Sunday, October 07, 2007

education systems

I've found myself talking about our financial aid system several times in the past several days and, after a long and incoherent explanation, the general result is a few glazed over eyes and a change of subject. From now on I think my response to inquiries about the state of financial affairs will be

"...... wanna do a shisha?"

I suspect the results will be better, or maybe similar.

But the topic has put my toes in another pond, which is the general "system" we have of going to school for 4 years and then getting a job. A worthwhile internship just is not part of the equation for many people. By worthwhile I mean something better than working for the canning factory, golf course, or whatever. I'm thinking about internships of substance, where you have real responsibilities and ramifications around them. I'm also thinking about positions that are 6 - 12 months, not the 10 week dance of most summer gigs.

Many of the Europeans I've met do/have not taken this power-through-my-4-years type course, but instead have spent a year on an MC, taken time "off" for a substantial internship, or a combination of both. They finally "finish" college a year or more later than we do in the US, but I would guess come out a much more refined product. And I also have to believe these internships better help them focus their interests in school. Better focus means better motivation and a generally more mature student.

The stigma that not finishing school in 4 years is bad is I think very damaging to our output of quality fresh graduates. Instead of subscribing to the "get in - get out" mentality, we'd do ourselves a much greater justice by including more in this developmental journey than just a few years of sleeping through classes, and maybe a decent 10 week stint before your senior year.

For the record, I'm not saying these opportunities aren't available. I'm saying they need better integration into our programs and a much better story being told to students (i.e. marketing). This requires participation and buy-in from all parties involved; parents, students, academic institutions, employer market, internship/job suppliers, and government jag-offs.

My water is boiling, so I'll stop here for now, but this is what I'm pondering lately while I look zoned out.

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Blogger Bruhaha said...

should've stuck with the engineering

12:56 PM  
Blogger Arthur said...

Agreed sir Mix.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

I have also been thinking about this lately

and I actually decided this morning that I'm not going to graduate until I'm 30

4:09 PM  
Blogger luke b said...

I've always wondered where your brain goes when that "glazed-over" look crosses your face.

I agree completely. Spending time away from the American Education Institution allows you time to breath, take a step back, and look at things as a part of your life. At school everything is on a day to day, deadline to deadline existence. No time for those glazed over moments

6:41 AM  
Blogger Mix said...

The stepping away part is good, but I think we should remove the philosophical "break" we often associate with an extended internship. It should be included in our plan as a definite and necessary part of our education path.

I'm not looking for anything revolutionary here; I just think the change of scenery that a sustained period away from the classroom (yet still "educational" in one way or another) provides is immensely helpful to an aspiring student.

It'd still be desirable to get students in to the workforce sooner than later, but I think we do it too quickly right now and sacrifice quality, focused direction, happiness, and a better view of the job-world.

And for the record, the glazed over eyes indicate thoughts either on this topic or on Ruke cuddling against my shirtless body while I rock a shisha.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Surya Swamy said...

"I'm not looking for anything revolutionary here; I just think the change of scenery that a sustained period away from the classroom (yet still "educational" in one way or another) provides is immensely helpful to an aspiring student."

Isn't that what the rationale behind the co-op system?

9:44 AM  
Blogger Hero of the Light said...

The overlaying issue is that you gain more skills, experience, and "real world preparation" from things you do outside the classroom (whether an internship or extracurricular) than what you do inside the classroom.
By the time most students realize that, it's too late and graduation looms around the corner.

At the same time, when students are shoulders deep in loans or their parents give them the 4-year ultimatum, they have little choice but to get out as soon as possible. Thus the requirement for a paradigm shift, which I would consider revolutionary.

It would not necessarily be desirable to get people in the workforce ASAP--keeping them in school actually is a crucial element of our economy. Read "My Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

Let's not assume that the two (graduating in 4 years and having a relevant work experience) are mutually exclusive.

I graduated in 3.5 years and think that my classroom experience was amplified by having a concurrent part-time PAID internship. I had to go to the internship to get pay my bills and those random plane tickets. I found that I took more away from the classroom when I had a place to apply the lessons the same day/week, instead of being expected to call on the lesson a few years down the road.

You're right on with the need for more marketing resources for these types of programs. They exist but many students don't know they're there or how to plug in.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Preston said...

But read "Ishmael" and "The Story of B" first.

12:12 PM  
Blogger kjentzen said...

its taken me six year. and i still don't know what i want to do!!

12:18 PM  
Blogger Mix said...

Engineering has this in place better than most other programs. I think it stems from the "applied" status that overlays engineering as whole - I think this would best be spread to many/all other programs to better show students that, regardless of their major, most of them end up "in a business."

I'm not saying we need students in the work force asap, we just need them actively adding value before they are, for example, 28. I still consider the first 1 - 3 years of post-grad work experience to be very education-centric in a youth's path. Some just take it faster than others, like some kid who runs a successful start-up. In the end I think we'd be better if we inserted 1 of those educational years into the pre-grad period.

Cat - your experience is exactly what I'm talking about. A better and longer termed work experience would (probably) have drastically improved/hastened the selection and derived benefits of my academic path. I couldn't find anything suitable (except for maybe my lab job that inspired my exit from the physics program) to work on concurrently with my classes, so a 6 - 12 monther would have been my better option. Ideally you would have a variety of venues to get this experience, based on your preferences and learning style.

12:29 PM  

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