Elle

I Quit College!

74 posts in this topic

Although I agree with a lot of what you have to say Phil, a degree in the sciences/research is not always needed. Arthur Jones was more than a business owner he was also a very intelligent researcher. Arthur Jones started doing his own research around 1950 and until he retired from MedX just a few years ago he kept up his own research. Another example is Alfred Lee Loomis who did have a degree, but not in science. He made his wealth in many areas including Wall-Street/Stock Market and then started his own research lab. And, although Mr. Loomis called himself a hobbyist/novice his comtemporaries said that he was one of the most brilliant scientist they knew.

The cases which you mention are very rare exceptions. In majority of cases a career in science/research without a college degree is impossible.

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That is true, especially in business - all of your examples are of businessmen. But it very much depends on the field. I attended 3 weeks of "higher education" myself and have done well in a wide variety of real world programming/database projects over about 25 years. But to do serious work in the sciences or many professions does require a college degree and often a PhD or MD. A self-taught doctor, if that were even possible these days (I would say it's virtually impossible now), would not be taken seriously in the end anyway. Same with anybody in the sciences such as biology or physics, short of another Einstein.

I think the government stands in the way of it. I recall reading one of Reisman's papers on the medical industry, where the government allows only doctors to perform certain sorts of medical functions that nurses could easily do themselves. This results in doctors being over loaded with work and being less able to delegate work. This means that nurses are never allowed to acquire the necessary skills without going to school. The sort of red tape in the industry, I believe, is an obstacle to people starting as apprentices in the medical field and rising to be doctors. It thwarts innovation in the field in terms of how a medical hospital or practice is organized.

I guess this is my way of saying, I think it's very possible, but that the law is the primary obstacle.

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I think the government stands in the way of it. [...]

It's certainly true that government greatly interferes with all professions, but I think even in a totally laissez-faire society, it would be extremely rare for anybody to train themselves to be a competent doctor outside of medical school. More broadly, the universities would be even more important in a sane world, if the loonie humanities professors and other irrationalities were stripped away. In essence, they have a high concentration of smart people and research facilities, an environment not possible to reproduce on your own.

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The cases which you mention are very rare exceptions. In majority of cases a career in science/research without a college degree is impossible.

I never said they were not rare but that does not translate into not being able to accomplish. Professional atheletes are rare, billionaries are rare, people of vision are rare, so what. If you know what it is that you want, if you know how you are going to go about getting it, then just go and get it and stop with all the excuses.

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I never said they were not rare but that does not translate into not being able to accomplish. Professional atheletes are rare, billionaries are rare, people of vision are rare, so what. If you know what it is that you want, if you know how you are going to go about getting it, then just go and get it and stop with all the excuses.

The objective value of college education ought not to be derived based on rare cases.

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...The "humanities" courses could have been better and more useful in principle if properly taught, but they generally are not. For now students have to choose from what is in fact available without regard to lofty-sounding but vacuous promises.

That's why students have to try to find the best among what's available, not abandon all hope altogether. I had the worst high school experience perhaps amongst almost all people here, and my liberal arts education in college was woefully inadequate. But that does not prevent me from admiring the idea which I eventually learned about on my own, and the personal growth I experienced in college has been -- irreplaceable; some of you on this forum had been witness to it, from my ignorant beginnings.

Pursuing a "hope" for something that largely does not exist in today's universities is not a reason to become a liberal arts major, and that would not necessarily be a superior choice even if it did exist. If someone wants a career in something like English literature or history he should go to a liberal arts school, finding the best of what is available at the time he is doing it; that does mean that other kinds of emphases which have less such courses are "mere technical schools" in comparison with a supposedly superior "liberal arts university", even if it existed at its conceivable best. If Elle decides in the future to return to college to pursue a more in depth education to further her career, she should decide that based on her career goals in life, not floating ab,stractions about building character, etc. as a liberal arts major divorced from her career requirements. She may or may not also find some interesting "liberal arts" courses as part of a professionally oriented curriculum.

With Elle's current interests in business, she does not appear to have a need for the kinds of science and engineering schools that have been discussed here, but those who do not attend such schools should not underestimate their enormous educational value in intellectual rigor and in the kinds of broad, principled knowledge obtained there about the natural world, man's understanding of it and its history, how to control it, and the ideals of precise knowledge and reasoning illustrated by mathematics and mathematical formulations. This is in addition to basic courses in the "humanities" (such as they are today). There is nothing inferior or "mere" about this.

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... that does mean that other kinds of emphases which have less such courses...

Sorry, that should have read "...that does not mean..."

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The objective value of college education ought not to be derived based on rare cases.

Your right it should be based on one's own goals and purpose in life.

If you have read anything else that I have written you would see that I am not recommending to quit or never achieve a college education/degree. But, if you think that the only place a person can learn is in a university setting I challenge you to prove your premise. I have learned more about exercise, diet/nutrition and so many more subjects than most people do in a full life time, and I am not done.

Why can't someone set their own study habits? Why can't someone constantly look at reality and ask questions and then search for their own rational answers? I have been doing it for over 20 years on my own. At 12 years of age I picked up my first weight set, at 14 I started taking notes. I have now read some where around 3,000 books and over 1,500 research articles with years of practical, reality based judgement and insight behind me.

Finally, I think it is becoming that rare case that one should strive to become. Because a life full of mediocrity or normality is not what I think life is all about. At the end, I can guarantee you that I will not be whining because I never achieved a college degree as it is no longer a goal of mine. My goals are many and my time is limited. Happiness in life is the moral achievement that I strive to accomplish everyday and it will be my standards and virtues that lead me there. For others a degree might be what they hold in high regard and set goals to accomplish, good for them. It is their choice in relation to their purpose in life. For those that do or do not choose a degree/university I applaud you, if you know why you are doing what your are doing.

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Your right it should be based on one's own goals and purpose in life.

I agree. If you are planning on being self employed, for example, lack of formal degree may not hinder your ability to do the kind of work you desire.

But, if you think that the only place a person can learn is in a university setting I challenge you to prove your premise. I have learned more about exercise, diet/nutrition and so many more subjects than most people do in a full life time, and I am not done.

That is not what I think or said. Self-learning is however a less efficient way of accomplishing certain (not all) educational goals. The various benefits of structured learning under the guidance of experts have been already pointed out by others.

Furthermore, university degree is simply a minimum requirement in many fields so skipping college would be unwise for someone who seeks a career in one of those areas.

Why can't someone set their own study habits? Why can't someone constantly look at reality and ask questions and then search for their own rational answers?

Regardless if one goes to college or not that is what one ought to do.

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Regardless if one goes to college or not that is what one ought to do.

I do not think this applies to every context. If I would have finished college I would have had to discard almost everything your so called "experts" are or were teaching. If you have not noticed my ideas on exercise are the total opposite of what the "experts" think. So accepting the so called "experts" ideas and then spending many years thinking and re-thinking them so that I could later discard them would not have been a benefit. Self-learning is not always a less efficient way.

Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Cornellius Vanderbilt, Michael Dell, Mary Kay Ash, Estee Lauder and so many more "rare" people were all self-employed.

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(I had to train a client, so please excuse the interuption of post.)

Writing my last post made me think about my short 2 1/2 years in college and what I was taught. I have had to discard what I was taught about philosophy, politics, economics, language, phonics/reading, some history, almost everything about Lincoln, business, ethics, communism, capitalism, psychology, art and again the list could go on. Besides the fact that some companies/employers or the government require a college degree to gain entry into a profession, I do not see the huge profound value from gaining a college degree.

If some people think paying an immense amount of money to be taught irrational ideas along with the small amount of rational ideas is a value, then so be it, I do not. Now, if there was something like the Founders College when I was going to college or thinking about it, I would re-think my position. At this point though I do not see a need to go and be taught something that I know much more about than most college/university professors, in certain subjects.

I hope those people that have achieved a college degree are proud of it and using it. I also hope that the people that have made it without a college degree never think less of themselves for not obtaining it. But, to make out a college degree as a panacea to help one achieve an undefined goal is irrational. A college degree is not needed in every field and why I stated that it should be chosen according to one's goals and purpose in life.

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Regardless if one goes to college or not that is what one ought to do.

Sophia, I am sorry for misreading your post from above. I thought you had written that "Regardless if one goes to college or not that is NOT what one ought to do.", sorry for the misunderstanding. I thought you were trying to say that a person should not try and educate themsevles by asking the questions that you quoted from my earlier post and instead always seek an expert.

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That is not what I think or said. Self-learning is however a less efficient way of accomplishing certain (not all) educational goals. The various benefits of structured learning under the guidance of experts have been already pointed out by others.

Furthermore, university degree is simply a minimum requirement in many fields so skipping college would be unwise for someone who seeks a career in one of those areas.

Let me start by saying that I do not respect any academic institution--I think university education is a scam in many ways and I do not believe anybody should do it if they intend to actually learn anything, if they are ready and willing to memorize and forget for thousands of dollars, they should.

Even these situations have their exceptions. I studied mathematics in my years at college--when I left I continued to study mathematics and continued to learn subjects that I was not able to cover in college. My way of studying, in my view, is more efficient in many ways to the methods used in college.

Often, professors of any field will give only a general overview of a field of study without providing a greater context or show the theoretically necessary aspects of a particular subject. English and history and philosophy classes are usually a collection of fragments of various authors presented in a way that all events have no contextual importance or connection in anyway. The study of mathematics was similar--I only had one good professor in mathematics--some professors would teach mathematics in a way that simply presented a formal system. It required mathematics students to simply memorize those rules and then apply them. Theoretical bases for various rules was presented by close reading of textbooks--assuming one had a good textbook--and maybe a lecture on proofs of various math rules.

Now I am working to solidify my knowledge of mathematics--I am trying to integrate my knowledge of theoretical mathematics by integrating the concepts involved. That is not something college students are told to do or have the time to do--but it does have its benefits for those fortune to realize that they never really understood what they were taught. In a way, my skills as a mathematician and knowledge of mathematics has increased now that I do not have to submit to the standards and expectations of professors--I became better only after I left college.

And as for professions which require degrees. I worked for a government mosquito control agency for my city--the work to predict numbers, locations, and identify types of mosquitos--whose job descriptions required degrees entomology or biology or mathematics, were done by college drop outs or people who had simply worked in other areas of mosquito control for a couple of years.

My father had no formal degree in diseases or health, but worked for over a decade identifying and tracing infectuous diseases with medical doctors as colleagues. My sister works as a chemist testing and treating water for boilers and cooling fluids for every type of institution--from large factories to partnerships with nuclear plants. The job descriptions of both required advanced degrees--but neither had formal education in their field.

These are all average, "normal" jobs requiring degrees to be hired--but I and many others without university educations still gained entry. Just an interest in the job got us all in.

And what about those who want to do something greater than merely apply knowledge in "regular" jobs--notice the majority of important researchers and intellectuals have no formal education whatsoever.

Everything has its exceptions. If I wanted I could work as a mathematician in various industries (perhaps not engineering, but that could be easily remedied...go to one of those every-other-weekend tech schools for a year and a half.)

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she should decide that based on her career goals in life, not floating ab,stractions about building character
Excuse me, but this is slightly insulting. I'll remind that this is still Stephen Month. What I'll say is that reasonable people may disagree on what constitutes building character, but the notion of building character isn't automatically a floating abstraction, and should not be effortlessly dismissed as such. When you study Objectivism, you don't study how to become a carpenter, or a painter. You study how to be a human being, how to properly act and live as accords a person. That is the notion of humanities that you so dismiss with such effortless ease. If this ideal is less easily found now in universities than it once was, I recommend you to the books of the Founding Fathers, their personal letters and insistence to their children about the values of college and the building of character that accompanies proper learning. That is the ideal that ought to be pursued, and college still remains for most people the best place for doing so. Not everyone is a self-made entrepreneur. To impose such a standard on everyone, and dismiss college out of hand without even giving it a hearing, is a great disservice to many young people who will find many worthwhile institutions that still exist in this country. Even being in a college, of whatever quality, being amongst the endless shelves of important books, on a campus inspired by a love of learning, is an important experience.

At most, a dissatisfied person can name the college that did not fulfill his need adequately, to advise others to pursue better alternatives; dismissing the idea of general learning as such, is not a conceivable alternative. I did not say everyone should go to college. Those who desire professional skills exclusively, can go to a technical school. The reason I qualified it as "mere" is because a college, in design and inspiration, is supposed to serve a lot more than that, and many places around the United States still do. To prevent admission to those places, by good students, is a big disservice both to those places and to those students.

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And what about those who want to do something greater than merely apply knowledge in "regular" jobs -notice the majority of important researchers and intellectuals have no formal education whatsoever.

(bold mine) Majority of researchers? This is simply not true.

I would like to stress here certain perspective. Even though I have send my child to what I esteem to be a good school I still consider myself as his primary teacher in any subject. That responsibility is mine and it will remain so until he gets to be old enough to assume that role for himself. When he does, structured learning is only going to be one of the tools for him, one of the means of achieving his educational goals. Attending university (paying to be taught) does not relieve a person from being responsible for their own education (even when attending Founders College).

I don't consider structured learning, in itself, as a method, a scam. It is an efficient way to learn both for children and adults. I have taken many correspondence classes over the years and I remember them always being more time consuming. I am one of those who find their college education very useful to what I am doing. I picked a program (a co-op) which provided me not only with the expected broad theoretical background but also with hands on experience in many areas of biotechnological research (working full time in industry for five semesters total). I did not have "vacations" for those five years but I got my money worth.

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That is not what I think or said. Self-learning is however a less efficient way of accomplishing certain (not all) educational goals. The various benefits of structured learning under the guidance of experts have been already pointed out by others.

Furthermore, university degree is simply a minimum requirement in many fields so skipping college would be unwise for someone who seeks a career in one of those areas.

Let me start by saying that I do not respect any academic institution--I think university education is a scam in many ways and I do not believe anybody should do it if they intend to actually learn anything, if they are ready and willing to memorize and forget for thousands of dollars, they should.

Even these situations have their exceptions. I studied mathematics in my years at college--when I left I continued to study mathematics and continued to learn subjects that I was not able to cover in college. My way of studying, in my view, is more efficient in many ways to the methods used in college.

Tom, it is a shame that you had such a bad experience learning mathematics in the college you went to, especially since that experience was so unneccesary. The experience you describe is the opposite of mine and of many people I have known and worked with. The emphasis on understanding basic ideas and how to reason with them to solve problems was always emphasized over "memorization", which by itself is impossible as a means to get very far in the subject.

You didn't say what kind of school you went to, but you should not generalize from your unfortunate experience to "not respect any academic institution" and a "university education is a scam in many ways and I do not believe anybody should do it if they intend to learn anything."

There are many bad aspects of contemporary education in the universities, which no doubt have also influenced your views as they were mixed in with the unnecessary aspects you experienced personally, but I agree with Sophia regarding the efficiency of "structured learning under the guidance of experts" in first mastering an advanced subject, especially in the sciences, even in today's universities.

What topics in mathematical sciences did you cover in college and afterwards?

Often, professors of any field will give only a general overview of a field of study without providing a greater context or show the theoretically necessary aspects of a particular subject. English and history and philosophy classes are usually a collection of fragments of various authors presented in a way that all events have no contextual importance or connection in anyway. The study of mathematics was similar--I only had one good professor in mathematics--some professors would teach mathematics in a way that simply presented a formal system. It required mathematics students to simply memorize those rules and then apply them. Theoretical bases for various rules was presented by close reading of textbooks--assuming one had a good textbook--and maybe a lecture on proofs of various math rules.

I found the same approach that you did in courses outside the sciences, but in physics, chemistry, engineering and mathematics my courses were very much interrelated and interdependent right through the graduate level.

I agree with you that "pure" math courses are often taught as almost arbitrary "formal" systems, lacking a conceptual understanding. If you have you a decent teacher and a good book you can obtain important insights, but it takes a lot of thinking. Some people have a "knack" for a puzzle solving approach in the realm of the arbitrary and don't care about the rest, but for those who want to properly understand, the overly "formal" approach can often be destructive to understanding and motivation. I have criticized that approach here before so I agree with you on that. Part of the problem is that the approach to mathematics as a floating abstraction is so prevalent that it is repeated in text books along with the way it is often taught, making it more difficult and time-consuming to figure it out.

My own better experience was due partly to the fact that I did not concentrate solely on "pure" mathematics, but rather combined it with physical sciences and applied mathematics, which kept it tied to reality and what it is for; the more "pure" mathematics courses, on the other hand, showed why the methods being used elsewhere are valid.

Now I am working to solidify my knowledge of mathematics--I am trying to integrate my knowledge of theoretical mathematics by integrating the concepts involved. That is not something college students are told to do or have the time to do--but it does have its benefits for those fortune to realize that they never really understood what they were taught. In a way, my skills as a mathematician and knowledge of mathematics has increased now that I do not have to submit to the standards and expectations of professors--I became better only after I left college.

And that is something you would have had to do with or without a full degree program, however taught. Such thinking is the nature of science. It is required of everyone to "become better after college" and you will still be doing it decades from now. In mathematics in particular there is an old saying that you don't really learn a course until the one after it.

What aspects of mathematics are you working on understanding better now?

And as for professions which require degrees. I worked for a government mosquito control agency for my city--the work to predict numbers, locations, and identify types of mosquitos--whose job descriptions required degrees entomology or biology or mathematics, were done by college drop outs or people who had simply worked in other areas of mosquito control for a couple of years.

My father had no formal degree in diseases or health, but worked for over a decade identifying and tracing infectuous diseases with medical doctors as colleagues. My sister works as a chemist testing and treating water for boilers and cooling fluids for every type of institution--from large factories to partnerships with nuclear plants. The job descriptions of both required advanced degrees--but neither had formal education in their field.

These are all average, "normal" jobs requiring degrees to be hired--but I and many others without university educations still gained entry. Just an interest in the job got us all in.

And what about those who want to do something greater than merely apply knowledge in "regular" jobs--notice the majority of important researchers and intellectuals have no formal education whatsoever.

Everything has its exceptions. If I wanted I could work as a mathematician in various industries (perhaps not engineering, but that could be easily remedied...go to one of those every-other-weekend tech schools for a year and a half.)

I also agree with Sophia that for many professional fields, including mathematics, a college level education is "a minimum requirement" -- in both content and proof of credentials. You may have done some interesting things working for the city using some specific mathematical techniques, but city "mosquito control" is not exactly a scientific profession at the level we are talking about, and if you had wanted to continue on a higher level you would have been very frustrated at that level of formal education; at the very least it would have been much more difficult and time consuming to find your way into a really good position building on only a partial education.

Specific knowledge and experience can get exceptional individuals into specialized technical jobs to an extent, but it is not true that you can learn engineering on alternate weeks for a year and a half and it is not true that the majority of important researchers and intellectuals have no formal training whatsoever. Many such people are working in specialties that were not their specialties in college or graduate school, but one of the important things you learn at that level is how to use your general knowledge and the skills you develop to learn new things in new areas.

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she should decide that based on her career goals in life, not floating ab,stractions about building character

Excuse me, but this is slightly insulting. I'll remind that this is still Stephen Month. What I'll say is that reasonable people may disagree on what constitutes building character, but the notion of building character isn't automatically a floating abstraction, and should not be effortlessly dismissed as such...

Please do not misquote me through an incomplete sentence fragment taken out of context followed by an accusation of "insulting" you and a presumptuous "reminder", and then further misrepresent and ignore what I said. My extensive statements defending attending college for a profession and rejecting the notion that in contrast, attending a liberal arts university, especially today, is somehow a superior means to "build character", are here and here.

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I do not think there is any intrinsic value in a college degree. I also think it is up to each person according to their own values and purpose in life to choose whether a college degree of any level (associate, bachelor, masters or a doctorate), will aid them in reaching their own goals. If the choice is yes, then of course set goals to achieve the specific level it will take to lead one in the direction of their goal(s).

But, as many examples that I can give of people that have made it with a college degree (Dr. Judah Folkman, Ben Rich and others), I can certainly give many that have made it without. A college degree is something worthy of being proud of. Starting a business from scratch and turning it into a world renowned business is also something worthy of being proud of. An example of the latter is Greg Norman (the "Shark" of golf), who graduated from high school and became a golf apprentice for a little over two years where he mostly worked making golf clubs, picking up balls off the driving range and other menial task. In just over 30 years he has built an immense multi-layered business that has offices in many countries. His many companies range from a golf course designing business, restaurants, turf/grass farming business, yacht business, community development business and clothing attire. This all came about without any formal education after high-school, instead he learned as he went along.

Define what it is that you want out of life (vision), then define how you are going to go about getting it (strategy), then start working to achieve (execution). This is what it will take to achieve your ultimate goal/purpose in life and along the way achieve many others.

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Please do not misquote me through an incomplete sentence fragment taken out of context followed by an accusation of "insulting" you and a presumptuous "reminder", and then further misrepresent and ignore what I said. My extensive statements defending attending college for a profession and rejecting the notion that in contrast, attending a liberal arts university, especially today, is somehow a superior means to "build character", are here and here.

Please excuse me if a misrepresentation occurred, for none was intended. I quoted an excerpt that I deemed was self-sufficient, so if you feel I misquoted you, please provide the left out part of the quote that would have made my rebuttal incorrect or irrelevant. As far as I can determine, you are against the notion that there is something to acquire in college above and beyond concrete technical skills. If that is your position, then my quotation was not a mis-quotation.

Additionally, my response was to the assertion that the notion of building character in college was, without qualification, a floating abstraction. That is indeed what you not only stated then but repeated now: attending a liberal arts university, especially today, is not a means to build character. To claim otherwise would be a floating abstraction. If any of these things that I said are misrepresentations, please correct me.

I also hope you also clarify exactly why it would be in all cases a floating abstraction to make the claim. I've provided some of the reasons for my view that it's not, and I hope you'll provide reasons for believing that it is.

Finally, please note that I did not specify "liberal arts university" anywhere in my posts.

Ray,

I do not think there is any intrinsic value in a college degree. I also think it is up to each person according to their own values and purpose in life to choose whether a college degree of any level (associate, bachelor, masters or a doctorate), will aid them in reaching their own goals.
I definitely agree with you, college is not for everyone, and it's not an intrinsic value (nor could anything be). We're speaking quantitatively here, not qualitatively: for many people, college is an objective value. Not everyone is a self-made person, who can figure out everything and will have the innate discipline and motivation and time and resources to reinvent the wheel and figure out life for their own. A few will do that, and it actually is very admirable for them to do that. But others can, and have, derive an important value from a college education, not only professionally but personally. You can match up very famous people who've made it without college versus those who made it with one. But we shouldn't overlook millions of more regular people who are enjoying high paying jobs, a proper outlook on life, and other such more mundane virtues than fame and fortune, due to the education in life that they've received in college.

Maybe fewer colleges are that value now, with all the dilutions, than when they were originally instituted, but much of the old still remains in many places around the country, and people should take advantage of that.

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(bold mine) Majority of researchers? This is simply not true.

I think I meant the majority of famous, noteworthy researchers and intellectuals who had, by todays standards, no better than an eighth grade education formally.

Tom, it is a shame that you had such a bad experience learning mathematics in the college you went to, especially since that experience was so unneccesary. The experience you describe is the opposite of mine and of many people I have known and worked with. The emphasis on understanding basic ideas and how to reason with them to solve problems was always emphasized over "memorization", which by itself is impossible as a means to get very far in the subject.

You didn't say what kind of school you went to, but you should not generalize from your unfortunate experience to "not respect any academic institution" and a "university education is a scam in many ways and I do not believe anybody should do it if they intend to learn anything."

There are many bad aspects of contemporary education in the universities, which no doubt have also influenced your views as they were mixed in with the unnecessary aspects you experienced personally, but I agree with Sophia regarding the efficiency of "structured learning under the guidance of experts" in first mastering an advanced subject, especially in the sciences, even in today's universities.

What topics in mathematical sciences did you cover in college and afterwards?

I went to a private liberal arts college and a state school. I draw my generalization on the testaments of others in mathematics and computer science and physics as well as my own.

I went on to study more advanced geometry and some subjects in abstract algebra I never covered before. I personally do not require a structured learning regimen to learn a subject--and perhaps this contributes to my lack of respect for academics. Although I would respect a properly structured and guided method of learning, but I may not personally require it. I just think that universities in our time, regardless of subject, does not have such a properly structured method of teaching.

I found the same approach that you did in courses outside the sciences, but in physics, chemistry, engineering and mathematics my courses were very much interrelated and interdependent right through the graduate level.

I agree with you that "pure" math courses are often taught as almost arbitrary "formal" systems, lacking a conceptual understanding. If you have you a decent teacher and a good book you can obtain important insights, but it takes a lot of thinking. Some people have a "knack" for a puzzle solving approach in the realm of the arbitrary and don't care about the rest, but for those who want to properly understand, the overly "formal" approach can often be destructive to understanding and motivation. I have criticized that approach here before so I agree with you on that. Part of the problem is that the approach to mathematics as a floating abstraction is so prevalent that it is repeated in text books along with the way it is often taught, making it more difficult and time-consuming to figure it out.

My own better experience was due partly to the fact that I did not concentrate solely on "pure" mathematics, but rather combined it with physical sciences and applied mathematics, which kept it tied to reality and what it is for; the more "pure" mathematics courses, on the other hand, showed why the methods being used elsewhere are valid.

I have witnessed the belief that physical sciences are automatically taught better than human sciences because it is so reliance on reason. But the rational power of even the physical sciences are jaded by modern university education--I have crossed paths with professors of every science who manage to force memorization and a type of deterministic, disconnected quality to the subject they teach. Physics, I think, is the hardest for a professor to mess up--but it still happens, and quite often.

And that is something you would have had to do with or without a full degree program, however taught. Such thinking is the nature of science. It is required of everyone to "become better after college" and you will still be doing it decades from now. In mathematics in particular there is an old saying that you don't really learn a course until the one after it.

Such thinking is the nature of all knowledge. The difference is that university professors often fail to dispense this important epistemic processing. Only one mathematics professor I had said to think of mathematics in "concepts"--to thinking of the theoretical ideas behind the rules. And only after school does one have the time or ability to do integration on the most basic of concepts--so that he may claim to actually know mathematics, despite the bachelor of science degree he will get in the mail.

Many people I know will go on to forget what they've memorized and drop any need of fully integrating what they could have learned--this is the state I find many college students finishing school with.

You may have done some interesting things working for the city using some specific mathematical techniques, but city "mosquito control" is not exactly a scientific profession at the level we are talking about, and if you had wanted to continue on a higher level you would have been very frustrated at that level of formal education; at the very least it would have been much more difficult and time consuming to find your way into a really good position building on only a partial education.

It was one of other examples I had presented--but you cannot take those as the only possibilities I raise. There are much higher-level positions in scientific jobs where a degree can be bypassed--infectious diseases, nuclear plants. Those are the "regular" types of jobs I described. As for the even more advanced jobs: It is still possible if one has to knowledge and ability.

Specific knowledge and experience can get exceptional individuals into specialized technical jobs to an extent, but it is not true that you can learn engineering on alternate weeks for a year and a half and it is not true that the majority of important researchers and intellectuals have no formal training whatsoever. Many such people are working in specialties that were not their specialties in college or graduate school, but one of the important things you learn at that level is how to use your general knowledge and the skills you develop to learn new things in new areas.

And if a person, who had learned to memorize and not integrated a fragmentary presentation of knowledge, later worked in a field not of his specialty of memorization and were successful--I would say he would be the same as someone who never went to college, got the same job, and were still successful.

And if this person worked to integrate knowledge he had only previously memorized in 4 years at a university, he would be more like me--a college drop-out who is working to integrate knowledge he had learned over that past 3 years, and would likely be no more successful than I would be in the same position.

As for engineering, I can be an engineer with 2 years at a tech college with weekend courses (I looked into it once.) I just need the certificate to do the work--the knowledge will have to come later.

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she should decide that based on her career goals in life, not floating ab,stractions about building character

Excuse me, but this is slightly insulting. I'll remind that this is still Stephen Month. What I'll say is that reasonable people may disagree on what constitutes building character, but the notion of building character isn't automatically a floating abstraction, and should not be effortlessly dismissed as such...

Please do not misquote me through an incomplete sentence fragment taken out of context followed by an accusation of "insulting" you and a presumptuous "reminder", and then further misrepresent and ignore what I said. My extensive statements defending attending college for a profession and rejecting the notion that in contrast, attending a liberal arts university, especially today, is somehow a superior means to "build character", are here and here.

Please excuse me if a misrepresentation occurred, for none was intended. I quoted an excerpt that I deemed was self-sufficient, so if you feel I misquoted you, please provide the left out part of the quote that would have made my rebuttal incorrect or irrelevant.

The left out part is the rest of my sentence that you edited. You took a single partial sentence fragment out of context to falsely insinuate that I said "building character" "is automatically a floating abstraction". I rejected the notion that one should attend a liberal arts university as a means to build character.

One builds his character before, during and after college or without it in whatever life path he chooses. Knowledge gained in a "humanities" curriculum, if one chooses that as his educational focus, may or may not enhance his broader process of character building; in today's education it is more likely to be a detriment. For those who are sufficiently motivated to think their way through it and around it with the proper values the most you can say about such an education today supposedly building character is that it (metaphorically) "builds character by overcoming adversity" in the sense of the contemporary saying, "that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger". In terms of character and understanding the world, as RayK and others have described, on its own terms it practically does "kill" you. As I stated earlier, the approach advertised by Founders College is much better, but it still doesn't follow that the purpose of a college education is to "build character" instead of obtaining knowledge and learning how to think.

As far as I can determine, you are against the notion that there is something to acquire in college above and beyond concrete technical skills. If that is your position, then my quotation was not a mis-quotation.

That is not what I said. A college education in the sciences and engineering (which for over a century has also included a humanities curriculum, such as it is, in addition to principles of natural science and mathematics) cannot be characterized as "concrete technical skills". (As a mathematics concentrator, I only had one required machine shop course :) )

Additionally, my response was to the assertion that the notion of building character in college was, without qualification, a floating abstraction. That is indeed what you not only stated then but repeated now: attending a liberal arts university, especially today, is not a means to build character. To claim otherwise would be a floating abstraction. If any of these things that I said are misrepresentations, please correct me.

I also hope you also clarify exactly why it would be in all cases a floating abstraction to make the claim. I've provided some of the reasons for my view that it's not, and I hope you'll provide reasons for believing that it is.

Please stop rewriting my views in your own words. If you want to address something, please quote it in full directly and in context.

Finally, please note that I did not specify "liberal arts university" anywhere in my posts.

You referred to "a mere technical school" versus "a univeristy and the notion of humanities" and extolled "humanities education ("humanitas', the study of man), in a university". That is what a university liberal arts major is. You appear to be unfamiliar with the nature of a professionally oriented college education, which I have characterized several times for engineering and science colleges in particular and which has been the context. I think that if you understood what such a college education is then you would not be dismissing it as a "mere technical school" and as nothing "beyond concrete technical skills".

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Examples of successful people who did not go to college can be inspiring, but except for some in business especially, they are mostly anachronistic isolated or peculiar examples not involving modern professional careers. Not everyone, for a variety of reasons, will benefit from going to college, but no one reading this thread on quitting college should be led to believe that a college education is not valuable or required for advanced professional careers such as scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and academics in philosophy, etc. in today's world.

Even in professional fields a modern university education leaves a lot to be desired -- and that even pertains to the 'hard sciences' like physics -- but anyone with the required intelligence who loves his field and seeks a professional career in it will benefit enormously from a college and graduate level education. He will learn what he needs to know if he brings to it enough motivation, persistence and thinking, especially if he carefully chooses the best school to attend.

When Ellie started this thread I don't think she meant to disparage that. Several of us have benefitted enormously from our education (including Stephen) and others are now in or about to start their college careers, proud of their accomplishment. Some also find college unnecessary and are succeeding in a chosen career without it, especially in independent business, but despite our often harsh criticism of modern education, no one should think that the Forum has become a haven against formal education.

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You took a single partial sentence fragment out of context to falsely insinuate that I said "building character" "is automatically a floating abstraction". I rejected the notion that one should attend a liberal arts university as a means to build character.

One builds his character before, during and after college or without it in whatever life path he chooses. Knowledge gained in a "humanities" curriculum, if one chooses that as his educational focus, may or may not enhance his broader process of character building; in today's education it is more likely to be a detriment. ...

I agree with ewv that his views have been misrepresented. As moderator, let's be more careful when speaking about others' views. Quote things in context, and avoid sloppy reformulations. Lastly, there should be no more claiming that ewv regards "building character" as such to be a floating abstraction, or that a liberal arts education always has nothing to do with building character. He has made it especially clear that these are not his views.

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I fully agree with ewv's post number 72.

The main item that drives someone should not be stay in school or drop out of school. I think the primary question that should be asked is, what is it that one wants to obtain with their life and will the degree enhance one getting there.

Let me use a different example to give further clarity. My son who is 15 years of age wants to become an amusement park/roller coaster creator/owner (at least right now he does). After some research on our parts I have told him what I think he is going to need to study if he is going to work his way up to his goal. First he is going to need a large background and understanding in many engineering fields, such as chemical, structural, mechanical and more. He is also going to need a background in anatomy so that he will know the limits of the human body and not cause the riders to pass-out while riding. If he really wants to become the owner of a company he should also have a basic understanding of business. The two of us are going to do further research into what is the best school/university to fulfill his goals and requirements.

For my son or anyone else, a college degree in the field that he wants to get into would probably be locked off without a degree. Even if one had taught themselves the required fields and had a further understanding than most of the people in the field, they are not going to get in, in most situations. Why make life that hard on oneself when one does not have to . Get the degree as the door opener and learn the basics to get one started in the field they desire.

Why do I not have a degree? I have mentioned many times that I was in college, ran out of money and joined the Marine Corps. After my second enlistment in the Marine Corps I had decided to stay in the military and become a life long warrior. Breaking my neck in 1990 and its ramifications over the next 8 years caused me to rethink staying in the military as a profession. When I decided to get out of the Marine Corps almost 9 years ago I was almost 30 with a wife and three children.

I actually thought about going back to school but decided against it for many reasons. The primary reason being I could not afford it while raising three children. I also had another alternative. I had spent a large amount of my time since around 12-14 years of age experimenting with exercise and diet. Even at 29-30 years of age I had already spent 15-17 years reading hundreds of research articles on the subject of exercise and many related fields. I had also trained hundreds of people while in the Marine Corps and recorded my own findings. I had come to the conclusion that I disagreed with much of what was taught in the field of exercise. It was at this point that I decided to open my own exercise company and put forth my own ideas.

In the 9 years since I have gotten out of the military I have had huge struggles. One such struggle was trying to raise the funding and even with a "good business plan" I could not get a loan. I have had to convince people that their understanding of exercise was incorrect and logically convince them that mine was right, while still making money. Try and change a persons understanding of exercise while keeping your head above water. My understanding of business was rudimentary at best, so I had a huge learning curve. I have read at least a book a week since getting out of the Marine Corps, and sometimes up to 3 books a week for long periods of time.

What I am trying to get at here is that I knew where I wanted to go, I knew that my strategy was not going to have a college degree in it, and I started my execution as soon as I finished my plan. My situation is definetly different than what most people will have to deal with. So I would recommend not making it that difficult on yourself, the easier way is not always the immoral way. A person's choice to go to school or not must be made according to their values and their specific situation and this is where the Philosophy of Ayn Rand/Objectivism can help guide you.

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