Saturday, May 29, 2010

Our Manifesto

We're bored.

Let's be honest here. We're just bored. The way school works right now is boring.

Our friends tell us, "School isn't supposed to be fun. It's not meant to entertain you." They misunderstand us though. We're not saying that school should be like a video game (though maybe it should)we're saying that school shouldn't be as boring as it is now.

There is a difference.

We believe that school can be better. We want to learn in an environment that puts us in the real world tackling challenging problems that we care about. We do not want to sit in a classroom learning (or not learning, depending on how tired we are) about something that we do not care about. Why would we? We also understand the counter-argument to this. That maybe it doesn't matter what we care about, because society needs us to learn the things it teaches us, otherwise we won't know how to do things.

Wrong, dead wrong. We actually know that we will learn just as easily while being engaged in something that inspires us and changes our community. We want to change the world, and do homework that makes a difference.

We know that in order to engage our youth, we need to give them something to do that matters. It is no longer sufficient to tell us to tough it out. The world is changing, and we no longer accept your methods.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 1: First find, University Venture Fund

The Eccles School of Business has a special program called University Venture Fund. UVF is a student-run private equity fund that began in 2004 and raised $18 million from investors who are limited partners, meaning they depend on the work of the students to select investments that deliver a fair return on their money.

“When I sent out my resume consulting companies told me they were cutting back significantly on new hires, so I knew good grades alone would not get me the job I wanted, I needed work experience too… The experience just gives you a ton of confidence,” said University of Utah honors student Alexandra Weiss. “As a student, you can’t get that direct business education anywhere else.”

Only a handful of students belong to this organization and it seems to focus mostly on teaching students how to pick start-ups to invest in.

This is interesting to me. It shows that there is a desire to be a part of and to implement innovative programs where students are the performers and there are real stakes, not just theory in the classroom. This program seems small though, at least as far as student participants. However, they do claim to have been approached by a couple hundred student entrepreneurs across the United States. Which is not surprising considering that they can relate to each other on a student-student level.

Check it out here.


The Quest...

Today, I'm starting a quest to discover what exactly is offered by the MBA program at the University of Utah. I will log my discoveries here and publish them as I go. Let's see what we find.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

The US K-12 and College Problem Part 3

Slides by Whitney Tilson

The US K-12 and College Problem Part 2

Slides by Whitney Tilson

The US K-12 and College Problem Part 1

Slides by Whitney Tilson

Step One: Identify Problems

In our current education system there are many areas for improvement. Listed below are those which I have identified as being the most important:
  • Time: School takes up a lot of time. It can take up to ten years of somebody’s life to finish the schooling they need to start a specific career. Why does it take so long? Should it really take as long as ten years to input that information into our brain? Are we learning things that we will just forget anyway?
  • Money: School costs a lot of money in most cases. Is what we’re spending really worth what we’re getting, especially when students are increasingly borrowing for school tuition and other expenses? Is there a way to make learning less expensive? Is there a way to make learning free?
  • Purpose: The purpose of a university is generally agreed upon. It is to prepare you for your career from which you will derive a standard of living. People go to school to increase their standard of living. The question then becomes: is there a faster, less expensive, more fun way to increase your standard of living? Is there a more effective method? We go to school to become experts, to gain credibility. The degree you receive from a college is your credibility slip. It says to people, “Look at what I’m capable of!” But what are you capable of? Does a degree in Political Science tell me that you’re qualified to run my political campaign? Most people would, of course, say no. We would all typically look to a person’s specific experience in running or working on political campaigns to make such a distinction. So, therefore, the four year degree in poly-sci has lost a proportion of its value. Then what is the value of a degree? Is there a better return on your investment working in a chosen field for four years, gaining specific experience?
  • Platform: School is a platform for knowledge. It is a place that allows us to learn in a structured environment where otherwise it is likely that we would drown in the vast amounts of knowledge that surround us. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of clutter out there. How do we know what types of information we need to know to improve our standings in life? How do we know what we need to learn to advance in our career? Let’s assume we are a low-level sales employee working for a manufacturing firm. We’ve made sales calls for years trying to get people to carry our products. We’ve made a modest commission from all of our sales. Now, we’re hungry for more. We know we’ll never get promoted unless we get better at certain skills like management and leadership. We need training. But how do we know what to learn in order to become a leader or a manager? This is where we insert the platform for improvement. Traditionally this role has been held by college, though in some cases this may not be true. We decide to go to school for business administration, specializing in anything that has to do with management. Four years later we get our promotion to a mid-level manager position. What would happen if we replaced that time with a different platform for improvement. Maybe instead of attending a traditional college, we decide to read a couple books on leadership and even catch up on some of the latest trends in manufacturing sales. We take the initiative and start implementing these in our daily tasks, helping our coworkers with problems, becoming a mentor to our peers, and helping others succeed. We keep a log of our activities and in a few months we report them to our boss and our boss’s boss. Our boss’s boss receives the cc of our logs and decides to have us promoted because he can use somebody with our foresight and drive in a leadership position. This, we’ll say, took a full year. We can think of countless other platforms that may be better than a traditional four-year degree.
    • The issues with self-learning are great, though. It takes a lot of discipline and drive to teach ourselves something and have the guts to apply it. A social setting is more beneficial, especially for those striving to be entrepreneurs. We want to bounce our ideas off people. We want feedback and we want to meet people who think a little like us, and also those who challenge our assumptions. Thus, it would be too simple-minded a solution to tell everybody to teach themselves what they want to learn. Not to mention, there would be no real system for checking if what you were learning were actually going to be beneficial. Some people need an external source of direction. Some people need a way to measure their progress. Having experts give you a general direction and a few pointers can save a lot of headache and frustration.
    • Therefore a social setting would be more ideal. A personal setting where students can learn from and teach each other. Perhaps an expert can be present, but what merit is there in having one person teach a whole class? That is a top down approach. What if we built knowledge from a foundation of students who wanted to learn and apply their knowledge in the real world? What if we had a brick and mortar building where we could meet and exchange ideas and explore ways to make them? Then, once the ideas were talked about and expounded upon, we could try them in the real world. Perhaps the process could take only a week from idea formation to idea trial.
    • What if the platform for learning were driven by ideas and questions instead of a set of curricula?

Still here

I'm still around. No worries!

Right now I'm doing research so new blogs will be coming soon!