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Higher Ed Thread

Higher ed and it’s future is something I’m passionate about and have had some very insightful discussions on various logs. I thought I’d expand the discussion to a broader audience.

Basically, just share thoughts on all things higher ed. What is the future? Is it worth it? Experiences?
Please feel free to go off on tangents, post links…
But… pls keep it friendly :relaxed:

@Bagsy @antiquity @jshaving @mnben87 @cyclonengineer @alex44938 @polo77j

Don’t really know where to start on a topic so broad. I think that college should be a bit more practical in many cases. Stem is a good example. We learn all these methods to solve tough problems, but the actual application is sometimes hard to see. More hands on stuff would help.

I also think that the focus on test taking is a bit misguided. People generally forget so much after the test. Understanding the topic is more important than test performance often, but that has little value in University.


I’m inclined to agree. We have a Q&A board for classes which is meant for students to ask content questions, but a majority are asking about assessments or grade distributions or how to prepare for exams, not really about learning

I’ve been lucky to have profs that seem to genuinely care about students. The econ one even hosts a coffee chat outside of office hours so students get a chance to talk to him about stuff NOT related to course material

I’ve noticed that the business courses at my school are VERY hands on. We run cases, do simulations and every lecture, prof is emphasizing how this will help us in our careers.

On the subject of careers, sometimes I get the feeling that the school is trying to push us out the door. Students are enrolled in a career training “course” on canvas BEFORE starting freshman year and are encouraged to attend career fairs starting their first semester

Another thought I have is that all degrees should have a philosophy retirement. Something in the area of epistemology (methods to sort out truth of claims, debate, fallacy detection). I find that even though I agree with many people, the arguments they use are not what I used to come to the same conclusion (they have errors in reasoning). Many of these people are college educated.

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Stats and intro to behavioural science would also be on my list.

I think a lot of ppl just aren’t aware about biases/heuristics → poor decision making

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Thinking about many topics statistically is very helpful. You figure out many people are irrational about certain things. They are often more concerned with stuff like terrorism, than their morbid obesity.

Haven’t studied behavioral science, but I think a lot can be learned studying people and animals. Some animals have a lot in common with people, but their actions seem more predictable.

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TL,DR; Higher Ed is an idea vacuum instead of an idea aggregator now

I don’t know how much of this is media portrayal and how much actually goes on, but one big issue with higher education today appears to be that institutions are now ideologically closed. My brother, who graduated a few years after me (2015 I believe) stated that the attitudes on campus where very different from when he first started there (of course, he was in Madison Wisconsin). It appears that debate and dialogue is no longer a key factor in higher education. Many proposed guest speakers are protested against or even physically attacked simply for holding a difference of opinion. This is the antithesis of what should happen on college campuses.
In the run up to the 2012 election, Mitt Romney came to my campus (being in Iowa had some advantages for this) and I remember a lot of people went from all political backgrounds and no one had the audacity to “shout him down” or protest. I believe people were genuinely interested. Now, 8 years later, it appears that constant confirmation bias through social media has created a wider idea chasm and many refuse to find common ground.


Most people I know had intro to stats - doesn’t help when, to your earlier point, all they do is prepare for the exam and forget that shit once they “pass”

I think the way a lot of schooling is set up is devoid of actual critical thought. It’s mostly rote memorization, regurgitate on the the exam, purge once finished. There are few mechanisms (either in academia or society) that reinforces or applies the knowledge in robust ways BUT the individual needs to seeks it out - and they aren’t obvious (again, critical thought isn’t entirely reinforced in the present system as far as I have seen). BUT, generally speaking, people are either too lazy or too busy with what they deem more important (revealed preferences) to seek it out.

We do see, however, the rewards for seeking out better, deeper understanding - increased wages, higher status achieved, etc. - at least I’ve seen that and have benefited from it. Not sure what my motivation was other than I want to retire comfortably relatively young (before 60) and not fall into the trap a lot of the “adults” in my life have (spend and don’t save/invest).

Good thread Anna



I think one of the appeals of STEM for me, especially in the past year, is the lack of politics and “softness” for the lack of a better word

In my other courses, most classes started with some political discussion, but I’d always get a break when the math prof started lecture. THere was also not question about what was “right”, “wrong” or fear of offending others b/c political correctness.
In most of my classes (behavioural science oriented), the political discussion was absolutely relevant to course material; however, I still found it extremely frustrating

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This was my experience in undergrad (but I graduated 10 years ago). The only class that was somewhat subjective was the class i took on Buddhism, but even then politics was avoided.
I avoid politics everywhere but this forum. I have no interest in discussing it in person because people get too heated, especially because my set of beliefs/opinions generally runs counter to the “accepted”.

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Another reason I generally avoid political discussion is that usually, I’m not qualified to speak on the topic and I don’t think anyone does or should give a crap about what I think. Even if they did, it’s not like I can actually change anything, so why waste my time arguing

I agree that this easily turns into a political discussion, which is not something I enjoy.

I feel universities are already too focused on immediately and almost solely encouraging practicality, and I do not think STEM lacks “softness.” There is insufficient focus on thinking, discussing, and writing critically in a general sense. That’s all.


My school is very stem focused and had a big problem with this. All freshmen are now required to take a writing course. My prof said that this was the result of an “emergency meeting” amoung the admin 5-6 year ago after realizing that many graduates had exceptionally poor verbal communication :laughing:


Academia is too focused on self preservation and propagation. This has led to a state of affairs where a college degree is seen as the default way to make it into the middle class. We need to increase things like apprenticeships, on the job training, and mentorship in the workplace. And I don’t just mean for trades.

Colleges and universities take people in their intellectual prime and have them spend 4 years performing make-work tasks for free. It’s worse if we start talking about post-graduate work. This has been grandfathered in from an era when practically all scientific and scholarly thought was centered in universities. Contrast that to today when most of the advances of the modern era were made in private businesses and industries, not in universities. Today, with a little motivation, you can learn practically anything you are interested in with just an internet connection. Imagine if instead of spending 4 years paying for a university education, highschool graduates just went to work at companies for free for 4 years (maybe make them pay for the privilege if we want a real comparison). I suspect many companies would be up for that and at the end of the day these people would have more employable skills than your average college graduate.

The only thing hindering this is the out-dated belief that the most important thing to getting a good job is a piece of paper from an accredited university.


I agree

I’m not an expert, but that actually sounds like a pretty good idea. Maybe there could be a rotating system to account for the fact that most hs grads have no idea what they want to do as a career (I’m not convinced it’d be a good thing if they did either)

Maybe adding something else to match networking opportunities too

This is why things like work semesters (co-op programs) should be more wide-spread. My buddy, a software engineer, extended his graduation by something like 1 semester and signed up for the co-op program. He learned WAY more relevant information — some of which showed that what he was being taught was outdated — and before he even graduated had been offered a contract with the last company he worked with.


Almost every department at my school offers these but my school is also unusually career focused

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It’s true to Co-ops are helpful. The problem is that it’s still fitting into the college framework where the university is putting extra requirements, costs, and baggage into the system in order to stay relevant without adding value.

I spent 6 semesters doing a lot of my homework for aerospace by programming in FORTRAN 77 (yes, the 77 means it was created in 1977). I have not used it since college and it has never been relevant to my job other than learning basic programming logic (can be accomplished with industry standard MatLab).