Yes, I know that it's supposed to be the other way around, but it's not. The system has been set up so that students are motivated to get a degree, that's pretty much it. Learning doesn't always fall within that dimension. If you can pass your tests and do well in your research papers, you've done what you're supposed to do. What does that, ultimately, do for a person's mind? Not much, actually. I know how tests work, I've been administering them for years (and took them for years too). Memorize facts and figures, and on test day...be able to regurgitate them with precision. Three days later - those bits of information are pretty much forgotten. Papers? All too often they're sent through the academic sausage maker, cut and pasted, re-worded, and voila...a new brand of sausage emerges - cited and all!
The system is flawed. We live in the age of google and other search engines. Sure, you've gotta know which facts to take as true and which to disregard. But, who's to say that the books students are asked to buy for use in their classes are accurate? And - I write 'em! Need a fact? Look it up on your computer. Not sure about a formula? It's online. Suck at grammar? Your electronic device can help with that too.
Know how to think? Ehh...that's another matter. And, my friends - that's what we should be concentrating on. Teach people to think and use they're cognitive abilities and they will learn! Are we dumbing ourselves down in order to play the degree game? Hmm...I think we may be.
However, there are a few (other) sad pieces to this puzzle. First, by the time students graduate - they've become slaves. Yes, I said slaves. No, not the kind owned by someone who houses and feeds them, then sends them out into the field to plant or harvest crops. Nope...I mean a slave to the banks and loan agencies that helped "fund" their education. And the crazy part is that these slaves have to house and feed themselves! What an amazing world we live in!
The second piece is that we are closing our minds to the rest of what is around us. People are caught. Get a degree, get a job, pay back loans and more loans, get stressed, get sick, get health insurance, get medication, and on and on. You see, for many students, the cognitive thought process never has a chance to fully grow because they have to find a job as soon as possible (any job will do!) to begin to pay off their debt. Oh, the cycle of it all.
The alternative? Recognize that it's all a game - a mental construct - and when you get that, maybe you can change your perspective and take time to look around and think, laugh, experience, love, pull yourself out of the cycle (or not get into it in the first place), and mellow out a bit. Then, I think...you can really start to learn.
So...perhaps we can begin to change the way we educate by taking the emphasis off of tests, research papers, and grading, and putting the focus on learning. Of course, there are those who will say, "How do you know if someone's learning if you can't grade them through tests and research papers?" I have a solution (at least that's what I think). How 'bout teachers speak with their students, have open dialogue, stimulate their minds, get feedback (in fact...encourage it!), do fun, innovative, individual and group projects, even thought provoking papers (some of them may even need some research to substantiate a point or two), and listen to them. Most "good" teachers can tell who's learning and who's not.
I know it all sounds like a tall order, but - it can be done. Plus...make school very affordable. I know that we'll have to get creative, as a nation, when it comes to funding (perhaps a few less bombs, aircraft carriers, jets, or "special projects" could help fund our educational efforts). But, in the end...I'm sure it'll pay off!
What's the most important resource any country has? Its people - of course! Let's make sure our people know how to think. That may not be what some folks in power want. However, in the end, it'll make for a more educated and stimulated populace and a better, more innovative, world. Geez - wouldn't that be nice!