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Is A "Well-Rounded" Education a Good One?

Cliff posted about 13 years ago | from the stuff-to-talk-about dept.

Education 741

hendridm asks: "Universities seem to push being well-rounded, or knowing a little bit about everything but nothing about anything in particular. They attempt to teach courses that could help you succeed in your lifelong career, whatever it might be. It seems to me that it would be better to teach skills that would help us in the first 10 years of employment. As a senior Information Systems major in a state university in the Midwest, I can think of countless examples that support this idea." Of course, a well-rounded education can be a good one, it just depends on your definition of 'rounded'. It doesn't exactly do students a favor by exposing them to the forrest until they have a good grasp of the concept of the "tree", which is hedridm's main point. Do any of you know of curriculums that are good examples of a true well-rounded education?

"In my Finance course, I learn how to balance a corporate stock portfolio, but I have no clue how to start a business or pay my employees.

In my System Analysis & Design course, I spend 3 hours constructing data-flow diagrams, entity-relationship diagrams, and Ghantt charts for programs that take around an hour to code!

In my Management course, my professor discusses techniques for being an effective CEO, but I don't even know how to manage a few subordinates, much less an entire company.

In my MIS course, we learn about client-server technology, but when I ask if my peers have tested their web pages on Macintosh, they reply, "Why would I have to do that?" Most of them don't even think of Linux as an operating system, but more as a hacker's toy. Forget about asking them to make it Mozilla or Lynx compatible. They don't want to waste their time. But the University will make sure it is ADA compliant, since any institution that receives federal funding must require this...

Don't most "big picture" lessons come with experience, through person's journey from entry-level employee to a skilled IT/business professional? Wouldn't it make more sense to teach things that will help students early in their careers, like technical skills and other trade/foundation skills that are often required of entry-level, non-management employees? Does the average entry-level IT person need to make the sort of decisions a CEO or CIO needs to make? Do companies really want me to spend more time diagramming a program than I need to program it in the first place? (What about just documenting the code?) Knowing the big picture is good, but how do you get to that level if you don't have any skills?

My question for Slashdot readers is: Is this really what companies want of today's graduates?"

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I know (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370825)

Natalie Portman is a well-rounded curriculum.

Re:I know (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370837)

You've got to be kidding me. A beam of light is curvier than that stick figure. I like thin chicks, but at least give me someone who doesn't look like a concentration camp survivor.

if you don't want curves, fuck a boy (-1)

Sexual Asspussy (453406) | about 13 years ago | (#2370866)

there are two kinds of men: those who appreciate the softness and beauty of women, and those who would rather be boning a hairy, 20-year-old Cuban rower. thankfully, the second group can have each other, and we in the first group get a crack at lots more great ass.

by the way (-1)

Sexual Asspussy (453406) | about 13 years ago | (#2370885)

are you aware that light has a frequency at which it resonates (or "curves", you might say)? goddamn fucking bonehead, you're probably a cockplunger like the rest of the NP faggots.

Re:by the way (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370895)

I knew someone would bite. Thanks for not making me wait, big guy.

you can't troll a troll (-1)

Sexual Asspussy (453406) | about 13 years ago | (#2370906)

when i'm making an ass of myself, you really can't make an ass of me. eat a pile of dicks, dick-vise.

Re:you can't troll a troll (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370961)

Hey, no arguments from me. You do a better job of making yourself look like a tool than I ever could. Kudos to you! Kudos again.

Re:I know (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370907)

Natalie Portman likes a big black cock in her well-rounded curriculum

Re:I know (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370919)

She's a bagel-chomping hooknose. If you really want to look at a beautiful woman, try here [] .

Re:I know (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370965)

Anna K. is borcht-belching Russotrash. You can find better-looking girls selling their asses on any Kiev streetcorner. Now here [] is a fine figure of a woman.

i win (-1, Troll)

Jebus_the_spork (449174) | about 13 years ago | (#2370829)

i would have won had it not been that stupid 20 seconds rule bullshit that has been forced upon the slashdot community. how is one to troll or flame with such barriers?

Teach Thinking! (5, Informative)

smnolde (209197) | about 13 years ago | (#2370838)

Schools should teach you to think for yourself. Learning any trade for a career is good, but there is always the need for additional training as the years wane by.

For example, in my chemical engineering school, we were taught to be correct to twenty percent eighty percent of the time.

Once more thing:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein

Re:Teach Thinking! (5, Insightful)

djmcmath (99313) | about 13 years ago | (#2370930)

Teaching thinking really begins long before college. If you haven't figured it out by the time you hit college, you probably never will. Learning how to think starts extremely young, and is taught (or should be taught, rather) by your parents. It is primarily their role to make you well-rounded in your foundational years.

For example -- the graduates from my college tend to be well-rounded thinkers not so much because the school trains them that way, but rather because it weeds out those who do not have the ability. (1100 inductees, 837 graduates, woohoo!) The graduates from Podunk U of South Carolina were probably hicks who were never good at thinking to begin with, so even if you sent them to Harvard or Oxford, they wouldn't somehow magically be transformed into critical thinkers with good leadership ability and an inate charisma.

Ad: One slightly used soapbox for sale, $.02, or highest bidder...

Re:Teach Thinking! (1)

Kanon (152815) | about 13 years ago | (#2370953)

Try telling that to the IT students we teach at my university. Of course if the academic staff refuse to think for themselves how on earth can they expect the students to?

How is it that someone can teach C++ programming but is incapable of using a graphical ftp client?

well-rounded is not affordable anymore (0, Troll)

perdida (251676) | about 13 years ago | (#2370840)

for our culture.

Consider the fact that most liberal arts grads have to get additional schooling in order to get a professional level job.

Everybody else in liberal arts is trying to pay off their hefty debt with shit jobs.

Liberal arts was designed for an independent thinker and learner; it was a training for a common culture, for a workplace where understanding the classics was important in order to gain entry into more rarefied levels of society.

Today, nobody would invest such a huge amount of money into literature or learning for its own sake. That's why liberal arts programs are suffering all over the country. It's not worth it!
College is a place where students learn to conform to the expectations of others and, most importantly, get saddled with debt.

Unattached young people are threatening to nearly every society. So, our society's solution is to force them to get college degrees in order to get a decent job, saddling them with debt to keep them engaged in the main stream of capitalist society.

The most dangerous students, the ones who went to school for learning instead of career training, tend to come out with a liberal arts degree. They are doubly crippled - they have the same debt every CS major leaves school with, but without the earning power.

This is fucked up. We need to pay for everyone's education like European countries do, in order to reclaim education's power.

Who cares about Liberal Arts!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370952)

Of course not, Liberal Arts isnt a career.

IF you go to college for that then yuo deserve not to get a job when you get out.

Re:well-rounded is not affordable anymore (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370960)

You mean that you want to raise taxes on hard working people so you can get a free ride through college, have more money to smoke out, and then get a guaranteed well paying job.

Socialism is a failure. You're young but you'll figure this out when you're the one paying taxes on your hard work and enjoying the small amount of free time you get on the weekends to read the childish rants on slashdot about how you should be giving a free ride to someone else's kid. Community college is dirt cheap. I say get yourself a fast food job and sign up. More power to you! University is for the bigs kids.

Wow! I feel a whole lot better now. Thanks!

Re:well-rounded is not affordable anymore (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370978)

Actually I am friends with several Liberal Arts grads and (at least the ones I know) don't have shit jobs, nor did they have to recieve specialized training. Most of them are technical writers that review documentation written by "specialists" that have a great deal of trouble communicating with anyone that is a non-specialist.
The Liberal Arts grads I've known do have the benefit of some sort of a computer background but from my experience I haven't seen any truth to the old joke "Q:Whats the most important thing a Liberal Arts major learns to say?" "A:Would you like fries with that?"
In the classes I've taken in school it seems more that professors and educators have no real idea what to teach for Technical degrees since the majority of what is taught will be obsolete before the class is even designed and written let alone actually taught to anyone.

As far saying our schools are vocational institutions as opposed to places of actual learning and thinking yeah thats nothing new. Thats what the majority of the people in these schools is herded toward ever since their first meeting with their HS guidance counsellor. The same dude that tells them "your good with math...*checks printed chart outlining the projected workforce requirements* want to be an 'engineer'."
An American that could think for himself won't provide the rest of the nation with what they want. The nation wants people to mindlessly plunk down code for someone else, or provide the problem solving brain power to solve company "x's" problem on product "y."
If you aren't good at math and the sciences don't bother moving them toward a Liberal Arts degree since only certain people are permitted to think. As far as these other non math/science people they want to be a automotive mechanic, or a road worker and be left to feel as though they are somehow less usefull or less adequate than the others.
This sort of business is good for the people at the top, and to be honest as long as everyone "down here" envies the people "up there" then this system will stay in effect and we all loose.

10 years is a long time. (3, Insightful)

Savatte (111615) | about 13 years ago | (#2370841)

It seems to me that it would be better to teach skills that would help us in the first 10 years of employment.
Do you have any idea what you are going to do for your first 10 years after school? That's quite a long time. Knowing a variety of different subjects is pretty useful if your original career plan doesn't work out.

Re:10 years is a long time. (2, Funny)

J'raxis (248192) | about 13 years ago | (#2370875)

Yeah, paying off all those student loans most likely.

M3 speek enkliszh (-1, Flamebait)

Wrexs0ul (515885) | about 13 years ago | (#2370842)

The only significant change I'd make to any well-rounded education is removing that nasty full-year English course all freshmen take...

Though I'm sure death literature and the prof explaining how Shakespeare was gay gives me a great understanding in the field of computers I think I'd rather work through my sonnets in assembly.

Fun times!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370844)

A case of beer

Some acid

Three gerbils

Duct tape

Two young goats

A twelve-year old virgin

Nipple clamps

Four enema bags

Styrofoam penuts

A lot of lube

And a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush

Oooh boy am I gonna have fun tonight!!

A course that I wish had been available (4, Interesting)

dsplat (73054) | about 13 years ago | (#2370845)

There are a number of skills I wish that I had acquired before I went out into the wider world. I would have liked a course on getting a job. It could have included:

  • Resume writing
  • Researching companies as potential employers
  • Interviewing skills
  • Networking

Universities could do a lot to help new graduates entering the workforce. Since jobs today are far from employment for life, those skills would prove useful a number of times.

Re:A course that I wish had been available (3, Informative)

ekrout (139379) | about 13 years ago | (#2370873)

My school [] has a well-respected career development center that is very connected to the corporate world and alums. Perhaps your school had a career center also, but didn't advertise very well. Just a thought...

What stops you from aquiring skills on your own? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370962)

You dont need to learn that stuff in university, Go read a few books geez!!

University is not for skill building, its for getting PROOF.

I know about computers, i know as much as a guy with a degree, I dont have a degree, how do i know so much? Because I taught myself.

But i still need a degree to PROVE i know what i know.

Re:A course that I wish had been available (1)

krujos (512753) | about 13 years ago | (#2370977)

At my libral arts college they have a class in that that we are all required to take in order to graduate.. they make us go through a whole interviewing mockup before we get to leave the place... saddled with debt..

University isn't worth all that much nowadays (0, Flamebait)

Quasar1999 (520073) | about 13 years ago | (#2370846)

Bah... everything I know I taught myself... I have no university education, and yet am a successful software developer... No university material I have ever seen comes close to cover the topics that I learned myself...(but to their credit, my physics skills are lacking... though I've yet to use 'physics knowledge' at my job, EVER!)

University now a days seems to be an extension of public schools... 'You don't know what you wanna be when you grow up, so here's a little from column A,B,C,etc.'... For crying out loud, your in your early 20's... Figure out what you wanna do and focus on just that one topic... I had to deal with way too many University graduates that can't code worth sh*t, but they have a degree... How bloody nice... Why didn't they teach you to code???

Re:University isn't worth all that much nowadays (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370877)

If you've employed university graduates to do coding, you've given them a wrong job to do. At least at my university the CS classes are more about designing code and managing projects. If you want to code you can do it on your own time.

Re:University isn't worth all that much nowadays (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370890)

Yeah, and guys like you are a dime a dozen.

There's nothing more irritating than some self-righteous hot-shot programmer type touting himself as God's gift to software development -- especially when he/she has no grounding in any formal theory or concepts that are usually better taught in a good University setting.

Score 5, Informative (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370851)

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Things That Happen in Made By Fist
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Things That Happen in Deep Fist
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Things That Happen in Family Castle
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Public Vs. Private (3, Insightful)

ekrout (139379) | about 13 years ago | (#2370852)

First off, the differences between a public and a private university cannot be tossed aside. When you're not just a number, but a well-embraced member of an intimate community of learning, the experience can be amazingly more valueable.

Re:Public Vs. Private (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370936)

Too bad we can't all afford private education.

A directed education (5, Informative)

Coryoth (254751) | about 13 years ago | (#2370853)

I'm from New Zealand, and in combinationn with education directions there, along with with my acceptance into honours programs at University I completed a Masters degree in Mathematics only taking 5 (small/short) courses that were not mathematics. All the other courses I took were physics courses (as I was contemplating doing physics honours at the time.

In some ways this benefitted me greatly - it enabled me to complete a Masters' degree by the time I was 21, and thoroughally cover a wide variety of subjects within mathematics. In other ways I feel that I really did miss out.
I enrolled for courses in German literature, Poetry, and philosophy, but simply had to drop them very early due to course overload (I was doing 1.6 times a full load at the time). I would have loved to have had an opportunity to properly pusue those subjects. As it is I have simply done my best to do some self directed learning - but it would have been nice to have more direction etc. in the matter.

Fortunately I had friends who did take a wide variety of courses (and I'm widely read anyway) so that helped provide some direction for my extra studies.

So, having taken an extremely directed course of study, and having studied a diverse range of subjects outside of that field, here's my advice:

Ideally a directed course of study is best, but people should be encouraged to take a few courses that are well outside their fundamental area. I don't believe in mandating what those courses are. They should be alternate areas of interest for the student. For me it was poetry and literature. For others it may be film, biology, maths, or history. It is worth doing a little bit of something else though, and it should be encouraged.



It may seem short sided now, but wait (5, Insightful)

gouldtj (21635) | about 13 years ago | (#2370855)

I think that too many people look to not have a well rounded education. I remember people in my CS classes, where all they wanted to do is learn how to code. The idea of learning how the compiler works they considered a waste of time. Who cares? And the hardware? They really didn't care about that. I recently had a CS from Standford tell me that the I couldn't get the 4th bit from an integer because the computer stores that in decimal.

Some of your examples are valid, but many are not. I think that you have to realize that it is total imposible to build a Gantt chart for an entire project in a semester. Just like it would be imposible to build a entire peice of useful software. There are always corners that are cut. You need to yourself, abstract what is being taught into the general principles. Those don't change with time, your first 10 years or anything else.

I think people look at college as learning the details, it is not about the details, they are unimportant. The idea is that you need to learn the principles.

A well rounded education is good because... (5, Interesting)

pgpckt (312866) | about 13 years ago | (#2370856)

At my college Clemson University [] , this is an ongoing debate. The University is considering making the general education requirements more flexable so you can take courses more in line with your major. This is probably going to occur, but I oppose it.

I believe in the General Education requirements. Why? Because everyone that graduates from a University should have some basic skills that can help them regardless of their profession of choice. People wanting to go into non-computer related professions should still have a vauge idea of how to use a computer. People going into computer related fields should be able to appreciate literature. Everyone in every type of profession should be able to preform some of the same basic skills.

Not only does this allow any college graduate to be able to converse intelegently about any subject, but it allows people the ability to change jobs in the future without going back to school. Because prospective employers know that any college graduate has basic skills, there is potential for starting level jobs in fields unrelated to one's degree. Without general education requirements, none of this is possible.

We all should, upon graduating from college, know the basic facts about everything. Once we know the basics, we have the foundation to learn whatever our heart desires in the future. Without general education requirements, people graduating in a given field will know more about that field from the start, but the cost is the lack of the basic knowledge of other fields, which provides for a very narrow minded person.

Post is misleading (1)

bteeter (25807) | about 13 years ago | (#2370857)

I graduated from a Liberal Arts college. My degree is a Bachelors of Arts in Computer Science.

While I recieved a lot of education in areas outside of Computer Science, I spent more than half of my time studying CS and Math. I wouldn't say I know a little about everything and nothing about anything specific. Quite the opposite in fact. I know as much or more about CS than folks from more focused backgrounds.

I do believe there is a value in learning outside of your particular vocation. For instance, I know work for a large financial firm. I think that the fact that I took some accounting and economics in college helps me understand and be more effective in my current career. Not only can I develop software for them, but I can actually understand what they are talking about. CS is more than just coding, you have to be able to communicate, and you have to be able to understand the subject matter of your work. I think by experiencing a wider range of courses in college, it helps you gain undertanding of various subject matter quicker than if you hadn't had that exposure.

My 2 cents of course, and YMMV, but I am quite pleased with how well my education prepared me for a successful career.

Take care,

100% Linux Based Web Hosting, No Windows, No Code Red Worms, No Nimda worms... []

Teaching how not what (5, Insightful) (184378) | about 13 years ago | (#2370858)

Isn't the whole idea of education to teach you how to learn, and not what to know?

Granted, you will remember a good portion of the material presented when I'm being taught how to learn. But that's not really that important.

A well rounded education is going to be better anyways. People have terrible writing skills, and at least if they have to take more classes they should improve them (in theory -- but how you can get to college and not know algebra or basic writing skills is a failure of elementary/high school education).

imo... (0)

wanton (310689) | about 13 years ago | (#2370859)

Well-rounded education is a good direction... As long as it doesn't take away from the time that people need to specialize on the things they enjoy doing, or are good at doing (eg programming, engineering, football, etc). I also believe that companies do appreciate someone that knows a little about everything - more importantly though, someone who will say they don't know something but will know exactly how to find it out. A well-rounded education would allow this. What IS bad, is not alloying someone to specialize. If we didn't have intelligent individuals who specialized on certain thinks, I really don't think we would be posting comments on slashdot from a keyboard on the other side of the world.

No. (4, Interesting)

sheetsda (230887) | about 13 years ago | (#2370860)

As a university student majoring in Computer Science, I have been made to take classes such as Greek Mythology and American History. I'm not paying my tuition every semester so that they can waste my time (and money!) teaching me things that I'll never use in my career and that I either could've learned in high school or on my own if the need arises. I'm paying them, if I want to learn about history, I'll tell them so. It shouldn't be the other way around.

Re:No. (3, Insightful)

NonSequor (230139) | about 13 years ago | (#2370887)

They make you take things not related to your major because that makes you a better person. There is nothing more pathetic than a person who only understands one subject. Look at everyone on Slashdot. If you just want to learn enough to get a job then maybe you should consider a two year technical school like DeVry.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370893)

Sounds like you would've been happier going to a trade school rather than a university.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370904)

Actually, that curriculum probably existed before you enrolled in the computer science program. Therefore, by enrolling in computer science you are telling them you want to learn about history. Perhaps you should have researched the program before you matriculated.

Re:No. (2, Insightful)

Heem (448667) | about 13 years ago | (#2370913)

If you just want to learn what to do in an IT position - go out and get certifications and don't waste your (or your parents) money on college. It's Greek Mythology and American history that sets those with a degree aside from those who just go out and get certs.

Re:No. (1)

ComediAnne (520556) | about 13 years ago | (#2370923)

No one is making you attend this university. If the curriculum there is so whacked, drop out (and save your parents a bundle) or go to technical school. Greek mythology and American history are valuable subjects if you want to do more with your brain than hold down a job.

I prefer the freedom to choose (3, Informative)

Gogl (125883) | about 13 years ago | (#2370861)

The school I'm going to (University of Rochester [] ) is very light on specific required courses. You have to take one writing course freshman year, under the logic that no matter what you do with your life you should be able to write. Besides, that, you have your major and minor (or double major or double minor), and then you must satisfy a "cluster" (which is sort of like a mini-minor) in the area(s) that your major/minor are not in. If you major in something that is a liberal art, you must have a more technical cluster. You still get to choose which one though. It allows you to diversify and such, but not have your entire schedule dictated to you (unless you're one of those silly premeds).

Education vs. training (2, Insightful)

gjohnson (1557) | about 13 years ago | (#2370862)

There is a difference between education and training. A liberal arts school is supposed to provide a well rounded education -- to provide you with the tools you need to learn and be self-sufficient. Training should teach you how to do one thing well.

You mean, a liberal arts education? (1)

budcub (92165) | about 13 years ago | (#2370863)

I went to a liberal arts college and fell for the sales pitch hook, line, and sinker. I truly believed that I was becoming a well rounded person, and that would be an asset to employers. We were taught to believe that we were a graduating class of Leonardo DaVinci's. So I was told, so I believed, until I graduated.

Finding a job was next to impossible, and for many years, I was only able to support myself by the typing class I had taken in high school. Only by going back to school (community college) and taking some tech courses at night, could I finally break into the IT business.

A well rounded education will help you at Jeopardy, and in cocktail party conversations, but when you get out of school, employers don't care what you know, they care about what you can do.

Well Rounded Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370865)

"curriculi", not "cirriculums"

Re:Well Rounded Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370888)

dude, taco can't even correctly spell than vs. then -- how do you expect him to spell something bigger than three syllables?

Re:Well Rounded Education (1)

alkali (28338) | about 13 years ago | (#2370971)

Actually, it's "curricula" (cf. "bacterium," "bacteria").

And what's up with misspelling "forest" with two Rs?

Take responsibility for your own education (1)

flockofseagulls (48580) | about 13 years ago | (#2370867)

Schools can only offer resources you can learn from; they can't teach you anything unless you actively participate. Schools have to accommodate lots of students per class, so you can't expect a personalized curriculum.

If you have the luxury of four to six years with someone else (parents, government, whatever) supporting you, AND you can spend that time at a place that has easy access to teachers, other students, libraries, labs, computers, and everything else a college has to offer, take full advantage of it. Don't expect the school to magically bestow knowledge and skills on you.

You'll find that learning to read, write, and speak as fluently as possible will take you a long way whatever you do after school.

For a view of education and learning that you probably aren't familiar with, read John Holt's two books, "How Children Fail" and "How Children Learn." You don't have to be a parent or child to get a lot from those books.

For a reason (1)

UnCrFe (137716) | about 13 years ago | (#2370868)

The reason they're teaching you to diagram is because you'll be working with tons of other people, and getting paid for it.
They wanna know what you're doing, and they want you to do it right the first time (see also: designing before coding).

Browser support (1)

sting3r (519844) | about 13 years ago | (#2370869)

In my MIS course, we learn about client-server technology, but when I ask if my peers have tested their web pages on Macintosh, they reply, "Why would I have to do that?" Most of them don't even think of Linux as an operating system, but more as a hacker's toy. Forget about asking them to make it Mozilla or Lynx compatible. They don't want to waste their time. But the University will make sure it is ADA compliant, since any institution that receives federal funding must require this...

Unfortunately, this is just a reflection of the realities of the marketplace. What will happen if a site that requires ADA compliance is not compliant? The owner will probably get fined by the government. What happens if the site isn't Lynx or Netscape on Linux compatible? They risk alienating a couple of die-hard Linux users - BUT, most of us are used to just cursing out the site and booting into Windows, if we really need to access it. Why? Because a lot of sites are like that and it's not something that can easily be changed.

Supporting Linux users just doesn't make a positive impact on the bottom line for the average business.


Regarding courses and reasoning (1)

Alkivar (25833) | about 13 years ago | (#2370878)

Notice this author seems to be complaining more about the lesson plans not the classes with very specific reasons. So let me break down where I see his mistakes.

Finance is not designed to teach you how to run a business and pay your subordinates, for that you need Accounting and a Business Management class not a finance class.

Systems Analysis is designed to teach you how to approach a problem in an orderly fashion. Whether this takes you 3 hours or 3 minutes doesnt matter. The skills taught in this class will enable you to design the requirements for your program when you have nothing to begin with. It is not only in a school where your programming time will be less than your planning time. A good real world project may take 2 or 3 days of needs assesment and organizing it down to a basic requirements list from which you can code.

As far as the MIS class goes, it just sounds as if your teacher is suffering from a case of a lousy lesson plan. Does your teacher actually have any real world experience regarding the subject he's teaching? Or is this yet another entirely book learned teacher?

Basically what your going thru now is learning how to deal with mismanagement something you will need to get used to in the real world. If you cant learn to deal with lusers and phb types change career fields now.

Re:Regarding courses and reasoning (1)

cyphgenic (455493) | about 13 years ago | (#2370949)

I agreed with your break-down of the author of the question. It's really important to get some sort of career or life counseling, and engage different folks in dialogue and conversation. Like here in slashdot. :-)

There were a few comments about the value of the liberal arts.

There were also a few comments to the effect that you must know what your employers want, and based on that mold your education.

These comments seem to raise some very complex questions:

1) Why is it the case that I ought to mold my education to fit the needs of my employers? Are there reasons beyond mere opportunism and/or cynicism about the way works that jive with my idea of how a human being ought to live and enjoy life?

2) If "what you're going thru now is learning how to deal with mismanagement something you will need to get used to in the real world," what sorts of courses help one cope/deal with that?

General Critical Thinking Skills (2, Redundant)

Tiamat (25392) | about 13 years ago | (#2370880)

It is entirely appropriate that universities (notice the name of the insitution) should attempt to teach you more general skills. Their aim is not to help you to succeed in the first 10 years of your career, but to teach you the life skills you will need to lead a full and fruitful life. To me, this is far more important. I want programmers to understand a bit about ethics, philosophy, social sciences, and, yes, even how to write. After all, programmers in one of my fields of research (medical informatics) have the power to influence how people receive medical care, and the quality of the care they get. I want them to consider more than just bits and bytes.

The skills the original poster discusses are narrow professional skills, and if that is all you want to learn you can attend a professional school (like ITT), or learn it on your own. It is worth asking, though, why those degrees, or why a lack of a degree, leaves you at a disadvantage. Many of those who hire recognize the value that a well-rounded person brings to their institution.

Over the course of your career you will find that it is far easier to learn the next popular programming language than it is to learn basic critical thinking skills, or to grasp the greater social and political contexts for your work. You can use those narrow technogolies much more effectively when you understand their general significance.

Thank god someone said it (1)

eli867 (300724) | about 13 years ago | (#2370881)

Well, I'm glad someone said it. University at Buffalo has more "general education" requirements then I know what to do with. One could easily spend 2 years just doing that.

My current plan is to stay in school taking 1 class until they finally drop the Spanish requirement. Incidentally, business majors don't have to take a foreign language because there program is so "condensed," but Comp Sci majors still have to take it. Explain that one to me.

Re:Thank god someone said it (2, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 13 years ago | (#2370921)

Because nobody really expects business majors to know anything except the latest business jargon. Business school is for people who want to say "I went to college" but don't want to do any work.

More technical colleges? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370884)

You seem to be saying that University should be more like a technical college for most people. You might be right. Liberal arts is intended to teach people how to think, to produce well-rounded individuals who can teach themselves whatever it is they'll need to know to suceed in a job. But more and more employers want you to already know, fresh out of college. So unless you get your liberal arts degree from, say, Yale, you're pretty screwed.

Maybe we should have a system more like the German one, where the default path isn't a "liberal arts" degree (though I would argue that few college students here do a true liberal arts program anyway), it's a technical college for whatever career you choose. So by age 21 or so you have the equivalent of a master's in whatever your field is, without wasting your time learning much else.

But then, much of our nation's economic might is based on the imagination and ambition of its workers, and cubbyholing people too early is a good way to stifle those traits. Learning how to be a CEO in college might not be the most applicable skill your first day on the job, but it reminds you that you COULD be CEO one day. And learning about ancient Greek history might not be directly useful in a CS career, but it helps your mind be able to link concepts together and make leaps of imagination you otherwise might not.

What is meant by well rounded? (2)

rgmoore (133276) | about 13 years ago | (#2370886)

Part of the problem is what exactly is supposed to be meant by well rounded. There's a lot to be said for forcing highly focused students to take courses outside of their primary interests just so that they don't become excessively one-dimensional. I certainly feel that having been required to do so as a student was ultimately beneficial. OTOH, most of the people I know think that I'm interested in too many things already, so I'm not sure if I'm strong evidence or not.

But getting good results also depends on the requirements being reasonable and well thought out. Forcing people to take classes for which they have no preparation is pointless even if you do accept the idea of being well-rounded. You're not going to learn much if you don't have the background to get the most out of a class. But that's a potential weakness in any curriculum. I've certainly heard of a lot of tightly focused programs that tend to push students into classes for which they have inadequate grounding, so it's not unique to this kind of program. Blame it on stupidity in choosing the wrong courses within the topic, not on the general idea of requiring students to be well-rounded.

broad can be interesting (1)

progbuc (461388) | about 13 years ago | (#2370889)

I am currently a computer science student at Virginia Tech. I too have run into problems of having to do diagrams of simple hour-long coding programs and at first I thought it was a waste. As I thought about it more, I realized that even though it was pointless for the tiny little programs we were doing, the real point was to teach students to think about the overall design of a program instead of just rushing to code it. Many of the students here have never coded anything longer than a few hundred lines. They need the design perspective.

Also, it is important to remember that the point of college is not to prepare for a future career, but to become more well rounded. If you just want to focus on your career, a trade school would be a better choice.

Oh, this is classic (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370891)

What the Hell do Slashdolts know about education? Might as well be asking French people about hygiene.

Re:Oh, this is classic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370938)

(Score: +5, Informative)

It Depends (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | about 13 years ago | (#2370894)

Sometimes "well rounded" means "well funded," as in continued funding to a department that few take interest in. Rather than serving the student, it serves to keep a program open.

It's one thing to require everyone to take a class in geography/math/english, another to require everyone to take a class in *department unknown.*

Much like in the movie PCU, where the dean says she's debating getting rid of the Math department to support a department that would study the culture of probably 30 people worldwide (though the quote escapes me).

So go to a community college. (2)

jacobito (95519) | about 13 years ago | (#2370896)

Seriously. What you want is a vocational education, so leave the university, because that's not what a university education is about. A university education is designed to ground you in general principles that will be of value through your lifetime, as long as you have the intelligence to adapt and apply those principles to whatever challenges you face. It is not designed to teach you specific skills so that you can immediately land a job. A reasonably intelligent person can quickly learn whatever specific skills are needed for a job while on the job.

Strengths of a liberal arts education (1)

jakestein (320099) | about 13 years ago | (#2370898)

A liberal arts educaition is often underrated and underappreciated by students. The familiar gripe of "I am never going to use this in life" is more often a display of the ignorance of the student, or a frustration with difficult subject material than a relfection of the actual (lack of) usefulness.

Learning a little about a lot is invaluable to those who aren't 100% sure what of what occupation they wish to pursue for the rest of their lives (I am included in that group). Also, education should serve to not only prepare you for the job you ultimately decide to take, but also make you a knowledgeable person, with a base of understanding of general concepts from which to formulate opinions and perceptions.

A person who has decided to work in the computer science field for the rest of their life would have no use for learning about history, correct? Absolutely not. It is my opinion that since everyone over the age of 18 has a say in our government, then any effort to educate these individuals about the mistakes of our past would improve society's lot by obtaining a larger group of more educated voters.

Also, in reference to the argument made that students should be prepared for entry level positions instead of leadership roles. I find three flaws with that theory.

First, I would venture to say that most people have aspirations of advancing themselves and their station in life. To say that they shouldnt at least recieve some preparation for a higher than entry level position would indicate that they will likely not advance past this position.

Second, giving someone insights into how decisions are made by the "higher ups" would help them to understand the motives and perspectives of those who have a large hand in their economic future.

Third, an entry level position implies that there will be someone at the company that has worked their for longer than you, is more experienced, and knows more about the job than you do. This person can train you and teach you the ins and outs of an etry level position. A CEO of a company does not have this luxury, however. The person with the most immediate experience in his job most likely is no longer employed by the company. This makes training students to become CEO's logical.

When you think of paper, hug a tree.

3 basics (1)

mkoz (323688) | about 13 years ago | (#2370900)

You should be able to do four things:

0. Have a sense of import / interest. (Know when to care)

1. Know how to find something out. (basic research skills)

2. Know how to evaluate what you find out. (thinking / analysis).

3. Know how to articulate your opinion. (writing, speaking, etc.).

Liberal Arts (1)

The Ape With No Name (213531) | about 13 years ago | (#2370901)

I didn't have a major in college. My alma mater [] only had concentrations which were interest classes other than the core curriculum. The core curriculum was rigid, difficult and focused on the fundamentals (language, science and mathematics) as well as reasoning, value inquiry and understanding global issues. You had to synthesize, analyze and verbalize or you were failed. No bones. My grades sucked but so did the majority. If you were average you got Cs. If you were great you went right to a Phd program at the school of your choice. The average grads were sharp as well.

My liberal education allowed me to learn on my feet (that's the way I learned to code) but to also understand all that underlying stuff around my profession (IT) and its origin.

Unfortunately, a lot of engineering schools give short shrift to the liberal arts. My current employer [] has made a conscious effort to stem that trend. I'd rather have a focused, yet "well-rounded" engineer than a problem-set nerd who can't talk about the implications of IT on the world stage. Those guys bore the shit out of me and usually suck as engineers anyway.

Higher Education (1)

trefoil (153310) | about 13 years ago | (#2370902)

#Begin Rant

That's why they make post-bacc degrees and courses. A 4 year degree gives you a basis, the following studies will give you a good focus. Overall, a 4 year university degree will outweigh a technical school education (ITT) or AA degree and such. With a full university degree, you are exposed to many more situations and surroundings than if you just focused on one topic. Now, I don't know about you, but for those people whom went to ITT to get that "web developer" certificate, and has now joined the ranks of the dot.gone, they either a) have to go back for a different degree in another specialized field b) or else go for the full fledged thing c) or work at Starbucks.

I did my 4 years, and another 2 years on post-bacc work in my field (Comp Sci), and right now I am working for a medical billing company taking their whole application from DOS based to a winblows based application, all through black-box exposure. I can say that all facets of my education are being put to the test, analytical, quanitative and communication in all aspects.

If all I knew was how to make the mouse hit the button, it'd take a miracle for anything to coalesce. So no, I don't think that my 4+ years were a waste, because I know that if this job disappears from me, I have the necessary background to traverse many different fields of work.

#End Rant

Something I've been thinking about ... (1)

mc2Kleen (190152) | about 13 years ago | (#2370903)

I had a well-rounded education. Now I know little bit about everything but not a whole hell of a lot about anything. I won't speak against being a well-adjusted person but these are skills I think should fall more squarely upon the shoulders of parents and peers rather than educators. Being forced to be well-rounded was the major feature of my high school education. There are simply people who don't care about math as there are people who hate English. And it didn't end there either. I can't tell you how many times I was getting my BA and I had to dilute my attention from my major program to attend to a general education requirement or part of a "core" cirriculum. Sure, I learned some interesting things in electives that I chose to take. But often there were required classes (such as Stats) that I just didn't care about. I've never seen an expert, specialist or genius for that matter who isn't the best in their particular field. I've never met a person with a well-rounded education who is an expert or a specialist. They may not even know they're a genius. Perhaps these things come with more education. Regardless, I'm one who wishes I had been allowed to pursue the things that interested me more and skip the things I didn't care about.

Specialist vs. General Practitioner? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370905)

I'm a programmer who came into C.S. not from the C.S. ranks. I had a more general education before this, and indeed my degree has nothing at all to do with computers.

However, because my degree was from a discipline that favored the big picture over specialization, I am better at more things, rather than just excellect at one thing. Because of the broad-minded thought processes that my discipline encourage in me, I'm now the senior programmer that all the really difficult tasks get assigned to. In that regard, I'm like the old country doctor who's seen everything. The specialists (the C and Java programmers) know their craft very well, and are far better at their chosen path than I am.

However, they always fail to see the big picture. They rarely understand anything outside their craft, or worse underestimate significance (usually in areas of hardware, or systems communication), and it is a deliberate shortcoming of their C.S. degree, which preaches that skill at one thing easily tranfers into skill at another. A virtuoso violinist will have difficulty transferring their skills to a tuba, and a marathoner will have problems transferring their skills to the sprint. Just knowing C perfectly does not mean that you will be able to write wonderful programs in C++.

As a result of my broader education, and my broader experience (since I count nothing outside the realm of what I need to learn, and C.S. majors tend to ignore everything outside their favorite software of language), I am now paid almost twice what the other programmers earn.

There is nothing wrong with being a specialist. However, I find that my work is more varied, more fun, and I frequently get to chose what things I want to work on, and what menial tasks I get to assign to someone else.

Yes, I'm full of ego, but I am critical of all disciplines that encourage a narrow knowledge. It is my goal to learn all that is learnable. I don't have to be a know it all, nor am I, but I do have to know the boundaries of my education, my abilities, and my knowledge, and I must better myself, and my work, every day. If I do not know something, I readily admit it, and seek to provide an answer, or to direct the problem to someone who can provide an answer.

You must ask yourself if you are willing to fall into the trap of being a knowledge/skill specialist as your degree program is intending, or if you will deliberately, and from your own effort, fill the gaping voids in your education that you have already identified.

Which provides more fulfillment, and longer-term employment? The programmer-blacksmith, which turns you into a blue-collar laborer, interchangeable and discarded at a moments notice? Or a versatile idea engineer, who identifies changes before they approach, adapts with the changes, and presses eagerly and intelligently on?

Foundations (5, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | about 13 years ago | (#2370908)

The most important skills to learn in college or at university are foundational subjects. For people in Computer Science and similar, this means mathematics (there is no such thing as too much math), writing (what's the use of an idea if you can't communicate it?), and the core subjects of your chosen field. What specific programming languages you use is totally incidental; with a good grounding in programming you can pick up a new language in a couple of weeks.

This is not to say peripheral subjects is not a good idea - in moderation. Take a semester learning something non-technical just for fun. Among CS students in Lund, psychology and philosophy are both very popular (and a semester of psychology is what landed me in cognitive science...). The point is not to learn a useful work skill during that semester, it's to pig out on something just because it's fun to learn. The point is to do it in moderation; having peripheral subjects half of all your college time seems way too much.


Work isn't everything (1)

mckeowbc (513776) | about 13 years ago | (#2370909)

Personally I think too much emphasis in the past years has been placed on job training. A university is not supposed to just crank out mindless zombies that no nothing more than how to program a computer, wire up a circuit, or design a bridge. I agree that if you are in a major you should be taught the important things that will help you succeed. But what shouldn't be sacrificed is courses that help to expand your mind. Courses in art, music, literature, and history give a taste of humanity, that helps to form a individual that has a broader view of existence than a computer screen.

Learning how to learn (1)

LineGrunt (133002) | about 13 years ago | (#2370911)

The direct subject knowledge that you get from college is already several years out of date.

For instance, it took several years for colleges to start teaching C++ after it became an industry standard. Same with Java.

The number I most frequently hear is that the effective life of your direct subject knowledge is 7 years.

So, you have a choice...

College can teach you the latest whiz bang technology so you can immediately get a job in industry, work for about 7 years then have to find a different career.


College can teach you how to learn.

The *learning* skills that you pick up quickly studying/learning Greek Mythology and Child Psychology also apply to learning new computer languages/technologies.

I picked a college that taught me how to learn rather than any particular technology. This has allowed me to take the Object Oriented revolution and the web revolution in stride, while my more "focused" peers are out of work and have moved out of software.

My two cents worth...

The Common Core (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370915)

My alma mater, The University of Chicago ( [] ) requires all students to go through the Common Core. An invaluable experience IMHO.

Electrical Engineering (1)

Giant Robot (56744) | about 13 years ago | (#2370916)

If you want to understand the communications field, and actually be able to use stuff afterwards, AND be able to crunch higher maths, why not?

If your school has a reputable EE program, it should teach you everything from the lowest level (quantum and semiconductor physics, EM waves) to the highest level (IPv6, TCP/IP, heck.. java sockets!) and everything in between (embedded programming, circuits, signal analysis).

You'll also learn practical stuff to complement it (ie C+asm programming, Xilinx boards for embedded stuff, soldering and circuit simulation, and MATLAB). Of course, you must understand the theory well enough, since the practical stuff will most likely change when you graduate.

Of course, everything you learn will be backed up with higher mathematics that are usually taught to applied mathematicians and physicists, so you can have a nice math knowledge to pursue other jobs if you get bored of EE (like the financial industry!)

Of course, you have to be hardworking, and sacrifice not getting laid much during your years suffering through pages of text. But in the end you'll be well rounded enough able to do anything in the geek industry. I guess what I mean by well rounded is the learning of both practical and theoretical stuff around a particular field, correct me if I am wrong.

Education is good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370922)

this would be a good example of a 'well-rounded education'... [] []


"It's not like your minds are as open as the source you love..." - DraKKon to the majority of Slashdot(users).

Ignoring the basics... (5, Interesting)

ClarkEvans (102211) | about 13 years ago | (#2370924)

I watched a friend (business major) take a programming course. They were teaching this person all kinds of low-level chores. What the individual took from the class: "Programming is tedious grunt work" Does he respect programmers? No. Does he have any more of a clue what goes into programming? No. Instead he thinks he knows about programming, aka "slinging code".

I think the problem is his class was too "applied" and ignored the basics. He wasn't taught anything about the history of computing, use the words "Babbage", "Turing", "Shockley", etc., and they draw a blank stare. For him, computers just emerged from thin air. He doesn't know how a transitor works. Thus, when it comes time to explain anything to him, changes in the industry, how it may impact his business, he just doesn't have the background. However, he does know how to print "Hello World" ten times. How practical.

In the other end of the spectrum, I was not encouraged to dig mightly into English and History. Both of which I've had to play "catch-up" due to years of neglect. In high school we completely ignore Contract Law, instead we focus Business class on investing and accounting. Admittedly, both of these can be useful, however my high-school business class ('87) completely left out contract law. What is business *but* contract law? I've signed many more contracts than I've had dollars to invest or accounting books to balance.

Also, they should renew the focus on civics. I recently found out that the same friend of mine didn't have a civics class. He has never read the constitution nor had a discussion of its importance beyond "US is great, we are a free country." Admittedly, I goofed off in my civics class but I do remember the day we talked about the constitution. And on Sept 11, I recalled a very long, detailed class discussion about our foreign policy. Helpful it was. History of Politics is very useful indeed.

Universities teach you to learn (1)

Michael Tanczos (412453) | about 13 years ago | (#2370925)

It's impossible for a university to teach you everything you need to know to handle some particular business situation. The amount of specialization that would have to exist in a degree such as computer science would be enormous. A staggering number of similar degrees would have to exist as a result. What's more important, is the value of that specialization in states of the economy such as the one we are experiencing now.

My brother has gone the IT route. He has taken all the numerous certifications (A+, Novell, MSCE, etc) and in todays economy they are pretty much worthless. He has attended about four job fairs in the past month and has learned the harsh truth. Industry pumped out more specialized IT works then the industry can support. Every single company he talked to just threw his resume on the mountain of similar "IT professionals".

I, on the other hand, obtained a computer science degree at PSU. I also ended up with a job that doesn't use *anything* from computer science. I teach Cisco Networking at a local high school and perform IT work (maintaining parts of the computer network). The CS degree got me into the door for this job, which affords me enough free time to work on my own software development company. This is probably one of the better examples of a non-specialized degree enabling you to function in occuptions not directly related with the degree.

I can't say the same for the more specialized education my brother received. The truth is, that you obtain a degree at a university because you need to learn how to *learn*. A computer science degree, for example, adequately enables you to adapt to more situations than a specialized degree. Futhermore, you end up with a deeper understanding of how to better solve problems.

That is something that will help you throughout your entire life.

Michael Tanczos []

Uh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370926)

I don't know of any "cirriculums" period, Cliffyboy.

Today on slashdot (3, Funny)

HongPong (226840) | about 13 years ago | (#2370927)

Today on Ask Slashdot, we ask, "What is this 'liberal-arts college' thing currently hot in tech circles? Seeing as how giant swaths of tech workers who only studied their technical fields in college are now out of work without useful skills, many wish they'd gotten a more 'well-rounded' education, but have no idea what it means. Today we'll explore the possibilities, remote as they may seem, of getting a well-rounded education. There must be a few people out in /. land who went to these so-called "liberal arts" places, what do you have to say?"

Yes, take lots of different stuff in college! (1)

jjn1056 (85209) | about 13 years ago | (#2370928)

As someone who spent around 8 years in school, let me tell you: The more and longer you spend in school the better. You will never get such a great chance to explorer yourself, learn things you didn't know you cared about, and encounter strange, amazing people. Don't worry too much about the classes, you learn the most outside of them anyway!

Yes, you could say I could be further along in my 'real life' career if I had finished school earlier. I doubt I'd be as full a person.

I started school as an engineer, at Rochester Institute of Technology. After two years I accepted that was not the best path for me. It was too planned out, too narrow. I moved back home and took classes at the local state university. Since I was an in-state student, classes were very cheap. I took whatever I wanted, and worked at night to pay for it all myself. I learned how much I loved the arts and philosophy. I learned I loved to work on old cars. I transfered a second time to New York University when I felt I needed a bigger challenge and new experiences. I got a dual degree in Comparitive Literature and Philosophy, and stayed to complete my MA in Performance Studies. Yes, that's right Performance Studies.

All along I played with computers as a hobby. I never took a programming class, although I took a lot of math and logic. I think that prepared me to learn any computer language, not just whatever is popular at the time. Yes, Java is it right now, but 4 years from now? Who knows? I also took the opportunity to teach some adult education classes. That was a great experience; if you ever get the chance to teach, take it!

Now I am a senior programming at a solid company. I have no fear of losing my job, even in these questionable economic times. Often I miss the freedom I had, and the time I had for myself while I was in school. So, don't rush things along, and don't start school at the age of 18 thinking you know exactly who you are and what you want from life.

Yes, I know you're thinking if you get really rich you can retire and spent all your time on things you care about. I know two people that dropped out of college and eventually became millionaires. They're both jerks who cheat on their wives, and surround themselves with lackies and leaches, not true friends. Don't kid yourself, getting rich doesn't make you emotionally or intelectually mature. That's something that can only happen with time and experience.

Peace, or Not? Remember 9/11.

Well rounded is better (4, Insightful)

anomaly (15035) | about 13 years ago | (#2370933)

I know that this carries the emacs/vi type of flamefest capacity, but here's my take:

Specific skills are only REALLY directly applicable for a very short span of time. By the time you get to the place where you could use the "practical" stuff, it will be deprecated. (e.g. If your school taught you VB programming, by the time you graduate and get a job, people would expect you to know WSH or C#)

In my school I had the benefit of a curriculum which tried to balance practical information (how serial ports worked) with theory (signal propagation delay.) When I graduated I was able to make cables, because I had a bit of experience doing that, but I also understood the requisite theory behind protocols.

When I learned that ARCNet was a token-passing protocol, and ethernet was csma it helped me to make the transition. I knew more than just that the ARCNet adapters needed a unique MAC and that Ethernet adapter MACs were hard-coded. I knew enough to easily make the transition to the "new" technology - the same was true when I began to work with TokenRing.

Additionaly, the object theory I learned has been greatly helpful in my understanding of components, layers, directories, code libraries, etc. If I had merely learned the practical technology application, I would have been poorly prepared for the innovative technologies that were to come.

One thing to keep in mind is that what you learn in school is foundational for what you will learn once employed. You will learn throughout your career. If you do not, you will lose your job (or wish that you'd lose your job.) University is the place to learn more about learning. Those skills will benefit you for a lifetime. You may start out at the same level as the person who went to trade school to learn programming, but your deeper understanding will allow you to move up much more quickly than that person.

Finally, and most importantly, it's people skills and not technical acumen that determine your earning potential. If you define success as title and pay, learn to interact with others and that will help you attain your goals much more rapidly than being able to code more widgets than the next guy. (Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People is an excellent book that those business majors are reading right now. That's why they are the "B" part of PHB.)

PS - God loves you and longs for relationship with you. If you'd like to know more about this, please email me at tom_cooper at bigfoot dot com.

Taco the spelling fool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370937)

How about an education that teaches one how to spell "forest" ?

The goals of higher education (2, Insightful)

Gus (2568) | about 13 years ago | (#2370939)

This is a debate that continually occurs amongst the faculty of reputable institutions. Should Computer Science departments become vocational institutions, or remain academic in the traditional sense?

The university [] where I did my CS degree [] maintains that CS majors, like other students in the college of Letters & Sciences, take a majority of classes outside the major - 80 credits of the 120 needed for a baccalaureate degree must be outside the declared major. As a result, CS grads need to have a decent background in literature, history, hard sciences, and social sciences. This does a lot for critical thinking skills. The opposing view is that CS students should be "prepared for industry", which essentially boils down to teaching some vendor's tools exclusively - Oracle DBA classes, MS programming tools, Cisco certifications.

I'm firmly of the opinion that CS students should be kept in the traditional academic program. Good analytical skills are worth more in the long run than knowing how to use vendor tools right out of the box. Bear in mind that the average adult goes through seven career changes in a lifetime - a general education will still be useful to me when the paradigms of today come crashing down.

Well Rounded is Good! (1)

lkehresman (106841) | about 13 years ago | (#2370940)

I'm a student at a college that excels at giving a "well rounded" education. They view education as more than just trying to train students for a job, but to create thinking people who have an aptitude to learn in any circumstance. I'm a computer science major, taking artificial intelligence courses, but I also have philosophy, art/music, and cultural awareness classes. Granted at the time that I'm taking the classes, they seem pointless. But looking back at the last two years, I can see how valuable they have been in expanding my thinking beyond just computer science.

Education should not be viewed as a way to make more money or get a better job. Rather, it should be viewed as a way to broaden our horizons on every front, thus making us intelligent beings.

Everybody knows that teaching C/C++/Java (or any specific language) in a computer science course is pointless. It's the aptitude to learn new languages, the ability to quickly learn and adapt to the ever changing world, that creates a good computer science graduate. My school focuses mainly on that, and I'm very happy of that fact. Without it, what I am being taught will be extinct in 5 years!! But teaching how to learn will last a lifetime.

what is school for? (1)

friscolr (124774) | about 13 years ago | (#2370941)

University schooling teaches you how to play the game. It teaches you how to sit through too too long lectures (business meetings?), it teaches you how to spend countless hours doing research into subjects you arent necessarily interested in, it teaches you to play a particular game for at least 4 years or 120+ credit hours. A business will look at that and think, "good, this person knows how to play the game".

The most extreme example comes from a person's doctorate work - chances are you will not be continuing research into the specific subfield topic that you did your doctorate in - you'll probably never touch that again. but it tells companies that you can do 2 years of intense research into a very particular field and come out with a good thesis.

and that's a very important thing for a company to know. you might know everything there is to know about network infrastructure and you might have years of experience planning network implementation, but without that degree how will the company know if you are easy to work with? a degree will let them know that you can play well with people.

Yes, it is essential that some people learn to think for themselves - "Imagination is more important than Knowledge" rings true for some of us, perhaps most of us in this community, but Einsteins can't exist without a large number of drones to support them- we're not all gonna be the next Great Thinker, the next Innovator

If you want practical knowledge like how to start a business or pay employess, or as others mention, write a resume or networking (people-wise) skills, look to your community college.

Universites are not Vocational Technical Schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370943)

That's why they call it HIGHER learning. It's not supposed to get you hired, but to make you a better human.

Somewhere along the way, that message got lost.

Jack of all trades = Master of none (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370944)

School isnt really about creating experts, an expert does something in their free time and essentially becomes an expert.

School teaches you just enough about something to know if you like it or not.

Thats the purpose of school.

Want to be an expert? Buy some books and do your research

Do the examples support the question? (2)

wytcld (179112) | about 13 years ago | (#2370946)

Most of the cited examples are of specifics being taught out of context. So isn't the problem more one of not being provided the context - the big picture - first? Or at least of not being taught the details so that they add up to a big picture?

From one critique, departments and courses are much too fragmented - far too many small pictures incoherently presented. It's worth keeping in mind that knowledge wasn't approached that way until the last century - scholars of the 18th century had a much broader vantage. Making colleges into trade schools isn't bad for some students, if you can be sure that the trades they learn will still be around, and the skills taught pertinent, in five or ten years. In my own experience, I've done fine in technology after not studying it at all, because I learned how to learn at The Evergreen State College [] in Olympia, WA - which structures everything without disciplinary boundaries. People who can work across and between disciplines are often more valuable than those who can merely work within them. We've got far more specialists than people who can meaningfully and profitably coordinate them. The bust wasn't because of a lack of technical talent, but because most of what passed for 'big picture' was too thinly conceived.

On the other hand, a lot of folk from Evergreen end up going up the street to Microsoft for employment - so the untraditional structure of the curriculum may have some small reflection in the muddled structure in the code from that shop. But I'd lay more of the blame at Harvard's Gates.

Send your complaints to /dev/null (1)

alkali (28338) | about 13 years ago | (#2370951)

In my Finance course, I learn how to balance a corporate stock portfolio, but I have no clue how to start a business or pay my employees.

Then perhaps it would have been a novel idea for you to find out what finance was before you took a class in that subject. (I suspect you will also find the novels of Charles Dickens receive a quite superficial treatment in most botany courses, and that most faculty who teach Byzantine art history spend very little time discussing the Lorentz transforms.)

FYI, here's how to start a business: Go down to city hall and fill out a DBA ("doing-business-as") form. Now start doing business under that name. Congratulations on your new business!

Also FYI, here's how to pay your employees. First, get some money and put it in a checking account. Second, write them some checks, or hire a payroll processing firm like ADP to write the checks for you. (They're in the book.)

These and many other very simple questions are addressed in books with titles like "Starting Your Own Business In East Carolina For Idiots And Dummies" which are written at a third-grade level and which are available in your local bookstore for $20 or so. Shockingly, most finance professors will spend their time discussing such trivia as the capital asset pricing model rather than covering this material. Similarly, law professors almost never tell you where the courthouses are, and medical school professors almost never tell you where all the hospitals are.

In my System Analysis & Design course, I spend 3 hours constructing data-flow diagrams, entity-relationship diagrams, and Ghantt charts for programs that take around an hour to code!

If that shocks you, listen to this: In my chemistry lab, my TA made us spend two hours determining the pH of an unknown acid -- when in fact he knew the answer the entire time!

Broadening Ones Horizons.. (2)

jallen02 (124384) | about 13 years ago | (#2370955)

While some people seem to only want to know what they need to say write a great C program and develop software I think there is something important in learning to think.

You may not think the classes your taking are worth very much to your career. You may not enjoy the subject matter. You may not even want to be in school. But if you really take the meaning of what is being taught you have learned to think that much more.

I don't really believe you will ever be prepared for a job coming out of college without some sort of serious extra cirricular activities in your chosen career field.

A college degree should prove your trainable and that you know how to learn.

Long term, I would rather hire someone who proves they can learn over someone who has a narrow focus on some limited subset of technology.

We may not be programming Java in 20 years, but we will still be learning and still be progressing with technology.

Having the ability to communicate and write and express your thoughts clearly are just as important as knowing what the finalize method does in Java. Unless you plan on working alone all your life you have to communicate and work with others.

I started programming right out of highschool, while I was in highschool actually. I understand the frustration of not really understanding the technology at play right away. I was just like most college graduates only coming out of high school in that respect. Now I have a couple of years of college under my belt and the changes in the developer I am today and the developer I was four years ago are amazing.

It is just a complete perspective thing that you really can't have until you have been out there in the real world. It gives me complete 100% appreciation for every college class I ever took, even religion. Now I can stand around and know the difference in the two major muslim factions without feeling clueless.

My main point is, you learn to learn and you get perspective on life and whats out there in college. You don't really gain a ton of ultra important skills until your in the work world. I did it backwards. I worked right outta high school programming, and have filled in the gaps with college at night. To each their own, I guess.


Questioniable Premise (4, Insightful)

maggard (5579) | about 13 years ago | (#2370957)

The question seems more debating the value between a "Universal" education (hence University) or a trade-oriented education like, er, Trade School or vocational or other terms.

Frankly as all studies show folks changing careers several times in their lifetimes to train exclusively for one type of position seems to me to be needlessly limiting. Furthermore the assumption that an advanced education is only obtained as a means of advancing one's-self in a profession is a remarkably presumptive one.

The skills that have been invaluable in my life weren't the slot-A/tab-B mechanical stuff that seems to be advocated but rather means of thought, formulating opinions, understanding situations, making decisions, and just understanding the world generally. Knowing how to learn, resources and techniques for obtaining and structuring further knowledge, as well as familiarity with the various world-views one will interact with in life (both professionally and privately) are things that are well developed in a broad education.

That these lessons are often taught in framework makes them appear directly relevant to their subject but these are broadly applicable skills even if not always approached as such. Understanding how to manage folks gives one insights into the actions and goals of your own management. Learning certain types of finances provides an entry into understanding all other related types of finance. Exposure to a broad range of subjects allows one to make informed decisions about what is interesting or amenable to one's intellect and what is less so.

By the way, I'm an IS professional who was seduced away from college by the lure of earning good money and a more interesting life then studying topics I wasn't interested in. I don't regret the course of my life and feel that I've obtained an excellent education from my own efforts but would appreciate at some later time the opportunity to once again devote myself to less-distracted learning in an environment so amenable.

I've recently begun running into barriers resulting from my not having a degree (of any sort) and have so far been able to negotiate these but they are becoming more and more bothersome. Indeed some peers in the same situation have begun obtaining cheap degrees simply in order to appease employers.

Back to the main point however, there are many folks with different needs and goals and a vast array of institutions for learning. It seems to me there's very little chance of determining a generalized answer and everyone need rather to determine what is right for their own unique needs and goals.

Poor Sperring as an Index to Mental Demangement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2370967)

" Do any of you know of cirriculums that are good examples of a true well-rounded education? "

There is much to be said for spelling (orthography).

A Well Rounded Education - 20 Years Later (1)

rlp (11898) | about 13 years ago | (#2370973)

I've been out of school for over 20 years. My B.A. and M.S. are both in Computer Science. Along the way I took some business courses (about 1/3 of an MBA) and some non-tech courses. My experience is that except for the most fundamental technical courses, the knowledge gained from my computer science courses went stale fairly fast. When I was in school, I was taught "structured programming" on a mainframe. After school, I picked up OO programming, Unix, Linux, C, C++, X-Windows, and Java. If I have any regrets, it's that I wish I'd taken MORE non-tech courses. Business classes have been extremely useful as a foundation for post-university education. I do regret not taking a language in school. I've made several attempts since, to learn Japanese, with minimal success. Bottom line - computer science courses will be useful to your career - short term. Courses in business, the arts, world history, etc., will enrich your life. (As will travel). Of course, you've got to fulfill the technical requirements for your major, but as Mark Twain put it "Don't let school get in the way of your education".

Education--don't get me started again! (2)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | about 13 years ago | (#2370974)

No, I don't think this is what companies want. Companies (at least ones that stay in business long enough to pay their employees) want results, and last I checked, they don't care how you accomplish them, as long as they're delivered on time and on budget.

Isn't it amazing how the education system in this country is so screwed up?! It starts in public education and ends after your first two years of college. This whole "well-rounded" thing is there to hold you back an additional 2 years before you go into the workforce. "Know a little about a lot" and "widen your horizons" are just excuses. It's impossible to teach people everything they need beforehand. School isn't an initialization routine, yet for some reason, this is what schools try to do.

To be fair, there is the rare professor who teaches something beyond the subject matter. Most teachers basically program us with case statements, by drilling information into our heads and then testing us on it. This is nothing more than memorization. How many of you have crammed for a mid-term or final only to completely forget all the information one week later? This is because you didn't actually learn anything, and that's why the education system sucks.

What do I suggest? I mentioned the rare professor in the previous paragraph. This kind of prof teaches you how to teach yourself. Let's say I'm coding a tight loop and I need to learn some detail of switching theory or something. What do I do, cram for a test and get certification? No! I open the book on the subject, read about it, and then do what the book says. It never fails. You can learn almost anything better on your own (and by doing) than in school. Just like literature... I hated that class because they made us read some boring stuff, but nowadays, I routinely pick up a good classic and get all sorts of neat knowledge out of it, because it's something I want, not an assignment that's taking away from my Saturday night.

So how do you teach how to learn? You make the students think in directions they didn't know existed before. Why is a hammer built the way it is? What was Paul Revere's occupation (and consequently, what was he doing at midnight, before his ride?) Why does the website of Le Grand Louvre depict certain pieces of art? (Why those pieces instead of others?) Who is the source of the news we read and see and hear? (Who is that source's source? Where is the root of all sources?) These things aren't "just there"--people made decisions and took certain actions, but most folks don't think in these terms. That's because most folks were taught to think in tunnel vision mode. It's very difficult to get out of that mode once you're in it--try teaching a BASIC programmer C and you'll understand what I mean.

The problem with our education system is that we're taught to expect the teacher to know the answer, and we memorize case statements--we're essentially being programmed like computers that have web browsers built into the CPU. (Hey, it's a well-rounded operating system.) We should be taught how to actually use our brains and teach ourselves whatever we need to know on the fly. Like I said, school isn't an initialization routine.

A well rounded knowledge base is a Good Thing. (3, Insightful)

denshi (173594) | about 13 years ago | (#2370976)

This is not to say that a "Well-Rounded Education" is a good thing, or if the current attempts to implement such are effective.

There are, IMHO, two solid things that constitute a serious education. One is a broad comprehension of many fields. When one has this knowledge, one can generalize approaches and draw on many different patterns of thought. The holder of such can be called "educated", but perhaps "instructed" might be a better term.

The second is to know at least one subject deeply -- to the point of mastery. There are major changes in how you think when you have focused yourself enough on any one field. You know its boundaries, where it is malleable, the history of the field and what questions have been answered, and how evidence is evaluated in the field. The holder of this kind of training can be called "intelligent", and it is the practice of this that creates knowledge.

Both are required to call a person fully educated, and it is laughable to think that the average person, with average dedication, can complete this by the end of their bachelor's degree at the age of 22 or so. Currently schools try to teach the former, and only in certain fine companies will the latter be picked up by the cunning. Neither one is really useful by themselves -- the unintelligent educated man can make insights, but accomplish little; the uneducated intelligent man can achieve much that is empheral or unwanted.

In response to your final question, I should say "screw what a company really wants". What is needed is for a student to know a broad enough base to keep their mind open, and a willingness to work hard to develop focus and intelligence. You are soft iron -- you will be forged.

Applause for the ignorant (1)

ksteddom (177014) | about 13 years ago | (#2370979)

Thank you to all of those out there who have decided to attend trade school or "blow off" your general education requirements. It is people like you who allow those of us with an education to succeed. I hope you take great pleasure watching those "stupid college graduates" get promoted when you do not. It only makes sense after all, since they can relate to the boss, where you cannot.

Remember, there is more to your job than what is written in your job description!

Do not "focus" the curricula! (1)

Kryptonomic (161792) | about 13 years ago | (#2370980)

I'm a physicist and currently responsible for hiring new undergraduates and potential PhD students to our laboratory.

During the last five or so years I've noticed that we've started getting an increasing number of undergraduates who don't know anything about things outside their own narrow field of so called expertise.

This coincides with the university's decision to "focus" the undergraduate programs. The idea was to streamline the process and to make the students better prepared for postgraduate studies.

As a result, more practical courses such as laboratory exercises involving the use of basic tools such as the oscilloscopes or multimeters were dropped in the favour of too theoretical physics and esoteric courses such as "The Philosophy of Natural Sciences", "History of Physics" and "Writing a Scientific Article".

Someone seems to have forgotten that there is only a small market for theoretical physicists. A typical argument is that "a Physicist will always be able to adapt to any job involving natural sciences". That was true for the physicists who graduated from us before the curriculum was streamlined. The people who graduate now with these courses under their belt will not able to do experimental research or get into engineering stuff unless they've.

In my opinion, creating fast-track options for university students is a recipe for disaster.

When you're 18-21 years old you DON'T know where you'll end up. It's better to study "useless" subjects and even "waste" time by taking a summer job in a completely different field. I, for instance, encourage potential postgraduate students to take a job in a hardware store or as an electricians assistant.

It's also important not to forget to hone your soft skills. All work and no fun makes an anti-social graduate who will hit trouble in work interviews and in work.

School isn't where you learn how to work (2)

rfsayre (255559) | about 13 years ago | (#2370981)

In the U.S., we have an unfortunate focus on the vocational utility of higher education. I understand that this may be necessary, since many students take on crushing debt to complete their studies. On the other hand, I believe that the best place to learn how to work is work. I'm confused that the poster thinks he's getting too general an education when he's taking exclusively finance and management courses. It's good to have a focus for research that interests you, no need to wait for grad school. But why take only courses that apply to what you think you want to do when you're ~20 years old?
Wouldn't it make more sense to teach things that will help students early in their careers, like technical skills and other trade/foundation skills that are often required of entry-level, non-management employees?
No. Go get a job doing what you want to do. Do it right now. Get a job doing something related for the school. Do IT work for a charity. Just don't expect school to make you a dream employee. Expect it to teach you how to think. Take some physics, some math, some biology. Given your interest in management, maybe a little Shakespeare, Homer, or Sun Tzu would be good.:)
Do companies really want me to spend more time diagramming a program than I need to program it in the first place? (What about just documenting the code?)
There's a parable about this one, can't remember it, but the gist is that you should spend way more time planning than you probably do. It might not seem practical for small CS projects, but it becomes exponentially more useful as projects get bigger. So you need to know how to do it, unless you want to spend the rest of your life writing shell scripts for intranets.:)
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