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Obliquity: Improve Education Without Changing Education.

There are more great education opportunities out there than ever before, but they need to be accepted by employers.

Photo of James McBennett
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Rene Descartes said that "The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries." There have never been more ways to have conversations with the finest minds today, not simply confined to books alone. Beyond careers, education fulfils philomaths' thirst for knowledge through the internet that provides an endless amount of educational opportunities. But do employers care? Usually, they look at advanced and bachelor degrees, high school diplomas or certificates depending on job or they look at experience.

Most of the best lessons learned I've learned are not from any of these established institutions. I have learned most from books, online talks, online courses, my own research, even simply reading Wikipedia and of course from the dinner table conversations with many knowledgable friends and family. On experience, I've learning from doing. I won't forget to plug OpenIDEO and IDEO U of course! How do we rank non-traditional experience and learning? How can we make oblique education matter more? How can we make it more respected? Does it need to be recorded in a new way or classified with a better name? Ultimately, will employers hire and promote from oblique education? From a startup perspective, does oblique education offer a competitive advantage?

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • A group brainstorm

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Photo of Madiha Ahmed

Hi James !

I agree with your statement-"Most of the best lessons learned I've learned are not from any of these established institutions. I have learned most from books, online talks, online courses, my own research, even simply reading Wikipedia and of course from the dinner table conversations with many knowledgable friends and family. On experience, I've learning from doing."

The importance and focus given to the degrees and diplomas sometimes results in :
*Students not even paying attention to the content taught. I am reminded of a quote I read in high school,"Some students drink at the fountain of knowledge,others just gargle."

*Cheating and adopting unfair means during exams (passing and good marks is more important). I read a book,If God was a Banker by Ravi Subhramaniam about 2 students-one was a sincere honest student and the other resorted to unfair means to climb higher in the success ladder. The latter falls hard from the ladder.This book explores education and how it determines career,business or dreams in future.
I found this relevant as a student.


Katie asked a question in the comments below-'do we recognise attendance at a talk/reading a book etc. or do we test the acquired knowledge? How do we test it?'

Attendance alone at a talk or reading a book is not enough. So,how do we test it ?

A Research project or Survey could be given.
Example, for the book I mentioned above,"If God was a banker" there could be a project on how this applies to our society today,maybe a study in a campus or online or live survey on what students think about the issues portrayed in the book.

Another issue that may arise is how to connect the talks or books to the subjects being studied by or taught to the student.

Well,maybe a list of resources-talks or books or events related to a course or subject can be shared on the campus or on the website ,maybe more offers or discounts can be given to students. (Can be done by teachers alone or with the help and collaboration with students)

With this,the professors or teachers or facilitators can be present or part of these talks/events/books and prepare a research,survey,study content which the students can work on thereafter. It can be same for all students or options may be given or it may be completely open for the students to address 1 or more perspectives from the given resources.

I am loving the research part of this challenge. (I know I am late.Trying to catch up !)

Thank you James and Katie for sharing such wonderful thoughts.

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