Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Free Education?

From Inside Higher Ed, "Provost Prose" blog 1/18/15

"There is no question that the credentials required for more and more job opportunities include more and more education. Opportunities that in the past required a high school education now require a college degree; opportunities which used to require an undergraduate degree, now require an advanced degree. Often these escalating requirements make sense and, yet, there are certainly times when these changes just serve to reduce the pool of applicants rather than enhance job performance."

Back before grad school, I consulted the classic job-seeker's guide What Color is Your Parachute? for help. One thing that above all the other advice stayed with me over the years is this: HR departments are not there to help you get hired, they are there to weed you out of the applicant pool - to keep you from getting to the person who has the power to hire you. It seems that I am not alone in this perception.

How long has it been since most companies allowed the supervisors and managers in the departments do the interviewing and hiring of new candidates? What is it that uniquely qualifies an HR staffer to determine whether someone will be able to do a job? Yes, yes, I know that many times there are scores or hundreds of applicants for an open position. Surely there must be a more efficient way of handling this than the bureaucratized mess we have in most companies today. 

But my point is really this: all the education in the world isn't going to help much if you can't get into a position where you could get hired for a job. Eliminate some of the process barriers to getting hired; which includes the local, state and federal employment regulations.

From the same Provost Prose blog:

"For as far back as I can remember, our society provided the opportunity for every student to receive an education through high school."  

Well, then you are not remembering very accurately. For the whole of the 20th century, K-12 education was not an opportunity, it was compulsory. The author's parents could have gone to jail if he had not reported to government school on time. Not only was it compulsory, his parents were also compelled by the tax structure to pay for the school (property taxes, most likely) and could go to jail if they didn't pay. This is the unpleasant fact of "free education" that the proponents don't want to talk about. 

Free Education is not free at all. What, are the teachers going to teach for no pay, and the campus staff maintain the campus out of humanitarianism? No, they will still expect to get paid. That means someone has to give them money. That will either be the students directly, by paying tuition, or ALL OF US indirectly by paying additional taxes. 

I continually marvel at the fact that 'educated' people can be so infuriatingly ignorant of this very simple cause-and-effect principle. Education costs money, because it is a service, just like cleaning the streets or installing the plumbing. 

Read this piece from The Huffington Post.

And then this one from Inside Higher Ed

Why do we need more formal education? 

There's also this piece from The Federalist.

 My first two jobs were working as an office assistant for a local special education office, and receiving books from the shippers at a big-box bookstore. Neither of them really needed a person with college education, yet both asked for this in the job description. Why?  

A college education will prepare you for some things, but so will getting a job and doing it well. The jobs that college prepares you for, those should be the ones with a BA/BS requirement. Everything else (which these days even people with Masters degrees are competing for) should be open to folk who are willing to do the work, not just those who have a fancy piece of paper on the wall.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

More Library Posters

Library advertising from days long past. What hasn't changed is that libraries are for the people who want to read and learn, or read and relax or read and experience. 

It's January, so let's have

Start the year off right - read more!

Develop the Power Within You

From the Art of Manliness Website - How To Read a Book

Books are Weapons in the War of Ideas

Fight ignorance and Bad Ideas with Books

Critical Thinking Skill Honed at the Library

Defend your Right to Read and Defeat Ignorance

Actually a WW1 recruiting poster.

Books are Weapons photo credit: <a href="">amyfry2000</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>
Critical Thinking photo credit: <a href="">Enokson</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Thursday, January 15, 2015

More Hilariousness from Top Gear

This is for my kids, who love LEGOs, and for everyone who can't get enough of Top Gear.

Enough said. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Far From the Maddening Crowds

"We live in an age of chattering masses,"  writes librarian Mark Herring of Dacus Library, Winthrop University, in the library journal Against the Grain (Feb 2014 v26,1).  "Everybody talks to everybody else," but nobody is listening, he says. Well, I listened. I also asked his permission to extensively quote his article, and then give my hopefully well reasoned response to it. Here it is. For the remainder of this column, anything in italics are his words.
                In our hyper-connected age, everybody talks to everybody else, with all sorts of entertaining news . . . we 'blow up' the Twitterverse with our claptrap that masquerades as real conversations and human connections. Essentially we are talking to ourselves because no one is really listening.
                Why is no  one listening?  Is it because we're too enamored of our own opinions?  On the 'nets we are free to spout our opinion, often behind a protective layer of anonymity. This gives the added bonus of not having anyone get in our faces about what we've said. There's no consequences to commenting or re-tweeting. It might be, however, that we are instead too insecure in our opinions so that we must shout them louder than everyone else, lest we hear a contrary view that might upset our world. 
                We talk about nothing because to talk about something requires that we stop and think, read, study and consider. If we do that, we might miss something else as it goes zooming by. Our culture, particularly online culture thrives on the new and on things happening fast. This is not in itself new; St Luke notes in the Acts of the Apostles (17:21) that the Athenians spent all their time telling or hearing some new thing. The difference is that today the new thing arrives much more quickly. If we stop to think about any of it, several other things will have passed us by.
                We enjoy Twitter nitwits like Anthony Weiner . . . In many ways people like this deserve what they get, courtesy of the lightning rod we call the Internet.
              Nitwits like Weiner are ubiquitous - it is just that they now have a wider forum in which to display nitwittery. Lack of discretion and foolishness is also a part of the fallen human condition, which is to say it's not new either. The 'nets just make them visible to more people, for a brief period.
             The chattering masses may just want to be heard, to be recognized, to have someone validate their existence. I regretfully note that I check my page counts more than once a week. I am not immune to the lure of Internet fame. It is sad to think that counting 'likes'  or re-tweets may be the new Man's Search for Meaning. Why should we accept this "claptrap that masquerades as real conversations and human connections"? We need conversations and connections, but we simply will not find them on Twitter.  Twitter, by the way, is not the Internet. One can find a form of community online, if one looks for smaller venues that the Twitterverse - forums and blogs and discussion boards that have a common theme, whether hobbies or beliefs or what have you. I have had many informative and sometimes challenging conversations with others online who share my interests. This is still not the same thing as my friends with whom I play games or worship or do my work, but it is not nothing. It cannot however substitute for the real thing.
                It is an unfortunate truth that we often end up with the results that we fear because of something we did – especially when we are afraid or insecure – which is very common for the post-modern chattering masses.  We want to be heard, but don't listen. Listening is the first step to being heard: if you want others to listen to you, start by listening to them. By shouting (or TYPING IN ALL CAPS) we try to force others to listen to us, but it doesn't work. It may even encourage louder shouting on their part, to get you to listen to them.
                Twits, like Weiner and others, try to get our attention by being outrageous, but how long will it be before his stupidity is so commonplace as to no longer be shocking?  Then we will experience a new depth of outrageous stupidity, and another, and another. We deaden our sensibilities by continuing to absorb the barrage of outrageousness and ridiculousness, and eventually nothing is shocking. We can lose our ability to be shocked, and in the process, our ability to feel anything. 
          “This isn’t so much a reading problem – though it certainly is that - as it is a cultural shift to react, not think, to post, never reflect, to chatter and not shut up for even a second . . . for this we are giving up newspapers, personal communications, books, libraries and Lord only knows what else!?”  I don't Tweet, but I do read and write blogs. The ones I read most often are focused on specific activities - like librarianship, or writing, or my other job, sci-fi role-playing. Of the blogs that I read, I can say that I rarely come across a post that, whether short or long, isn't thought out and expressed with clarity. Often I find myself thinking, "now why didn't I write that?" or "I could write something about that myself". 
                I find these things that Mr. Herring says sad, rather than maddening. The Internet is a very large pond indeed, and we are very small fish. This in itself is difficult for most people (even me) to accept. Shout as we might, it's not going to make a lasting impression. With so many people making ripples on the pond, whatever ripples I may make will be swamped and broken up almost immediately.
                Europeans have long thought of Americans as shallow, frivolous and a bit too silly. But are we a bit too superficial for our own good?  Yes, of course we are. The Europeans look at us and think “Been there, done that” as if their jaded decadence is somehow better than the mess we've got. And of course, it is not like the Internet only exists in America. There are plenty of Euro-nitwits out there cluttering the Twitterverse, I'm sure.
                Andy Warhol supposedly promised everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. What are we supposed to do when the fifteen minutes are up and we get washed back into obscurity? Unplug. Get off the 'nets and go have a conversation with someone face to face. Accept our (relative) obscurity. We are not obscure to God. He made us to be in relationship with Him and with each other – in person, not as text on a screen. The 'nets are nice for information, weather reports and funny cat videos. But it is not where we were meant to live. 
                The irony is not lost on me that I have suggested that people unplug and spend less time online – on a social media site. Nor is it lost on me that almost no-one will read this. I must not be shouting loud enough.