This book really opened my eyes on what is important in college education
I feel every student should read it before picking colleges and majors
David Epstein makes a powerful case for late specialization, trying out many different things and not getting too narrowly focused early.
His comparison of "Kind learning environments (Chess, golf, fire fighting) Vs. Wicked learning environments (War, business, careers, jobs) is totally eye opening.
Kind learning environments have many repetitive patterns and give very quick and predictable feed-backs whereas wicked learning environments have very few or no repetitive patterns and feedback is ambiguous, late or both.
He argues that specialization only helps in kind learning environments but most of life’s interesting examples are anchored in wicked learning environments and the people who succeed the most in such environments try many different things and take a circuitous way to success and while initially they may look like they are falling behind the folks who specialize early, they soon catch up and surpass the early specialists.
There are many useful insights in the book for higher education.
However, wicked learning environments also have more downside, and are often those where participants enter with great variation in initial advantages and disadvantages.
For example, in war, the potential downside to an individual person is death, and potential downside to the country is complete destruction – but the latter is not necessarily applicable or similarly likely to all participants. Prior military, political, and diplomatic situations inherited by current leaderships from previous ones mean that participants can enter with huge advantages and disadvantages.
Similarly, in jobs, a new entrant from a low SES family with no connections but with student loans may have immediate financial pressures that one from a supportive high SES family with connections and other means of helping (e.g. assistance with relocation costs or financial help during a low paid entry level job) and no debt to worry about repaying now.
In other words, the effects and incentives of a more wicked environment are different depending on how close one starts to the catastrophic downside and how protected one is from it.
^Yeah, but the only operative definition I have ever seen on CC of “low-payiing” is anything not in the field of engineering, investment banking, or management consulting. Most entry-level jobs are relatively low paying. But, keep in mind that the majority of college graduates are going to change jobs frequently over the space of their lifetimes.
Also keep in mind that the wealthier the college they attend, the less likely someone from a low SES background will emerge from college with a lot of debt.
Just read the intro, which seems to discuss specializing at age 4. Is specializing at age 18 or 20 considered “early” anywhere outside the US? Or even in the US? At what age is it no longer considered early-25, 30, 40?