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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?

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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.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi James!

Thank you for your post and for sharing an excellent TED talk. 

The question that springs to mind after to reading your post is 'do we recognise attendance at a talk/reading a book etc. or do we test the acquired knowledge? How do we test it?'

Interestingly, of all the people I have met in the past few months I have learnt the most from a Sami reindeer herder from the arctic region of Norway; a marine biologist specialising in biological ecosystems in the polar nights; and from the OpenIDEO team and community. I have been very blessed and fortunate to have been in contact with these people. How can we allow greater access for other people to have experiences like this?

Photo of Kate Rushton

This post from our finance challenge on the Human Library might interest you - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/financial-longevity/research/human-library#!

Photo of James McBennett

Kate Rushton Sami reindeer herder sounds interesting. What did you learn from them? 

Photo of Kate Rushton

The way the Sami reindeer herders are embracing their traditions in a modern way. I am not 100% sure I got this right but traditionally when a Sami proposed hey would travel to the intended bride's house in a line of reindeer and sleigh with the future husband, best friend and the rest of the family. Then the future husband would ride around the house on the sleigh. The best friend would go into the house to speak to the bride (he would have also done this in advance). Then the bride would come out and tie the reins of the reindeer to the sleigh of the future husband if she accepts. 

Now this is done with cars and the bride puts the key into the ignition of her future husband's car. 

They also think long term. It is better to buy a traditional coat than last several years than one that lasts a year. 

There is very much a focus on resource consumption and minimising their footprint. Many Sami like tourism because it means they have more than one source of revenue: money from a tourist trip that they control and their reindeer. But, there are lots of Sami who are lawyers, nurses etc. 

The Sami seem to be very in touch with other indigenous groups. The guy I spoke to buys seal fur of the East Greenlanders to support their economy and livelihood. In the cold arctic, fur is extremely warm and last longer than most alternatives. 

The man I spoke to also mentioned the spread of written language among the Sami was a good thing and was not completely negative about modernisation. I got the impression that he saw it as a case of pros and cons. He studied economics and marketing at University and has used this to still be a Sami reindeer herder but also set up his tourist business offer trips to people like me. 

Photo of James McBennett

Very interesting lessons! Thanks for sharing! I saw something recently about how Sami youth are using social media. 

On coats, the Italians have a different theory which is also interesting. They invest in long term well-cut well-made fashion like a suit in the case of a man, then buy the cheapest stuff to accessorise it and change their fashion taste monthly with shifting cheap accessories. When my friends were there Union Jack flags were popular, but by the time they bought them, U.S. flags had become popular. Have to move quickly! The combination of expensive and cheap is really interesting which I thought how that would play in the design of cities. 

Photo of James McBennett

http://www.recode.net/2016/11/15/13644104/linkedin-ceo-four-year-degree-college-vocational-training-code-enterprise?utm_campaign=recode.social&utm_medium=social&utm_content=recode&utm_source=facebook

LinkedIn CEO feels similarly. How can an online platform existing or new change how people are hired and what skills are needed?