It's really sad how many people go to college for the wrong reasons. I started college for the wrong reasons, but I understand them now. Ask any high schooler who's wanting to go to college, why? "Because I want to get a good job that pays well." "My parents say I have to get an education." "Because if I don't I'll have to be a janitor for the rest of my life." WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
There's more to life than vocation and money. In fact, unless you're a workaholic, you'll spend more time in other pursuits than your vocation. The purpose of a university education is to learn and better yourself by learning. The pursuit of knowledge is an honorable goal in and of itself. Trying to learn just enough to get your degree certificate cheapens your education. Okay, now before anyone thinks I'm harping on students, I'm going to spend the rest of this blog on the philosophy involved and on how faculty perpetrate this abomination we call academia.
The faculty members of higher education are the primary perpetrators of this false pursuit of degree for improved life and money. In my opinion, it started because the educators wanted more money and these goes appeal to a wider audience than the pure pursuit of knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge is a lofty goal that doesn't have obvious or immediate utility. But almost our entire academic system is geared towards building someone up to live life rather than build someone up just for the sake of learning. Learning is both a means and an ends in itself.
I don't think the university should be preparing students for a vocation. Generally speaking, only a vocation does that anyway. How many jobs have you had? How long did it take you to really get everything that you needed to know down? Six months? A year? Two years? I'd say my experience says it takes six months to meet everyone and get the basic requirements down. It takes a year to really know everything you have to do. And it takes two years and maybe three to actually become competent. And that's proven true for every job I've had for that long with and without my degrees.
Furthermore, it's been my experience that what is done in class is only capable of giving you a bare background to work with. The only students that really know what they're doing when it comes to software development, are the ones that play with stuff outside of class. Actually being able to do something in a vocation requires much more detailed training and experience than any lecture series can give you. I've specifically seen this in the students I've hired. Two of them started with essentially no professional experience in systems administration. I'd have been able to recommend both of them as well-paid consultants after a year of on-the-job training working in our department. Any one of my students already has more experience in systems administration than any one of our graduates who hasn't had a job like this. I'd hire them without a degree if I were running a systems consulting firm and I feel confident that many such firms would (so long as they haven't subscribed to the lie that a Bachelors degree in Computer Science means anything in particular about your computer knowledge).
This country has bought into a myth about education. Having a Bachelors degree now means less than it once did because it's now taken as just a credential that can get you into the door for an interview. Rather, it should be a credential that means you're well studied in a variety of subjects, but with some specialized knowledge—that you are a seeker of knowledge. Bah. The degree should just be a milestone on the path of life, not some peak to climb.
I would like to indict computer science faculty in particular for the crime of making our degree programs into mid-level vocational training. Instead of teaching students how to develop new ways of thinking about computing, we teach them how to program. Instead of teaching students to look beyond the mundane and create, we teach them how to design GUIs the way we like to see them. Instead of helping them understand the patterns and intuition that leads to good user interface, we teach them to think more like machines. Instead of helping develop skills for developing new algorithms built on well-known ones, we merely show them how to use standard libraries. When we have a social problem like trouble communicating with students, we look to technology as the Holy Grail that will save us from having to interact with them. Instead of creating a pleasant environment that encourages students to learn for the sake of learning, we create a professional environment that dehumanizes them and teaches them that their only value to society is the ethical pursuit of money.
The real goal of any university department should be to impact lives so that our graduates are better learners. We should be personal rather than professional. We should serve the students rather than self-aggrandize and proclaim our own puffed-up knowledge. We should listen and learn ourselves rather than lecture from our lofty researches. I tire of the academic elitism of the Ph.D. This is why I will not pursue one myself. That's not a club I have any interest in joining.
Finally, I know that the CIS department at KSU once had a sense of humor. I don't know if it fostered the learning environment too, but I have a feeling it did. Let's go back to way things were when the department was young, when simply learning was important and grants and awards and published papers were more milestones rather than the goals themselves. Let's go back to a time when our intellectual investment in our own ideas hadn't developed into a fragile pride. Let's go back to the days when a professor had time for his students because they're more important than the official work of the day. Cheers.