January 23, 2019
 by Paul McGowan

We all love to learn but today’s education systems are antiquated to the task. Student’s heads are crammed full of information that bears little relevance to their lives—information they will someday learn how to put to use but in the meantime essentially worthless.

The problem is the lack of a framework. Imagine trying to build a home with everything but the framework. It can probably be done but it wouldn’t be a pretty sight. Once a foundation and framework have been built it’s easy to visualize adding everything else.

I remember my starting lessons in electronics by a very strict by-the-book German engineer, Rudy Ströebel. Herr Ströebel insisted I learn the color code that distinguishes resistors and the formulas that determine circuit values before I had an inkling of why this was being crammed into my head. In Herr Ströebel’s view, he was building a framework for me to design circuits—but he was taking a long way ’round the bend—like following a recipe without first a clue what you’re baking.

Imagine trying to bring a newbie into the audiophile fold by forcing them to learn first the vernacular before hearing a system. Better first to be immersed in the wonder of a high-end audio system—the framework—which then prompts the newbie into filling in the blanks.

I have watched so many experts turn off potential stereo lovers by qualifying them, filling their heads with disconnected information, before immersing them in the joys of music reproduced like only a high-performance system can.

The formula for learning is to create wonder and desire first, filling your head with the answers to mysteries second.

Subscribe to Paul's Posts

15 comments on “Frameworks”

  1. My primary dealer goes from low-fi (e.g. Naim Mu-So) to top hi-end, but does not sell like this. They discuss your needs and desires, set up a system and give you the iPad to get on and listen. They know technical talk scares off customers, including me. I only desire to learn enough to get a more pleasurable audio experience.

    “Student’s heads are crammed full of information that bears little relevance to their lives”.

    My son is in his final undergraduate year studying Manufacturing and Design, in the Engineering department at Leeds University. Most of the year is practical. A product he designed as part of his course at the end of last year is about to be manufactured.

    He failed to get into Bristol. Incredibly difficult. By the final year at Bristol every student is effectively sponsored and involved in commercial product design.

    My son turned down a place at Imperial College, London. It is considered in the top 3 Engineering departments in the world, but is very focused on mechanical rather than design engineering. They have major sponsorship from Dyson, one of the world’s leading design/manufacturers. They understand the need to produce commercially effective graduates. The daughter of close friends, a girl (yes, a female engineer), a friend of my son, got on the same course, and can be seen here giving a presentation to James Dyson and the Prime Minister of Malaysia. She’s already spent 6 months working at Dyson’s labs and not yet graduated.

    As can be seen from this article, and my son’s experience, Engineering academia and commerce are effectively fused together. Things have moved on.

    1. The UK was intelligent enough to understand and respect the value of apprenticeship programs for engineers. In the US when baby boomers started going to college, apprentice and Co-Op programs were out of fashion. Even for engineering majors most professors viewed a BS degree as just a stepping stone to an advanced degree. Practical engineering applications and case studies were not part of the curriculum.

      I purposely left the mountains of Colorado to go to a Midwestern university that had a Co-Op program and strong ties with major manufacturing companies. There I was able to work every other semester as an engineer for GM. This not only gave me relevance to my studies, it helped pay for most of my tuition.

      The pendulum is finally swinging back to where apprenticeships and Co-Op programs are in fashion in the US. To bad forso many college students it took so long.

  2. Hi Paul
    One reason for the limited innovation, in my opinion, is that the “studium generale” is offered too little and accepted too seldom.
    The overwhelming number of students only move on within the narrow framework of the chosen discipline, without turning their eyes left and right and studying other contents as well. They have already learned this way as a pupil.
    Even the Alma Mater is very exposed to economic constraints today .
    You only have to operate in the place where you earn the money for your living
    One reason for the misery in education.
    As long as you do not leave the used paths, nothing will change.

  3. Institutionally we’ve been stripping the wonder from chemistry. Schools & manufacturers don’t want the liability of energetic chemical reactions. It’s those explosions that inspire and ignite imaginations. Ask any chemist why he went into the field and more often than not he’ll relate stories of youthful transgressions with rapidly expanding gasses. Modern home chemistry sets are about as exciting as drying paint. We only have ourselves to blame if we fail to produce the next generation of mad scientists.
    Audiophiles have their vivid and explosive music that (hopefully) ignites the next generation of electrical engineers.

  4. Karate Kid.

    Mr. Miyagi started the teaching with with “Wax on Wax Off” Very simple but also not so simple in the context of a framework for the rest of the learning/training to come.


  5. Agreed % on all. Add to that we literally don’t have enough skilled tradesman to build buildings, homes, machinery, electrical, plumbing etc. The guy from the program “Dirty Jobs” is speaking up about it. We keep beating the drum about getting a college education. So much so that kids take on student debt, not dischargeable even in bankruptcy court, to obtain degrees which qualify them to do nothing. Meanwhile the trades would pay them to work as apprentices while they went to trade school at no cost. Many of the trades can earn 6-figures once they become journeyman. Apprentices see the job they will be doing, they are paid while they assist and learn, they go to class to learn in depth what they observed in job sites, they are left with zero student debt. They have a high paying, in demand job when finished. But the colleges, who get government guaranteed money from the students have the money to keep running ads to get degrees that many times qualify them for nothing. The trades schools don’t have the money from student loans to run ads. So we end up with more kids saddled with debt, qualified to do nothing, while contractors are unable to find skilled workers. All the while tuition keeps rising 5-10 times inflation because students will pay, guaranteed loans in pocket. Talk to any contractor and they’ll verify this situation.

  6. For this very reason, in the 30’s when the American educational system adopted Experimentalism (dubbed Progressive Education) we have set ourselves up for this result. Rather than the pursuit of knowledge, we seek to bring social change via the educational system. Thank John Dewey for this fiasco.

    If the matriculation process should teach you any one thing, (and a truly learned man knows the frame of reference he stands in) this process should equip you with the tools and the knowledge of how to do research, filter that research and apply that research in you pursuits. And even if you forget all of the subject matter of your original focus, these tools should equip one with the necessary discipline to follow any field of knowledge.

  7. I have to disagree on the the problem being education. The average intelligence of kids coming out of college in the US these days is far beyond what it was 30 years ago. I’m constantly amazed by how incredibly smart they are, and I’m not just talking IQ. They have tremendous problem solving skills.

    The problem I see occurs after they hit the workforce, and it’s attitude based vs. anything intelligence related. There is a prevalent attitude of “I should do a job for a couple years, and then someone should take care of me, because this isn’t new and exciting any more.”. The result is an increasing bunch of people who “half know” a lot of things. It’s the years in the trenches that are the building block of knowledge.

  8. You encountered German culture vs American culture. Germans like to do things absolutely correctly. Related to this is that Germans will accept the traditional style vacuum cleaner that requires filter and bag changes because it cleans carpets better than a cyclone model i.e. they are much more ready than Americans to perform maintenance in order to get a better quality job. Germans on a camping trip will prepare in advance so that they are fully “mission prepared”. Americans may be less prepared in detail, but may well accommodate the unexpected with less alarm.

  9. Today’s rant is probably the most provocative we have had since inception. We are tackling problems of motivation, education, interest, and the ability for a society to sustain itself as a function of the aforementioned variables.

    I do not think that the survival of a society is a thought I ever hear entertained but, in fact, is the resultant of vectors such as education and productivity.

    I have been, fortunately, removed from the educational domain for the majority of my professional career. I did , however, have
    assignments at both graduate-academic and medical schools. My experience for classroom lecturing and clinical instruction was at best dismal. Students were, for the main, motivated to finish with academia so as to relieve themselves of the chains of bondage.
    I am not totally sure if the escape from the educational arena was due to the strenuous demands or just the inability to incorporate
    information and understand the information or concepts delivered in the learning environment.

    However, I am not bolting the responsibility of this problem on just the students; the academicians are equally guilty. Personally,I can recall research studies that I have conducted under the “leadership” of professors with world fame who were mentally stagnant and were not as current as the world they so service imagines. I recall being threatened with expulsion due to adventurous research ideas
    which were not irrational, but just not main stream-status-quo!

    Over the years I have heard reports that high tech corporations have had to lower the writing level of manuals for their staff to the seventh grade reading level because of the poor reading and writing skills of the work-staff. Students cannot write, cannot read and I am not sure that their teachers are in much better shape.

    I think that to succeed one must have an understanding the sub-structure of the field we are in. By understanding the “molecular”
    configuration and how it works one is able to exercise function and generate productivity.

    To revert to the prim statements that germinated today’s commentary brings us to a point that implies that the work force is poorly educated by either inability and or poor instructional staff at all levels of the academic experience.

    In sum, then, I always count my change at the register before leaving the store!


  10. >>>The formula for learning is to create wonder and desire first, filling your head with the answers to mysteries second.<<<

    That is a Jewish technique to be found in the Bible. Start with presenting the synopsis for a given situation… Then, give the details to find out what and why. Learned this principle from a scholar who taught from the original languages.

  11. The “Flipped Classroom” has been around as a concept for a good while now, but I’m not sure how widely adopted, due to the ingrained notion of getting a grounding in stuff you don’t know and doesn’t relate to reality prior to the day you can be taught the “good stuff”. A year or two (talking college when most of us went) of framework.

    Most students now have grown up on video tutorials, and a massive amount of jobs are computer-based. So the Homework for the Flipped Classroom is watching a tutorial online on your own schedule, multiple times if you’re interested, that shows them what is possible when someone who knows what they’re doing does X with a computer/software/etc. It is by definition more advanced than what they know. This way the smart ones are all over it, and the less so are intrigued. In the classroom, you all work through actually doing that thing that was demoed, and in the process, supply the framework for students on both a group and individual basis.

  12. So many interesting comments. I do agree with Paul M on this point, creating “wonder” can be magical and is exactly what got me into the hobby in the first place. The ongoing journey is to better understand the “technicalities” of what matters with the goal of being able to be able to “tune” the sonic signature to suite may taste. Still so much to learn.

Leave a Reply

Stop by for a tour:
Mon-Fri, 8:30am-5pm MST

4865 Sterling Dr.
Boulder, CO 80301

Join the hi-fi family

Stop by for a tour:
4865 Sterling Dr.
Boulder, CO 80301

Join the hi-fi family

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram