Tuesday, August 14, 2007

For those who think success in Economics is all about "regurgitative, vomit essays", RBong, who sits at brekkie with us, was venting this morning about how Eco students still have no appreciation for what their questions require but will just spew everything they have memorized as soon as they spot a familiar word or topic in the question. So take it from a senior Economics staff member: blind regurgitation is more likely to earn a smack than an "A".

On the broad scale, Eco isn't that much different from GP. Questions are unique problems that the student has to solve by constructing plausible solutions based on the knowledge fragments accumulated through classroom teaching and personal study. But every subject also incorporates a specialized language and vocabulary that are appropriate to use when discussing matters arising from the subject. Eco uses funny Latin phrases like ceteris paribus, and as Taily pointed out today, Bio defines certain concepts in particular ways (usually because such definitions are already quite efficient and elegant, and have probably been coined by their original discoverers, so we shouldn't mangle them with our own definitions, though that is entirely possible).

So, yes, memory work is still highly valued -- the way we need it to learn a new language -- but only so far as amassing knowledge fragments goes. Answering questions in any subject requires a careful analysis of what the question wants, then devising a solution accordingly, using the language appropriate to the discussion. We don't need graduates who are hard drives and encyclopaedia; we already have those at our fingertips so having more organic, walking ones would be quite redundant. We need people who can think, so kids, take it up a notch and start thinking for a change.

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