14.0611 what degrees mean

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Wed Jan 24 2001 - 02:06:33 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 611.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: "Tim Reuter" <T.Reuter@soton.ac.uk> (20)
             Subject: Re: 14.0609 what DO degrees mean?

       [2] From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com> (40)
             Subject: Re: Skills Training vs Higher Level Humanist Computing

             Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001 07:00:11 +0000
             From: "Tim Reuter" <T.Reuter@soton.ac.uk>
             Subject: Re: 14.0609 what DO degrees mean?

    Willard's experience is general, not singular. North American Humanists
    may be both amused and horrified to find how far a reductionist
    skills-based approach has now invaded UK higher education. It goes a lot
    further than the odd MSc programme, as a visit to www.qaa.ac.uk will
    reveal. In essence our (pay)masters have used their financial hegemony to
    create an ideological hegemony which has reversed the previous view. Once
    upon a time we saw degree programmes as an immersion in a discipline or
    set of disciplines, as a result of which, incidentally, all sorts of life
    skills (not only employability-related skills) were acquired. Now we are
    invited (indeed required) to describe our programmes in terms of the
    skills they inculcate -- this is core, while the acquisition of
    disciplinary understanding is merely the surrounding pulp (and presumably,
    in the medium term, discardable).

    Tim Reuter
    Department of History, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ
    tel. 023 80 594868; fax 023 80 593458; email tr@soton.ac.uk
    Home Page: http://www.soton.ac.uk/~tr/tr.html
    History Department: http://www.soton.ac.uk/~history/
    Wessex Medieval Centre: http://www.soton.ac.uk/~wmc/

             Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001 07:00:41 +0000
             From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>
             Subject: Re: Skills Training vs Higher Level Humanist Computing

    From: Osher Doctorow, Ph.D. osher@ix.netcom.com, Tues. Jan. 23, 2001 3PM

    WM around 12Noon asked some excellent questions, and I have a few comments
    if not answers.

    I intermittently go from mathematics/statistics/physics consulting to
    teaching at college and/or high school ("advanced") levels and back, and in
    teaching I am almost inevitably evaluated poorly by students who want skills
    training rather than college/university type educations in terms of higher
    standards. This is part of the reason for my lack of a permanent academic
    position at the age of 62, although when I was younger lack of an "outgoing"
    personality also played a major part as well as a Western USA socioculture
    which values extrovert and skills training type characteristics. It is
    partly understandable if not tolerable in the Western USA because
    universities here were built in the 20th century mostly, unlike the Eastern
    USA and most of Europe and so on, and they have much to learn about
    learning, teaching, and research as well as general priorities. I have
    never seen such bureaucratic structures as I have found in some major
    Western USA universities, where Parkinson's Law and Peter's Principle apply
    almost word for word.

    To cut out the intermediate steps, I think that sociocultures get what they
    what they want in a sense. The Western USA is very young and seems to want
    to be very young. I had thought that British socioculture was much older,
    and technically it is, but from WM says, I think that some people there also
    do not want to grow up. It is easier to learn recipes than to think. It is
    easier to use astrology than to use science. In the USA, in my opinion the
    danger is so advanced that only something like massive hypnosis of children
    by their parents (to get them motivated to learn) will change things much in
    the near future. In the absence of that, I have been urging people to adopt
    multiple alternative axioms systems (evnen on the internet), so that for
    example skills oriented people would also keep an open mind about using
    their brains, but that is a very, very slow process and will not be
    completed in any of our lifetimes or our children's or grandchildren's
    lifetimes (I think). In humanities computing, the dangers in addition come
    from the skills required to do computing and the skills required to do
    reading and writing and art - which sometimes are not counterbalanced by
    equal requirements for inventive/innovative/creative skills using higher
    cognitive abilities. People already inside bureaucracies might be able to
    urge the changing of those priorities, but California's failure to improve
    much despite their importing Nobel Prize winners from the East leads me to
    question the chances of success in the near future.

    Osher Doctorow
    Doctorow Consultants, Ventura College, West Los Angeles College, etc.

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