If there is one thing most would agree about, it’s that Monday’s should be over and done with (on the work side) as soon as possible, so we can get on with the business of having fun – and working on our own projects – which is what weekends *(or time off) is all about.

One of the major obstacles to this is the inefficiency of workflow – and in thinking about it this weekend, it occurred to me that it is as much a failure of knowledge engineering as much as anything else.

As I have told you – many, many times – there is hardly any need for school if the academics would simply give up on their “pay by the word” kind of approach.

Look: Learning ANYTHING may always be distilled down into simple component processes.

Take flying an airplane: It comes down to being abled to do three things at once: Aviate, communicate, and navigate.

Got that? Three tasks.

Under each of three general tasks are some specifics for each one.

The aviate part has an engine on (climb, cruise) or engine down or off part (descend or glide).

The ailerons (roll the plane) and the rudder (turns the plane).

The art of aviation is mastered when you can move the yoke forward or back (descend or climb), while rolling the wings (turn yoke this way, or that) while stepping on a “ball” indicator to add the right amount of rudder to make a coordinated turn.

Simple as that.

But we often don’t organize knowledge until we have beat the hell out of the textbooks.

There’s one of our local pilots – I won’t give you his name – but he is an excellent “ball and stick” kind of guy. Granted, I wouldn’t go flying with him – he’s always got his airplanes right at the limits of performance. Things like wing-over turns 100 feet of the deck don’t allow enough time for recovery from errors. But this fellow has been flying for years. Clipped a few tree-tops, but a better “rudder and stick” guy would be hard to find.

No let me give you a different pilot: Son of a friend. 6+ years of school, and THEN he learns to fly.

Way different input ratios…and way different pilots, since the latter is now right seat on C-17’s.

My point, though, is we don’t do a particularly good job of implementing the “recipe approach” to knowledge.

This theory of mine says anything is essentially EASY but we wrap things up in so much goobledegook that it becomes nearly impossible to learn.

Youngest daughter called this week to announce she was going to pick up some accounting classes..maybe sign up at the local community college.

What the hell?” screamed Ures truly.

I then launched in to a long critique of the higher education system in general, and then went off on the vocational system I was once a sales sharp for.

I explained that colleges – by and large – have failed to use technology appropriately. There is no reason on God’s Green Earth for a four-year degree in accounting to cost more than some modest about, like $10,000. Why? Well, except for the annual jiggering the tax code for special interests, accounting hasn’t changed in, oh, hundreds of years.

It is still the art of money coming in, money going out, money left over, and keeping track in such ways as fraud and cheating can be found.

Instead, accounting is turned into 400 page textbooks – with accounting packages – and it goes down hill from there. One to three books per year.

Oodles of discussion but a real dearth of “rules of thumb” and that’s where I finally laid off on my attack on “the system.”

In the end, I agreed to send here one of our computers, offered to buy her a copy of QuickBooks, and gave her directions to the MIT OpenCourseWare project and explained the problem she faces.

Which employee would you hire?

One says “I don’t have a digree in accounting, but I have completed through intermediate accounting (using my own copy of QuickBooks) through the MIT OpenCourseWare program.

OR…

“I just got an associate degree from a local college, but I haven’t any experience of QuickBooks…we had to use the Textbook maker’s accounting package…”

And this gets to my point.

I bet that fully 60% of what colleges and universities are shoveling into the heads of young people is not pertinent to the one thing that employers are looking for: The ability to do real work.

You see, until you rise well above the shagging no-pays on the accounts receivable side, or until you are done with making routing A/R entries, what an employer wants you to be able to do is DO SOMETHING.

Now, colleges and universities are fine for teaching people “how to think” – but even here they fall down terribly on the job.

Today’s young people are not as able to engage in critical thinking as past generations…despite tuition that “magically” goes up by the cost of living plus two percent every year.

Bullshit.

If Colleges and Universities want critics like me to “lay off” ‘em, they would get off the high horse and get back to teaching the basics. Here’s how reading, writing, arithmetic, and basic accounting works.

Instead, we have gender-marketing, undisciplined “hallowed halls” that are covered in ivy and public money.

Instead of teach Trade 101 in an economics program, that may be last year, or grad school content.

I would suggest that one reason national priorities are such a mess is we have kidded ourseleves into thinking we are turning out “thinking kids.”

They are generally not. They parrot fine, but when comes to making and keeping America great, higher ed is a bigger rip than the subsidized banks and auto industries.

We need recipes to DO THINGS and enough grounding to put those things in context.

What we don’t need are state-financed “diploma mills” who graduate people unsuited to the workforce and then wonder “Gee, why aren’t student loans paid back more promptly?”

For more than a decade, the vocational side of education has had to document placement of graduates.

The higher ed side has bullshitted its way past that arguing they are no preparing job candidates, they are teaching people to think.

I would point to the political stupidity of presidential politics as conclusive proof that is another massive fail.

So to wrap up the rant: Employers want people with a lot of DO and all the failures of knowledge engineering are spread before us even now. Failures to teach the basics – like accounting – and failures to structure knowledge to the student’s desired outcome.

Until we start looking at some of these systemic fails head-on, we will continue to drop further and further back from being one of the world leaders in thinking.

In terms of bang for the buck, US News carried a story in January that the US was number 4 worldwide.

The Big Ugly of that report was it was an American done report.

In the next week, or three, we expect the annual OECD Global Report on education to be released.

But based on math and science of 15 year olds in 2015, the top ten were Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japana, Taiwan, Finland, Estonia, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Canada. I’ll toss in a magnanimous bonus just for you: #11 was Poland.

We may have some nifty online quantum computing demos coming out of a few bright research oriented companies, like IBM.

But when comes down to solid knowledge engineering, don’t look now, but we are getting our asses kicked by countries which are more focused on the basics than the nonsense side.

Everyone is equal…got it? Now, can we learn something, please, and get back in the game?

Write when you get rich,

George@ure.net

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