I’m a Software Engineering major and had a pretty bad semester.
A part of it was my fault: I don’t have the best work ethic when I’m doing thing I don’t like. And this is where my real problem lies.
[If you are unfamiliar with Quebec’s school system, it’s basically 6 years of primary school, 5 years of high school, 2 or 3 years of CÉGEP (for a ‘pre-university program’ or a ‘career program’… it’s kind of like small-time university), and then a bachelor’s degree in university, and you move up from there.]
Look, I did my two years of intensive pure and applied science. I did the math, the physics, the chemistry, and bits of biology. Going into McGill with 1 year of a 4-year bachelor’s degree credited, in my mind, means I get to jump right in and start learning the things I love: coding. I’m studying the art that is software. Not bridge-building, not mathematics, and nothing else, either. Don’t you see, higher-ed, that I’ve sacrificed enough to get to the point where I can finally start specializing? (software is a calling, after all…) Nope.
It seems like at every turn, I’m surprised with more horse manure. Just when my white shoes are sparkly, squeaky clean, the universe dumps permanent non-soluble black ink on them. I understand that it would be impossible to like every course, but out of six program-related courses this year, what is considered my second year of specialization, only half of those dealt with programming. And only two were practical courses. I learned things in two out of six courses. I wasted two-thirds of my life this year on things that are utterly and totally useless to me.
Am I being over-dramatic? Maybe a little bit. I am dramatic when it comes to these things. Even then, my frustration is clearer than all of my teachers: something’s wrong. I love to program, and no amount of math or algorithm courses will sway me of that conviction. So I put up with it. However, I’ve been putting up with a similar set of cards for several years, and it’s all getting very monotonous.
A hard, non-computer-related course comes along, I barely pass, I take another because there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel: programming courses! GUIs! Python! Pointers! Now that this nightmare should have begotten a fairytale, I find myself still very much tossing and turning in the proverbial house of horrors: higher education, which has let me down in ways more important than simply presenting me with bad teachers; it has not only brought me misery, but more painful than that, it has withheld the reason I was so excited about it in the first place.
It’s time I faced the music (yes, I’m learning the piano, thank you for asking!): higher education is broken, badly. What is learned in class is not enough, whether due to time constraints or second-rate teachers, so a more than imaginable amount of learning is done at home. Why pay tuition to teach myself? I suppose so that I may gain access to a well-connected knowledge-network. Thing is, higher-ed, we’ve already got that. It’s called the internet. And while much of the scientific things we read on the internet was born in a university somewhere, it simply isn’t right that at most, half of my higher-education learning will go towards my chosen specialization.
I still love university. It is, as I have said many times in the past, a breeding ground for new ideas and fresh takes. I believe in the message, that knowledge is our most important asset in life, no matter where from it was acquired, only that it is absorbed un-tarnished (which is another post…). But if higher education wants people to exit it and speak fondly of it for the things they learned, as opposed to the paper they paid for, I foresee a great change in our future. Better instructors, more actual in-class learning, not lecturing, and quicker specialization. I certainly do not wish students to grasp a single matter, but waiting one’s whole life for two years of instruction seems rather bleak… especially for a program like mine, where internet learning actually works very well.