- A virtual community of network engineers
 Home  BookStore  StudyNotes  Links  Archives  StudyRooms  HelpWanted  Discounts  Login
Re: Graduate Degrees in Computer Networking [7:107310] posted 03/11/2006
[Chronological Index] [Thread Index] [Top] [Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next]

>> I never said that my comparison was supposed to be 'fair'.  I am talking
>> about ideals, not about reality.
>> For example, I have talked about how high schools are supposed to provide
>> a
>> strong theoretical academic approach to education, as opposed to a purely
>> vocational education.  However, I am  well aware that there are many high
>> schools that provide neither an academic education nor a vocational
>> education.  In short, they provide nothing at all.  I agree that these
>> high
>> schools would serve their students better by providing their students
>> with
>> a
>> vocational education.  That's better than nothing.
>> My entire philosophical basis of this thread is what schools should be
>> aspiring to be.  I believe high schools and colleges should aspire to
>> provide academic educations and not vocational educationals.
> Our idea of what education should be is different.  I think education
> should
> aspire to prepare people for life as a productive adult in society.
> Theory
> doesn't pay the bills or get you a job and you don't need theory, if
> someone
> teaches you personal finance.  High Schools should focus on life skills
> and
> incorporate math, science, etc.  College could be more theoretical.

Well, I think we have to agree to disagree here.  To me, it's the difference
between giving a hungry man a fish to eat, and teaching that hungry man how
to fish so that he feed himself.  If you can inspire people to learn and
give them the tools to develop their ability to learn, they will go and
learn whatever they need to know all by themselves.   This is a longer-range
plan with a better long-term payoff than just giving a person some
vocational skills, but not the means by which they can develop their own
vocational skills.

Now don't get me wrong.  That doesn't mean that I don't think that high
schools should never teach vocational skills at all. I remember my high
school taught wood shop, metal shop, auto repair, drafting, home economics
(basically cooking, interior design, sewing, etc. - all of the Martha
Stewart stuff), and yes, they even taught that personal finance class.  What
I am saying is that you should not touch the college-prep track.  Those
students who are on that track need to know as much theory as they can get
their hands on.

> I think its a difference in degree that we see.  I am going to sending you
> an email offline.  Maybe you can help me find a graduate program I would
> be
> interested in?

My specific point is that the majority of classes that comprise the CS
programs at most schools are not true programming classes.  They may use
programming, but that's not their focus.  It's like saying that mechanical
engineering classes use a lot of math, therefore all mechanical engineers
are mathematicians.  I think both mechanical engineers and mathematicians
would bristle at the notion that they are one and the same.

Moreover, I know professional programmers who don't have CS degrees who
admit that they would have great difficulty in getting a CS degree.
Instead, they learned programming through vocational books (i.e. "Learn Java
in 30 days"), followed by on-the-job training on a beginner's job, and then
moved on from there.  But they freely admit that they're not good at math.
You don't have to be good at math to know how to program.  But you do have
to be good at math to get a CS degree.  After all, classes on discrete math,
data structures, algorithms, complexity - these are math classes.

>> I'll tell you a story that illustrates my point.  Take MIT, again.  At
>> MIT,
>> for some reason, information technology classes are held in the
>> department
>> of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), not in the EECS (the
>> Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) department.   That's because
>> IT
>> can be considered to be akin to physical infrastructure (i.e. roads
>> ports,
>> bridges, electric power systems, etc.) , and so MIT decided to house all
>> of
>> the IT classes in the CEE department.   It's weird, but it was their
>> decision to do that.
>> Normally, when you think of civil/environmental engineering, you think of
>> guys building bridges, dams, houses, skyscrapers, power plants,  and so
>> forth.  But you can also get a graduate degree in CEE from MIT, doing
>> only
>> IT stuff.  In fact, I know a bunch of guys who are doing exactly
>> that.  One
>> guy, who has a Biology undergrad degree from Harvard,  got into IT during
>> the boom (doing database sys-admin and so forth), and was so good at it
>> that
>> he got admitted into MIT for graduate school to do IT work, which landed
>> him
>> in the CEE department.  All his coursework has to do with IT stuff.  His
>> thesis is about IT design.   So this guy will graduate with a master's
>> degree from MIT in CEE, knowing absolutely nothing about how to build
>> bridges, roads, and those sorts of things.  But he will know a lot about
>> IT
>> systems.   So, his MIT degree will "really" be in IT, even though it will
>> say that it is a CEE degree.  Anybody who bothers to read his transcript
>> can
>> immediately tell that it is a degree in IT.  And he freely admits that he
>> knows nothing about all of those other CEE subjects, all he knows is IT.
>> So my point is, if you're not hung up on the specific 'name' of the
>> degree,
>> then you can do graduate computer networking work at many places.  Sure,
>> you
>> won't get a degree that specifically says "computer networking", but
>> honestly, who cares?  As Shakespeare said, what's in a name?
>> For example, one could just go to the MIT EECS department and just take
>> courses on computer networking (of which MIT has many), and write the
>> master's thesis on computer networking topics.  The degree you get would
>> be
>> called an EECS degree, but really, it's a computer networking degree.
>> PhD is different, because it is true that you would be expected to
>> display
>> a
>> basic command of a wide variety of topics before you could proceed to
>> your
>> research.  But I don't think we're talking about a PhD here anyway.  And
>> the
>> truth is, if you don't have a good grasp on a wide variety of topics, you
>> probably don't know enough to write an acceptable doctoral thesis anyway.
> I would be leery of that situation.  When you put a degree on your resume
> for career advancement, you want it to reflect what you do.  I think that
> could be confusing.

I don't think it is confusing in the least.  It just simply reflects the
fact that there are few if any degrees for just 'computer networking', and
the employers know that.  Instead, most people who study computer networking
in a college setting usually get degrees in computer science or electrical

That's just like saying that there are no degrees specifically in "Confucian
Philosophy" or "German 19th Century Philosophy",     there are only degrees
in philosophy.  If you get a PhD in philosophy, you have specialized in one
small aspect of philosophy, and employers know that (or, at least, they
should know that).  Your degree specification doesn't say what you
specialized in, which is why the employers of philosophy PhD's (who are
usually university departments of philosophy) have to ascertain what you
specialized in by context, by looking up your dissertation, or by
interviewing you.  You would not expect a person who specialized in
Nietzsche to be an expert on Chinese Taoism.

I'll give you another example.  I've talked about investment banking a lot.
But there are no degrees specifically in "investment banking".  In fact, the
closest you can get are degrees in finance, but even so, there are many
finance specialties that have nothing to do with investment banking.  Most
people who get into investment banking get degrees in business
administration or economics.  Some people even get in through degrees in
engineering, math, or physics, because banks like people who have strong
quantitative backgrounds.  But the point is, the investment banks are not
'confused' by the fact that nobody seems to have a degree in 'investment
banking'.  They know full well what to expect out of the people that they
interview.  A degree in finance or business may get you an interview,but
then they're going to see whether you really know anything about investment

Perhaps the best example is Cisco itself.  Cisco hires CS, EE, and compE
grads from the best schools in the world to work in R&D and engineering
departments.  Cisco does not seem overly confused by the fact that the
people they hire do not have 'computer networking' degrees.  Cisco
understands full well that many of those CS, EE, and CompE degrees are
actually computer networking degrees in everything but name.  I would
further point out that I believe that Cisco is far far more likely to hire a
CS graduate out of MIT or Stanford than a computer-networking graduate out
of a lesser school.

> What does being a Computer Scientist get me if I can program and I am a

It gives you the ability to understand computer networking at a higher
level.  For example, being a computer scientist will allow you to understand
why, from a mathematical standpoint, the Dijkstra algorithm is an optimal
algorithm for discovering shortest paths, and why and how OSPF uses that
algorithm.  Being a CCIE allows you to configure OSPF on Cisco routers.
Being a programmer allows you to write code that implements OSPF on a
router, once the specifications have been given to you.  But being a
computer scientist allows you to understand why the OSPF's specifications
really work, including the algorithm and perhaps even to invent a whole new
routing protocol.

But it really gets back to what you want.  If all you care about is just
configuring and building networks from Cisco routers, and you don't really
care to learn what makes it all work, then sure, you don't need to be a
computer scientist.  Heck, you may not even need a college degree at all.
But if you want the chance to go past configuring and building Cisco
networks, then you will need to know more.  For example, if you ever see
yourself joining a startup that is creating a brand new box that will
compete with Cisco's, then you will need to know more than just configuring
and programming.

> The basic fact is that primary reason people go to college is to
> ultimately
> make more money.  Companies don't hire you for CS, they hire you to be a
> programmer or UNIX admin.  The course should reflect reality.

I agree that people go to college to ultimately make more money, but I
disagree that companies are hiring you solely for vocational tasks.  At
least, not the more successful companies.  After all, why does Cisco itself
hire from highly theoretical CS programs at MIT or Stanford or Harvard, and
paying a lot of money to these grads?  Why doesn't Cisco just hire everybody
from Devry or other highly-vocational programs?  After all, a lot of the
coders at MIT or Stanford have spent a lot of time learning math or defunct
programming languages (but good teaching tools) like LISP or PASCAL, whereas
the vocational programmers are well-prepped on modern programming
techniques.  In other words, these guys don't have skills that are
immediately applicable.  So why does Cisco hire these people?  Is Cisco
being stupid?

I think that Cisco is not being stupid.  I think Cisco sees that you don't
hire people just for specific vocational tasks, but for the ability to learn
whatever needs to be learned to do the job right.  The fact is, most
vocational tasks are relatively easy to learn for somebody who has a solid
theoretical educational.  It's relatively easy to learn how to do something.
It's much harder to learn why you should do it.

Look, the truth is, virtually all new employees are mostly useless for their
first 3-6 months on the job.  They're spending that time learning how the
company works, what the company wants, what needs to be done, and why.
That's the initial training phase.  It is beyond that training phase where
the employee truly becomes useful.  Companies are not just hiring people to
only be useful for the first few months.  Cisco knows full well that many of
the new college grads it hires are just a liability in the beginning.  It is
beyond that initial step that they recoup their investment.

The point is, either Cisco is hiring these MIT grads because Cisco values
the ability of them to pick up skills quickly, or Cisco is being dumb in
hiring them.

>> Again, I am talking about the idealized school and the idealized student
>> where the student will be able to take key learnings of from school and
>> then
>> learn what he needs to know himself.  Self-learning is a tremendously
>> powerful tool.  You are not supposed to need a class to teach you
>> everything
>> you need to know in life.  I would argue that the vast majority of things
>> you learn in life, you do through self-learning.
>> Now, I agree with you that many schools don't teach anything at all, and
>> that many students don't want to learn anything at all.  In these
>> situations, forcing vocational education upon the school and the student
>> is
>> clearly better than nothing at all.  But the question to me is what
>> should
>> you be striving for.
> I think schools should strive to prepare people for the lives they will
> lead
> in society.

Again, I agree that many schools teach nothing at all, and so vocational
skills are better than nothing.

But the truth is, nobody knows exactly what kind of life you are going to
lead.  The average American changes careers 5-6 times in his lifetime.  So
what happens if a high school teaches you certain vocational skills, and
then you end up in a career that doesn't use those skills?   I believe it's
better to give you the ability to quickly develop whatever new skills you do
find that you will need, rather than give you specific skills that you may
or may not end up using.

Nobody knows what the economy is going to look like in the future, so nobody
knows what skills are going to be important.  10 years in the future, Cisco
might be an also-ran.  If you think that can't happen, look at Novell.  Look
at DEC.  Look at Bay Networks.  At one time in the mid 90's, Bay was the #1
vendor of routers in the world.  It's 10 years later, and look at them now.
The point is, nobody knows what skills are going to be 'hot' in the future.
The hot skills of today might be 'cold' skills tomorrow. That's why it's
important to develop the ability to learn skills quickly.

> MIT may well be the best, does that mean they can't learn from anyone
> else?
> US Universities may well be the best as well.  Does that mean they can't
> be
> improved either?  Is DeVry always wrong, because it isn't in the same
> league
> as MIT?  This goes back to Hubris and the scientific method.  Colleges
> should always be experimenting with new ways of learning and research.  If
> DeVry has a good idea, why shouldn't you take it?

Pride cuts both ways. I would argue that since MIT is better than Devry,
that means that Devry has more to learn from MIT than vice versa.  Why isn't
Devry taking good ideas from MIT?  Does that mean that Devry is too proud?

>> Seriously, if you read about the Enron case and specifically how  they
>> created a system to take California to the cleaners and how Enron cooked
>> its
>> books, you have no choice but to conclude that these guys were geniuses.
>> Unethical and criminal geniuses, but geniuses nonetheless.  Whatever
>> words
>> you might use to describe the Enron guys, incompetence is not one of
>> them.
> They are idiots for two reasons.  First, they got caught.  Second, they
> gambled everything when they had everything.  This sounds like a bad deal
> to
> me. I wouldn't even risk that for what I have.

Oh, I don't know about that.  First off, like I said about Worldcom,
Worldcom was not run by Ivy grads.

Secondly, as regards to Enron, there is only 1 Ivy major executive that I
know of at Enron that is under investigation (Skilling), and he hasn't been
convicted, and he may never be. We'll just have to see.  Enron did indeed
have a lot of Ivy grads in the trading department, especially Harvard grads,
as associates and brokers, and they made a LOT of money, and they got away
with it.    Nobody has convicted any of them.  Jeff Skilling had made a
tremendous amount of money, and it's unclear whether he will be convicted.

So, really, the Ivy guys at Enron did make a lot of money and did get away
with it.  All except maybe for Skilling, and he may get away with it too.
So it doesn't sound like they are idiots.  In fact, it actually sounds like
they are evil geniuses.  Make a lot of money through fraud, and get away
with it while having other people at the company (who, granted, were also
guilty) get convicted.  Looks like they played their hand extremely well.

> However, getting back to your larger point, I would point out that
> education
>> is not simply about enforcing the status quo, as merely 'reflecting' the
>> status quo.  While I don't want to get into a long treatise here, and
>> those
>> who are interested can read the works of Thomas Sowell, I would point out
>> just how important culture is to determining your success.  For example,
>> you
>> talk about how people in Compton don't go to Harvard and how few people
>> in
>> Beverly Hills don't go to community college.  Well, part of that has to
>> do
>> with culture.  For example, much of our personal behavior is determined
>> by
>> what we are taught as kids growing up.  Whether we choose to value hard
>> work
>> or not, whether we choose to value education or not, whether we choose to
>> respect authority or not,  these are things that are taught to us when
>> we're
>> kids.  If you value hard work and hard studying, then you will tend to
>> succeed.  Not always, but on average, it is true.  And you will also
>> teach
>> your kids the value of hard work and studying, and they will probably
>> also
>> tend to go to a good school and succeed.
>> So you ask why is it that so few Compton kids go to Harvard.  Well, let's
>> be
>> perfectly frank.  There are a lot of criminals and gangsters in Compton.
>> It's one of the most gang-infested neighborhoods in the country.  Of the
>> kids growing up there, a lot of kids see the gangsters and so they decide
>> that they want to be gangsters too.  Hence, they decide that they don't
>> want
>> to study in school.  They don't want to respect the law.  They'd rather
>> run
>> with a gang.  It is also true that many of those kids don't really want
>> to
>> join a gang but are pressured into doing so.  But the bottom line is that
>> you end up with a lot of kids in Compton who don't place a high value on
>> education.
>> So it's no wonder that few of those kids will end up at Harvard.  After
>> all,
>> if you choose not to study hard, then you're not going to amass the
>> academic
>> record necessary for you to go to Harvard or any other decent school.
>> But
>> that's not really Harvard's fault - that's really the fault of the
>> underlying gang culture in Compton.  So Harvard is not really
>> 'maintaining'
>> the status quo so much as it is simply illustrating what the status quo
>> already is, which is that a lot of those kids are not studying, but
>> rather
>> are rolling with the gangs.  For the same reason, very few of those kids
>> are
>> going to become CCIE's, but that's not Cisco's fault.  Neither Harvard
>> nor
>> Cisco created that Compton gang culture.
> Right off the bat, Thomas Sowell doesn't look like someone I would be
> interested in reading based on his blatant bias.
> 1/002-0857692-3382458?%5Fencoding=UTF8
> "One of America's foremost black conservative intellectuals..."
> I do agree that values can be very influential.  However, your theory
> doesn't take into account a few factors.  First, the rich bend the rules
> in
> ways that are beneficial to them and deterimental to the rest of us.  A
> good
> example is Bush's tax breaks.  While the middle class got a pitence the
> rich
> saved millions.  Another example is the S&L Bail out and airline bailouts.
> If a person goes bankrupt, the government doesn't bail them out.  Big
> Companies, ie the rich, have all the benefits of the rules, but don't
> suffer
> the penalities.  Second, I am completely in favor of rewarding education
> and
> hard work, but do CEOs really deserve 20+ million while a worker at
> McDonalds gets $5 an hour.  These extremes are unfair.  I am guessing,
> because he is conservative he glossed over those points.  A scholar with a
> blatant bias, isn't a scholar.  He is merely justifying a point of view.
> I think thats why I liked this book.
> 2458?s=books&v=glance&n=283155

Sowell is a black conservative, but to date, nobody has ever impeached the
integrity of his findings.  He has proven time and time again,throughout the
world, that culture matters greatly in determining your lot in life.

Message Posted at:
FAQ, list archives, and subscription info: