Love him or hate him, Robert X. Cringely’s column on PBS.org is often provocative. He addressed the American education system is a recent post, and I found a couple points pretty interesting. First, the comparison between knowledge and search:
Andy Hertzfeld said Google is the best tool for an aging programmer because it remembers when we cannot. Dave Winer, back in 1996, came to the conclusion that it was better to bookmark information than to cut and paste it. I’m sure today Dave wouldn’t bother with the bookmark and would simply search from scratch to get the most relevant result. Both men point to the idea that we’re moving from a knowledge economy to a search economy, from a kingdom of static values to those that are dynamic. Education still seems to define knowing as more important than being able to find, yet which do you do more of in your work? And what’s wrong with crimping a paragraph here or there from Cringely if it shows you understand the topic?
I’ve posted about that before. I’m thinking about getting an iPhone when version 2.0 comes out, and I can’t wait to see what it’s like to have a real web browser in my pocket 24×7.
I’ve written about this for years and nobody ever paid attention, but ISO certification is what destroyed the U.S. manufacturing economy. With ISO 9000 there was suddenly a way to claim with some justification that a factory in Malaysia was precisely comparable to an IBM plant on the Hudson. Prior to then it was all based on reputation, not statistics. And now that IBM plant is gone.
I don’t know if Cringely is on track with this point, but it makes a bit of sense. He goes on to consider what it would be like if there was an ISO certification process for students. In other words, what if students could demonstrate their knowledge and skills outside of the context of the traditional school? Cringely contends that the whole system would come crashing down if that were possible.
I’ve been saying for years that one of the things holding our K-12 system together is the fact that colleges and universities don’t routinely accept students who don’t have high school diplomas. If the high school diploma ever loses its value as a credential, things will get really interesting.