Category Archives: thoughts

Companies are Dropping Bachelor Degree Expectation

Recently, there has been a rising trend in companies dropping the need to have a four-year college degree. This has raised several interesting questions as to whether this is a wise decision or not.

However, whenever a decision is made, it is essential to look at the pros and cons of the decision. As such, there is no benefit to attacking companies that have chosen to remove a four-year degree from their expectations. Instead, it is better to look at what is gained and what is lost when such a decision is made. This discussion will limit the pros and cons to businesses, workers, and higher education. There are other stakeholders in this situation, but they will not be covered here.


For business, dropping the requirements for a college degree opens up a much larger pool of workers. Some statistics estimate that about 35% of Americans have a degree. This means that companies are currently limited from considering almost 2/3 of the population if they stick to their degree requirement. By removing this standard many, more people can be considered for employment.

As the workforce expands, it will also provide many employers with more flexibility in hiring, firing, and perhaps wages. With so many more potential employees could potentially put in a stronger position of power in terms of employee relations. Of course, this assumes that people without degrees have the skills and training necessary to do the job.

For the worker, there is a reduction in the cost of school. Now, there is no need to spend thousands of dollars while often going into debt to secure a job. The price of college has skyrocketed to the point of being unreasonable priced for many individuals. As such, a shortcut into the tech field without spending time in school is an attractive idea for many people.

Barriers to entry is a term often discussed in business. For workers, a barrier to entering decent employment could be a degree. With companies removing this requirement, people can potentially find not just a job but a decent paying career through which they can support a family.

One benefit of higher education is that only students who want to go to college will continue to go. The current expectation of going to college has often coerced many students who do not want to be there to go because it was assumed to be the only way to find a decent job. This left colleges with many students who were “putting in the time” and pressuring schools to lower standards so that they could succeed. Grade inflation has also been an important topic in higher education, and this may be due in part to people studying who may not want to study.

Of course, those who want to study should study, and colleges should work with them to be successful. However, if a student is genuinely not interested in school, a pathway to employment should be available as well. It is not about having one answer for all people but many options for different types of people.


No plan is perfect, and dropping college is going to cause problems as well. For business, they will have to spend more time training workers for the various skills and knowledge they need, negating whatever savings they make on wages.

College is frequently criticized for not being practical. However, what college does provide is the development of communication skills, learning how to work with others, as well as a general body of theoretical knowledge that the student will learn to use upon graduation. Remove college from the equation, and developing these and other skills falls on the employer.

Another potential problem for both workers and employers is the lack of advanced skills. If someone does not have a bachelor’s degree, they obviously will not have a master’s or other forms of advanced training. This could lead to workers who are only good at one particular thing and cannot branch out and see connections among various concepts and skills related to their employment.

Lastly, there could be a loss of many students at college. This has not happened just yet, but if there are attractive careers out there that do not require a degree, many colleges could lose many students. This will impact professors, staff, administrators, and others who are connected with higher education. It is not clear how popular removing the bachelor’s degree requirement will become, but it could be financially disastrous for higher education institutions.


Dropping the requirement to go to college is not a bad idea in of its self. This idea will solve some problems, but like all solutions, it will also cause problems. Instead, multiple answers should be developed to help employers find workers and young people who may not be interested in higher education.

Memorization and Critical Thinking

This post will look at the symbiotic relationship between memorization and critical thinking. Both forms of thinking need each other as they serve different purposes in learning. Memorization is a passive skill while critical thinking is an active skill


Memorizing is the process of retaining information. In other words, a person is not only experiencing something but actively trying to remember it for future recall. This can be something as simple as a phone number or as complicated as the plot to a movie. Our minds do not retain everything that stimulates us but rather what we choose to notice.

To keep things as simple as possible we have working memory and long-term memory. Working memory is where new information comes into the mind. After something has been in the working memory long enough, emphasized, or rehearsed enough, it will become a part of long term memory.

Working memory is also used to complete tasks. For example, you are using working memory to read this post. You know how to read as this is in your long-term memory but working memory is used to do the actual reading. However, because reading is something so familiar for most of us it does not take up as much concentration as it used to. This allows us to focus on other things such as comprehension or reading faster.

Within education, memorizing is a part of the learning process. It is a passive skill in that you do not produce anything new when memorizing but just repeat what was seen, said/written.  Students have to memorize steps, dates, numbers, directions, etc. This memorization is used to complete assignments, pass quizzes, prepare for a test, etc. In other words, memorizing is an important and crucial aspect of the learning process. As such, students go to elaborate lengths to try to retain information such as staying up late rote memorizing, using various memorization techniques, and or working with friends to retain knowledge. There are even times when students resort to cheating to achieve their goals.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the process of judging/manipulating information in various ways. For example, information can be compared and contrasted, synthesize, analyzed, evaluated, etc. All the verbs mentions involve either judging the information or in some way creating new knowledge such as by comparison. Critical thinking is an active skill in that something new is created through this thought process.

One of the primary goals of critical thinking is to be able to develop a position and support that position with evidence. For example, if someone loves to travel, critical thinking would involve providing evidence for why they love to travel. This is harder for students then it seems as they often supply emotional arguments rather than rational ones.

Therefore, it could be said that critical thinking is an extension of memorizing. You cannot think critically unless you have something to think about. Also, you will have nothing in your head unless it has been memorized in one way or another. However, critical thinking is not about the discussion of petty facts like dates. Rather, critical thinking often involves looking at the big picture and trying to explain major events. It’s the forest rather than the trees often.

An example of this would be a discussion on WWII. You can ask students to try to explain what do they think was motivating Hitler to start WWII. A question such as this assumes knowledge of Hitler, Germany, WWII and more. However, such a question as this is not asking you to ponder the day the war started or ended or the hair color of Hitler. In other words, there are things that a student needs to know to think critically about their response but it needs to be substantial information.

Now we may be moving in a circle. If critical thinking involves using substantial information that is memorized who determines what is substantial? Unfortunately, critical thinking determines what is important and not important. This means that we need to be critical about what we memorize and critical about how we use what we have memorized. The only way to learn how to do this is with practice. By exposing yourself to the information you learn how to retain what is important and what is not. Sometimes you remember what the book is about while other times you remember the name of the book so you can find it later. It all depends on the context.


Memorizing and critical thinking are a team when it comes to learning. Learning often begins with memorizing something. However, what we memorize can depend on what we think is important and this involves critical thinking at least hopefully. Critical thinking is the process of using what we already know to evaluate it or create a different perspective on something.

Differences in Thinking

Critical thinkers and problem solvers are two groups of people.  Sadly, these two groups are almost mutually exclusive. However, it is important that thinkers and solvers develop both skillsets to a certain level of competence.

The purpose of this post is to try and explain in detail critical thinking vs problem-solving in term of individual differences.

Thinking is a slow deliberate process that takes to do. In other words, a person must decide to think. Since there is a requirement of active effort, thinking is something that few people value and appreciate as they should.

Thinking involves processing information from the viewpoint of central processing. This means to examine the content of a message for its worth. Furthermore, when a person is developing their own arguments thinking involves developing support for one’s position. Often when people argue or disagree today they tend to get upset. This is an indication that their emotions are determining their position rather than their mind. They might use their mind on occasion to strengthen their argument but the foundation of their position is often emotional rather than based on strong thought.

Developing the mind usually involves reading. Reading exposes an individual to good and poor examples of thinking.  From these examples, an individual thinks about the strengths and merits of each. This process of thinking about other people’s thoughts helps a person to develop their own opinion. When an is formed it can be shared with others who are then able to judge for themselves the merit of the person’s opinion.

This process of thinking is not often required for academic studies. The focus has moved more towards problem-solving. Problem-solving is In an excellent form of thinking when the end goal is often binary in nature. This means that when a problem solves, either they solve the problem or they do not.

Critical thinking involves a certain fuzziness to it that problem-solving lacks  For example, whether a speech or paper is good or bad involves critical thinking because judging quality involves fuzziness to it. This sense of a shade of gray would make solving problems difficult at the least. T

However, if you are called to determine why a computer does not connect to the internet this is problem-solving. The goal is to get back on the internet. You have to think but the desired outcome is clear. Once the computer is back on the internet there is nothing to think about. In most cases, particular with non techie people, how you get back on the internet does not even matter. In other words, the “why does this work” is often something that problem solvers do not care about but this is exactly the type of thing critical thinking has to be able to explain when developing an argument.

Problem-solving involves action and not as much contemplation. The focus is on experience and not theory. It is not that problem-solvers never read and contemplate, rather, they learn primarily through doing. Examples include trial and error. 

Most companies want problem solvers and not necessarily critical thinkers. In other words, businesses want things done. They do not want people going around and questioning unless this helps to solve a problem.  Companies claim to want thinking but what they really want are people who think how to solve the company’s problems. Questioning the company is not one of the wiser things to do.

The fuzziness of critical thinking frustrates problem-solvers who want to solve problems and not simply talk. This is not a negative thing but rather a difference in personality. The problem is that problem solvers and critical thinkers do not see this as a matter of difference but a matter of ignorance on one hand and irrelevance on the other hand. Thinkers think and problem solvers do is a common description of both sides


Critical thinking and problem-solving are two skills that everyone needs. To focus on either to the exclusion of the other is detrimental. A combination of thought and action creates a balanced individual who is able to get things done while still have a depth of thought to support their actions.

Undergrad and Grad Students

In this post,  we will look at a comparison of grad and undergrad students.

Student Quality

Generally, graduate students are of a higher quality academically than undergrad students. Of course, this varies widely from institution to institution. New graduate programs may have a lower quality of student than established undergrad programs. This is because the new program is trying to fill sears initially and quality is often compromised.


At the graduate level, there is an expectation of a much more focused and rigorous curriculum. This makes sense as the primary purpose of graduate school is usually specialization and not generalization. This requires that the teachers at this level have a deep expert-level mastery of the content.

In comparison to graduate school, undergrad is a generalized experience with some specialization. However, this depends on the country in which the studies take place. Some countries require rather an intense specialization from the beginning with a minimum of general education while others take a more American style approach with a wide exposure to various fields.


Graduate students are usually older. This means that they require less institution sponsored social activities and may not socialize at all. In addition, some graduate students are married which adds a whole other level of complexity to their studies. Although they are probably less inclined to be “wild” due to their family they are also going to struggle due to the time commitment of their loved ones.

Assuming that an undergraduate student is a traditional one they will tend to be straight from high school, require some social support, but will also have the free time needed to study. The challenge with these students is the maturity level and self-regulation skills that are often missing for academic success.

For the teacher, graduate students offer higher motivation and commitment generally when compared to undergrads. This is reasonable as people often feel compelled to complete a bachelors but normally do not face the same level of pressure to go to graduate school. This means that undergrad is often compulsory due to external circumstances while grad school is by choice.


Despite the differences but types of students hold in common an experience that is filled with exposure to various ideas and content for several years. Grad students and undergrad students are individuals who are developing skills for the goal of eventually finding a purpose in the world.

Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom

In 1990, a little known film called “Class of 1999” came out. In this movie, three military grade robots are placed in an inner-city war zone school to with the job of teaching.

As with any movie, things quickly get out of hand and the robot teachers begin killing the naughty students and eventually manipulating the local gangs into fighting and killing each other. Eventually, in something that can only happen in a movie, three military grade AI robots similar to the terminator are destroyed by a delinquent teenager

There has been a lot of hype and excitement over the growth of data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. With this growth, these ideas have begun to expend into supporting education. This has even led to speculation among some that algorithms and artificial intelligence could replace teachers in the classroom.

There are several reasons why this is. My reasons are listed as follows

  • People Need People
  • Computers need people
  • Computers assist people

People Need People

When it comes to education, people need people. Originally, education was often passed through apprenticeship for trades and one-on-one tutoring for elites. There has allows been some form of mass education but it has always involved people helping each other.

There are certain social-emotional needs that people have that cannot be satisfied by even the most life-like machine. When humans communicate they always convey some form of emotion even in the most harden computer like individual. Although AI is making strides in attempting to read, emotions they are far from convincingly portraying emotions. Besides, students want someone who can laugh, joke, smile, and do all those little things that involve being human. Even such mundane things as tripping over one’s shoes, or forgetting someone’s name add a human element to the learning experience.

Furthermore, even if a computer is able to share emotions in a human-like manner what child would really feel satisfaction from pleasing an Amazon Alexa? People need people and AI teachers cannot provide this even if they can provide top-level content.

Another concern is that people are highly unpredictable. Again, this relates to the emotional aspects of human nature. Even humans who have the same emotional characteristics are surprised by the behavior of fellow humans. When an algorithm is coldly calculating what is an appropriate action this inability to deal with unpredictable actions can be a problem.

A classic example of this is classroom management. If a student is not paying attention, or not doing their work, or showing defiance in one way or the other how would a computer handle this. In the movie “Class of 1999” the answer for disruptive behavior was to kill. Few parents and administrators would approve of such an action coming from an artificial neural network.

People need people in the context of education for the socio-emotional aspect of education as well as for the tribulation of classroom management. Computers are not humans and therefore they cannot provide the motivation or inspiration that so many students need to be successful in school.

Computers Need People

A second reason AI teachers are unlikely is because computers need people. Computers breakdown,  there are bugs in code, updates have to be made etc. All this precludes a machine going completely independent. With everything that can go wrong there has to be people there to monitor the use and interaction of machines with people.

Even in the movie “Class of 1999” there was a research professor and administrator monitoring the school. This continued until they were killed by the AI teachers.

With all the amazing advances in AI and machine learning it is still people who tweak the algorithms and provide the data for the machine to learn. After this is done, the algorithm is still monitored to see how it performs. Computers cannot escape their reliance on humans to maintain their functionality which implies that they cannot be turned loss in a classroom alone.

Computers Help People

The way going forward is that perhaps AI and other aspects of machine learning and data science can support teachers to be better teachers. For example, in some versions of Moodle there is an algorithm that will monitor students participation and will predict if students are at risk of failing. There is also an algorithm that predicts if a teacher is teaching. This is an excellent use of machine learning in that it deals with a routine task and simple flags a problem rather than trying to intervene it’s self.

Another useful application more in line with AI is through tutoring. Providing feedback on progress and adjusting what the student does based on their performance. Again, in a supporting role, AI can be excellent. The problem is when AI becomes the leader.


The advances in technology are going to continue. However, with the amazing breakthroughs in this field people still need interaction with other people and the example of others in a social context. Computers will never be able to provide this. Computers also need the constant support of humans in order to function. The proper role for AI and data science in education may be as a supporter to a teacher rather than the one leading and making criticaltaff decisions about other people.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

There have been concerns for years that critical thinking and problem-solving skills are in decline not only among students but also the general public. On the surface, this appears to be true. However, throughout human history, the average person was not much of a deep thinker but rather a doer. How much time can you spend on thinking for the sake of thinking when you are dealing with famine, war, and disease? This internal focus vs external focus is one of the differences between critical thinking and problem-solving.

Critical Thinking

There is no agreed-upon definition of critical thinking. This makes sense as any agreement would indicate a lack of critical thinking. In general, critical thinking is about questioning and testing the claims and statements made through external evidence as well as internal thought. Critical thinking is the ability to know what you don’t know and seek answers through finding information. To test and assert claims means taking time to develop them which is a lonely process many times

Thinking for the sake of thinking is a somewhat introverted process. There are few people who want to sit and ponder in the fast-paced 21st century.  This is one reason why it appears that critical thinking is in decline. It’s not that people are incapable of thinking critical they would just rather not do it and seek a quick answer and or entertainment. Critical thinking is just too slow for many people.

Whenever I give my students any form of opened assignment that requires them to develop an argument I am usually shocked by the superficial nature of the work. Having thought about this I have come to the conclusion that the students lacked the mental energy to demonstrate the critical thought needed to write a paper or even to share their opinion about something a little deeper then facebook videos.

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is about getting stuff done. When an obstacle is in the way a problem solver finds a way around. Problem-solving is focused often on tangible things and objects in a practical way. Therefore, problem-solving is more of an extroverted experience. It is common and easy to solve problems with friends gregariously. However, thinking critically is somewhat more difficult to do in groups and cannot move as fast as we want we discussing.

Due to the potential of working in groups and the fast pace that it can take, problem-solving skills are in better shape than critical thinking skills. This is because when people work in groups several superficial ideas can be combined to overcome a problem. This groupthink if you will allow for success even though the individual members are probably not the brightest.

Problem-solving has been the focus of mankind for most of their existence. Please keep in mind that for most of human history people could not even read and write. Instead, they were farmers and soldiers concern with food and protecting their civilization from invasion. These problems led to amazing discoveries for the sake of providing life and not for the sake of thinking for the sake of thinking or questioning for the sake of objection.


There is some overlap in critical thinking and problem-solving. Solutions to problems have to be critically evaluated. However, often a potential solution is voted good or bad by whether it works or not which requires observation and not in-depth thinking. The goal for problem-solving is always “does this solve the problem” or “does this solve the problem better”. These are important criteria but critical thinking involves much broader and deeper issues than just “does this work.” Critical thinking is on a quest for truth and satisfying curiosity. These are ideas that problem-solvers struggle to appreciate

The world is mostly focused on people who can solve problems and not necessarily on deep thinkers who can ponder complex ideas alone. As such, perhaps critical thinking was a fad that has ceased to be relevant as problem solvers do not see how critical thinking solves problems. Both forms of thought are needed and they do overlap yet most of the world simply wants to know what the answer is to their problem rather than to think deeply about why they have a problem in the first place.