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19 December 2008

I was just reading an article about the difficulty in predicting how efficient a person will be at his or her profession. It's obvious that for many fields education is so far removed from the job itself* that it would be better to have an apprenticeship program, while for others the education is useful but doesn't weed out people who are merely good at school but unsuited for whatever it is they studied.

It seems woefully inefficient to send a person off for four, six, or eight years of school and have them pop out the other end with a 50-50 chance of actually knowing how to exist in the practical world - that's why some of the old methods currently poo-pooed should be reexamined. The friend-of-the-daughter of a friend, whose mother is a nurse, went through umpteen years of art school, only to wind up getting a job as a nurse. Although heredity** is only one clue it seems rash to disregard it entirely.

It would seem as though the point at which the likely fit of student and job could be assessed should be identified and education applied to get the person to that stage. Then for the sake of countless wasted hours in education and on the job, there should be some kind of practical assessment. I wonder is it so evil to look at someone and tell them they are likely going down the wrong path? Obviously this is a kind of utopian idea, but anyway it's interesting to think about. The example in the article was young teachers in videotaped short lessons sorting themselves to the viewers quite obviously as good teachers, mediocre teachers, and bad teachers. Then I think, well, was the good teacher born a good teacher or was she taught by a good teacher and so absorbed those methods? I suppose you'd have to sideline that question and focus on identifying good teachers because then, presumably and in an ideal world, all children would be taught by good teachers so it wouldn't be relevent.***

I am a believer in mentoring, too. In my oddball Wa He Lut existence every once in a while a student would say something like this to me, "Miss Kendall, I want to learn to carve," and I'd find a mentor (not an easy task). That's how I got to know Pete and Marilee up at Skokomish - Pete mentored some of my boys. It meant picking up the student, driving up to Skokomish, then hanging out with Marilee for hours, driving the boy home, going home. Took all day. I got SJ to mentor little Sonia - by mail, I think. It didn't last very long but I'd wager Sonia remembers to this day. I had a couple of brothers I used to loan my video camera to - I was the mentor in a way. I took them to where a movie scene was being shot, once, and we just watched (zomg excrutiatingly boring) as the independent crew shot clips that would be edited together to simulate a car coming a cropper in an alley, without actually wrecking the car (as they were too poor to do that). I got Victor Navone to agree to mentor a boy by email - hah. Would've been fun, but I think the child moved or something. Anyway VN was nice. My point being - yes, it's boring-ish for adults, but it's important for children - especially children with fewer than the ideal number of functioning adults in their family.****

It seems there are a lot of ways to train people to do things, but as with everything else, merely making it a money-based system is not very useful.

* My father used to tell me that young engineers, having been hired, would then have to learn how to be engineers as nothing they had learned in school was useful. Digression: I remember a young engineer saying to me once with great horror having just realised, "Oh my God - you're HIS daughter."

** My friend Harold, who was of Great Age when he died, spent many years in China and (in one anecdote he told me) was dressing for dinner when the Japanese invaded the seaport town where he lived. The Japanese commander was kept waiting while he finished dressing - no weak-kneed sister was Harold). Anyway, Harold had grown up in an orphanage in the North of England, where he learned to perform Gilbert & Sullivan (knew all the words to every part and would sing at the drop of a hat). At one point the headmaster called him in to discuss his future and asked him what his father had done for a living. He stammered that he understood his father had drawn up plans for ships, and so Harold was trained as a naval architect and did very well in his field ("out standing in his field" as my pater would have said).
*** My brother, speaking about his boarding school life as a very, very small boy, said the masters were young men returned from the war. One of them had a habit of lobbing large and heavy books at anyone who irritated him, with a deadly aim meant to hit, not scare.
**** Once I said something, in front of two boys, disparaging about fathers because I was exasperated with my own. I thought for a minute, then said, "I apologise for saying that. You two are going to be fathers one day, and I'm sure you'll try hard to be good at it."
Student: (laughs) Well I KNOW I'll be a better father than mine.
Me: How do you know that?
Student: I never even MET mine.

posted by - 11:09 AM


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