Badges and Socrates Continued: A Look at the Big Picture

Badges and Socrates Continued: A Look at the Big Picture

Last week, we took a look at the price tag attached to formal university education, and the reality of the “brand” driving the costs.

Now we turn to Mark Kamlet, the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. He talks about the changes in the school such that the Arts and Science coexist. As he says “Carnegie Mellon is focused on truth, beauty and what connects the two.” Scholars had been thinking very hard about two intellectual questions which will define the age. “The nature of human cognition and the uses of information technology.” This is how computers and the internet are affecting the thought patterns of humankind. This led to studies on neuroscience. People learn differently according to their brain patterns. We have learned in the past two decades that “there are connections from the temporal lobe back to the parts of the brain that process and interpret new information, an unending loop.”

Carey tells us the story of Patrick Suppes. He was a lucky man. In 1930 a group of progressive education reformers came together in Washington, D.C. to talk about the nation’s High Schools. They found that the high school learning had become too rigid and narrow. To test their theories, they chose thirty schools across the nation. One was the Tulsa Senior and Junior High Schools. Patrick Suppes got a very high score. He enrolled in the University of Oklahoma which he found academically unchallenging and transferred to the University of Chicago where he received a BS in Meteorology. Next was the war and he was assigned a posting in the South Pacific where he was able to continue his studies. He returned after the war and obtained a PhD from Columbia before landing a teaching job at Stanford.

He got married and he and his wife had a girl. She entered Kindergarten in 1956 and her father became very interested in how children were learning mathematics. As time passed he threw himself into “learning science.” He became interested in how computers could help improve education.

In 1966 he published an article in Scientific American titled “The Uses of Computers in education.” He found that each student needed to be taught in an individualized way – each student needed a personal tutor. He said “the computer makes the individualization of instruction easier because it can be programmed to follow each student’s history or learning successes and failures and to use this past performance as a basis for selecting new problems and new concepts to which the student should be exposed to next.” He was learning that online education produced modestly better results than those receiving face-to-face instruction.


The world of education today is enabling us to learn from anywhere.  The concept of higher education no longer needs to be reserved for those who can afford the time and tuition of education as a full-time pursuit.


We will continue with the last part of our discussion next week.


The time is now.