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大学通识教育是在浪费时间吗?

大学通识教育是在浪费时间吗?

原作者:Joshua Engel  乔舒亚·恩格尔(英国普利茅斯大学)

译者:达妹Dia

我是这么想的:没人会因为你给电脑编程而付你钱。

程序的编写本身并无意义,无非是一堆二进制数字或电势[i]。无关紧要。

人们让你给电脑编程,是为了要用电脑做事。他们想玩《愤怒的小鸟》,想知道朋友们都在干嘛,想用电脑记事。这些事情都是人们做的,不是电脑做。电脑只是工具而已。人才是客户。

大学通识教育的意义就在于将他人介绍给你:什么是他人所想、所做、所需。你要靠这些挣钱。

程序员为自己写给其他程序员的程序着迷。像Linux内核、Apache服务器[ii]、图形传输引擎这些程序,它们既组成电脑本身,又通过电脑运行。然而,它们也只是电脑中极小的部分,是为其他工具制造者服务的工具。比起单纯地编码,程序员更乐意编写那些能自动编码的程序。

没错,纯理论研究有其一席之地:理论数学、高能物理、纯粹的计算机科学(而非程序员培训中心)等。这些是与应用毫不相干的重要领域,固然有其存在价值,但你也还是要知道,自己的工作最终能适应怎样的环境。你的“顾客”不是你写的论文,而是读到你论文的人们。你的同事也会是人,而你与他们之间的联系会让你的工作更上一层楼,就算你们之间谈论的跟你所研究的药物动力学、有限域还是其他什么“纯理论”毫无关系。你得要写提案,而写得好的提案当然比写得差的能带给你更多的薪水,不管其中的技术含量有多过硬。

不过,更多理工科的毕业生还是要去为人而非机器工作,若你自己能先成“人”,做起事来将事半功倍。卓越的电子游戏讲的故事绘声绘色,而你自己最好要先熟稔一些好故事。由你设计制造的设备,里面的元件不会像用了某些神奇的酱汁一样自动黏在上面。它们要有牢固的根基。

人文学科不是事实的堆积,叫人死记硬背用的;而是入门介绍,是你踏上成“人”之路的基石。要说人文学科的要求有什么问题的话,那就是它们允许你上了大一大二的课程之后就能说自己是这领域的专家。你不会因为上了大一的工程学课就觉得自己精通引擎设计吧。

这些课程是为了让你在日后可以自己继续学习。如果你只是为了不挂科,学过也不记住,那你真的就是在浪费时间了。

我要是有根魔法棒,那我要让每一个理工科学生都在人文学科领域修一个双学位。这样或许才能让他们真正有能力运用自己的理工科知识,去干些实事,干些人们真正需要的事情。理工科毕业生本就是精英,人文学科对他们来说应该不难。我希望看到他们所有人都能去深入学习音乐、历史或是印尼文学。谁知道那会带来多少精彩的应用程序呢?

原文地址:http://www.quora.com/Education/Are-general-requirements-in-college-a-waste-of-time


[i] 电势:在电场中,某点电荷具有的能跟它所带的电荷量之比。

[ii] Apache:世界使用排名第一的Web服务器软件。

 

附上英文原文:

Are general requirements in college a waste of time?

Joshua Engel, Polymath

Here’s the way I think of it: nobody wants to pay you to program a computer.

Programming, in and of itself, is pointless. It’s a bunch of bits, a bunch of electrical potentials. Nobody cares.

People want you to program the computer to do stuff. They want it to play Angry Birds or show them what their friends are doing or help them write a memo. These are things that people do, not what computers do. The computer is the tool. The human beings are the client.

The point of the general requirements is to introduce you to people: what they think, what they do, what they want. This is where you make money.

Computer people fetishize the programs that they write for other computer people, where the computer is the domain as well as the tool: the Linux kernel, the Apache server, the graphics blitting engines. These are tiny domains, tools for other toolmakers. Computer people would rather write code
that writes code than write code.

There is, without doubt, a place for the pure research: the pure mathematics, the high-energy physics, the computer science that’s actually computer science rather than a training hub for programmers. These are important domains that are removed from applications, though even there, there’s a case for understanding the eventual context that your work will fit into. Your “customers” aren’t the papers you write, but the people who will read them. Your coworkers will also be people, and your social connection to them makes you work better, even when what you talk about has nothing to do with pharmacokinetics or Galois fields or whatever “pure” field you’re working in. You have to write proposals, and well-written proposals are going to pay your salary better than poorlywritten ones, no matter solid the technical points.

But a larger percentage of STEM graduates are going to do work for actual people, and you’ll do better at it as an actual person yourself. The great video games tell stories, and you’d better be familiar with some great stories yourself. The ergonomics and interfaces of the device you engineer aren’t going to be glopped on top of your brilliant contraption like some kind of awesome sauce. They’re built into it from the bottom up.

The humanities are not another collection of facts to memorize. They are the introduction, the foundation on which your own journey into what it means to be human is built. If there’s a problem with the humanities requirements, it’s that you’re allowed to get away with a few freshman and sophomore level classes under the impression that you’ve mastered the topics. You wouldn’t consider yourself an expert in engine design just because you took freshman engineering.

These classes are supposed to give you the tools to continue the study on your own. If all you do is get through them and forget them, then you really have wasted your time.

If I could wave a magic wand, I’d make every STEM student double-major in some humanities area. That might begin to make them qualified to actually do something with their STEM knowledge, something that people want. STEM graduates are supposed to be the cream of the crop, and they’re supposed to find the humanities easy. I’d love to see all of them learn music, or history, or Indonesian literature in real depth. Who knows what kind of wonderful applications would come out of it?

 

大学通识教育是在浪费时间吗?
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