What Must an Educated Person Know?

Here’s Harvard University’s list of skills that make an “educated person”:

  1. The ability to define problems without a guide.
  2. The ability to ask hard questions which challenge prevailing assumptions.
  3. The ability to quickly assimilate needed data from masses of irrelevant information.
  4. The ability to work in teams without guidance.
  5. The ability to work absolutely alone.
  6. The ability to persuade others that your course is the right one.
  7. The ability to conceptualize and reorganize information into new patterns.
  8. The ability to discuss ideas with an eye toward application.
  9. The ability to think inductively, deductively and dialectically.
  10. The ability to attack problems heuristically.

 

I came across this post tonight, and it’s really timely as I’m getting ready to embark on a two-year graduate program in just a week’s time.

The post refers to an essay written by John Taylor Gatto, an education historian, who in a critique of the current education system, presented the 10 abilities listed by one of the Harvard schools as being essential to “successfully adapting to the rapidly changing world of work.”

Having been “in” the world of work for the past 12 years, I know I have gained some of the listed abilities, but could totally grow in some of the others. I also think that some of the listed qualities are not just about being good at work, but also being engaged and “good” at academia.

What I’m thinking is that as I am en route to round 2 of my studies – this time out of interest and a hope to contribute to the fascinating conversations around technology, identity, and better community-building – I want to approach my studies with the intention to not only learn theories and models and history, but to also foster and sharpen those abilities. This means not necessarily starting from scratch, but it means unlearning some of the habits and practices of thinking and of studying that I’ve cultivated during my years of being in university and working in a university. In particular, I’d really like to re-learn the following qualities:

1. The ability to define problems without a guide.
3. The ability to quickly assimilate needed data from masses of irrelevant information.
7. The ability to conceptualize and reorganize information into new patterns.
9. The ability to think inductively, deductively and dialectically.
10. The ability to attack problems heuristically.

I will revisit this mid-semester and see how I am doing.

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