Do Academics Help?

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.


One thought on “Do Academics Help?

  1. Since I am removing the Haloscan Comments, I am copy-pasting the comments I got on this post here.

    Yes, Academics helps but to an extent only. Academics (the book knowledge and exams.) are here to know every thing around us and to some extent to know something lying within us. Now it is up to us that in which way we use these ingredients in different dimensions. The �other skills� learned along with the academics as equally important like communication, etiquettes, extra � curricular activities, discipline, team spirit and so on.

    As far as the academicians (professors / teachers) are concerned, are they as important as the any other human we see? Criticizing them is not productive. The grown-up brains easily catch this kind of cool tendency. I can tell that every academician puts his best effort to show the �direction� to the learners in classes. Some learners are clever not to miss any direction. So during academic period (For many it�s lasts lifelong beyond exams), we are shown many directions verbally or written. It�s up to us that which combination of directions we choose an
    Prem Piyush | Email | Homepage | 01.07.05 – 9:38 am | #

    Gravatar (Continued from previous comment)��..we choose and how we face the obstacles on the path we tread. One may make one path too. The Academics, directions by the academicians and the other skills, all together help us in the practical life situations.
    Prem Piyush | Email | Homepage | 01.07.05 – 9:40 am | #

    “Show me why I should learn what you want to teach, and I shall work hard to learn it. Make me not suffer in silence for something that I am not aware of, for I have never seen not imagined it. Just give me a reason to do it well.”
    I would have loved Calvin’s show and tell classes.
    linux-kernel-2.6.5-7.109.12-vd | 01.07.05 – 4:56 pm | #

    Gravatar linux-kernel:The reason to learn can not be the justified by the source of learning. There are several things to be learned from the same place.
    There is a tree at the roadside; some take rest under the shadow. Some try to porch the birds sitting on it. Some may take the bark out for medicinal purpose. Some may break up the branches for fuel needs.
    The resources are there in plenty at the same source and which resource we need is the most important. The needy must have the thirst first. Forceful providing the resources is not justifiable.
    Prem Piyush | Email | Homepage | 01.07.05 – 5:46 pm | #

    linux-kernel-2.6.5-7.109.12-vd (Again, in want of the real name): I never understood why I was learning the alphabets, when I learned them. But it gives me shivers to think that I should have waited till I realized their importance!!
    Jaya Jha | Homepage | 01.07.05 – 6:27 pm | #

    That was a dramatic reply to a dramatic question! But looking at a more practical level and particularly clarifying the intent of this post, I have to say this: I am not criticizing questioning the system or even rebelling against it, but the mindless attitude where people tend to criticize or throw away the things without ever realizing that there was something to be gained from them and more when this mindless attitude becomes a fashion!
    Jaya Jha | Homepage | 01.07.05 – 6:32 pm | #

    Linux kernels are the best things in the world… that is a fact…
    Now that was just a statement…
    All people do in management institutes is theorise… One can never be taught to manage.. All they can teach are the tools and the history of what has happened and probably an insight into what went right and wrong where.. that is it… that is infact all they can do.
    Probably they also give you big words to blabber… but a wise man of chem dept (IITK) once said… “never care for words for they are meant to mislead you. People who use big words never understood what they mean otherwise they would never use them in first place… “..
    there are a lot of things to be said.. but time and space are constraints..
    linux-kernel-2.6.5-7.109.12-vd | 01.07.05 – 7:22 pm | #

    What are you trying to prove? If it is that management education is useless – fine. Don’t go for it. I wouldn’t care to debate your opinion. Nor am I myself a big defender of management (and for that matter any other) type of education! The focus of the article is little different, and if it hasn’t gotten conveyed till now, I wouldn’t attempt to do it any more.
    Jaya Jha | Homepage | 01.07.05 – 7:36 pm | #

    Now did I not give management education all that the points that any education can and should provide. It does all that education is supposed to do. All that I am asking for is some blood to taste so that I can get a feel of what is to come.
    BTW, why are you always on the offensice?
    linux-kernel-2.6.5-7.109.12-vd | 01.07.05 – 8:01 pm | #

    Ha! Life does not come so easy. You can not sample-test things to come in your life. That’s a problem you got to live with. Not just in education, but just anything in life!

    I am what I am and am not for explaining myself on this blog. Such questions shall not be answered; so there isn’t much point posing them
    Jaya Jha | Homepage | 01.07.05 – 8:30 pm | #

    Just because I put my point in a lighter vein, I think my point was taken wrongly. The essential question will remain… Do you want to know about something or know how to do something?

    The answer to this question will profoundly impact the system of gathering knowledge you adopt. Knowing about something implies knowledge at a conceptual level. Mechanical engineering students, for example, are expected to know the Laws of Thermodynamics, architecture students the conventions of design representation and computer science majors the algorithm that achieves a “quick/sort” operation. The desired learning outcome would be awareness of or familiarity with specific methods, concepts, or theories.

    This contrasts sharply with a learning outcome that would require the student to demonstrate the ability to use a method or to apply a theory.
    linux-kernel-2.6.5-7.109.12-vd | 01.07.05 – 9:35 pm | #

    Gravatar linux-kernel: One thing can easily be seen here. Restating and explaining the already told statement. The reason is that the blogs and comments most of the times contain the underlying thoughts unexpressed. I am not taking your comments in lighter vein. Based on wise man’s statement from your previous comment ” .. but time and space are constraints..”, why cann’t we save time and space after understanding the underlying expressions of the cohort bloggers.
    Common thing in all of these facts expressed is that there is some quest for more knowledge by everyone here. If we read the blog and all the comments they convey the need of a better understanding among our company of several bloggers. If we are successful here, the management of corporate company and application of principles will be the next easy step.
    I liked your honest comments. I would like to know more about you or your blog, you may not disclose your name or institution.
    Prem Piyush | Email | Homepage | 01.08.05 – 9:35 am | #

    Gravatar A passing comment…late in the day though:
    -Individuals who succeed continuously using the same means repeatedly are as enlightened/thick as the individuals who fail perennially making the same mistakes, for both these categories are not seekers of knowledge. (…how many recognise addiction to addiction itself…wine and a hundred heads turn)
    Once understood, the genuine knowledge seeker voluntarily changes/experiments with the process, whether it be success or failure, right or wrong, obedience or rebellion; therein lies the thrill, the challenge, the fun and the opportunity to learn.
    Funnily enough, it’s only the failures, the rebels and the wrongs which get harangued.
    Ayan Bhattacharya | Email | 01.10.05 – 9:24 pm | #

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