University

Interesting article from today’s New York Times, What a College Education Buys:

Moreover, if you’re not planning on becoming, say, a doctor, the benefits of diligent study can be overstated. In recent decades, the biggest rewards have gone to those whose intelligence is deployable in new directions on short notice, not to those who are locked into a single marketable skill, however thoroughly learned and accredited. Most of the employees who built up, say, Google in its early stages could never have been trained to do so, because neither the company nor the idea of it existed when they were getting their educations. Under such circumstances, it’s best not to specialize too much. Something like the old ideal of a “liberal education” has had a funny kind of resurgence, minus the steeping in Western culture. It is hard to tell whether this success vindicates liberal education’s defenders (who say it “teaches you how to think”) or its detractors (who say it camouflages a social elite as a meritocratic one).

Most people would agree that being skilled in multiple areas is a useful thing, but I don’t think people realise quite how useful. At a simple level, in Mind Candy we’re setting up a page where we list people’s ‘secret ninja skills’ – skills that aren’t their primary specialty, but can be called upon if necessary (e.g. photography, drawing, designing presentations, writing HTML, etc). Yet as the article suggests, Google and similar startups aren’t the result of specific courses, but of people who had diverse backgrounds.

Becoming and remaining flexible in university and in life adds something that can’t be measured in terms of grades or marks, only in originality, success and long-term happiness. Part of the reason why this subject interests me is because I’m finding it hard to describe what sort of specific skills are useful for ARG designers, beyond grasp of gameplay and story and the ‘ability to deploy intelligence in new directions on very short notice’.

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One Reply to “University”

  1. Diversity is hard to promote in the University system in the UK. Joint honours courses are not as common as single subject degrees and it is almost impossible to study two unrelated subjects, especially the case if you want to mix science or technology with arts or humanities. Even at A level I was told that my selection of biology chemistry and english literature would mean that I would not be able to be accepted onto a degree course, let alone get a job (I would have to have maths or physics to make me employable). Obviously this has not been the case, and of all my A level subjects English has been the most useful, despite being a scientist.

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