Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Education vs training

From MIT professor Woodie Flowers:

I believe that education and training are different. To me, training is an essential commodity that will certainly be outsourced to digital systems and be dramatically improved in the process. Education is much more subtle and complex and is likely to be accomplished through mentorship or apprentice-like interactions between a learner and an expert.

To clarify a bit: Learning a CAD program is training while learning to design requires education; learning spelling and grammar is training while learning to communicate requires education; learning calculus is training while learning to think using calculus requires education. In many cases, learning the parts is training while understanding and being creative about the whole requires education.

And from an article on Tony Kushner on whether acting is training or education:

[Tony] Kushner got involved with a theater group called the Columbia Players, and in a preview of his outsized ambition, he directed Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair, which had 36 characters. Kushner sewed all the costumes himself.

“And there was no theater major,” Kushner said, “which was a great thing.”

The remark surprised me.

“I feel it’s a great shame that Columbia now has a theater major,” said this man of the theater.

I leaned forward with my face in my hands, concerned. “Tell me why.”

“Because it’s vocational training, it’s not a liberal arts degree. I’m sure that Columbia insists, as many schools do, that their theater majors take lots of academic classes, but I don’t think 18 is a good age to train somebody to be an actor because there’s a certain dismantling of the self that takes place. Good acting training should be sadistic. You have to unlearn a lot of what you think you know about acting, which is very entangled with your sense of self, in that the self that you present on stage has all sorts of complicated relationships with the self you imagine yourself to be and actually are. The difficult process of taking inventory of that and letting go of some of the things that you think make you attractive and appealing and good onstage and in public is very difficult. The first year in most serious acting training is a really hard year, and I think it’s ridiculous to think that people are going to do it when they’re 18 and away from home for the first time. You learn something, but I think you’ll learn it better when you’re four years older.

“Meanwhile, the liberal arts degree is one of the great inventions of Western civilization. It’s the perfect moment to become a brain for four years, and retrain, and learn, and I don’t think you ever get that back, I don’t think life is going to ever give you another four years when you’re allowed to just sit around and be confused.”

I still sat around being confused, but I saw Kushner’s point. I wished I’d read more in college, devoured more, been confused more.

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