16 August 2011

First know-what, then know-how

This post about the book Small Is Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered both argue that students really do need to learn what and why, before they learn how.

The debate is as old as the institution of American higher education itself. What's college for -- the liberal arts or practical training? Both ideas have morphed overtime, and opinions-makers on both sides make meaningful arguments.

I'm deliberately on the fence about it, with my philosophically-minded left leg hanging to the liberal arts side and my kick-ball-minded right leg to the other.

Game-design houses want graduates who have relevant know-what, degrees in graphics arts, art or computer science. They'll train them on the specific how-tos.

Digital media is great because anyone can make a video. I appreciate the "democratization of creativity," but still don't want to necessarily interact with the vast majority of what's created. It's not a matter of high/low culture per se, but rather the condition of not knowing what you don't know.

There isn't really a knowledge domain that comes without its how-tos. Even philosophy students learn how to think and write like a philosopher.

Philosophy: American Pragmatism