Monday, February 26, 2007

Harvard's model for learning

An interesting article in Time on changes to Harvard's teaching regime.

In fact, it's rather radically different from the university learning I know. Better - much better.
Whereas I once had some foolish notion that an undergraduate degree represented the pinnacle of my training, Harvard's model suggests something that a lot would concur with: it's just a basic introduction to learning.
(Notwithstanding that I did complete a graduate degree later - in a different subject.)

In Harvard's plan, there are eight primary subject areas for all:

- Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding

- Culture and Belief - Empirical Reasoning

- Ethical Reasoning

- Science of Living Systems

- Science of the Physical Universe

- The US in the world

- Societies of the world

When I first went to university, I was heavily focused on my core interests: mathematics and computer science. Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, I recognise that the above schema can approximate a fundamental basis for understanding the world. I didn't want that when I was young: I wanted the subjects directly relevant to my future career.

But now, I would treasure such a rounded education - at the start of my life. Maybe I have absorbed the basics of the above - albeit not always in a systematic way. But when I think how much more of a head start I would have had with that base... I would expect to be more knowledgeable and wiser by now.

Exposing just one of the above is quite illustrative. Whatever course one is doing, I would think it is fundamental to have a grounding in maths, logic, and statistics. That's empirical reasoning. And so it goes.

Ethics: fundamental. Physics: fundamental. Exposure to a variety of cultural contexts: fundamental.

The best I can do is foster in my kids such an openness to knowledge and learning - that I lacked when young and impatient.

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