I recently read an article by Peshe Kuriloff in which the author argues that “the goal of higher education going forward should be to produce knowledge rather than consume it”.

I think this is a hazardous affirmation. I still believe that in order to produce knowledge students must first consume (some) knowledge. There are people who can teach themselves, they are called autodidact. They also consume knowledge before they can produce knowledge. Still, the majority of students need to attend courses and learn something first, before they can produce knowledge. And they do learn something useful in college, even though not everything they learn in college is of immediate use. Also, in order to produce knowledge, someone must be creative. Creativity can be stimulated but it cannot be taught.

Let me go back to the afore mentioned article. The article begins by giving the example of Steve Jobs who was a college drop-out. Steve Jobs “was an American businessman and inventor widely recognized as a charismatic pioneer of the personal computer revolution”. (Wikipedia) Let us not forget that he did not build the Apple I by himself, but together with Steve Wozniak, who is an American computer engineer and programmer. Actually, Steve Wozniak designed the hardware, circuit board designs, and operating system for the Apple I by himself. In order to do this he had to acquire some knowledge, whether he did it by himself or by attending one year of courses at UC Berkeley. It is Steve Wozniak who is the author of several US patents. Wikipedia also says: “In the late 1970s, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak engineered one of the first commercially successful lines of personal computers, the Apple II series. Jobs directed its aesthetic design and marketing along with A.C. “Mike” Markkula, Jr. and others.”

Steve Wozniak also dropped college and later co-founded Apple Computer in 1976, together with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne. But later he returned to UC Berkeley and finally earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering & computer sciences (EECS) in 1986.

In another article by Radhika Jain, the contribution of Steve Jobs is explained as follows:

“I don’t think what Jobs did was so much innovation,” said computer science professor of practice James H. Waldo, explaining that many of Apple’s products—from the first Macintosh user interface to the iPod and iPhone—simply expanded concepts that already existed.

Instead, Waldo said, Jobs revolutionized technology by making it beautiful—and trusting the consumer to pay for that aesthetic.

“He had a deep-seated sense of design. [He] took things that others had done and made them far more elegant and more beautifully realized,” Waldo said. “People have talked about that as innovation, but really what it is, is a sense of art and craftsmanship.”

So the two great “Steves” had different contributions and different approaches to creativity.

Thinking of college education, I must add that there’s always room for innovations in the way students are taught by their professors. Still, someone cannot be creative without first consuming some knowledge, that is, without learning, whether self-taught or taught by others. College needs talented and dedicated professors to educate many generations of students.

Filed under: College needs

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!