I graduated from the University of Utah on May 10, 2002 with a B.S. in Computer Engineering. That has to go down as one of the best days of my life (so far). However, when I suddenly found myself done with high school (way back in May of 1995), I wasn't really sure that leaving the safe confines of Dixie was such a great idea. Unlike most people, I liked high school quite a bit. My teachers loved me and thought the world of me. I was well-known and respected (at least on the surface) by my peers. And I was part of close-knit group of friends with whom I still maintain contact today. I don't want to demean child-birth, but I felt like I was leaving a warm womb for a cold, unfamiliar, and somewhat frightening world.
When I graduated from the U, I experienced something more along the lines of profound relief.
In a recent conversation with Johnny Elbows, we discussed the peculiarities of schooling. I mentioned that school is the one place where you pay to do worthless things, when you could be getting paid to do useful things. This horrible, brutal fact caused me no end of pain during my servitude to the U. Johnny is currently serving time in the Computer Science major which is, of course, very closely related to Computer Engineering. He mentioned that he was working on a project designed to teach him the Java programming language. Instead of having the students work on something useful -- say, for instance, one of the thousands of projects available on SourceForge -- the curriculum calls for some meaningless code to be generated, graded, and promptly deleted.
Such waste makes me yearn for the days of yore (days I never experienced or I probably wouldn't yearn for them), when apprenticeship was the teaching method of choice. Sure, apprentices weren't required to be well-rounded by taking art-history and statistics classes, but they rarely saw their efforts go into the trash bin. I'm willing to concede that pounding out nails as a smith's apprentice probably wouldn't expand your mind terribly, but it would be encouraging to see your work put to use by the carpenter down the road, rather than tossed into the scrap metal pile.
Clearly, there's something to be gained by the apprenticeship style of learning. In fact, I think it's time I gave it a try. Anybody interested in being my padawan learner?