Musings on Education

One of my questions on education right now is: how is the changing landscape of education going to alter credentials for careers? Even the most innovative companies still require a formal degree, generally a Bachelors.

Will the certificates for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) from prestigious universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Berkley hold the same value as traditional ones? Especially as there’s no admission process?

The classes are open to all– what a beautiful thing! They’re like home-schooling or self-study but with a great teacher/mentor. Online courses with video lectures especially like those at Coursera and Khan Academy are far more engaging than the old virtual classrooms with just discussion boards and power points.

Ken Robinson beautifully presents the ideas of how the structures of our education systems hinder natural curiosity and creativity– love all of his TED talks. Tina Seelig at the 99u conference suggests how we should be phrasing things: “Here’s the answer ______. What’s the next question?” or instead of “5+5=” it should be “How can you equal 10”

Education is so strongly grounded in assessments, pre-requisites, and structure. It’s like a brick building during an earthquake,so solid that the ripples of our future are creating fissures. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fix it.

Anyone can study whatever fascinates them– a key ingredient to learning. If we’re interested in something we’re more likely to want to figure out it’s nuances. And because the courses are free and in the privacy of our own computer, iPad, or phone it’s easier to delve into subjects that are completely new and expand our horizons.

I love learning. Sometimes it feels like I just dabble in a variety of topics and really know nothing about any of them or that as I learn more, I know less because I realize all the other things I don’t know.

If MOOCs can lead to credentials for a potential job how will they affect Universities and Colleges? Sound familiar? Think of eBooks and bookstores. We still don’t quite know how to react to these fast-paced changes.

But, so far, this change is one-sided. Education is shifting but the job market, if anything, seems to be more rigorous. Where before an Associates sufficed it’s now a Bachelors and lieu of those a Masters and so on.

How else can a business measure the competence and knowledge of a prospective employee?


Understanding Others

Part of what draws me to literature is the  characters we meet– I love people, even if they’re fictional. I love understanding people and their points of view, mannerisms, dreams etc. Psychology is a new interest of mine, things like the basics of: kinesics, handwriting analysis, and personality types. It’s fascinating! I love seeing people develop and am constantly trying to as well.

Isabel Myers and her mother Katharine Briggs expanded on some of Carl Jung’s ideas (which I need to read) creating what’s known as the Myers-Briggs theory, described in the book Gifts Differing. It’s uncannily accurate– in about as accurate as you can be when dealing with the boundless diversity of people! It focuses on our natural preferences in understanding the world around us; the way we see or perceive things and make decisions or judgements. Here are the basics:

Our Energy, E or I

Extroverts (E) pull their energy from the outside in, through their experiences of the world. They’re expressive; process things by talking them through. They enjoy action and often have a breadth of interests and activities. 

Introverts (I) have an internal energy that slowly drains as they interact with the world. Their energy emerges from reflections in their inner world of ideas, insights, and memories.  They want to understand things deeply and are both subtle and intense.


Perceiving Preference, S or N

There are two ways of perceiving: sensing (S) and intuition (N).

Someone with a sensing preference focuses their attention on what’s being said: the facts. They trust their own observations and experiences; The realities. They are usually careful, conventional, and sometimes more critical.

“Matters inferred are not as reliable as matters explicitly stated… Prefer to learn by familiarization.”

In contrast, someone with an intuitive preference reads between the lines and makes connections with other concepts. Their focus is on vision; possibilities. They’re inventive, quick, imaginative, original, and generally more appreciative.

Judging Preference, T or F

Thinking (T) or feeling (F) tips our judgements to focus either more on truth or values.

The term ‘thinking’ doesn’t refer to the intellectual process but more on making decisions based on the “truth independent of the… wishes of the thinker or anyone else.” They are more rigid, things are black and white. Logical and more likely to notice inconsistencies.

Feelers are most conscious if ideas are pleasing or displeasing. They wonder how their decisions will affect others and their personal values influence how they make decisions. They are flexible towards situations; Compassionate, empathetic, and idealistic.

Dealing with the World, J or P

A well developed person has a balance of both but it’s which you instictivley react to situations with:

Judging (J)

  • Orderliness
  • Decide in advance what they intend to accomplish
  • Strong willpower and follow-through
  • Focus is on the goal

“Judging types with insufficient perception have no give or cooperation in them. If they lack an adequately developed perceptive process, they will be narrow, rigid, and incapable of seeing any point of view except their own.”

Perceptive (P)

  • Tolerant, a live and let live attitude
  • Leave things open to respond and adapt to change
  • Finds something of interest in almost any situation
  • Focus is on getting information

“Perception should be supported by an adequately developed judging process… to give continuity of purpose and supply a standard by which to criticize and govern one’s own actions”

These create a total of sixteen different personality ‘types’. For example I’m an INFP INFJ. You can read more about each at Type Logic, Truity, or Prelude Character


Learning & Education

I love learning but I have to admit I prefer self-study to following the classroom guidelines/due-dates etc. especially because I can go off on a tangent of research, if whim takes me, with what I’m most interested in. I understand structure in a business environment but in a learning environment possibilities and spontaneity are more interesting and enriching!

Structure helps some people with application but there’s always a side to a subject that can be found which is interesting or throwing another curve on learning the subject– like I did with my art history class. Studying physics but don’t like math? Learn about M-Theory! The structure of the classes shape our thinking. Teaching us ideas and opinions, while they can broaden our horizons they can also limit them if just taken at word and not further explored or discussed.

If everyone is trained and taught the same way, unless there’s encouragement for true independent thought aren’t we limiting ourselves? Setting us up not to think out of the box. There’s so much focus on getting the right answer that maybe it’s setting people up to be less creative for fear of being wrong.

The Contented Life

Being perceptive to our environment.

Noticing the charm of little things, like the form of the branches on trees.

Being sensitive to those around us.

Appreciating the characteristics of our own neighborhood– it’s home after all!

Savoring what we’re doing.

Finding beauty in every task even if it’s mundane.

Enjoying the novelties.

Taking our time.

Appreciating the day.


Sharing our joy and peace with others.


Encouraging words.

Calm attitude.

Pre-Historic Cave Paintings

Our modern society has the benefit of various inventions and the experiences of so many generations, we’re brought up with a vast deal of knowledge. If we didn’t have this background I imagine our minds would be akin to those of these cave artists. Our intellectual potential and capabilities are there. Just not fully tapped into. That’s how I picture people of the past.

They’re often portrayed as less resourceful but it’s not the people who were primitive, it was their technology. We can see that humans were as curious and observant towards their surroundings, as we are now. The simple lines and curves dynamically bring life to each animal on the cave walls.  There’s often an extra dimension, the surface contours of the cave were used to enhance the muscles helping mold the shapes of the bulls, bison, and horses.

Maybe it was the curves of the wall that inspired them to paint that particular animal? That would mean creative vision. The earthy-toned hues of the mineral pigments (mainly brown, black, yellow, and red) create an effect as though they’re naturally part of the cave. Some of the strokes are so fluid they almost look like fissures in the rock. Although we can only guess at the purpose of the animals being painted on the walls, it’s clear the society had a strong respect for them and saw their beauty.

Seattle Art Museum – Bronze Sculpture

Indian on Horseback, by Alexander Proctor. 1898. Bronze

“I am eternally obsessed with two deep desires-one, to spend as much time as possible in the wilderness, and the other, to accomplish something worthwhile in art.” –Alexander Proctor

The way the horse is about to step back and the sway of the Indian’s body captures the sense of movement beautifully.  You can almost hear the horse neigh and its hooves pattering the ground. The contours of the horse’s muscles show how well Proctor understood their anatomy. The static diagonal of the spear enhances the motion and brings our eyes to the Indian’s face which looks collected despite his slightly furrowed brow; He’s poised and ready for whatever it is they’re facing.


Why does art captivate us?

St. Catherine of Alexandria, Raphael Sanzio. 1508. Oil on Wood.

True art creates a connection with the viewer– a really great work evokes an emotional or intellectual response. But maybe what’s most fascinating is the way we’re unable to remove ourselves from it, whether we’re the artist or viewer. Our reflections are always there. They might be our own personal opinions, thoughts, values. Sociopolitical concepts. Something about us, our time, our experience– and the artist’s experience tint the artwork.

For example the Greeks portrayed ideals of harmony and perfection. Their seemingly perfect Parthenon with it’s gentle curves to outbalance the natural optics of our eyes, finely toned figures, pottery with scenes of drama and action. Jump some centuries and we’re at the Industrial revolution with a new pace to life, energy, and inventions. Unconsciously, the Impressionists reflect this mood, capturing transient moments: their color and light with quick dabbling brushstrokes. Like when Claude Monet famously tried to capture the exact way the light played with Rouen Cathedral and made a flurry of paintings.

We have an innate curiousity about the world around us, a longing to explain our discoveries will always draw us to art. Does art always have meaning? Here’s another question– can you separate yourself enough from it to create or interpret art without meaning? Art conveys things we can’t always capture with words, there’s a more instinctive response to it; No barriers of language or age. Art is something everyone can learn to love, all you need to do is take a moment and just look.