Subject: Re: Is mediocrity the norm in computer science ? From: Erik Naggum <email@example.com> Date: Sat, 29 Jun 2002 23:40:03 GMT Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> * Vlastimil Adamovsky | If I can think for myself, then I will not to go to scholl (college, | university), because if I don't go there to be taught, then I can go to learn | somewhereelse... (in US people have to pay for being taught) If you can think for yourself, you realize that you may save time by learning from those who have spent their lives figuring things out. If you are any smart at all, you will also recognize that smarter people than yourself exist in your field and that you would do well to listen to them. If you are dumb as a brick and cannot think for yourself, you think you will be able to learn all you need to learn for your own life on your own, without any assistance. However, you should leave when a school demonstrably impedes your progress. This may happen for a variety of reasons. Many universities are primarily political institutions despite their attempt to do research and science, and mostly produce reasons for itself to continue to exist rather than any actual research. (The highly controversial Nobel laureate Kary Mullins argues that much of recent "science" has been based in such greedy research, directed mostly by what might secure good funding than by good research.) A large fraction of computer science is a load of crap to appease political lobbying groups (e.g., Microsoft, which infests many universities with its peculiar kind of marketing, _much_ more aggressively than any other sponsor or equipment supplier) and a waste of time, unlike any other university-level discipline with which I have had first-hand contact. The problem of teaching computer programming is still unsolved. People well above average intelligence will be impeded in their learning if they waste their time only on the computer science they are taught, but that does not mean that they will not have the opportunity to do more interesting research in a CS department than outside and to learn many other things on their own -- it is, after all, the staff that defines the department, not vice versa. What a university teaches and what you learn while there are quite unrelated, and if you stay, you can affect it. Outside the university, a degree only certifies that you can follow orders of a certain complexity, which may be important enough, but hardly proof of your ability to think and act without similarly specific orders. Considering the massive intelligence, not to mention the _time_, required to formulate the orders that a degree certifies your ability to follow, in may indeed be quite the opposite of what others believe it is and no guarantee of any ability to acquire new knowledge expeditiously or indeed accurately and productively use what you know. Yet, the ability to follow complex orders has been valued very highly in modern society, and may also be considered the practical foundation of the rule of law -- if people were unwilling or unable to follow very complex orders, a set of rules they would not follow would just be massively annoying and would only work to piss people off and create a society that disrespects it rules. (Come to think of it, that is how most tax laws work.) Given the challenging balancing act of both independent learning and following orders that the university offers a student, it rewards those who do better than expected. If you _only_ the follow orders, you become an average graduate. This should be quite sufficient for many jobs, but if you are an above average or excellent graduate, perhaps the only need for the degree is to show that you have acquired discipline and are not too clever for your own good. The only huge problem I see with degree requirements for an increasing number of jobs is that it carries a cost that is not repaid reasonably fast, so people who could do an excellent job may not be able to get it because they cannot pay the admission ticket. This has serious and negative effects on an economy in recession and turns the economy into something like a pyramid game or multi-level marketing scam that makes recessions much worse and which makes it more likely that recessions will occur, since the mobility of the work force is dramatically reduced by requiring specialized degrees in every line of work, which will be unavailable to people who are still paying for their previous degree, or who simply cannot afford not to work during the time it takes to acquire a new degree. -- Guide to non-spammers: If you want to send me a business proposal, please be specific and do not put "business proposal" in the Subject header. If it is urgent, do not use the word "urgent". If you need an immediate answer, give me a reason, do not shout "for your immediate attention". Thank you.