind, but
the point is, he knew he needed it so he got his head down and did it.

So, yes, they _do_ seem easier now than when I did mine in the late
1980s, but they are still hard and still take a long time and they
_do_ select people -- or *deselect* people.

And as for the "soft" studies, the oft-mocked arts and so on... well,
I had friends at Uni who did maths or comp-sci, and some were
_startlingly_ ignorant of the world around them, because _all_ they
knew was maths. I had a close friend -- who still is, nearly 40y later
-- who did English. He had a laughable lecture load of an hour or
90min a week, and moved to a house 30 miles and a couple of hours'
travel away. But the amount of reading he was expected to do was
extremely intimidating. I'm a speed-reader; I did most of the optional
reading for all my courses, including my Eng Lit "high school"
course. ('A'-level, for the English.) My friend did about 10x more
than that or more. Consistently several long dense books a week for 3
years, holidays/vacation included. Not trivial at all!

And long after, I befriended 2 young chaps via a wonderful
organization I was extremely peripherally involved in founding and
running -- Skeptics in the Pub. These guys were friends of each other
from Uni, where they both did Media Studies, a subject I'd always
regarded as a bit of a joke.

I learned something from them. I was wrong. They're both very smart,
and their knowledge and erudition was astonishing. Far far more than
my English-degree olding friend, who even now in his 50s is an
unworldly ingenue. Alex and Jonathan had a good solid grasp of world
communications and affairs going back 50 years -- they could, for
instance, pick up subsconscious references or quotations or
paraphrases from minor TV series that I watched decades before they
were born, and not only that, tell me who acted in, wrote and directed
it. They knew science communications, good and bad, and how it should
be done, and the problems, and the core stuff that it needed. They
knew print fiction and poetry and song and theatre and classic and
modern painting and sculpture and so on.

The point I took away from this is that *if* you're genuinely
interested and *if* you genuinely work on this kind of study, it _is_
very much real, valid and important, and the resultant knowledge and
understanding are profound and valid and useful.

In our current world of "fake news" and biased reporting and
politicians cuddled up with media conglomerates, of foreign nations
using paid posters on social networks to influence social opinions, of
people inserting falsehoods into online references, inventing scare
stories and spreading them online, all this sort of thing -- people
who _know_ and truly understand and can dissect and if needed
manipulate "The Media" are essential.

So, yes, I no longer mock the "soft sciences" and the liberal arts and
humanities as much as I did. I've come to see it's not an easy or
lightweight option, it's hard and it's arguably important and
certainly worthwhile.

Yes, true, smart students can coast through. But that's OK -- one,
they're smart anyway; two, being smart isn't enough, you need some of
what my mother would call "stick-to-it-iveness" and that's not a
universal quality.

We need a balanced selection of subjects and studies. There's nothing
I'd particularly cut, although perhaps some things are more important
to fund well than others.

But I really would like to see more mandatory cross-disciplinary
studies. I did biology (meaning a rather intense mixture of botany,
zoology, ecology, biochemistry, and both plant and animal anatomy and
physiology) but I also took computer programming and management
studies. I studied 23 hours per week (3x5h days, 1x8h day) and
consistently had a weekday off. I really could have handled more, and
I think I should have been pushed to do that.

Liam Proven – Profile:
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