Too much education?

The local newspaper recently published a letter to its editor from a teenager complaining about her homework load.  Four hours of homework along with extracurricular activities and volunteer requirements is stressing her out and doesn’t leave her time to have a job, so she wrote.

Most of the online comments to her letter were of the “life’s tough kid” type.

But, I happen to agree with this whiner.

In this post, I suggested one reason the average age at which folks made significant contributions to their respective fields had increased over the last 100 years is because we’ve occupied more of their time with expanded education requirements.

Maybe a broad education, high extracurricular involvement and volunteerism is good.  But, there may be costs too.  I can think of couple costs.

One cost is innovation.  We train the initiative and self-direction out of folks by laying out the steps for them.  As Seth Godin pointed out (see this blog post), our education model churns out “predictable, testable and mediocre factory workers,” rather than folks inclined to discover the next Google or Facebook.

Another cost is maturity and experience.  We insulate and delay students from the harsh realities of the real world — like having to make a tough choice between work or playing sports, spending on a budget, coping with failures and setbacks and figuring out how to  produce something others value.

I read that companies say that college hasn’t prepared students for the work force.  Maybe.  Or maybe the students have been kept so busy with the curriculum and extracurricular activities that they haven’t accumulated as much work experience as previous generations had by the same age.

I wonder how many folks get their first significant job after they graduate from college.  Or, more importantly, how many years of (any) work experience the typical new college grad has now compared to 30 years ago.  How many folks are learning key work lessons — like the importance of a well-groomed appearance, showing up on time and meeting deadlines — at 25 years of age instead of 15?

The Other Seth on the Kindle

Seth Godin has some wonderful ideas about what the Kindle should do to beat back iPad.    But, I have news for Seth.  Even a $49 or free Kindle isn’t going to beat the iPad.

Kindle was an awesome product. But, from what I can tell, the iPad is that much better.  The price is relatively immaterial.  Why have two devices that do about the same thing, but one does it much better?

Kindle may be able to occupy a profitable niche for book-0-philes, but unless it pulls an HTC leap in product development, it’s going to lose to iPad.

Kindle is a sunk cost. My guess (and as always, I could be wrong) is that Amazon would better off tying in with the iPad early before Apple’s iBookstore starts taking a chunk of their business.

I wish both devices would support pdf’s better.

Good Nuggets from Another Seth

Seth Godin is interesting.  That’s why I like to read his blog.

Good Nugget #1Who judges your work?

The ability to choose who judges your work–the people who will make it better, use it and reward you–is the key building block in becoming an artist in whatever you do.

Bad judgment is why so many businesses and products fail.  Too often we think in all-or-nothing terms when thinking of solutions.  For example, “this idea will solve the problem for everybody, or it will solve the problem for nobody.”  Instead we should be thinking of who will it solve the problem for and why.

The best laid plans often fail because the wrong people have judged them.

I learned long ago that when someone comes to me for advice on whether and idea will work or not, to have an open mind because I don’t know.  I’ve seen stuff that I never thought would be successful become successful, and sure winners die in the market.

Even when I try to make the judgment for myself (for example, answering the questions, “would I buy this?”), I’m often wrong.  Something that I never thought I’d want turns out to be something that I find very useful.

My advice is to keep an open-mind, try to understand the true value proposition as best as possible and then try to learn as much as possible for real world market results.

Good Nugget #2: The coming melt-down in higher education (as seen by a marketer)

Back before the digital revolution, access to information was an issue. The size of the library mattered. One reason to go to college was to get access. Today, that access is worth a lot less. The valuable things people take away from college are interactions with great minds (usually professors who actually teach and actually care) and non-class activities that shape them as people. The question I’d ask: is the money that mass-marketing colleges are spending on marketing themselves and scaling themselves well spent? Are they organizing for changing lives or for ranking high? Does NYU have to get so much bigger? Why?

This post goes along with my prior posts on education and why college degrees are becoming worth less.