Tag Archives: Education

Is a college education less of an advantage financially than it used to be?

On Quora a while ago, I answered the question which forms the title for this blog post. Below is the answer I gave unedited with typos. 

Ill say a couple of things. These answers assume they apply to this country:

  1. If you want to study something in the social sciences in college like history or sociology, Ill suggest you think hard if college is for you. Why not go do an apprenticeship in which you can come out of within about 2 years max with no debt earning what people coming out of college earn. Many people who study social sciences and come out of college with tons of debt end up doing jobs which absolutely have no match with what they did in college and in fact is bellow their skills level (e.g. working at Starbucks or Walmart).
  2. If studying something in STEM, the financial advantages are still there even with debt. But I will say before going into college, make sure your math (e.g. calculus etc) and science (e.g. physics and chemistry etc) foundations are rock solid so your freshman year is a relative breeze and you can max out all possible grade points you can earn in those classes.

To be honest – I guess this has its biase – if thinking about studying something outside STEM and maybe even finance or law up to a degree, think hard about the cost and benefits. Ask youreself if you are prepared or not.

Overcoming Resistance

The following is based off a reply I gave to a discussion question on a Facebook Workplacce group by someone who asked how they can overcome resistance and the feeling of being overwhelmed at times. I have corrected for grammatical errors here and there and also expanded on my original reply. 

I never knew that I had ADHD until I was in college. But whether ADHD is even a valid or overblown phenomenon, I question at times. Maybe ADHD is simply kids reacting to the assembly line model of education and wanting to spread out their wings and explore. But one thing I can say is that you need to plan your days out as much as possible while prioritizing your interest and hobbies and also take a long run perspective.

For everything which you plan to do or even like, give it a ranking. For example, for all the task you plan to do each day, place a ranking next to each and begin with the highest priority till you finish off your lowest priority task.

Attach greatest ranking/priority to those things which will advance you professionally, enhance your value creation abilities,  and your ability to reach your aspirations in life while putting less priority on things which don’t help in reaching these goals. When I say “less priority”, I don’t meant abandon them, I just mean put less time and energy into them and work on them over longer periods of time.

Create something mental in your mind which makes you strive and stay focused. For example in my cases, its the image of a better tomorrow which will allow me to live and do things which I definitely would never be able to  if I went on a career engineering path.

Everyone differs in how they would go about doing this. Even though some general principles seems to work for everyone, its everyone’s task to find out as quickly as possible what works for them so they can effectively develop tools for overcoming resistance.

Finding out how to beat resistance can be done by researching and reading around to find out what people who face similar challenges  do.  No clear cut route exist in trying to find out and develop methods for overcoming resistance. Each person is unique and faces their unique challenges. But its up to everyone to furiously explore using all avenues they can possibly think about till they hit on something. In my case, I have become better at overcoming resistance over time with greater results to show but even then, this is still a work in progress!

Two Modes of Learning

Throughout anyone’s lifetime -whether done purposely or not- learning will be a constant. Whether learning in a formal setting like school or a work place or in countless informal settings in which our everyday interactions occur, learning is something we can can’t dodge. In today’s world, in order to stay relevant learning has to be constantly done and self directed. But everything we learn can be classed under two categories – closed or open. As will be discussed below these two modes of learning have powerful implications which go beyond how they affect individuals and have effects of society and its flourishing.

In the closed mode of learning, people learn towards an objective or an answer. People know the end in sight but all they care about is somehow devising some way of reaching that end; the logic of how that end is reached can be damned once that answer is obtained.Too many times, under this mode people fail to truly grasp what they are learning and once the usefulness of that information has passed (e.g. using it to pass a final or exam), people eventually fail to retain that information. In many ways, the schooling system falls within this category with the test and syllabi students are trained towards mastering. For example, if taking a Calculus II course, learning how to integrate by parts is a requirement which has to be ticked off. In order to integrate by parts, most students (especially engineering students and students who are not applied math majors) have a neat mnemonic they use (I confess I am guilty of this) but any mathematics major will tell you that using that trick is garbage  and would somehow come up with that answer to your amazement just like a very elementary calculus problem is being solved.

Under the open mode of learning, no objective or answers are worked towards. In this category, people learn in order to understand and know all the steps and logic of the topic they are attempting to learn. For example, as an aerospace engineer by background, I am learning machine learning. I have no question per sey I am try to answer or any objective (beyond mastering the subject) I am working towards. The closest thing to an objective for me is my a plan to use machine learning at a later stage in my startup. I simply looked for all books related to machine learning I could find and began systematically reading them up and also programming different machine learning algorithms so I can first hand see how they work. Along the way, I even tweak around some of these algorithms so I can see how they work under different conditions and with different set of data. Under the closed mode, rarely do people tweak things around and think about different scenarios.  I have also encountered difficulty along the way in setting up the different algorithms and also understanding some concepts. But I have no answer manual which I can refer to or that smart kid in class who everyone gets all the help from. I simply have had no choice but to think through what I am doing and really try to get down to the logic of what I am trying to solve and use all the resources at my disposal to the best of my abilities. This mode of learning actually can occur be both within a school setting also outside a school setting; more outside a school setting most of the time. Within a school setting, this tends to happen more towards the graduate level (i.e. masters and PhD) in which students have specific topics and problems they are working on.

Both modes of learning have their advantages, draw backs, and implications. As much as the goal should be get students into an open mode of learning, due to the fast paced nature of formal schooling with the limited time available and the course load, this is difficult to achieve. But for individuals who educate their kids, this is possible to achieve because time is very flexible and almost unlimited and kids can be gotten from an early age to solely focus on subjects in sync with their aptitude and preferences. But a draw back under the closed mode of learning is that too often kids never develop a life long habit of independent learning and their natural curiosity is stunted. Furthermore, from an early age, kids begin developing the mentality which fits a regimented life and society (regimented in the sense of people telling you how to live your life) in which you get order from above (in this case the syllabus and course objectives) and you simply learn how to stay on course on a narrow path and never deviate and ask critical questions. For not deviating or asking any questions, you are rewarded in different forms; the most obvious being almost automatic grade promotion.

Without a doubt, the open mode of learning is the most superior mode. It is under this mode that people fully get to understand subjects under consideration and fully grasp its logic in all its steps and interconnections. It is also under this mode that individuals  have been driven to asked very critical questions which have lead to the challenging of once agreed consensus and dogmas which have lead to progress is different fields of study and endeavor. In many ways, the human progress which have revolutionized the world and made the world more comfortable for had their origins within this mode of learning.

As the educational system continues to produce mediocre results despite the educational funding trend line being on the upswing for decades, maybe it is time to fundamentally examine and challenge the prevailing mode of learning/teaching within the educational system. Its might be in challenging the prevailing mode of learning that students will be put on a path in which they will learn how to be better critical thinkers who ask questions and have a genuine love for learning. Maybe finally will all the precious tax payer money spent on education yield proportional results.