Quote of the Day: Mark Cuban

Quote of the Day: Mark Cuban

Summary: If there can be a Photo of the Day in this blog, then why not a Quote of the Day?  On page 90 of this week's issue of Time Magazine is a quote of Mark Cuban saying:In the past, you had to memorize knowledge because there was a cost to finding it.

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If there can be a Photo of the Day in this blog, then why not a Quote of the Day?  On page 90 of this week's issue of Time Magazine is a quote of Mark Cuban saying:

In the past, you had to memorize knowledge because there was a cost to finding it. Now, what can't you find in 30 seconds or less? We live an open-book-test life that requires a completely different skill set.

This quote touched me in so many ways, I cannot begin to count.  It makes me recall a time more than 20 years ago when I was a software developer how, if I made a syntax error (for example, leaving a period out of a COBOL statement), the mainframe compiler would cough on the code and tell me when and where the error was made and I'd just go back and fix it.  The basis of my pay and performance expectations had nothing to do with how fast I could develop software.  So, if it took a few extra seconds to debug a syntax error, it was no big deal.  Some years prior to that, I remember taking a COBOL programming course in college where, for the tests, we had to hand write code to prove our knowledge of the language.  Omission of period would cost you a point on your test score or something like that.  I always wondered why it makes any sense to hold students accountable for knowing something that they won't be held accountable for when they get into the workforce.  There are probably some brilliant programmers out there that failed such tests but that can write far better code (in terms of elegance and efficiency) than the syntactical expert that got an A or a B in that course. 

So, not only is Mark Cuban right about the skill set that's required, but his comments need to be backwards interpolated into education reform.  I look at my 15 year old son and find it laughable that any time he needs to know something that he doesn't know, he just looks it up on the Web.  So, to the open-book-test part of Mark Cuban's comment, why not let students have access to the Web much the same way they have access to a calculator while being tested in certain subjects.  This obviously doesn't apply to all subjects. I'm glad he has to memorize things about totalitarianism. When he has to internalize information like that, it helps him  to become a critical thinker.  But, so much of what students are forced to remember is ridiculous.  Even worse, I'm sure there are educators that will vigorously nod in agreement to what I've written here but that don't have a clue where to start in order to change system.  Imagine, for example, going to your boss and saying "I think these standardized tests are a crock?"

Topic: Software Development

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  • Technology use used to be a matter of controversy

    When I was in public school, up until the late 1980s, technology in the classroom was a controversial topic. There were some math classes where the teacher didn't allow calculators. I think some saw it as an equity issue. The school didn't provide calculators. Some students could afford them, others couldn't, and the ones who couldn't were seen as being disadvantaged if they allowed calculators.

    I had an old TI programmable 58 that was a hand-me-down. Bringing it to the teacher's attention was a delicate subject. I always did, but there were some who looked at me with a wary eye when I did. I was happy that at least one of my algebra teachers felt just fine about it. She allowed me to create programs on it for solving problems, even on tests. Her rationale was, "Well if he knows how to program the thing to come up with the correct result, then he obviously understands the concept. He's not cheating." I can't argue with that. Many other students had calculators as well, but (and it's hard for me to remember this) it was rare for another student to have a programmable calculator. The thing was, it did give me an advantage over other students in the class, because I created the programs to save me from the busy work that we typically had to do on assignments and tests. It was a labor-saving device. I didn't have to do the busy work, but the other students took longer on tests because they did. I think she overlooked that aspect.

    There are some problems I can see with this "open book" approach, but they're not ones that don't already exist. For one thing, one or more sources a student uses could be just downright wrong on a subject. There's also the issue of plagiarism, which is already rampant. It's like software piracy. It's just too easy to do it.

    What I'm increasingly finding these days is that schools are coming around to the idea that it's just as important for students to understand how to use technology as it is for them to solve problems using it. So effectively understanding how to use a search engine is a valuable skill for students to learn.

    If access to technology is universal in school, then heck, we could do away with physical textbooks. Students could just have e-books on their computers, or have them available online (rather risky since the network can go down). Schools could save money on textbook costs since publishers don't have to print copies of books.

    I used to have open book tests in high school and college. The catch was the teachers made the tests harder. More was expected of us since we had ready access to the information. Open book testing is not a way of cheating either, as I quickly discovered. You have to know where to find the correct information in the source, and for that, you actually have to understand the material somewhat.

    So yes, I think what Cuban is saying is correct, so long as some discipline is taught and exercised around the use of technology tools.
    Mark Miller
  • I've always felt that way about tests.

    I just took a Linux final exam 2 weeks ago and while the second half was practical i.e. real-world hands-on file manipulation, the first half was full of questions that we had to answer. I've always felt these were stupid because, even though I am back in school now, I too was a 9yr COBOL (novel book writer lol) programmer and everybody in the real world knows that there are always sources to reference and tweaks to be made. It's never a one-time shot in programming, that's what unit & system testing and then the QA teams exist for. I think education in this country has a long way to go to catch up to Asia and other countries. We've always been so broad stroked instead of focused on education and then we have college grads that can't carry a decent conversation or read & write so what good was it?
    BillyG_n_SC
  • Skills lost & regained...

    there are a host of other skills as well that are being lost and have to be "regained" as well...for example: cooking. Folks today do not know how to cook for themselves. They don't even know the "language of cooking": pinch, dash, dredge, etc. These will all become "hobbies" in the future. Dread the day that the Net goes down for good as many skills will have been permanently lost and people will find themselves bereft of knowing how to even look up something in a Table of Contents.
    mgardner