Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Education for a formality

  1. Oct 6, 2009 #1
    I just wanna ask what's the situation at your place.

    At some places people don't really have the interest for what they study...they just do it for the degree and finally survival; a 'job'...that's about it. So while they are having technical education all they have in mind is passing...as a result they really don't understand anything...but just mug up the essentials and try to pass with it (for e.g. they know how to evaluate limits but actually do not know what it is or they know how to integrate but don't know the meaning of the dx by the end of each function, or in that case the concept of infinitely small and the advantages that it poses.)

    In the end you get a dude who know just knows how to score and solve numerical.

    My question is do such people exist at your place; if so, how much of the population do they represent?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2009 #2
    Hopefully those people don't represent most of the population :uhh: I'd say knowledge is more important than ignorance. Having knowledge/education only so that you can say you have a piece of paper certificate defeats the purpose of having a sense of wonder.

    In response to "real self-education", some people bash that saying not from a book and come up with your own ideas. I could be wrong, but Galileo not only wanted to be creative, he also wanted to understand how things worked and had a sense of wonder. He didn't want to think out of a vacuum. Galileo would relate to other disciplines to give himself new insights, and these other disciplines were inside books he had from self-education. Who cares if Galileo was from a book? As far as being from a book, Albert Einstein was big into self-education, even to the point that formal education suffered. Who cares if he was from a book? When you look at most of the scientific discoveries/inventions throughout time, most of them use ideas that already existed and then combine them together in unique ways. Einstein didn't come up with the E in E=MC^2, but rather combined ideas which already existed like E & M (which were concepts found in books).

    When you learn something new, you relate to things that you already know so that you can understand what you're reading. Of course when you relate to things you already know, for conceptual understanding, these things also happen to be from a book. So who cares if you're from a book for trying to develop a deep intuitive understanding by relating to outside sources.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2009
  4. Oct 7, 2009 #3
    Hummm...at my place the case is oppose...actually I am the only one (is appears) out of millions who honest with this course.

    Blame it on the university.

    Self education is what I call assertions...the thing which the current closed minded scientific society is usually not willing to accept...you see they are book worms...they read them as if the universe made them explaining itself.
  5. Oct 7, 2009 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Yes, such people exist in the work place. They're the engineers that are very happy to land a job where all they do is enter data into a computer and then distribute the results. Of course, sooner or later, management realizes they could pay less money to someone less qualified to do that job. They don't fire the engineer - instead they move him to a job more suited for an engineer. Then the guy panics and desperately searches for a new job where all he has to do is enter data into a computer while whining about management taking him out of a job he was very happy doing.

    They're not the majority, though. They're just the ones that the rest of the workcenter is relieved to finally see go away. The one's that hang on, doing just enough to make it hard to fire them, are the worst - they just never seem to go away. You accumulate too many of these people and all the good employees start to leave.

    The majority are people who can understand the intracies of a job once someone else points them out. Getting the few who can pick up a lot of the more subtle aspects of the job on their own and understand why those subtleties are important are a little rarer. If you have a good training program and hang on to experienced people that have picked these things up, even if a bit slower, then you don't need that many really sharp people to keep the overall knowledge level up. You just need a lot people that consistently try to improve their knowledge and that have no qualms about borrowing knowledge from those more experienced or just plain smarter than them.
  6. Oct 7, 2009 #5
    This is the situation in my place, actually I'm the only dude who actually studies; so the consequence that I see is -

    1) Quality of teachers degraded; they don't know the most basic questions...I don't wanna mum them or reduce my internal scores, so I don't ask (anyway they can't answer).

    2) The university sees such (fake) students having fun and thinks that the course is too easy and bumps up the course to such a high level that there's no way the real students can finish it, further more the additionally added thing is reluctant...for e.g adding higher calculus in IT engineering (they don't know what dx is in calculus).

    2.5) The result of point 1 and 2 is that people like us dropping into online forums (like this one) asking out various problems which takes insane time to clear; and finally result in an unfinished course...and most probably a failure (unless you apply the mug-up technique).

    3) The difference between these real and fake students diminish, as a result the company doesn't realize the difference at all and you get paid by your 'degree' and not what you actually do.

    4) People think there're too many geniuses around as compared to the world...so they are a generation of geniuses.

    5) The same group of polluted people get employed as teachers for the next generation and the real interested students suffer (e.g me).

    6) entrance exams become extremely difficult and very vast in course as a result the real student always fail...and after that nothing can happen to you.

    7) People think of the real students as 'scientists'...and you know scientists are 'mad'. Any attempts to really understand the subject will make people think you're mad.

    We have 3rd year IT engineers here who're afraid to use Linux and don't think beyond 'turbo C'.

    The HOD of the electrical department of the university composed of like...300 colleges and millions of students bolted out in front of me by saying "I don't have time" after realizing he was inept of reviewing and understanding my work...finally he was spitting gibberish question.
  7. Oct 8, 2009 #6
    Heh, I'm one of those people. I managed to maintain a 3.4 GPA in graduate school and totally destroyed my PhD qualifier. Unfortunately I suck at research. Compared to the other grad student and postdocs in my group, I seriously have no idea what I'm doing.

    Oh, I do know what the dx at the end of an integrand is. But that's because I was also a math major in undergrad. :smile:
  8. Oct 8, 2009 #7
    You're from India, right? In describing just your university, you have described the situation here to a T. These people represent the whole country.
  9. Oct 8, 2009 #8
    There also may be some good that comes from some formal education. I never believe something just because it's in writing or in a book. It's more reasonable to look at the source, and peer-review journals are better. Since what you learn in academia is peer-reviewed by other experts, it's as a general rule more credible. Then of course formal education only correlates with innovation to an intermediate level and then after that there's no correlation (well actually depending upon the area you're in). People who are great at innovation usually have more self-education than formal education. Coming from a variety of sources more than just what you learn in class can help you be a more flexible thinker. However, having a basic level of "formal education" is desired, because there's the correlation to the intermediate level.

    Einstein was thought to be lazy by his professors and he didn't go to class much and had his own agenda. However, he was very very self-educated, would browse through Science Encyclopedias like crazy when he was a child, and still had some formal education, a "doctorate degree". Although he did poorly in some subjects and failed some entrance exams, he did extremely extremely well in other areas of academia. It's not like he was an idiot with no education.
  10. Oct 9, 2009 #9


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm getting really frustrated with the engineering program because of this. I got my Bachelor's in Physics and of course, I'm always asking about the physical mechanisms in the electrical components and it seems to me like the engineering teachers themselves are just kind of pushing the "this all you need to know to pass" mindset on us, but it's probably just department disparity.

    I'm seriously thinking of going back into physics for my masters at this point. I wanted to know more about hands-on stuffs and all, but I guess I just can't have my cake and eat it too.
  11. Oct 9, 2009 #10
    That's my pet peeve. :mad: What's the point of learning if it's only for a test? I like to do outside reading so that I can understand what's going on, rather than just study for a test.

    Maybe someone can explain this to me? : Some people say you shouldn't do reading outside of what you learn in class, relate to things you already know to help make it more conceptual, or relate to other disciplines for a bigger picture, and instead just regurgitate what's in the study guide because you don't want what's from a book and instead want an idea of your own. Personally that doesn't make sense to me because doing reading outside of what you're learning in class, relating to things you already know, and to other disciplines can help make it more conceptual useful knowledge rather than rote. So what if doing outside reading and relating to other disciplines rather than the study guide is "from a book"? I thought Einstein cared more about conceptual knowledge than rote learning? I could be wrong but the traditional meaning of "not from a book" means to think about what you're reading rather than just regurgitate? Now I guess the new fad is regurgitate the study guide to avoid being from a book. Am I the only one who thinks that doesn't make any sense? :confused:
  12. Oct 10, 2009 #11
    heh, if you want to play with hardware, you may just have to buy some and tinker. get some microcontroller programming kit, or google some Bob Pease videos and do what you love to do. but to be honest, the further you go in EE, the more it just becomes pure applied mathematics. i suggest learning to love things like Matlab if you stay, and embrace the discrete domain. never know, you might find you love programming nVidia GPUs.
  13. Oct 10, 2009 #12


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm sure the testing serves some standardized purpose, but I believe it's more for technician training. I'm not a technician, I'm an intellectual. I abhor testing. It's a way to measure my ability as a trainable monkey. It does not do the research process justice. Research isn't something that should be hurried blindly from memory. In fact, I think it sets the wrong mood.

    It is my opinion that about half of my physics teachers were empathic to this... they are aware that physics isn't for technician monkeys. I don't feel the same way at all about my engineering classes.

    I do love Matlab... long before EE, it was part of the physics program (and was central in my physics research). Most of my EE peers actually loathe it... they prefer MS Excel (yech!).

    But yeah, you're right, I should tinker on my own. Bob Pease and a microcontroller kit... noted, thanks for the pointer.

    Yet... a stubborn part of me still wants to play ball and finish off the MS in EE, then move on.
  14. Oct 10, 2009 #13
    It goes to show you that people are people regardless of their education. You have those who get through college and are worthless and those who have a meager secondary education but are one of the most productive people in the company. I've seen this and the exact opposite.

    We are on our 4th stress analysis engineer at work. Highly educated individuals (and highly paid) who are next to worthless and we will probably be firing this one too. We are having a hell of a time retaining a GOOD person for this position.
  15. Oct 12, 2009 #14
    Good job dude...good job. :rofl:

    Basically the flaw lies in the examination scheme; I have a drastic idea to improve it though.
  16. Oct 12, 2009 #15
    Electricity is actually extremely hard to master...you wont need libraries for this; even text book wont help...you know why??...cause you will need like............1000 ebooks (text search and indexing really works; I use recoll) moving around pages in impossible; in modern age, text books are an absolute abject concept, for purpose of reference books at least.

    Same goes for electrostatics.

    You can't do technical education without tons of books and your own pondering; the sheer quantity of books in this world falls short when explaining the real deal.

    Don't tell me bad teachers are in the US too man. What bout Europe?
  17. Oct 13, 2009 #16


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I don't know, about half of my physics teachers were pretty high quality, imo. I think it's more the engineering department, where all the good engineers are out making money and the lower tier ones get stuck teaching or something. They don't seem to enjoy their jobs like most of my physics professors did.

    If I wasn't loaded down with lab reports and homework, I could actually enjoy studying subjects on my own, but you don't get subsidized loans for that. I have to come up with a either a commerciable or weaponizable research idea to make a decent living at it.
  18. Oct 13, 2009 #17
    Inventions and patents you mean.
  19. Oct 13, 2009 #18
    You find these people in all walks of life. Where I used to work there were a lot of guys there that got degrees in engineering (from top 5 schools!) just because it seemed like a good way to make money, not because they liked engineering. These are usually the people you see that get 4.0's on exams but can't solve a simple high school physics problem.

    I'm always amazed at how impressed people are when they see someone who has basic problem solving skills.
  20. Oct 13, 2009 #19
    Where as it should be a minimum standard among all engineers.
  21. Oct 14, 2009 #20
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook