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Things They Don't Teach You in School (netmeister.org)
82 points by shawndumas on Apr 12, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 30 comments

> Who here is a feminist? (Two, three hands go up, timidly.)

> Wait, let me ask another way around: who here thinks that all people, regardless of gender, have the same rights and should be treated equally? (All hands go up.)

> Congratulations, you are all feminists.

It's too bad that current feminism/SJW movement has so corrupted the feminism "brand" that I do not feel comfortable identifying as one and probably who more hands don't get raised. The definition given doesn't match what currently feminism is about.

I concur. I'm an equalist, not a feminist. I don't believe in either sex having more rights than the other, over any issue whatsoever, and think we should treat everyone - regardless of race, language-spoken, gender, culture, whatever - equally, no matter what.

I never use the word feminist because it just doesn't mean that any more. What it means, is something else entirely than what I've just described.

> It's too bad that current feminism/SJW movement has so corrupted the feminism "brand"

I've started to think of the SJ movement as analogous to the GNU/GPL movement. From a high level, it's easy to see it as extreme and difficult to identify with, but if you give it some time and thought, you start to see the merits of the argument.

Note, one does not always have to agree to think there are merits. Once I saw SJ advocates in this light, it also became much easier to see that much like the software license debates, there are a spectrum of beliefs; Not all GNU advocates are alike, just like not all SJWs are alike.

> The definition given doesn't match what currently feminism is about.

I have not seen evidence that this has changed. I have, however, seen opinions that I don't agree with, but ultimately stem from that working premise.

I think that all movements have to deal with the agent-provocateur problem, sooner or later - which is to say, any time you make an enemy, if you don't allow your enemy to become you properly, then you will become your enemy.

This is what happened with feminist movements: they became the very frothy-mouthed totalitarians they were resisting. Because they didn't do enough to deal with the totalitarians that were attracted to their platform of power, gained in the rising days of the feminist movement, and must now share that platform with a vast array of differing views, somehow aligned with feminism, but nevertheless diluting the goals of very subject and thwarting it in a direction not originally intended.

All movements have to deal with this factor, it seems. Its a social one.

> I have not seen evidence that this has changed.

Just the things like: "men can't be opressed" and all the "check your privilege" shit just brings my piss to boil. And more I see all these SJWs acting like spoiled kids with their "safe zones" and "trigger warnings" more I feel like maybe things were better back in 40s and 50s.

Maybe it's a cultural thing, I really don't care, but when I'm told that I'm the very essence of evil-sexists-racist-pig because I'm male, white and straight (or cis, whatever that means) I can't but help feel like I'm being bullied for nothing I've done nor my Finnish ancestors.

So I guess this was a comedy piece? Some more serious issues I've noticed:

#1. They don't teach you that teachers are paid to put up with you. Employers aren't paid to put up with you. They're paid to fire people who waste their time and interfere with the work that needs to get done.

#2. They don't teach you how to not waste people's time. Some of the group activities that force mingling are the worst. Most real work does not require communication, especially at entry level positions. Take instructions once, and just deliver what is being asked of you.

#3. They don't teach you what's being asked of you. Students show up at class, deliver homework and take exams, with the occasional project maybe. Work is all exams. It's about your constant output that is monetarily valued by your employer, which is always being examined. Homework and exams have no value. But the degree has value, right?

#4. They don't teach you the degree has little value.

The list can go much longer, but even if you're a Harvard PhD, until you get this, you're a fraud. And even if you're a high school dropout, if you get it, you're in business. Employers don't really care where you're from once you're in the building. They just need things to get done.

(The degree acquiring experience can be spectacular for you regardless of where you go actually, but degrees just aren't worth what they used to be, for sure.)

#2. They don't teach you how to not waste people's time. Some of the group activities that force mingling are the worst. Most real work does not require communication, especially at entry level positions. Take instructions once, and just deliver what is being asked of you.

That assumes some sort of weird universe where instructions are always perfect. I don't live in that universe. Every person who does paid work of any sort should be questioning their instructions, communicating with their colleagues about the instructions, and giving their manager feedback if the instructions are incomplete or if the situation changes. That applies to everyone from people writing complex software to people paid to literally just dig holes.

The notion that communication skills are universally important across all jobs is entirely true.

Communication skills are important, but you need to know when to shut the fuck up. That's what's universally important and entirely true.

Instructions are never perfect. It's whether you can get the job done anyway, once you know what is being asked of you, which is mostly a one time initiation. Ever see someone repeatedly asking and questioning what is being asked of them? That's someone who is going to struggle for the rest of their lives in every professional environment someone accidentally put them in.

Supervisors don't want to hear about imperfections that you could have worked around yourself. You aren't being paid to call and talk and yap. You're being paid to deliver. Your approach is academic already, and goes to prove my point. Instructions only need to meet you half way. In fact, less the more for you. This is why it's completely academically backwards. The more you get done with fewer instructions, the more valuable you are because you cost less time.

Imagine a Postal Worker questioning the features on their mobile device (which clearly suck). They're being paid to work with it, not question it and talk about it.

Communication skills are important, but communication itself is an absolute bottleneck in any workflow (with emphasis on flow). Minimize communication volume, and maximize communication value. Work is no excuse to talk.

But that doesn't mean all work is anti-academic. Most of it is though. The best academic jobs will always be in academia.

Work is no excuse to talk.

I understand that there are people who prefer to work in silence, concentrating on nothing but the task at hand, but the suggestion that everyone should be like that is idiotic. There is a wide variety of people in the workplace; we aren't all the same. The idea that office hours should be limited to work and nothing else betrays who we are: living, sociable human beings.

Right. You continue to exemplify my point.

Talkers truly underestimate the bandwidth it takes to engage someone properly, and if you're not engaging someone properly, your presence is just insulting.

If you're in an open office without walls or cubicles, and people kept talking to you, you wouldn't get anything done. Their excuse? That they're living, sociable, human beings. Well, tell that to your boss.

Think of a busy kitchen. People don't talk beyond the signals required to advance workflow. Of course, everyone can chat when they're not busy. But that's also when the business isn't making any money. Restaurants close to take you off the clock.

Think of all the jobs that require focus, like programming and writing. Think of all the jobs that are so much easier with focus, like almost every job.

Of course, if you like to talk, just get a job that requires it. Waiters get to talk while they wait for customers, and get to talk with customers. Journalists, teachers, lawyers, consultants, entertainers.

And my suggestion was to know when to shut up, not that everyone must work in silence. There is a time for communication, and for your presentation skills to shine. It just isn't "whenever I feel sociable because that's who I am, yo". But that's school! Get it?

And all this, they DO NOT TEACH IN SCHOOL.

Right, sure, knowing when to shut the fuck up is very important. But learning to be good at communication, and learning social skills is brutally important in life. Learning when to speak and when not to speak and how to speak to other people is so important: how are people supposed to learn this if you teach them to just shut up and take orders? If you learn good social skills, you do better in life, and you don't learn social skills by not interacting socially. Also, school is a point in life where there is literally no downside to constantly asking questions, all the time. You even say, teachers are paid to put up with you: well, in that case, make them work!

For the most part, they don't teach either. They don't teach good communication skills, nor do they teach you to shut up. Typically, students will talk, and get scolded when the teacher doesn't want them to talk. That's not a lesson. It's a power grab.

They don't teach how to ask questions either. They need to.

I know these things because I have had to teach them to every person that I hired. The modern system was suppose to create a smart and dependable work force by teaching students how to study, which is basically how to follow instructions and absorb anything handed to them. Except, that is only a small fraction of most work, and even the studying part they stop doing because it was never fun or important to them, or they never got good at it to begin with. Because, ironically, most schools don't teach you how to study. They just make you study.

>Most real work does not require communication

This made me roll my eyes. This may apply to whatever you are currently engaged in, I couldn't possibly say, but it is not at all typical. Take a look at [0] which lists occupation types from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Go have a look at the underlying data tables. Now, you can either choose to classify the majority of those as 'not real work' or you can concede that projecting outwards from where you are might not be a good way to reason about the world.

[0] http://www.careerinfonet.org/oview3.asp?id=&level=Overall&no...

I see there's some controversy here about your points (or perhaps just your way of presenting them?). I'd like to weigh to say your advice is solid.

Employees are absolutely valued by their boss based on how much hand-holding they require and how autonomous they are. In fact, in functional companies, that's what decides your factual seniority: Not the years your butt sat physically in some chair, but how little you need to get going and have results.

It's not controversial at all.

From students who need the instructions in almost algorithmic form and understand no context, to business owners who create their own opportunities and generate time for others, there's a whole spectrum.

> They don't teach you the degree has little value.

It's true you can get a degree, even an engineering degree, without learning much of any value. But if you go to college to actually get an education, the degree is simply a side effect.

If you avoid the hard classes, do as little as possible, etc., and get a degree but don't be surprised to find out that degree is worthless.

I think you have this exactly backward. Learning during college is a side effect. You are paying for the degree mostly as a costly signal. If you want to learn but don't care about a degree, there are much better and cheaper ways than going to college.

> You are paying for the degree mostly as a costly signal.

That's not why I went to college. I went to learn engineering, and I did, and I enjoyed it.

> much better and cheaper ways

In a word, baloney. I got a great deal out of college, far more than I would have with self-study. I know that people claim you can learn math on your own, but I've never encountered one who did. Not in 40 years of working with engineers.

> In a word, baloney. I got a great deal out of college, far more than I would have with self-study.

I'm not just saying this off the cuff, there's pretty strong evidence that the thing you are paying for is the signal. Consider anecdotal evidence in terms of what people consider valuable - in many colleges you can walk in to any class without presenting any identification and just start learning, for free. If you asked the Professor if you can sit in on the class even though you are not enrolled in the school, I'm fairly certain a huge majority of them would say yes (I've done it myself for multiple classes at a law school).

> I know that people claim you can learn math on your own, but I've never encountered one who did. Not in 40 years of working with engineers.

There's a huge selection effect there, in that you can learn these things easily (especially now) on your own by using it, but people can learn these things are also generally the people for whom college is easy, so you would expect them all to have learned it in college anyway. See the Wikipedia article on Signalling (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_%28economics%29#Job...).

The point is, learning is generally a beneficial side effect of our education system.

Sitting in a class is only a small part of the learning that goes on. Most of my learning came from doing the homework, and getting help from my peers, TAs and the professor. None of that was available if I wasn't a paying student. Nobody was going to grade my homework, figure out where I went wrong, and coach me. Nobody was going to guide me in what was important and what wasn't.

> you can learn these things easily

Such people are unicorns. I've never encountered one.

> the thing you are paying for is the signal.

Not what I paid for. I've never worn my class ring, for example. I doubt I could even find my diploma, let alone adorn my office with it. I'm no a unicorn, either, I know a lot of engineers like me, who simply love engineering and thoroughly enjoyed the classes they took, especially the hard ones.

If they were only in it for the degree, they would have done as little as possible. There are students like that. But there are plenty of others.

An impressive collection of tips!

Highly relevant plug: for students / fresh grads wishing to bridge the academia-industry gap, we offer a free Incubator programme [1]. There we mentor talented students from partner universities on such practical matters.

We do specialise in machine learning, but most of the tips here apply 100%. Surprisingly -- at least to many ML students coming from academia -- even (especially?) the "be boring" bit of advice. People can get so hyped up about the latest ML fads that they miss the forest for the trees, so to speak.

[1] http://rare-technologies.com/incubator/

That looks pretty interesting; I might apply.

One question about the non-optional meetings: when are they? If I am in PST, will I have to skip sleep or work to attend?

Lev, our main community liaison, lives in London.

We've had students from all over the world though: from Brazil to Europe to India to Japan. So I wouldn't worry about this too much. If the will and the motivation is there, we'll find a time that makes everyone happy.

Alrighty. In that case, I will send in an app. Word2Vec looks both interesting and challenging.

>Black lives matter

So, how do we stop them from killing each other?

You're probably now going to tell me that cops are racist but copy in the USA are assholes no matter your race.


Those statistics are eye opening. I wonder why they are never touched upon during the numerous debates during election season in the US.

I can think of several structural changes the US could make to their society if this was actually a priority for them.

The way you phrase the question it appears you can't think of any, even though you go on to immediately mention one from my list: dysfuntional cops.

Like the deaths, you seem fatalistic about changing policing, apparently asshole cops are just a fact of life to you rather than a result of broken institutions.

Stop trying to be the smartest guy in the room and lighten up. Those are my tips.

Scandinavian languages already have "programmering" for "computering" if you want to sound quaint.


It's advice sourced from his Twitter network for a talk he was asked to give at a school club, so I fail to see where condescension or unnecessary ego plays a part other than the fact that he is literally a technology professional addressing an audience of CS students.

Moreover, the "SJW" (social justice warrior) and Black Lives Matter references are quite sparse, so you can skip the one section and single bullet point, respectively, should you find them not to your liking.

Leave Donald Trump alone bro.

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