Thursday, 23 July 2015

What’s Academia Got to Do With It?

Academic acronyms are abound. On the order of 35 million EU students have graduated in the last decade. Similarly, 25 million degree level diplomas were handed out in the United States. Around South Asia, Africa, and the BRICS nations, it is difficult to track down academic attainment; but 1 hundred million alumni would not be far off. There are more BSc, BAs, MSc, MAs, MBAs, and PhDs in the world than at any other time. But, once again, there is something up. From Thomas Frey’s de Vinci Institute site,

‘Yet, despite having all the cards aligned in their favour, and being presented with one huge opportunity after another, many of these people [graduates] fail. They fail at their jobs, fail in their businesses, and fail to live up to their full potential… A student that enters a classroom will typically find themselves immersed in a academic competition, a competition that pits students against each other to produce results that best match the teacher’s expectations. Only rarely will the work product of a student in a classroom rise to any notable level of significance Reading a book is far different than writing a book, and simply writing a book is far different than writing a book that sells over 10,000 copies…

In much the same way a gamer can become very adept at fighting a simulated battle, it can only partially compare to a real-life battle. Even in a closely comparable situation where a gamer shifts from flying a simulated drone to a real-life drone in the military, many changes will occur. Suddenly the consequences of their action become something real and tangible, and what used to be simulated pain and suffering instantly becomes real pain and suffering. The emotional context is something they begin to feel throughout their entire body.’

Indeed, back in the day, a good fist of academic quals would get you into a career. Only today, the whole notion of a career is in transformation. Reality has hit home. Most know the stories of the school/college dropouts that left school with hardly any academic qualification, yet had a brain full of streetwise know-how, can-do shrewd market sense, that has lead them to GigaAire status (lots more in part 4).

The differential here, tangible, transferable value. Whether currency or true social equitable gain. As Frey declares, accomplishment is a loosely defined term describing everything from a 4th grader’s piano recital to achieving peace between warring nations. For this reason it is important to draw a distinction between a vague accomplishment and a real one. He makes clear that there is a dichotomy between real-life accomplishment and mere symbols of achievements. Hence, an accomplishment-based education is one where the output of every student has concrete, self-evident worth in the marketplace or social system (e.g.; a fifthteen year old lunching a web-based video game getting a million hits a day; versus a nicely framed degree certificate on Grandma’s wall). Harsh? So is one-hundred symbolically educated youths and 50 somethings applying for the same menial job!

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