Thursday 22 October 2020

Build your own education

I'm a couple of weeks into retirement and have already acquired a couple of students to shout at. Not my students, I hasten to add; they are somebody else's students. OR, and this is the point of the polemic, these youngsters are their own students and not teacher-chattels unless they choose to be. It's about taking ownership of your own education through assertiveness and the exercise of choice. The interesting students are those who kick over the traces and do something unexpected. Like the two lads who set off from Ireland, with sketchy school-french but plenty bravado, for Dijon in Summer 2019 to find work in different science labs.

My most recent acquisition has that in spades. It is an option for Irish undergraduates to spend one of their 4 years of studenting in America. It's like the wonderful Erasmus scheme, without any of the infrastructural support. It therefore takes an exceptionally determined, and well-connected, kid to make that happen. But this fellow had made in happen and thereby broadened his horizons considerably: geographically, socially and educationally. e's now in his final year and has signed up to do a project which has a significant slant towards molecular evolution and bioinformatics - hence my appearance in his orbit. Depending on how charitable you feel, my toolkit in the field is either 5 10 or 20 years out of date. But my crap-detector is better than any 20-something: it goes with the territory along with the silverback and missing teeth.

Anyway, the suggestion was floated that Wozzayank could benefit from this on-line Coursera in sequence analysis and 20 minutes later maybe that Coursera would be better. With a certain amount of justification W affirmed that he saw value in either of those options but asked which one was the preferred? 

To which I replied [bear in mind that I'd never met the chap]: "Ah now W, don't put it back on us; have a look at each syllabus and see which one best floats your boat. There are so many dimensions to the subject and you'll feel more comfortable in some. They say "the Y-chromosome carries the 3-D visualisation gene" and you produced some beautifully informative overlays of homologous structures in your prelim report. But you may be more productive looking at rates and constraints of evolution. Then again, you might think that one of the courses will beef up something not in your current tool-kit. Or, finally, look NOW at the second hand of your watch. IF it's an odd number do the First Course IF even do the Other Course."

A couple of days later, I was talking to TGWIH about which of several modules in her OU course she should sign up for this coming academic year. I was therefore primed for that question and I think it is useful to summarise the polylemma in three Fs:

  • Fun
    • Choose the course which seems most interesting. If you're grown up and/or protestant that might include embracing a challenge, even if daunting. Far too many young people have been duffed up by the system and their crap teachers into believing that they can't do math or foreign languages or cooking or soccer. College is maybe your last chance before retirement when the pressure is off and The Past is behind you and you can re-invent yourself as a building-jumper.
  • Foundation
    • You may be young but you have skills, talents and aptitudes. It might be sensible to choose the next course because you have nailed some of the pre-requisites in your lived experience. That way you can leverage what you know already rather than starting with a blank slate.
  • Future
    • look ahead and think where you want to be at the end of the module or, better, at the end of the course. Which of the options will look best on your CV. Which will most likely turn into the dream job or the mighty salary boost that you surely deserve.
Arrrrrgh! Whatever you do don't take the last option unless it includes substantial elements of the other two. Imagine if in 2016 you had reluctantly signed up for hotel management, or flight school, or RADA because of a family connexion or parental expectation or because you had expectations of driving a Lexus before you were 30. You would have endured 4 years of tedium, struggle and financial haemorrhage only to find that those careers are now dead in the water.  But don't over-think the problem either. There is a fourth F:

  • Flip
    • Make your own luck. If you have the capacity for happiness you'll thrive in whatever course you take, so you may as well flip a coin.

1 comment:

  1. TGHIH chose Systems Thinking, started the pre-reading and then decided ehhhhh opppps and have requested to change. The OU has a brilliant range of training online free courses. And you can get a certificate and put it on your CV. I decided that their free training on Systems Thinking was so good, I'd be better off going with 'W822 Business, human rights law and corporate social responsibility' - aligning to Fun, Foundation and Future. Plus I get to write Assignments blasting the private sector for paying lip service to development despite taking their golden coin for the past 20 years. Thank you for the help.