Friday, September 17, 2004

Film reaction (and brief heads-up)

Heads-up first: Karen Riggs's book is so new that finding reviews is proving to be a challenge. I'll keep an eye on incoming stuff in the SLIS library.

Next, film reaction: What's stuck with me nearly a week later is a disconnect in the word "skill" that the film hinted at deconstructing but didn't quite fully address: broad, transferable, long-term skills (group work, management, artistic or writing skill, "learning how to learn") and focused, immediate, obsolescence-prone skills ("Photoshop 4").

For all the verbiage about the former type of skill, much of the effort expended goes toward inculcating the latter type.

Why? Well, immediate business needs are part of it, of course, and the film made that clear. I think there's more to it, though. I don't think educators are nearly as confident as the film made them sound in either their ability to communicate the former type of skill or its long-term viability in the job market. Given that, it's hardly a surprise that they turn to skills that are easier to teach, easier to measure, and easier to make an immediate business case ("these students will get hired!") for.

It does a long-term disservice to students, naturally; I think we were all wincing at the airy assumptions about job security and financial success based on quickly-obsolete software skills. Moreover, it leaves the educators open to charges of wilful cluelessness or even hypocrisy; surely they know what they're teaching will become obsolete? But the educators are in a cleft stick -- if they admit they don't know where the job market will go or how well their preparation for it will hold up, who will value their service?

I don't have an answer to this conundrum myself, though I do wish educators could acknowledge it openly. Hiding it does little to solve it.

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