Well this comes from a crazy-headed, cynical girl, who is notorious for not missing classes, who gets a headache on the realization that for participating in the final round of MGMD, she has to miss 2 days of classes, who tries to listen to even the most boring of the professors and who says “Bunking classes is cool, but attending them is clever”.
Idea is not to brag, but just to confess that if the above description makes my credibility to write on this issue suspicious (since it makes me appear like a born or inherent maggu), then please do not waste your time reading fruther.
But if it helps then so many posts in my blog do not come out of thin air, they require time and of course I invest time on them! And I invest time on doing many other useless or useful things too. Meaning, in short, that I am not a book-worm; in fact very far from it.
Now, the idea I am describing here leaves out geniuses, who can do it all. But considering that there are few geniuses in the world (in whatever way you define ‘genius’), it should make some sense.
And since I cannot put a disclaimer after every sentence, let me put it before I begin. I am NOT preaching, nor am I making universal claims. So, do not come challenging it on those points. I am talking from my personal observations, interpreted with the help of my own skewed mind, converted into my own crazy opinions.
Let me talk of the formal education that we get. And to motivate it let me pick up a portion of one of the comments on my previous post:
guess, 10 yrs down the line all of us wud b laughin at our academic orientedness during our childhood days!
Come to think of it … when I was in Std. 10, I used to think that the SSC exams r the most important in the world … the same was my attitude in Std. XII n then again in graduation. After realising the futility of academically excelling in these xams, I came to the conclusion that “acads don’t really matter”
He might be right in his conclusion, but I look at it in a different way. I had cried so badly after hearing that I got 83.4% in class 10th (I expected much better, that’s it) that some of my neighbours got into thinking that I had failed in some subject! And subsequent academic ups and downs proved to me that those marks proved nothing, meant nothing, except that I had gotten through the system.
But can exams not proving much mean that acads are not important? Acads are not about exams. Exams are necessary evils. It is the process that matters. Of course, I would be an idiot to claim that everything is all right about the learning process in our education system. No, certainly it is not the case. But does even that mean that acads are not important? My opinion is that they do matter and they are important. One of the reasons why a problem possibly arises in accepting it is that one needs to be highly internally focused to believe in this view. By external standards, at least in short run, it is very easy to gun the view down.
Further when we blame the process for not really giving the proper learning, we are blaming the system, we are blaming the knowledge-providers. It might not be possible to devise a system, which will make the knowledge-providers perfect, but do the knowledge seekers do their job? If a knowledge-seeker does just his/her part, if would be a great enough value-addition. Probably you have/had a bad teacher who emphasizes on rot-learning. But you always have an option of doing some meaningful learning yourself. The system at least tells you what is to be learnt. But very often, even with teachers, situation is not so pathological. We exaggerate things a lot. Any small odd thing and the teacher is branded as comical, useless, bad, whatever. At least, I have come across several such example. I, myself, have been guilty in couple of cases. But whenever I have tried to listen to teachers, despite the image they are laden with, it has been enlightening. It’s very rare that there is nothing to learn from a teacher, really very rare. Nothing is the world is perfect; nor are the teachers. Why this expectation of perfection from them, when we do not even remotely aspire to be perfect ourselves? I must put the disclaimer that I am not a perfect, obedient, respectful student, who would never utter a word of criticism for the teachers. In fact, most of the time I have harsher criticisms for them than many of my colleagues. But that there is something to be criticized about a person does not make him/her worthless. Who is beyond criticism in the world?
So, much for the knowledge-providers. Now, the knowledge itself. I do not know, but somehow I do not even feel like defending that most of what we learn is important! Claiming otherwise looks so shallow to me. True that details do not remain with you, but you can not even get the bigger picture if you have not been ever exposed to details. Details are required to be understood, if for nothing else, then to be able to appreciate the bigger picture. You will retain with you the bigger picture, the concept, but you would not have been able to grasp it in the first place, if you were never exposed to details. You may not remember all kinds of forests you read and possibly mugged up in your class 8th Geography textbook. But what you do retain now is that there are different kinds of forests! Now, if even in class 8th, this was all that you were told and if you were not taught about the different forests, it would not have been possible to understand and appreciate this bigger picture that there are differences. To draw an analogy, when you visit a hill-station, you shall not be able to remember what you did or saw minute by minute. But the appreciation of the beauty of hill-station remains with you and it would not have been possible without spending each and every one of those moments.
Coming to the context of B-Schools. I will describe how I see the the academics at a B-School. The most common refrain is that all we are taught is not practical. What does that mean? You can not pick up rules and models given in the textbook and blindly apply them. True! And I do not think that a management education (and for that matter any education) is supposed to replace human creativity and judgment. In my view the education provides support in two ways.
First, while it is true that models and rules can not be blindly applied in all situations, it is also true that we face several routine decisions. It would not be particularly efficient to start from scratch or rely on intuition for all these decisions. These rules help us there.
Second, when the rules are to be broken or bypassed, it should be an informed decision and not done out of ignorance. Knowing the rule and then deciding that you are not following it because you have something else in your mind/heart/intuition/creativity/whatever is certainly better than breaking the rule out of ignorance and then possibly realizing that a rule existed, which could have worked better!
Of course, how important one finds all these reasons (i.e. presuming that one agree to them) will be a function of that individual’s utility function in the words of Social Exchange Theorists 🙂
Before ending just a small little remark on the quoted comment “guess, 10 yrs down the line all of us wud b laughin at our academic orientedness during our childhood days!” Don’t we laugh at childhood fights now? Does that make them unimportant? No, seriously no. One shall laugh 10 years down the line on almost all things we do today, not only academics – the tension for getting a slot 1 job, the crushes and love-affairs, the animosities and much hyped friendships. Why does it not make them unimportant?
Aditya: I hope you did not mind my making you comment a starting (and ending!) point here. It just gave me the right flow.