Category Archives: Adult Education

How Many Degrees Make Too Many Degrees?

The Ultimate Life-Long Learner?

Eye-popping story today about a man up north who has earned 29 college degrees and is still going strong.  He’s only 71 after all …

The count:  one bachelor’s degree, two associate’s degrees, 22 master’s degrees, three specialist degrees and one doctoral degree, with a master’s in criminal justice in the cooker as we read.   No honorary or “non-traditional” degrees and he does not do online courses.   Apparently student loans are not an issue – if I understand the article, he paid his own way all the way.

If nothing else, this guy must really enjoy the school environment and learning.

Related work experience – apparently none.  The guy is retired, but worked menial jobs throughout his life as a life-long learner.  He has yet to actually use his accumulated knowledge to work at something, other than the obvious work of earning a college degree.

As a side-note, his wife has seven degrees.

Ultimate goal?:

“I would like to get to 33 or 34. I’m almost there,” he said. “When I complete that, I’ll feel like I’ve completed my basic education. After that, if I’m still alive — that would take me to 80 or 81 — I would then be free to pursue any type of degree.”

As a life-long learner and the holder of several college degrees, my initial reaction was one of awe that he was so far ahead of me …

Then my brain and my own education kicked in.  Some important questions here:

1)  Are education and learning goals in and of themselves?

Education purely for the love of knowledge is not a bad thing in and of itself, but I’m not sure this should be the only goal.  I love to learn, but I also love to use what I learn.

2)  Does learning not used benefit others?   Is this important?

As a teacher and helper, my goal has always been to learn things in order to share that knowledge with others.  What does it say when one learns only for themselves.  Does enjoying the classics on a more educated level provide an acceptable motivation to learn?

3)  What does this say about the value of education to an individual, beyond the obvious “Value is in the eye of the beholder”?

The main has a right to spend his time and money however he wants.  No harm befalls anyone else through his eternal quest for more learning.   I just are not sure that this is a value to which I would be able to ascribe.

So tell me:  

Am I just engaging in sour grapes because I question the value of this approach to education and learning?  

Does any of this ring true for you or am I just jealous because he apparently has more time and money to pursue learning than I do?

Wondering how many degrees I could pile up over the next few years in the Heartland ….

John

Little Learning Machines …

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; But direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you can be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” 

Plato

Hmmm … several thoughts occur to me …

1)  This applies just as well to adults as to children.  Our knowledge bases and options change often during each person’s lifetime.

Since my early days studying pedagogy and andragogy, I have noticed somewhat artificial distinctions between the learning of children and the learning of adults.

Plato gets a pass here, but we have to continually remind ourselves that solid learning theory and practice is probably not real different for little ones and big ones.

Of course, the subject and specific techniques employed may change a tad;)

2)  This implies a carrot on a stick approach is more effective than whacking them with a stick.  

Here are some thoughts regarding the usefulness of criticism and praise with adults … and the discussion is not what you would think based on the titles:)

Proof That Criticism Does Work post by Manage Better Now, which actually argues against the point of the title by referring to the article below

Why Does Criticism Seem More Effective Than Praise? by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback which discusses regression to the mean and other things that most of us do not want to think about.

3)  Are we then to allow the learner to decide what they learn?

Plato’s position seems to be that natural curiosity will allow the person to better identify learning needs than someone else can do for them.

A little revolutionary for those who work with mandated and technical skills training.  Can someone who does not know decide what they should know?

If Plato and we focus on the true adult learner, who comes with strong motivation and a wide range of life experience, this holds water.   If we are dealing with beginning learners or those without a background in the subject, not so much.

Whatever you decide with regard to the above, hopefully we can all agree on the joy of seeing little ones learning:)

As the old Greek continues to give us much to consider in the Heartland …

John

“Oh, Snap” … More Salvos in the Ongoing Maslow Discussion …

The first image is one we probably all recognize as the classic view of Maslow’s theory of human need.  The second is a modernized version, with more straightforward language and a different visual representation.

I WAS going to take a stab at a third graphic which really shows what Maslow was trying to convey, but decided to hold off … to the applause of serious scholars everywhere.

The two images above are from Steve Denning’s excellent riff on an article by Dr. Patricia Rutledge, both of which focus on giving us a more realistic understanding of what Maslow NEVER called a hierarchy of needs.  Here’s the links to both articles:

What Maslow Missed (March 2012) by Steve Denning in Forbes

Social Networks: What Maslow Misses” (November 2011) by Pamela Rutledge in Psychology Today

I particularly enjoyed the interchanges in the comments, between Denning, Rutledge, and a graduate student named Don Blohowiak.  While the tone varies from post to post, in general, this is a civilized discussion where all parties support their positions.   Not always how discussions go these days:)

Three somewhat disparate points I’d like to make here:

1)  What we think we all know is not necessarily what we all know.  

Most of us have been exposed to the pyramid visual of Maslow’s thinking and tend to identify it as the visual rendition of a theory … which it ain’t.

2)  Real academic discussion includes a series of elements over a period.

We start with a thoughtful series of observations.  Then we amplify those original thoughts, add in a dissenting viewpoint or two, create counter-views, and engage in continued discussion.  This is not a quick “Here’s the answer” type process.  It’s messy:)

Real knowledge does not often come from a bumper sticker.  The few words on the sticker represent a whole lot more thought and consideration, if they represent a truth.

3)  Maslow DID miss the whole issue of social connections.

Maslow wrote in the context of psychology, which focuses on the person.  Other people and their effect on a behavior or thought were incidental.  Does this mean social context did not exist when Maslow was creating his theory?

Nope.  It just means that he was not focused on that aspect of how we act and interact.  Someone creating theories today would probably automatically include a consideration of the social context … its how we are starting to think.

My Thoughts …

This is how academic discussions should go.  A little edgy, every once in a while a snarky comment, but generally focused on “stand and deliver” work.  State a position and back it up, and not deliver an opinion without basis.

Good people can disagree about stuff …

Considering how to make my positions more defensible in the Heartland ….

John