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Old 15th January 2013, 02:41 PM   #1
mike3
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What's the correct approach to college?

Hi.

I saw this:

https://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/Inconvenient.HTM

So does this mean that the correct approach to college, and education in general, is to learn a lot about many diverse and different fields, to have more than "only what I need to know" (tr. "only what I think I need to know"), and also to learn the connections between them and how to use stuff from one area to solve problems in another?

Also,

Quote:
And we won't even have to learn Chinese, because they will do it in perfect, unaccented, idiomatic English, because unlike Americans, the Chinese are not too lazy to learn foreign languages.

Yes, I used the "L" word. Regardless of what groups middle class Americans like to stereotype as lazy, the harsh reality is that the rest of the world increasingly sees Americans in general as lazy.
How do you get to be "non-lazy" by the standards of the rest of the world?
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Old 15th January 2013, 03:54 PM   #2
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What Dr. Dutch is saying is that if you limit yourself to what you think you'll need to know--even if you go in knowing what your profession will be--you will come out lacking the ability to handle unexpected situations.

I went into college knowing what I was going to come out the other side with: a job as a paleontologist. It's a fairly specialized field, one that is only taught at a few universities (at the undergrad level, at least). According to conventional "wisdom" among undergrads I should have gone straight through, focusing only on paleo classes and demanding that my time not be wasted taking frivolous classes like writinig, critical thinking, art history, etc. How dare they waste my time! I don't need to know this!!!!

Except....I do. My jewelry making class, perhaps more than any other extra-curricular, has deeply enriched my life (and nearly gotten me thrown out of a few jewelry stores, which is always fun). Tinkering in my grandfather's garage as a kid got me home more than a few times. Knowing about art history has given me a basis for discussions with colleagues and superiors. And writing....well, I'll go so far as to say that anyone who says a scientist doesn't need to take writing courses is too incompetant to be a scientist, much less advise them on career paths.

Here's the issue: we live in a complex world. We simply don't know what information will become necessary. So, what we do with a liberal arts education is to teach adaptability. We don't teach facts, at least not beyond a basic level--we teach how to learn, which is a much more critical skill. If all you have is facts, like the Modern Major General, you're doomed if you ever encounter a situation you're not already familiar with. If you know how to learn, in contrast, you can figure out what you need to know and how to learn it.

The correct approach to education is, yes, to try to see how every datum interconnects with other data. It's to see how common themes run through multiple fields, and how knowledge from one field is applicable to another. I remember learning annealing in my jewelry class. The professor was giving a lecture, and I was struggling to not laugh. He was, understandably, not happy and asked why I was smiling. I said "I learned about this last week in my Structural Geology class. By the way, why didn't you mention this?" (I forget what "this" was; it was something that's important when dealing with geology, but due to the homogenous nature of most metals it's not an issue in jewelry making.) A few years later I got into a discussion with a paleontologist about casting, and mentioned that one of us should talk to the jewelry department to see if they knew a way to make a better cast than our methods (plaster casts in flexable molds, which had a nasty habbit of getting bubbles in them). The point is, in both cases completely different fields, which no one would ever consider sharing concepts, actually are far more similar than anyone realized. Being able to make those connections is what makes one a valuable employee, because even if conditions change wildly you'll be able to function.

Originally Posted by mike3
How do you get to be "non-lazy" by the standards of the rest of the world?
Dr. Dutch's suggestion would be to learn at least one foreign language, and to take classes outside of your major for the simple fact that you want to learn. Educate yourself.
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Old 15th January 2013, 04:05 PM   #3
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I know a lot about a little (my specialty and my professional field) and a little about a lot (because I'm incessantly curious). Kids today should prepare themselves for changing jobs and/or careers. In my parent's day you went to work for one company and stayed with them your whole career. Things change a lot faster now and that work model is less useful if one is advising a student entering college.

I lucked out in that I picked a very flexible profession (nursing) and never stopped learning.
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Old 15th January 2013, 04:23 PM   #4
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Thanks for the answers, Dinwar & Skeptic Ginger.
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Last edited by mike3; 15th January 2013 at 04:24 PM.
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Old 15th January 2013, 05:42 PM   #5
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Don't spend money just to get a job (it doesn't work that way). Invest in your education. And yes, you should care about what you learn. That's what an inquisitive mind is for. If you just do what you're told and no more, you will at most be just a cog in a machine.
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Old 15th January 2013, 07:36 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by mike3 View Post
Hi.

I saw this:

https://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/Inconvenient.HTM

So does this mean that the correct approach to college, and education in general, is to learn a lot about many diverse and different fields, to have more than "only what I need to know" (tr. "only what I think I need to know"), and also to learn the connections between them and how to use stuff from one area to solve problems in another?

Also,



How do you get to be "non-lazy" by the standards of the rest of the world?
While good in theory there is one huge problem (at least with US colleges): cost. Already the cost of college has created a debt bubble that just passed every other form of personal debt and there is no sign the cost is going to do anything but go up.

If you want to get through college with as little debt as possible and don't get a lot of scholarships and-or grants you want to focus on your planned degree as every course you take outside of it adds to the debt you will graduate with. The current US college system discourages diversification and in many case you are lucky if you can get though just the courses for the degree itself in the standard four years.

Community colleges while far cheaper are even more laser focused--just getting all the required courses gets you the minimum credits to graduate. Again unless you got scholarships and-or grants why rack even more debt by taking course outside the degree?
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Old 15th January 2013, 09:39 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by maximara
Again unless you got scholarships and-or grants why rack even more debt by taking course outside the degree?
Dr. Steve Dutch explains that in the link in the OP.
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Old 15th January 2013, 09:46 PM   #8
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Old 15th January 2013, 10:01 PM   #9
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I look at the Dutch approach college for me in the context of my online video games. I have played 3 games for about 5-10 years. Yes, playing a large amount of video games would have allowed me to see the interconnectedness of it all and probably made me a better player, but the time involved would have increased since you have to start all these games at the beginning. Its a big gamble and I am lazy and not all that good.

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Old 16th January 2013, 11:01 AM   #10
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I was a History major in my third year and I took a computer programming class because a girl I liked was taking the class. Alas, true love did not blossom but the class itself was like the proverbial light bulb going off. I soon switched majors. However, my liberal arts background has been very useful. From my time as a history major I wrote a lot of papers and essays, the experience gained there has helped my career.
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Old 17th January 2013, 08:47 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Dr. Steve Dutch explains that in the link in the OP.
Actually it doesn't if you understand that many resumes are not read by human beings but by computer-don't have that degree and the computer coughs it out before it even gets to the work experience.

Also it has been known for a while that China's economic growth is based on mindless building --ghost cities that next to no one will ever live in.

The article also ignores that fact that while labor is cheap there are other factors that offset the costs--worker turnover (100% a year for one Indian call center), local corruption, and transportation costs.
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Old 20th January 2013, 09:38 AM   #12
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Know what career you want to go into before going to college, and make sure the courses are absolutely necessary. College is too expensive nowawadays. In the past, it was affordable to dabble in different courses. Find a college that will improve your critical thinking ability and learning ability (meditation helps) which will hep you get a high paid management position.
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Old 20th January 2013, 05:49 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Frishman View Post
Know what career you want to go into before going to college, and make sure the courses are absolutely necessary. College is too expensive nowawadays. In the past, it was affordable to dabble in different courses. Find a college that will improve your critical thinking ability and learning ability (meditation helps) which will hep you get a high paid management position.
That sounds good, but to expect someone at age 17 or 18 to really know what career they want is a bit unrealistic. Not having to work at a job you hate is much more important.

There are lots of high paid positions that aren't management.
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Old 21st January 2013, 06:04 AM   #14
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Although his animation is kind of lame and confusing, Dutch's point stands: Americans are in general lazier than people in other parts of the world.

I see it everyday with my students (4-year research university in the US). Education pundits and Administration push faculty to infuse "critical thinking" skills into our courses. That's fine, but I spend a lot more time with my students just trying to inspire them enough to care enough to actually work at what is ostensibly their chosen career path. That's what astounds me these days: so many students just going through the motions of college who are really not committed to working in the field.

For a lot of them, there's this fear of seeming too into something academic: "Not cool bro, not . . . cool." We've got to break them out of that immaturity first, and then see about getting them to learn how to really work at something.
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Old 23rd January 2013, 12:28 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by The Shrike View Post
Although his animation is kind of lame and confusing, Dutch's point stands: Americans are in general lazier than people in other parts of the world.

I see it everyday with my students (4-year research university in the US). Education pundits and Administration push faculty to infuse "critical thinking" skills into our courses. That's fine, but I spend a lot more time with my students just trying to inspire them enough to care enough to actually work at what is ostensibly their chosen career path. That's what astounds me these days: so many students just going through the motions of college who are really not committed to working in the field.

For a lot of them, there's this fear of seeming too into something academic: "Not cool bro, not . . . cool." We've got to break them out of that immaturity first, and then see about getting them to learn how to really work at something.
So how could one get to be as "non-lazy" as someone from those other parts of the world?
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Old 23rd January 2013, 10:01 AM   #16
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I am studying Computer tech and accounting. what else is that I need to know?
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Old 24th January 2013, 01:53 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by maximara View Post
The current US college system discourages diversification. . . .
Really? When I got my BS, not all that long ago, I was required for my degree to have so many hours to satisfy cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural requirements as well as study a foreign language, and had quite a few elective slots that I had to fill, too.

Even within my major (Electrical Engineering), I had a lot of choice in what I could study. There were so many "technical elective" hours that could be satisfied from a broad range of classes in math, physics, computer science, etc. And, while a lot of my classmates chose to specialize in specific EE areas, I was able to take a jack-of-all-trades approach and touch on a little of each of those areas.
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Old 24th January 2013, 05:00 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by mike3 View Post
So how could one get to be as "non-lazy" as someone from those other parts of the world?
Suck it up and work.

Originally Posted by MNBrant
I am studying Computer tech and accounting. what else is that I need to know?
I study fossils. My life has once depended on knowing the difference between cover and concealment, once on knowing how to break into a car, and once on knowing predatory behavior of large mammals. Then there are the hundreds of times when things like knowing how to raise pigs, how to work a table saw, and how to cast metal come in handy. I once stared in fascinated horror as an entire room full of grad students and a professor debated how to keep mud in suspension to create a turbidite. I said "I've got a cordless drill, a coat hanger, and duct tape. It's just like mixing paint." Blew their minds.

What will you do if a pipe bursts? Or you need to patch drywall? If your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere? If you get a bad wound? How do you tell the difference between a real credit card reader and a fake one? And these are just the questions for an ordinary lower to lower-middle class person to know. You want to talk upper-middle to upper class--or anyone who wants to get there--you're talking things like history and cultures of various countries, because you might have to do business with them. Even in your own country you can get into a LOT of trouble from accidental missteps. When "a lot of trouble" means "an international incident", it's useful to be able to work around them.

If all you know is your profession, all you can ever do is your profession as it stands right now. You can't keep up with advancements (they'll come from all over). You can't switch careers (you don't know anything about them). You probably won't be able to easily switch jobs (if you don't know how to learn you won't figure out the new systems).
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Old 26th January 2013, 09:04 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Suck it up and work.

I study fossils. My life has once depended on knowing the difference between cover and concealment, once on knowing how to break into a car, and once on knowing predatory behavior of large mammals. Then there are the hundreds of times when things like knowing how to raise pigs, how to work a table saw, and how to cast metal come in handy. I once stared in fascinated horror as an entire room full of grad students and a professor debated how to keep mud in suspension to create a turbidite. I said "I've got a cordless drill, a coat hanger, and duct tape. It's just like mixing paint." Blew their minds.

What will you do if a pipe bursts? Or you need to patch drywall? If your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere? If you get a bad wound? How do you tell the difference between a real credit card reader and a fake one? And these are just the questions for an ordinary lower to lower-middle class person to know. You want to talk upper-middle to upper class--or anyone who wants to get there--you're talking things like history and cultures of various countries, because you might have to do business with them. Even in your own country you can get into a LOT of trouble from accidental missteps. When "a lot of trouble" means "an international incident", it's useful to be able to work around them.

If all you know is your profession, all you can ever do is your profession as it stands right now. You can't keep up with advancements (they'll come from all over). You can't switch careers (you don't know anything about them). You probably won't be able to easily switch jobs (if you don't know how to learn you won't figure out the new systems).
So then how should one go about obtaining that knowledge of all those other areas? What would you suggest to me if I wanted to try and gain as much knowledge of those "other areas" ("outside your 'professional area'") as, say, you have?
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Old 28th January 2013, 07:56 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by mike3 View Post
So then how should one go about obtaining that knowledge of all those other areas? What would you suggest to me if I wanted to try and gain as much knowledge of those "other areas" ("outside your 'professional area'") as, say, you have?
Read a book. Take a class.
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Old 28th January 2013, 08:13 AM   #21
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Old 28th January 2013, 09:51 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by mike3 View Post
So then how should one go about obtaining that knowledge of all those other areas? What would you suggest to me if I wanted to try and gain as much knowledge of those "other areas" ("outside your 'professional area'") as, say, you have?
Apply the same techniques you used to gain knowledge about your subject area.

There is no shortcut to knowledge. You have to work at it. Having deep knowledge in one area will help, because you'll know how to learn and you'll be able to see connections faster, but you've still got to put the legwork in. The exact definition of "legwork" will of course depend on the subject--for geology, you have to do hiking, but for, say, French literature you can do it all from a library.

Originally Posted by kedo1981
Don't drink or party over much.
But be sure to do both to at least some extent. It's called "networking", and believe it or not going out to a bar can be very important for your future. I realized fairly early on that my departments were intentionally allowing us enough free time and opportunities to hang out together (sometimes in bars at department-sanctioned events, sometimes watching cheesy movies, sometimes just hanging out in the lab chatting). The reason is, these are your colleagues. Sometimes (in my field, at least) your life will depend on them; at the very least your career will certainly be easier if you know and are friends with a few people in the field. It's one thing to send an email to someone who you've never met asking for help; it's a whole other thing entirely to start off a request for help with "Hey, we should get a drink together sometime. Been too long since we shut down a bar."
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Old 28th January 2013, 11:44 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Originally Posted by mike3 View Post
So then how should one go about obtaining that knowledge of all those other areas? What would you suggest to me if I wanted to try and gain as much knowledge of those "other areas" ("outside your 'professional area'") as, say, you have?
Apply the same techniques you used to gain knowledge about your subject area.
I would suggest that you will get further by working in part time jobs that are only tangentially related to your profession.

I learn far more efficiently "on the job" than "in the classroom". Therefore, I have learned more about the world through jobs than I ever would be able to through study.

You also meet more people and that typically comes with an upside.

I learned more about life from working a summer in a cafeteria than you could cram into four years of college. I couldn't do my job without the degree and the things I learned while obtaining that degree, but that time behind the counter and washing dishes makes me better at my job.

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Old 28th January 2013, 12:03 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith
I would suggest that you will get further by working in part time jobs that are only tangentially related to your profession.
For some jobs that'll work--for example, carpentry or automotive repair. For others it won't--for example, nuclear physics or internal medicine. And before anyone jumps on me, I'm not saying that the stuff you can learn via hands-on training is simpler or easier; I'm just using the first examples that pop into my head.
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Old 28th January 2013, 12:23 PM   #25
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When I was getting a degree in computers in the mid-90s, I made sure to cram all the computer related course into my schedule as I could. I took two semesters of computer drafting, which didn't seem to have anything to do with my main degree, but the experience I got from those classes has paid off in my present position (IT tech) many times, plus some payoffs outside of work. All the English Composition courses I took has had payoffs. I really can't think of any class I had which I haven't benefited from in my life.

The trick, of course, is to take them during your regular college degree semesters, since you're paying for the semester anyway, cram them in there!
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Old 28th January 2013, 12:43 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
For some jobs that'll work--for example, carpentry or automotive repair. For others it won't--for example, nuclear physics or internal medicine. And before anyone jumps on me, I'm not saying that the stuff you can learn via hands-on training is simpler or easier; I'm just using the first examples that pop into my head.
I agree, but would suggest some creative thinking. My job requires a professional doctorate and there is no way to enter the field without it. But, I have often worked with staff who are working to see if this is the career for them, and I think that is a great idea.

My mother worked her way through high-school and college and never valued that experience. Instead she focused on her wealthier friends who had more time to study and get good grades. So, when her kids went off to school she discouraged us from getting "distracting" jobs. This was a horrible idea. Finally, I worked for a company for two semesters my senior year. With just that I knew I was going to have to change careers before I even graduated. If I had done it my first year I really could have saved some frustration.

All I'm saying is that for every job there is a way to work alongside that job or in the vicinity of that job before you over-commit. Take the chances you have to work in as many different environments as you can.
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Old 28th January 2013, 02:04 PM   #27
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even if you have an aptitude for it, you still have to work hard

Originally Posted by The Shrike View Post
For a lot of them, there's this fear of seeming too into something academic: "Not cool bro, not . . . cool." We've got to break them out of that immaturity first, and then see about getting them to learn how to really work at something.
I agree completely. I would add that some students think that if they have to work at a subject, it means that they are not good at it or are not suited for it. That may or may not be true in high school, but really doesn't apply to college very well. In my experience, one has to work at one's chosen area of study pretty hard.
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Old 28th January 2013, 03:00 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Apply the same techniques you used to gain knowledge about your subject area.

There is no shortcut to knowledge. You have to work at it. Having deep knowledge in one area will help, because you'll know how to learn and you'll be able to see connections faster, but you've still got to put the legwork in. The exact definition of "legwork" will of course depend on the subject--for geology, you have to do hiking, but for, say, French literature you can do it all from a library.
But how do you find out which areas to study? I.e. find out which ones will be useful (since you can't anticipate what will come up in the future)?
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Old 28th January 2013, 03:21 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by mike3
But how do you find out which areas to study? I.e. find out which ones will be useful (since you can't anticipate what will come up in the future)?
This is a basic test of expertise: If you can't figure out what data will be useful, you don't know that field.
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Old 28th January 2013, 05:17 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
This is a basic test of expertise: If you can't figure out what data will be useful, you don't know that field.
So what do you do to start learning a field you don't know?
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Old 28th January 2013, 05:38 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by mike3 View Post
Hi.

I saw this:

https://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/Inconvenient.HTM

So does this mean that the correct approach to college, and education in general, is to learn a lot about many diverse and different fields, to have more than "only what I need to know" (tr. "only what I think I need to know"), and also to learn the connections between them and how to use stuff from one area to solve problems in another?

Also,



How do you get to be "non-lazy" by the standards of the rest of the world?
Go to university? You've got to remeber a lot of the really insane level of work towards education happens at the pre-university stage in china. If you actualy get into university things tend to ease off because tradiationaly you were already made for life. Think the french prépas system. This is creating its own problems mind:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/bu...anted=all&_r=0
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Old 29th January 2013, 02:42 PM   #32
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I would dispute these utopian versions of what happens in education outside the US. China, for example. I am good friends with a Math professor who grew up and was educated in China. His area of expertise is Math. Period. Oh sure, he likes to play boardgames that I introduce him to but he never did that before he moved across the street. His understanding and use of English is acceptable but he'll never be mistaken for fluent.

As for college, my advice would be simple. Don't go until you have a clear picture of what you want with a college degree.
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