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A few problems with the higher education curriculum A few problems with the higher education curriculum
by Joseph Gatt
2021-07-14 06:34:30
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University studies, well into the 2000s, were designed mostly to train employees for big business and government positions. That is, until the late 2000s, you didn't need to go to college if you wanted to create a small business or work in some kind of secretarial position.

Since the 2008 recession, the prevalent discourse in universities around the world has been to tell college students “get out there are start your own business and become a global leader! Be the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg!”

Problem is: the business studies curriculum at the university level is one that trains dark-suited corporate stooges, not business owners.

acade01_400That is, when you go to college, and major in business studies, they will teach you the basics of marketing or accounting or sales, the kind of basic skills you could use helping Coca Cola or Microsoft or whatever global company sell their products. You get a job at Coke, start off as a petty salesman or marketing clerk, and go up the ladder to become a project or national or regional manager.

Problem with applying MBA knowledge to business ownership: MBAs are about working for big international business, and that's what they teach you in those programs. When you study at a Master's of Business Administration, they train you to fit into a job at a company like Coca Cola or Apple or Amazon: you play a small role in managing global business operations.

Side-note, in many countries, if you work for Coca Cola (or whatever big company) for a few years, you can obtain a university degree without attending a single class, with a job activities' report in lieu of classes and papers and tests (it's called “experience validation”).

Now these kids start their own businesses and want the business they created to become global companies before they even sell anything. That's not how it works!

Just a couple of days ago, I inspected a company that wanted to put one of my old ideas into practice: a while ago in “invented” a concept where you have a company take care of your purchases or administrative paperwork if you are single (or married) and stuck at a day job. Example: you need to go to the post-office, but can't, because you're stuck at work. Company comes pick up your parcel and take it to the post office and post it for you, and you pay a fee.

What I had in mind with this business model was the following limit: focus your business on one single small town or city. And limit yourself to post-office, administrative paperwork, pharmacies, groceries, or school paperwork for the children and the like. That should be enough business already.

Then, if after a few years your business model is robust and dynamic, you can open branches in a couple more cities, before selling the business model for people to apply it nationwide.

But these kids who set up my business idea set it up for the entire nation, work almost exclusively via their Facebook page, and also want to offer home decoration work and household repair work like plumbing and electricity. Problem is: if there was an oversupply of plumbers, that could work. But there's a huge shortage of plumbers. And I don't know how these guys are going to handle an entire nation with a team of 4 people working full-time for the company.

Side-note: some day, we're going to have to discuss freelancers who work for startups. To me, a lot of them are treated like slaves, and a lot of those freelancers pay out of their own pocket for company-related activities, and even lose money rather than make money on the job. A topic for another day.   

Second big problem with the higher education curriculum: anthropology and cultural studies.

You see, anthropology and cultural studies deals with “polite manners” in global culture. That is, when you take cultural studies classes, you learn about polite greetings, polite socializing, and polite forms of table manners and economic behavior.

Problem is: a lot of people are nothing like the polite people they are portrayed as. Maaaaaaan, people can be gross in their behavior.

That is, anthropology rarely, if ever, deals with honor killings, family feuds, fights and disputes, corruption, crime, forced marriages, violence, unemployment, idleness, lies and pathological lies, theft, unkempt promises, jealousy and tons of other social ills.

That is, when you go to anthropology conferences, discussing “social problems” within one community or the other can lead to accusations of racism and racial supremacy. So anthropologists would rather discuss what they observe as “polite and acceptable forms of conduct” and tend to suppress any hint at social problems within the communities they lived in.

So having been an anthropologist of sorts my entire life, I sometimes get lost in translation when I read anthropological accounts. Especially those rose-colored ones about “polite forms of behavior”. By that I mean they never discuss reckless behavior by the locals that is not tolerated by the locals themselves.

Reckless behavior included fights, lies, theft, insults, torture, abuse, cheating, and “honor killings” or “honor fights” when those social ills were revealed to third parties.

So anthropology has mostly been about dress codes, social order and social organization and customs. Problem is, during my long career, I saw more social disorder than I saw social order.

Changing the topic. Other problem with higher education is sources. Why would a Facebook post be less credible than a book written by some guy with a Ph. D. Why would a private conversation get rejected as a credible source, when some obscure book written by some reclusive scholar be acceptable as a source? And, more importantly, why is it “mandatory” for students to reveal their sources in their papers?

I would think students should reveal their methods, not their sources. That would make scholarly papers a lot easier to read!  

Final problem for today: when you study sociology for example, you deal with complex sub-disciplines ranging from political organizations to organized crime. When you study psychology, you deal with very broad sub-disciplines such as criminology or therapy.

Yet, you have generalist sociology or psychology courses where professors ask students to write papers about political organizations, organized crime, criminology or therapy, when you technically need an entire course (or two) on the topic to write a decent paper.

If professors asked students to define “political organizations” that would make sense. A basic definition, that is.

Problem is: professors expect students to write in-depth papers about political organizations, when students have zero background with the topic. I've been in that situation before, and so have millions of students around the world.

Could say more, but I'll leave it at that!

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