There was a conversation in a meeting at work the other day, concerning computer science graduates.  It ran along the line that it was possible to come out of university with a hot talent and walk into a high paying job.  So far, so good.  The problem being that in a matter of years newer graduates, up skilled with the latest code and resources would emerge and all of a sudden it seems that our original graduate is lagging, and indeed would find themselves on the scrap heap; career-wise.  One of my co-workers suggested that this was why M.Sc courses remain very popular for CompScis looking to retrain and re-enter the workplace elsewhere.

I thought this sounded a terrible shame, and whilst it isn’t something that I’ve any particular personal knowledge of I could well believe that this could be the case.  I was still thinking about it today walking into work.  As an aside walking to work on sunny spring mornings is wonderful – even when work sucks you at least turn up in a good mood.  It also frees your mind for thinking, which is clearly what I was doing today. 

This whole tale of this problem for CompScis reminded me of the short story by Issac Asmiov “Olympics”.  Well worth reading (as I believe most of his work is) it tells the seemingly sad tale of a future where everyone has their career knowledge imprinted into them by machine, and ready to work from the get go.  The titular Olympics refers to the competition where these skilled youngsters compete for jobs and praise.  The hero of the story though can’t be programmed in this way and spends most of the story raging about it, until he discovers that those that can’t be programmed are actually the original thinkers and true geniuses of the day.  Everyone else finds that after a while their knowledge is superseded by a newer breed of imprinted student.

A bit like our CompSci example perhaps? 

I kept thinking about it and it struck me that today’s student is trained to pass SATs, GCSEs and A levels; and then increasingly comes to university wanting to be imprinted with their degree and off into a job.  Only a very small numbers of original thinkers seem to enter HE these days, which is to the detriment of us all; not just those of us in higher education.  And with the continuing push for student centred learning provision, it seems that all we will continue to do is feed this treadmill and risk diminishing the tiny sparks of genius and original thinking to the point that they are no longer visible.

Or maybe we already have?


2 thoughts on “Olympian

  1. Don’t know the answer and I’m a simple soul, but I’ve always thought the larger the numbers put into groups the more literally soul destroying and mindless anything becomes, including education. Perhaps thats not inevitable but it often works out that way. People just can’t help going through the motions because you can’t possibly have any genuine interaction or communication or ideas on a mass scale. Similarly all these things really need time, a long time to grow.


  2. If I knew the answers I wouldn’t have asked the question. Interestingly only yesterday I taught a RefWorks session where two students both asked me “Will we be assessed on this?” when I said no their response was “So I don’t need to know it then?” *sigh* And these are future biomedical specialists.

    Agree with you about the size of groups – the best teacher:student ration is 1-2-1, and I made sure those yesterday knew that we offered that kind of service. But with rising numbers if all our students took that up we’d be horrifically overwhelmed in no time at all.


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