Education

A lot has happened since I added anything to this blog. We’ve had General Motors and Chrysler go belly up, David Letterman has insulted Sarah Palin (again), and I am back from a week long trip to Maine and back.

textbooks

The focus of our trip was my son’s graduation from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine at 2pm on Saturday. Josh is the first guy on my side of the family to complete a degree and in 2 or 3 generations that I’m aware of.

I believe in pursuing your passions and often a college degree is required to gain entry into a profession these days. And I am very proud of Josh for completing this stage of his life. Also, if I was pursuing a degree, I would consider College of the Atlantic for myself.

I saw some things I didn’t care for, the liberalization of philosophy, but I am secure in my own beliefs. What concerns me more is the state of our education system in this country overall.

I grew up attending public schools in the 1960’s thru mid 70’s. My education was good and decent. My high school years were at a local Lutheran High School, only because of race riots that were disrupting the public high schools at the time.

These days there are debates about funding education, results of education, test results, etc. Today, as I was going through my email and saw this from Seth Godin which points out another problem and solution. Because we need to understand the reason behind the formal education should be to prepare people for real life, whatever direction that life may lead them.

No matter how much formal education you pay for, please keep learning and reflecting on all that life gives you. Pursue the passions and rise above the politics that can color viewpoints.

Here’s Seth:


Textbook rant

I’ve spent the last few months looking at marketing textbooks. I’m assuming that they are fairly representative of textbooks in general, and since this is a topic I’m interested in, it seemed like a good area to focus on.

As far as I can tell, assigning a textbook to your college class is academic malpractice.

They are expensive. $50 is the low end, $200 is more typical. A textbook author in Toronto made enough money from his calculus textbook to afford a $20 million house. This is absurd on its face. There’s no serious insight or leap in pedagogy involved in writing a standard textbook. That’s what makes it standard. It’s hard, but it shouldn’t make you a millionaire.

They don’t make change. Textbooks have very little narrative. They don’t take you from a place of ignorance to a place of insight. Instead, even the best marketing textbooks surround you with a fairly non-connected series of vocabulary words, oversimplified problems and random examples.

They’re out of date and don’t match the course. The 2009-2010 edition of the MKTG textbook, which is the hippest I could find, has no entries in the index for Google, Twitter, or even Permission Marketing.

They don’t sell the topic.
Textbooks today are a lot more colorful and breezy than they used to be, but they are far from engaging or inspirational. No one puts down a textbook and says, “yes, this is what I want to do!”

They are incredibly impractical. Not just in terms of the lessons taught, but in terms of being a reference book for years down the road.

In a world of wikipedia, where every definition is a click away, it’s foolish to give me definitions to memorize. Where is the context? When I want to teach someone marketing (and I do, all the time) I never present the information in the way a textbook does. I’ve never seen a single blog post that says, “wait until I explain what I learned from a textbook!”

The solution seems simple to me. Professors should be spending their time devising pages or chapterettes or even entire chapters on topics that matter to them, then publishing them for free online. (it’s part of their job, remember?)  When you have a class to teach, assemble 100 of the best pieces, put them in a pdf or on a kindle or a website (or even in a looseleaf notebook) and there, you’re done. You just saved your intro marketing class about $15,000. Every semester. Any professor of intro marketing who is assigning a basic old-school textbook is guilty of theft or laziness.

This industry deserves to die. It has extracted too much time and too much money and wasted too much potential. We can do better. A lot better.


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