Educated and Obsolete

7 05 2009

Our current education system is a waste.

I’m not just talking about the concept of highschool in America – four years of mostly wasted knowledge – or the fact that most people’s careers have little to do with their college majors.

In our world of databases and Google, we can access almost any information we need in a matter of seconds; as of March 2007 there were over 25.21 billion web pages. So why are students all across America right now cramming information in their heads that will probably be forgotten within hours after the test, when they could retrieve it with a few keystrokes as soon was it was applicable?

Granted, for some majors, concepts need to be present in the conscious mind. A graphic design major needs to know about grids while they are designing, and a history major shouldn’t have to refer to Google to tell you who Caesar was.

However, educators need to become aware of the fact that in the past two decades – even the past five years – our access to information has drastically increased, and most of our coursework is obsolete. Most things technology majors learn in the first two years of school are obsolete by the third year. If you argue that the obscene amounts of effort put into remembering these details sharpens the mind, I’d beg you to consider whether this is the most efficient way to strengthen our brains.

What we need is a general movement by professors in relevant (most) fields of study to teach how to retrieve information efficiently, and to teach the principles behind the field of study – rather than the thousands of intricate details that almost certainly won’t be recalled when needed. In the past, rote memorization may have been necessary. Now, it’s culturally irrelevant. It’s efficiency: don’t waste precious years of a student’s life on things that aren’t productive.