Friday, August 26, 2011

The quality is important . . .

ERIC SCHMIDT IS CHAIRMAN OF GOOGLE, and he's really pissed about the quality of education in the UK. In the aftermath of the recent riots and the activity of unemployed twenty-somethings, maybe Eric has a point. According to The Guardian's James Robinson,

The chairman of Google has delivered a devastating critique of the UK's education system and said the country had failed to capitalise on its record of innovation in science and engineering.

Delivering the annual MacTaggart lecture in Edinburgh, Eric Schmidt criticised "a drift to the humanities" and attacked the emergence of two educational camps, each of which "denigrate the other. To use what I'm told is the local vernacular, you're either a luvvy or a boffin," he said.

A "luvvy". How marvelous. With a "drift to the humanities", there is a tendency to see the appearance of "basket weaving" courses. They make education attractive, but of no use for employment. Anyway, standards that get dropped are a stone bitch to raise, if only because the students graduated from a less-demanding regimen become the teachers for following generations. If decent educational budgets are not forthcoming . . . the future will be a hopeless wasteland for way too many people.


Purple library guy said...

A drift to the humanities?
Yeah, sure. Pull the other one, it has bells on. The drift in pretty much all Anglo higher education has been away from both the humanities and sciences, towards business departments.
Some more genuine humanities education would be a good thing, though. It may be a computer age, but most of what we do on those computers is communicate. Be nice if we had people who could do it coherently.

liberal supporter said...

No! No! No! A little more humanity please!

sunsin said...

Ditto to Purple Library Guy. The criticism is also utterly ignorant in historical terms. Isn't Britain the society that insisted on stuffing its ruling class full of Greek and Latin and other "literary" subjects, while sneering at the dirty-handed engineers who actually advanced the technology? The fellow making the statement is stupider than the people he criticizes.

ThinkingManNeil said...

By the same token you get educational curricula over here increasingly biased by "standardized testing" which will produce little more than cadres of shallow, low-end technicians and service industry managers with few critical thinking skills and even less in the way of knowledge about the world or humanity at large.

sunsin said...

One might add that the "literary" educations of the British upper class don't seem to have gotten into the way of them building an empire. From the modern perspective, we do not approve of their aims, but we can hardly avoid concluding that they seem to have been well fitted by their educations to pursue them.

One might add that the longest continuous civilization on the planet, that of China, was ruled for much of its history through a bureaucracy staffed by scholars who had exclusively literary educations. Doesn't seem to have gotten in their way either.

When we ask why this is the case, Confucius' saying that the superior man is not an implement comes to mind. Specialized training is fine if you plan to spend all your life in a specialized field, but if you have to take a broad view, it's counterproductive. It also tends to make Our Masters nervous, in that it encourages thinking about things that are of no use to THEM.

Jim said...

Lord Acton (he of "power corrupts," etc.) once said that the benefit of a liberal education is that after four years you should be able to tell when someone is talking rot.

Funny how this comes to mind in the context of this complaint about the "humanities."