Education vs. Learning

Kathy Sierra asks "Why does engineering/math/science education in the US suck?":

If you studied math, science, or engineering at a four-year college in the US, much of what you learned is useless, forgotten, or obsolete. All that money, all that time, all that wasted talent. If all we lost were a few years, no big deal. But the really scary part is that we never learned what matters most to true experts in math, science, and engineering. We never really learned how to DO math, science, and engineering. ...

What experts use to do their work are the things we don't teach. We focus almost exclusively on how to talk about the work. ...

If intuition is the heart of what true experts do, then shouldn't we be trying to teach that? Or at the least, stop stifling and dissing it? And yes, I do believe that we can teach and inspire all those fuzzy things including intuition and even curiosity. But we are running out of time.

Kathy is right: Learning "facts" is not the same as "doing". That's one advantage of teaching composition: it's always focused towards the "doing" of writing. It's still not perfect, of course. Writing in first-year comp can easily be disconnected from the writing that students will do in other classes or in their careers. On that basis, some make the argument that first-year comp should be abolished and replaced with discipline-specific writing courses. I suppose we could carry that logic a little further and claim that discipline-specific writing courses be replaced with writing-intensive internships in one's future career. But what then happens to the goal of a well-rounded university education? Is it education to become no more than intense vocational training? That's not what Creating Passionate Users is arguing, of course. However, we do need to consider, What is the purpose of writing in first-year composition? In the University? For students who are not majoring in writing. Especially for ESL/EFL students.