Nagle has been prompting me to think lately. Here's the braindump, which gets progressively less coherent and logical as I go along (my groggy mind and sore fingers both fatigued).

I'm going to be in education as an engineering professor someday, and I want the places that I care about and work within to be organizationally healthy - I've seen too many great things not achieve their full potential for want of that, and too many brilliant people whose work can't shine out because they don't know or are afraid of some of the same things, business-wise, that I'm terrified of. I don't want anything I care about - including my own work - to be in that position ever again.

I have been considering several learning experiences to gathering the knowledge and maturity to Make This So. Some of these options happen to gather credentials along the way. In other words, some of the options possibly involve acquiring an MBA, working in a large company's management training program, and so on. (Many other options do not involve either of these things, or anything that would acquire what folks would think of as Formal Credentials.)

I think it is less likely that a program that happens to give credentials will give me the flexibility to learn what I want to learn. This means it would be harder to find and/or design. However, I think that it may be worth it, if it works out.

Although I am an advocate of unschooling, I do not personally reject school outright. I don't slavishly adhere to it as the only option either. Schools are a subset of options within the many, many options that one has on how to learn a certain set of things. To see that subset as the whole set is just as rational as the decision to exclude it; without examining each individual option, you don't give yourself the chance to see if it might be a good one for your situation.

One could argue that unschooled options have a higher probability of being better - even if this is true, this is the same statistical argument used by credentialists ("students from $prestigious_school have a higher probability of being smart (because they're pre-screened)").

If I put on my engineering hat and do a functional evaluation of the options available to me, I can say that yes, a plus-real-world experience (I think that phrasing is more accurate, if also more gawky, than "minus-schooling-institution") is a very important function that heavily weights what the "best" option is for me, for just about anything. It's not the only thing, though. I also use nearly all open-source software. But I bought proprietary speech-rec software because I found libre alternatives lacking enough to overcome that (really, really, really strong) preference. Sometimes, at least for me, school is the best way to go - not because it's school, but because it's best.

Credentialism is not a good thing, in my book. In fact, Gill pointing out the rationale behind it during my senior year of college was probably the only time I've ever been angry at him - it left me unable to deny something I desperately wanted to disbelieve, but it's the truth. I also believe it's more than schooling that promotes this. It's systemic. I've also learned that I change systems by blending with them. This usually means I change them from the inside. And this means that sometimes I do get credentialed to do something in order to ensure I will be among the last to have to do so.

It's one of the reasons why I've chosen not to pursue grad school at funky, multidisciplinary places (see: Media Lab). I would have fun preaching to the choir, but they're already baptized. To be a missionary, you have to be able to speak the language and be able to gain respect in the culture that you want to change - and this includes appreciating where their values come from so they can, perhaps, someday appreciate your own. And it means actually understanding them first, not having the ulterior motive of changing them (yes, this is contradictory to my earlier statement; they're both true).

I'm also used to living multiple lives at once and knitting them together so that immiscible worlds can emulsify. It's a lot of stress and strain sometimes, and it's high-risk that someday I might not "come back" - but if I really believe in something, I should not just be unafraid to pursue it, I should also be unafraid to pursue something that (seemingly) contradicts it, because if what I believe is actually true and the system is broken, I will have better proof of that, and possibly have brought some folks back with me on the way.

I'm guessing that Nagle's unspoken question went something like this: Why am I assuming that an MBA is the way to learn about organizational behavior?

The best answer I can give right now is that an MBA is one type of way to do that. There are tons of other options. One plus to an MBA (or studying in general): when I can use credentialism to my advantage to destroy credentialism, why not do it?

This may make more sense when I'm better able to explain exactly what I'm trying to do with this (which I haven't really touched on describing here). I'll be asking friends to talk about this when I see them, and to brainstorm options with me... but without a better phrasing of the problem, the above justification for my solution non-exclusion methodology likely sounds fuzzy and doesn't make much sense. This is something I've thought through somewhat, but not well enough yet to say I've thought it through completely.

In one sense, I'm overthinking this problem.

"But why shouldn't we learn what we want, and teach one another whatever we want to learn?" --Nikki, on student-run courses

In another sense, I'm struggling to translate something that I already do (teach and learn, drawing from many options, including but not limited to credentialed ones) into a very foreign tongue. It's like when I first started listening to jazz; it actually feels painful for me to think this way, for me to read books or hear people talk this way. Cognitive dissonance galore. The faster I immerse and learn to cope with that, though...

In other news, Sumana went to a keysigning! I have yet to go to one; I've missed two big ones due to travel schedules. Tomorrow is my last day in Chicago; Tuesday I fly back to Boston and continue the whirlwind of scheduling which will settle down on May 23rd once Olin's commencement is over and I'm happily settled into pika for the summer.

My posture is also much improved after this weekend. More on this at some point in the future.