Wednesday, October 12, 2005

He's Thrown a Kettle over a Pub. What Have You Done?

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

It's time for an indulgent thought experiment.

What if you were a university and you decided to put together a one year long course of papers in subjects that would be almost universally useful to anyone. Something that people could take that would give them worthwhile skills that no matter what else they decided to do would still come in handy. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Certificate of Usefulness. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Summer School.

PHIL 105 Critical Thinking

Since we are constructing a certificate with the broadest appeal and utility possible it is hard to go past some Philosophy. Everyone encounters arguments throughout their lifetime and would benefit from having a grounding in the skills of making their own arguments better and recognising where other people's fall down. And Morthos has to eat.

Semester One

STATS 150 Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

This course is akin to PHIL 105, but with numbers. It's not too advanced, but eminantly useful.

LAW 101 The Legal System Part 1

Law, like the NZ Politics paper below, affects everyone. I havn't taken this paper myself so I don't know if it actually would be useful to those who don't want to become lawyers, but I like the idea that people should find out how the legal system of their country works.

POLITICS 107 New Zealand Politics

"An examination of who governs New Zealand and in whose interests. Topics include: government formation and functioning under MMP, political leadership, national identity, parties and elections, the role of the media in election campaigns, the place of Maori within the political system, and business and politics." - Who doesn't need to know about that?

ECON 101 Microeconomics

This course provides an introduction to the economic behaviour of individuals and firms with emphasis on output and price determination in the various market structures. Theories and selected applications will be presented. Economics is one of those things that effects everyone, and if it effects everyone it should be in our Certificate of Usefulness.

Semester Two

ACCTG 102 Accounting Concepts

A good grounding in how to manage your money is very beneficial. There are a great deal of self-employed or small-business folk who get lost at GST or Income Tax time, and this paper will help them even if they do just send everything to their accountants.

LAW 101 The Legal System Part 2

Law, like the NZ Politics paper below, affects everyone. I havn't taken this paper myself so I don't know if it actually would be useful to those who don't want to become lawyers, but I like the idea that people should find out how the legal system of their country works.

ECON 111 Macroeconomics

This course aims to analyse aggregate economic activity in the national economy and its interrelationships with the rest of the world. Emphasis is placed on basic principles involved in measurement and theoretical analysis of national output, employment and interest rate, money, inflation and unemployment, exchange rate and open economy issues. Alternative theoretical explanations of key macroeconomic problems and relevant economic policies are compared. The theoretical concepts are illustrated from a range of New Zealand and international applications.


Fuck it, let's let the punters choose one. Unless anyone else can find something that should go here.


Mal Fet said...

That is remarkably similar to the general papers in the first year of the Property degree...

Admitedly I took Critical thinking purely as an interest paper, and politics was replaced with "Construction", but the papers all set me up well for understanding every other paper I did, and quite a lot of it has been helpfullin day to day life...

I am all for it really.

The Hand of Morthos said...

I will see if I can get a full and proper list of the General Education papers that students will be forced to do two of from next year onwards. PHIL105 is on the list, and this should be a fairly good example of what the University of Auckland believes to be essential for an adequate education.

Also, PHIL105 should be on the list because it's not just educational, it's also entertainable!

(Gah, that came out even worse than I thought it would...)

Apathy Jack said...

That sounds good, but in order to equip them for Real Life, they must be banned from taking any subject that ends with "ology" or "osophy".

HORansome said...

Or, indeed, be taught by any of the following sectors; Primary, Secondary or Tertiary.

Xavier said...

I think you should include BIOSCI 101: Essential Biology from Genomes to Organisms. It helps get rid of those Intelligent Design tendencies which some people have. That can only be a good thing when equipping someone for the real world

Apathy Jack said...

Actually, I like the Bio idea, but I'd expanf it out slightly to include a few more of the Sciences - a basic understanding of How Stuff Works never hurt anyone.

And in other news, I lost a bet with myself: It took Morthos two whole hours to rise to my bait - an hour longer than I had wagered myself.

I owe me a coke.

HORansome said...

Hey, it was I, Ransome, who rose to your bait. I have to keep my fractured personalities separate, mmkay?

Anyway, I still maintain that being taught in our current educational system is the last thing you want for your children. Morthos would agree.

The Hand of Morthos said...

Probably, although I am very contrary. I do think that if we are to fix the system that Critical Thinking skills need to be taught at a much earlier age.

Which is an interesting point about the certificate of usefulness notion. Critical Thinking skills, when taught at the tertiary level really only 'convert' about 30% (in a good semester) of the students. By and large, by the time students have gone through Primary and Secondary educational systems without critical thinking training they have become inculcated to a particular take on irrationality and no matter how much theory and practice you give them they will never understand the concept of validity (scary but true). Critical thinking skills need to be taught at the primary level and expanded upon in the secondary level so that my colleague and I doon't have to try and fix our students at the tertiary level.

The NCEA, with its skill set mentality might amelioriate some of our concerns, but it will take several years to see that. Thus our current evangelical work is towards primary and secondary school teachers, as the 'Philosophy in Schools' conference shows. If we can persuade teachers that critical thinking skills are necessary but also fun to teach then our burden might well be lifted and your descendants might well be clever enough to survive the rise of our robotic overlords.

Eject them into space, I say. So say we all.

STC said...

Ha! English 101 represent!

Actually, I think English 230 Critical theory and Cultural studies would be an integral part of a universal education.

Philosophy 105 is absolutely essential.

Sorry Xavier, but not all life revolves around the fact it evolved :P

Eric Olthwaite said...

Thank you all for your comments:

mel fet: You're right it is eerily similar. Good to hear that you found the peper's useful, kinda proves my point :-)

morthos: Thanks for the info. A 30% conversion rate is still 30% more than there would have been without PHIL 105 though. I suppose it is an inescapable fact that universities have do do a lot of "ambulance at the bottom of the cliff" work to bring students up to standard after high school, and there are many things within the education system and NCEA that need changing.

That said, as Jack's stories prove, with many kids just keeping them relatively safe until the end of seventh form can be a Herculean task in itself to which Jack deserves our fullest praise and admiration.

Xavier: (fuck this feels like I'm doing te horoscopes) I love biology and hate creationism as much as anyone. But I'm afraid that BIOSCI 101 doesn't cut the mustard. Any pepers we include have to be practically useful to anyone who takes the CofU. If you're an apprentice plumber who takes the CofU one year before going back to plumbing then I can't really see the biology coming in all that handy, as opposed to, say, the accounting.

Jack: Actually I've sort of changed my mind. Although it's a bit indulgent on my part, let's give them a bit of science. How about changing the last elective in semester two to ANTHRO 102 Introduction to Biological Anthropology? It's science, and with humans, and anti-creationistic.

Stephen: How would those English papers come in handy to our "Apprentice Plumber" in everyday life? Sell them to me :-)

Xavier said...

Stephen, I know that you don't put much stock in understanding how the world works, but the rest of us, well, we think its kind of important.