Saturday, February 27, 2010

Professional and General Education

This morning I was in a intensive discussion with a group of Fullbright Scholars from the USA on the issue of general education. I was looking for an example to illustrate the role of general education in professional education, when these images came to mind.

One is, of course the user interface for Google. It is focused, simple, and elegant. It does only one thing, but does it exceptionally well.

The other is that of, a popular web site in mainland China. Very rich in information and features. What is shown in the screen dump is only about one-tenth of the complete web page.

The contrast between the two is extreme. There are lots of reasons for the differences: cultural, political, historical, psychological, economical, commercial, artistic, ... To do our job well, we - the designers of the interfaces and the systems behind them - must understand the multitude of issues and the relevant domains of knowledge. Here is at least one obvious place where a broad and general education can be of tremendous benefit.

Many of us professors and students understand that. And we are trying to design new four-year undergraduate programs to achieve that.


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