Until recently I have taught technology classes including networking, web programming, web design, and others at a private corporate run college. I prefer not to divulge the name at this time. You've probably seen their advertisements on national television, since they have many schools scattered all over the United States. My involvement was with their school situated in the Chicago area. This school was mainly filled with high school graduates from Chicago and its suburbs. I want to tell you about some of the problems I experienced with students at this school. Many of the instructors that I've worked with as well as others that I know from similar schools had comparable experiences.
The main reason I'm so opposed to our global corporate culture is because it sets man's primary goal as financial wealth but pretends that it is some common good. This is why the majority of students choose a private college. One of the school's sales staff convinces them that they'll make a lot of money upon graduation. They either may have a mild or no interest in what they need to study. Some have no prior skills in their field of choice. They are told they don't need to know anything, but they'll be taught every skill needed for their success. They can afford all this education by taking out a government backed financial loan. The college expects its instructors to open the heads of their students and fill them with knowledge.
Standardized tests in high schools give the average student the idea that the answer to a question is more important than understanding what the question is about. Students then refuse to be challenged. If the problem takes longer than five minutes to solve, they demand the answer. The words "You gotta give me the answer, cause I'm paying this school thirty-thousand dollars!" seem to echo throughout the halls of private colleges. No instructor has ever withheld an answer to an assignment. Instead the instructor first wants the student to attempt the solution by himself or herself. In so doing, the student develops the most useful part of the educational experience, the problem solving ability. Most of the time the instructor gives helpful hints as the student searches for the answer.
Students seem to ignore what they're expected to learn, but they're constantly concerned about their grade. It's nice to have a good grade point average, but it's even nicer to gain a good grasp of what is being taught.
It looks like TV has had a real effect on today's student. Because TV watching is a passive event, students expect their education to be passive as well. Students want to sit back and watch while their instructor amuses them. So what students really want is an entertainer instead of a teacher. If they were studying quantum physics, the students of today would prefer an instructor like Jay Leno rather than one like Albert Einstein. When dealing with history, politics, or literature it's easier for an instructor to develop an entertaining approach, but how can one make a programming class fun? Even if the subject of the program is humorous, the actual programming requires some thinking which today's students were conditioned to avoid.
Because students can't get deeply involved in what their supposed to be learning, they avoid studying and doing their homework as much as possible. In classrooms where computers are available, they use instant messaging to have on line conversations with their friends while the instructor is lecturing. They skip a lot of classes but remain in school so they can graduate and get that high paying job they were promised. To get the students to pass the class, a multiple choice test is given for which they are well rehearsed. Most pass with high marks, but some still fail.
If you know anything about education, you know that the majority of learning comes from a person's own efforts. You must do the studying while the school is there to help you as you evolve from confusion to understanding. A school can issue a degree validating that you've indeed learned the principles of your chosen field. In today's competitive world, it's very hard to find a job without some sort of degree or certificate. Sometimes the high tuition is worth it, if the expected knowledge is really attained.
Are there students going to private colleges that are highly motivated and are excellent learners? Of course there are. I've seen students that are every bit as good if not better than MIT students. But they are in the minority. Some of them did not go to US high schools but graduated from schools in countries like India or Poland.
American high school graduates are able to master some computer related subjects. Computer and Xbox game playing, instant messaging, email, web surfing, and blogging are their best subjects. Unfortunately, they're not part of the curriculum. Of the actual subjects taught, about half can do basic HTML and simple networking. Except for the gifted students, virtually no one can really program in any common compiled or scripting language. However, almost everyone passes these classes, sometimes even with high marks.
If you plan on starting a career in a computer related field here is some advice. Before going to a private college, ask yourself how much you know about what you intend to study. If you know nothing, then go to the internet and try reading about it and doing some tutorials. If this doesn't interest you, find something that does.
Invest in a good computer or two (if you want to study networking). Get a DSL or Cable internet connection. If you can't afford broadband or it's not available in your area, at least, get a dial-up connection. Look into open source software if proprietary software costs too much. I've encountered students taking web design who didn't have a computer or internet connection, so they couldn't practice what they were taught or do their assignments at home.
If you have a hard time learning the basics take some remedial courses at a community college. You might even consider a degree from there. Tuition at community colleges is a lot less than that of private colleges and often they teach the same material.
Get certification books in your field of interest and find similar material on the internet. If you study hard enough, you can get certified without any formal training. Certification tests usually cost around one hundred dollars. Make sure you're really prepared so you don't waste your money. Sometimes having a certification can land you an entry level job better than a degree from a private college.
Remember, if you want to launch an interesting career, there is no easy way to succeed. You simply have to work hard for it.
George Lunt is someone who feels the world is getting too corporate. His writings relate the individual's struggle with big government and big corporations. His website is http://www.corporate-aliens.com
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