Educate Me

Note to self: delete this post before kids reach university age.

I walk about 5 blocks every morning to get our car out of a garage (the parking lot by our house is still not finished). My walk takes me along the back of the main public university in Cusco, the UNSAAC.

The sidewalks behind the university are full of students rushing into their early morning classes. They say looks are deceiving but you can sort of tell the serious academic students from the cool kids and the fashionistas, the privileged kids from the ones who work their way through school. There are 15-year olds who are in university 2 years early because their parents obsessed about studies and there are 20-something career students. Some are happy, some look sad, at 7:00am young kids don’t have their guards up so much, they’re like open books rushing into the university.

One girl was walking while reading a book, getting a quick last minute of study time on her way to class.

“Poor girl” I thought to myself. “So worried to study some useless cr*p at 7:00am on a Monday.”

It was just a subconscious thought, not to be mean to her. However, I do wonder, as university education has become more and more popular have the academics been watered down and traditional liberal arts been replaced by cramming useless stuff?

You can describe pretty much any university course nowadays as “How to survive in your parents’ world, part XX of 250” (or however many credit hours there are nowadays.)

Think about it. Go all the way back in the vaults of your alma mater to, say, the year 2005 and see how many thesis you’ll find in the computer science department on “application programming for Smartphones“. Or how many papers you’d find in the Economics section on “The orderly exit of a Eurozone member because you know some day it will happen.” Or look in the political science department for papers about the normalization of US Cuba relations, or the risk of civil war due to foreign geopolitical influence in the Ukraine.

These are all significant events in our time but 10 years ago barely a university would have touched on them. However, I bet you’ll find loads of papers in the 2005 computer science class on “Transitioning your corporate IT system to Windows Vista”.

We’re bad about predicting the future, so I think universities should teach less stuff that will be obsolete by the time the kids get their second or third job. Don’t cram useless stuff, rather teach these kids to ask questions, especially in a so called developing economy like Peru. Where are we going? What is really valuable in life? Why is traffic so dangerous here? What can we do about public transportation? Why don’t kids in small towns have decent schools? If 2 million tourists come to Machu Picchu every year and each spends a $1,000 where does that 2 billion US$ go? Why does a patient have to fly from Cusco to Lima for a fairly routine medical operation?

I don’t know the answers but somebody bigger than me should be asking.

One thought on “Educate Me

  1. Hi, I’m from Malaysia and has been following your blog a few years ago for the reason to get to know the Peruvian daily life and culture. I am an educator and I guess we all world wide got some issues with our own national education systems.

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