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#4: Education

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue.

Education can be carried out in many different ways, and still have the same results. The Traveller rules generally assume that it will be conducted in a way that can reasonably be mapped to the current Western postsecondary model—that is, the student attends classes at an institution of education for roughly four standard years, and comes out with a piece of paper certifying that Eneri Gaashiba has met the requirements of the University of Gamuusha-Rakii, East Iish-Kabiibal Campus, to be called a Disciplined Lettered-Scholar of Theoretical Thumb-Twiddling, or what-have-you.

Other models are possible. Herewith some basic description of those models, with type-names of convenience, to add flavor to your education:

Medieval/Renaissance model:
Colleges are largely communities of scholars, teaching and exchanging knowledge without regard to specificity of discipline. Students study under one or more masters, for specific subjects, paying the masters rather than the institution, and moving on when they feel they have learned an adequate amount, or if they feel that the master is no longer the appropriate teacher for them for a subject. A degree is conferred by a college upon examination of the student by a board of masters (all of whom hold the highest degree possible); if the student demonstrates an acceptable level of mastery of the subjects associated with a degree, the degree is conferred. (In the Renaissance, the subjects were those of the Trivium and Quadrivium.) The student need not have studied under any of the masters on the examining board, nor under any of the masters at the particular college that has convened the examination board.
Talmudic model:
In pure form, students study written works on subjects in pairs (chavruta), each reading independently, then debating the meaning of what they have read, their understanding thereof, and what the significance of the differences in interpretation are. A master is available to provide answers to questions that the students feel cannot be resolved in debate, but such answers are intended to provide data for further debate. In modified form, small groups (chabura) may meet, rather than pairs, and in further modified forms, the bare essence and raw facts may be presented by the master prior to reading and debate. This model is used almost exclusively for philosophical subjects, rather than “hard sciences”, but can have a place where there are multiple interpretations of observed fact, with no current conclusive thought on which is correct.
Tutorial model:
One-on-one instruction, using whatever methods of knowledge acquisition seem appropriate in the instructor’s view. May include travel, employment or other “learn-by-doing” opportunities, multimedia presentations, debate, and so on. The instructor’s role is that of a teacher, mentor, and advisor. This model is rarely used as a complete education; the award of a degree would need to be by examination, as with the Medieval/Renaissance model.
Apprenticeship model:
Generally used for crafts and professions, rather than for pure academics. The student is bound to a master (and is treated as a member of the master’s household) for a period of years, during which time he learns the craft/profession under the master’s tutelage. The master is also responsible for seeing that the student spends adequate time learning supporting material (e.g., book learning/theory). The student/apprentice works for the master and under his direction as payment for tutelage, room, and board, and when the master judges that the student has adequate competence to work under minimal or no supervision, the student is granted journeyman status. As a journeyman, the student may not open a business of his own, but may work for other masters than the one under whom the apprenticeship was served. The journeyman is not part of the master’s household, and works for some combination of wages and commission, depending on normal usage for the craft or profession. The journeyman generally may not work independent of a master (may not open a shop, or take on independent contracts), nor may the journeyman take on apprentices. During the journeyman period, further study will be undertaken, under different masters, to learn techniques and gain broad but intense experience in various subdivisions of the craft or profession. At some point, the student will face an examination by a board of masters of the craft/profession, with the objective of demonstrating sufficient competence to be declared a master of the craft or profession. Masters are entitled to work for themselves (i.e., open a shop of their own, for crafts; act as an independent contractor rather than working as an employee, for professions), and may also take on apprentices and teach them the craft/profession.
The Industrial University model
was partially described, somewhat dismissively, and definitely unfairly so, at the beginning of this Jotting. This model represents the default assumption for Traveller, and is essentially a continuation of the “one-size-fits-all” large-group instructional model of the primary and secondary educational systems: Students are gathered in groups large enough to preclude more than minimal one-on-one instruction, and are presented the material to be learned in lectures or through textbooks. Progress is measured by examination, and eligibility for a degree is automatic when sufficient study in requisite subjects is successfully completed. Which subjects are studied (and how many of them) depends on the particular specialization of degree desired; in most cases, the student studying “full time” can complete a degree in three to five years. In many institutions, the instructor-of-record delivers lectures to very large groups, and students later meet in smaller groups, with an advanced student expanding on the lecture material, referencing supplemental material in the textbook, and providing a limited amount of one-on-one assistance or acting as a leader and moderator in discussion.

Hybrid and Transitional models can—and do—exist: while the Industrial University model is essentially as described for the lower tier of degrees (generally called Associate and Bachelor in the United States), the Master’s degree is a hybrid, with both group classes and independent research, advising, and one-on-one instruction from a faculty ‘advisor’, and the highest degree, the Doctor of Philosophy, is almost exclusively self-guided study with one-on-one instruction and advising, followed by examination by a board of masters, in the form of submitting a dissertation and defending it before the board.

Some of the so-called “Learned Professions”—most notably medicine and law—start with the Industrial University model (“pre-law” and “pre-med”), and then switch to a hybrid of the Medieval/Renaissance and Apprenticeship models, requiring a long period of effective apprenticeship under the most stressful conditions (as “on-the-job training”) before being allowed to practice without close supervision.

Once information-management technology and data communications infrastructure have both reached sufficiently-sophisticated levels, it becomes possible to, in effect, mix the Tutorial and Industrial University models. Instructors record presentations as though they were being made to large groups; the students access these presentations (and any associated supplementary materials such as textbook readings) at individually convenient times, and submit any written exercises and/or assignments for evaluation when completed. Advisors may be on call to answer questions, though no particular student is assigned to a particular advisor.