Today we have a change of pace, as two of Charlie's superfans from Kenyon visit, Jeanne Griggs and our IT director Ron Griggs. Jeanne and Ron say:
"Educational institutions are under stress worldwide both from economic and technological factors. The bloated university structure is--literally--medieval. The online education boom is producing the usual mix of stunning innovation and snake-oil charlatans. Some predict the demise of the university itself, and for people who use Wikipedia today, Charlie's lifelogs tomorrow, and soon (galactic civilization willing) the Hitchhiker's Guide, all facts, knowledge, and experiences are retrievable instantly without mediation. What does science fiction have to say about the future of education?
"In Joan's The Highest Frontier, much of the story takes place in a college on a space habitat, a college remarkably similar to a private liberal arts college in the United States today. She is not alone in suggesting that the basic concept of people coming together to learn will endure. Consider Battle School in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, the concents in Neal Stephenson's Anathem, or the many ways that Robert Heinlein portrayed education: advances in learning techniques including high speed video combined with drugs, or being Renshaw-trained, or the orbiting military academy in Space Cadet with its Oxford-model tutorial. Readers of this blog can probably think of many other examples (and are invited to list them).
"Star Fleet academy is both a little disappointing and a bit reassuring; it doesn't seem much different from current military service academies (the Kobayashi Maru simulation notwithstanding.) And River Tam's school in Firefly already exists, if one assumes that River is avoiding the lecture by playing with her iPad 3.
"So let's postulate a near future like the one in Accelerando, where the brain-Internet interface is much better. Why do we need content memorization? Or is it important to have some data in RAM, so to speak, and not just available on the hard drive?
"People working in education have always wrestled with the "skills vs. content" problem. But the way we make connections and approach subject matter has changed since the time of Aristotle. The human species needs to develop ways to learn conceptual and analytic thinking other than in a classroom with other human beings. Does science fiction offer plausible alternatives?"