Nepotism!

The charming and insightful Darlene McLeod was recently published in Geez, asking a few questions:

If the world is as interesting as we like to say it is, why do we assume no one wants to learn about it, that we need to trick people into education? Why present the wonder of the Creator with the fact acquisition and dull enthusiasm of a geography lesson?

Tough Darlene was speaking about faith, it dovetails nicely with Michael Drew’s recent comment about education:

I don’t know what institutional form that will take, but from a pedagogical perspective I believe there needs to be a basic shift from an emphasis on developing knowledge and “skills” (Yglesias has written very insightfully recently on the subject of “skills” in the new economic context that young people face today) to the development of curiosity and personal drive (figuring out what there is in the world to do that’s awesome and life-sustaining for self and others, and then developing the “want-to” in young people to go do it).

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10 thoughts on “Nepotism!

    • Ah, the right skills…

      “The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots.”

      -The Simpsons

      Yes, in the future, all people must become minimal competent, disinterested engineers, fixing and modifying robots. The humanities will be reserved for idiots, and only idiots who want to become poorer than their parents will study the humanities, which is already pretty much the case.

      But eventually, we will create a discipline called the roboties, which will tRy to better understand the social relations between robots, their “music,” and the meaning of their literature.

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    • The world has changed fundamentally since the Industrial Revolution, and even more compared to the pre-industrial era. It used to be that having more workers available was a good thing, because it meant you could produce more. Now, our production of valued goods and serves isn’t really dependent on the number of people we have working; machines can do most of our manufacturing, and even the lower-level service industry jobs (e.g., automated checkout at grocery stores).

      Put simply, there is a labour surplus, one that is only likely to grow the further we progress technologically. We can produce everything we need without needing all adults to work. Over the next several decades, at least, we are going to have to realize that in these conditions, tying income to work is both foolish and cruel: we threaten people with destitution unless they perform work that we don’t need them to do. We need something that moves beyond capitalism, where people can pursue their passions without having to worry about earning an income. There would still be researchers, still be workers, because after a year or two at most doing nothing but leisure becomes deadly boring.

      Unemployment isn’t some kind of temporary aberration. It’s the natural result of our society’s technological progress. We’re still thinking in the wrong direction.

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      • +1 space awesome, KatherinwMW.

        Luckily, there’s one snafu in the wrong direction that might help reorient the capitalists: people need income to purchase things. Right now, the market’s only growth is global spread, but even that’s finite.

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  1. All leadership is by example. There is no other kind. Education is hard work, not a twee exploration in the woods, finding shiny pebbles in the stream.

    Want to educate a child? Be the good example for that child. Demonstrate the value of an education in your own life.

    So I’m sitting in the living room of my friend John’s house yesterday morning, discussing his solo architecture practice. He’s been on his own for a while after many years in a fairly large firm. He’s now running up against a practical limit on how much work he can do himself: he’s good at rounding up business but he’s constrained by the hours of drafting required to fulfil his contracts. I recommend he visit the architecture department at a nearby college and take on an intern.

    He whines about how nobody coming out of college architecture programs can draft well, a valid enough complaint, I suppose.

    I respond: nobody comes out of college capable of writing production software either. New people are routinely assigned to more senior personnel. There’s a twofold advantage to this process: there’s a certain amount of un-learning of irrelevant academic practices in college — and every shop must instil its own standards and values upon the new person. In software, the newbie is given a good existing project to emulate, from specifications through to existing code and ongoing maintenance.

    Nobody expects much from the newbie except the mentor, who doesn’t constantly peek over the newb’s shoulder. He’s given work he can handle, often very significant work — but that work is reviewed on a daily basis. The newb must learn when he’s stuck, how and when to ask for advice to get over obstacles. Software is not passive: it is a craft: most jobs worth doing are no different. A craft is esoteric, that is to say it is transmitted from master to journeyman to apprentice. Every master was once an initiate.

    John admitted his standards were probably too high for nobody could possibly fit his criteria until they’d come to terms with his specific process. Yes, he would have to check their work and issue corrections — as his own work had once been checked and corrected. Part of becoming a master is assuming those duties of checking and correction. Truth is, I don’t have anyone in my own life to do such checks and corrections on my own work and I sure wish I had one.

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    • Awesome comment, BlaiseP.

      Part of becoming a master is assuming those duties of checking and correction.

      This. Because in a world where the masters fail to take on new apprentices, the skills are lost. Not necessarily the book skills, for those will still exist, but the application of those skills as art.

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