Sentences to ponder

But Ms McRae is also concerned that programmes like Lambda School, though well-meaning, risk undermining existing educational institutions by offering a quicker route to work.

That is from The Economist coverage of Lambda School.


It makes sense if you think poor kids will select into short-term, bad decisions. Basically the same principle as applies to the introduction of any other structural inequality to mass education.

Indeed. The education establishment has shown it can't produce anything useful or marketable in 12 years, so they must be given 16 years. And god forbid someone decides not to borrow the money for those additional 4 years! Such short term thinking.

+1. "The kind of intense optimisation which Lambda espouses cannot, she worries, replace conventional learning, which strives to create not just capable workers but rounded individuals."

She ignores the concept of the opportunity cost of spending additional years partying and taking courses in grievance studies to make oneself well-rounded.

Your behind the times I'm afraid, having just a bachelors now means you're a loser. Gotta get that masters degree (at minimum) to show that you actually understood any of the material in your bachelor's degree. So now the educational system needs 18-19 years.

The full quote doesn't match that interpretation:

> ... replace conventional learning, which strives to create not just capable workers but rounded individuals.

That idea seems VERY bourgeois to me. Education as a life changing ideal that should take time to forge better individuals, not a path to making more money to better your circumstance... could anything be more bourgeois?

No, it is bourgeois precisely to be concerned mostly with money and status rather than being well-rounded. But most colleges don't offer a curriculum that promotes the ideals of a liberal education except accidentally.

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” – Malcom X

It is bourgeois to do it BEFORE you have made any money, surely? I don't think poor people have the luxury of wasting time on themselves, unlike the Bourgeoisie.

“Don’t do anything that threatens my tenure.”

The full article says they have to partner with nursing schools for the hands on coursework so really this is more like specialization by making the book learning part more efficient:

“Unlike coding, nursing cannot be taught entirely over the internet, so Lambda wants to co-operate with nursing schools across America that could provide the necessary hands-on instruction.“

In other words, they'll do the cheap, easy stuff that scales well and leave the traditional schools to do the hard, expensive stuff. The things that actually constrain the production of nurses.

Going for the low hanging fruit first is a sound strategy.

Sure, but there's 0 reason to thing they can capture anything but the low hanging fruit. Those low hanging fruit are what make the economics of the nursing schools work. Take them away from the schools and you'll be shrinking the number of nurses that will be trained or make the hands-on instruction even more expensive. May be sound short turn business strategy, but it's not beneficial to the rest of society.

Your comment seems to imply that the nursing eduction supply demand balance is currently optimal, but the article says that it is not.

There is not not enough training and not enough nurses, but plenty of people who want to be nurses and can't.

If we were to go a step further and remove some of the job preserving (and price increasing) regulations put in place following AMA lobbying, there would be demand for even more nurses!

This is more the apprenticeship model. The theory and book learning is done by schooling, and the hands on are learned on the job.

This is an interesting and I think healthy development. The schooling part is cheaper and the employer does the hands on training required.

Education debt is ultimately paid by employers. I suspect that there are cheaper ways.

She inadvertently spoke with too much candor, and she sincerely regrets the error.

That wasn't a quote by her but rather a paraphrased line by the journalist. I've been interviewed by media before and I'm not too satisfied with how they do this.

As someone who hires coders, people who spend 4 years at a university on average tend to be better at the job than from a coding bootcamps that train them for less than a year. Anybody with a pulse could see why this is true. Bootcamps only prepare you for easier coding jobs like CRUD-based webapps, which unis do not do, but they will struggle mightily outside that niche for example in areas like embedded computing, machine learning, cryptography, operating systems, etc. If the bootcamps added some of this back into their curriculum and additionally include some math, physics, and EE classes I imagine the bootcamp might resemble a traditional degree. I am not against bootcamps, they are great for what they do which is to train quickly a niche specialty with all the tradeoffs of vocational training. Something like this should exist for the apprentice phase of trades like plumbing, electrician, HVAC, law (for states that allow legal apprenticeship), and medicine (aka medical residencies) as this seems to be the bottleneck in nearly every form of specialized labor.

I’d be stunned if a one year boot camp could outdo a four year degree. You’re right: it’s not surprising that they outperform.

But the wider question of trying to re-evaluate the merits of the syllabus and the teaching methods sounds highly productive to me. Anyone who has done a long degree can point to big sections of wasted time, or subjects off topic, or teachers or workshops which didn’t really go anywhere. Obviously not everything is going to be 100% effective, and that ‘wasted’ time might be valuable on reflection, but this looks valuable to me.

The critique of formative education vs vocational is different. I strongly believe in formative education, but I might prioritise that after I had a job if given the option.

"I strongly believe in formative education, but I might prioritise that after I had a job if given the option."
The irony is that you won't get the job, much less get past HR, unless you are degreed. But yes that would be great option.

I hire from boot camps -- the challenge about 4-year degrees is that the good ones (Ivies, Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, CMU, etc., even UM and UIUC), which both teach a rigorous curriculum and carry a ton of signaling value, get all their graduates snapped up by Google and other big companies for salaries the rest of us can't afford to match. If you *do* see a graduate from one of those schools, adverse selection is a big worry. Less-good 4-year degrees don't tell you much at all, I am amazed at how much people can avoid learning in 4 years.

For boot camps, if you are looking for talent rather than skills and can make the time to sift through a lot of candidates, you can find people who can add value building CRUD apps while you train them up. And you can afford to hire them.

Most of the relevant content of a CS degree can be taught on the job, assuming you know how to think like a computer scientist. Boot camps are bad at teaching that---but so are most universities! So you select for people who managed to pick it up.

>>Most of the relevant content of a CS degree can be taught on the job, assuming you know how to think like a computer scientist.

Big assumption there. In theory, anything can be learned on the job but in reality companies stopped investing in their people. They want cheap bodies and bootcamps along with H1Bs and outsourcing companies will give them this.

Ah but I am the hiring manager! I can invest in my people if I want, and boot camps reward me for doing it by letting me pay lower starting salaries.

A manager that invests in their people? You are a unicorn. My hats off to you. Unfortunately what I see too often is that a company refuses to raise pay market value for new hires that have been on for a year causing them to leave for companies that will pay their market rate. Companies are stingy when it comes to raises but not when it comes to hiring. This is like cell phone service or cable tv rewarding new customers but keep old rates for their long time customers. Just a bad way of doing business.

In terms of instructional hours Lambda School is more akin to an Associate’s degree than to most other boot camps. Nine months of full time study Monday-Friday covers a lot of ground. By the end of the course they’ve spent more time building applications than most boot camp graduates spend in their programme full stop. The front end curriculum covers HTML, CSS, JavaScript, React, Node, Python, C, SQL, Operating Systems and Algorithms. They also do enough complete start to finish applications that the median Lambda graduate is probably better at the craft of programming complex websites than the bottom quartile of CS graduates, minimum. If you want to go into embedded systems you’re not going to be in as good a position after graduating as a CS graduate but by four years after the start date you could be there just like someone who started a CS degree the same time as the Lambda School graduate.

According to their link, they teach C, Operating Systems, Networking, and Computer Architecture in 4 weeks (see weeks 21-25 of their Full Stack Web Dev Track). I don't know about you but each one of those topics to me is easily a full time class, so the coverage is going to be necessarily very shallow. That is on top of HTML, CSS, Javascript, Git, React, Redux, HTTP, Ajax, SQL, Node.js, OAuth, Python, Django, Functional Programming, etc. The curriculum is ambitious and I like that but my concern is that deep knowledge is often locked in formats that aren't as easily digestible as Lambda School's website like a stuffy RFC, linux source code, or an old textbook. Gluing together parts to create a system without understanding I suppose is a start but becomes a form of technical debt if knowledge isn't improved further. Bootcamps to me look like the move fast and break things way of doing things which work in some areas of tech but in other areas you need something closer to a professional school.

"they teach C, Operating Systems, Networking, and Computer Architecture in 4 weeks "

there's no way anyone even bill gates himself can learn all that in a month . maybe you can say a few buzz words authoritatively in meetings.

Regular CS class instruction isn't much deeper. 3 credits is about 40 class hours across a semester, 4 credits is about 50. Which is a week or so of 9-5 instruction. So as far as time available goes, it is a wash. When I was in school those topics were much simpler, I expect that now they are, of necessity, survey courses so you can find your way through all the deeper resources available.

The way they are doing it reminds me of the summer classes I took, which were 4 hours/day for a class so the full semester of coverage was a bit over two weeks. It was nice to be able to focus on one or two topics and not have all the other classes to make me lose my focus.

By all means we should be undermining existing educational institutions and getting people into jobs sooner. That would be far more productive. We haven't seen much increase in educational productivity in decades.

As an undergrad I remember a math professor opining with distaste that the computer science degree was run like a military training. It took me decades to understand what he meant.
There is absolutely a role for universities that promote the life of the mind and resist being shaped into vocational schools. Maybe the school culture have been sabotaged by the media studies departments, but that only reinforces what a mistake it is to yield this ground.
You can argue that culture and vocational skills should be acquired in different places, but Lambda school promotes its own culture which is less prosocial than what (used to be?) learned at a university.

That's all fine and dandy, but that colleges and universities don't market themselves as "life of the mind" providers. They market themselves as improving the students' employability.

What we need is a class action suit against the universities for their false advertising and fraud, such as when they market some named professor, whose name is on the course, but the teaching is done by students barely ahead of the freshman undergrad.

"But Ms McRae is also concerned that programmes like Lambda School, though well-meaning, risk undermining existing educational institutions by offering a quicker route to work."

A classic example of "feature, not a bug."

Pick two history courses, four humanities classes, six science classes, a couple of English courses, a year of a foreign language, a bunch of other stuff you'll forget, some things related to your major that aren't that useful, a few things related to your major that are useful. There. Now you're well rounded.

I like Lambda.

The conversation here is weirdly off-base. Lambda is not a substitute for a 4-year CS degree from a good college. It's creating a new market niche that reflects change on the demand side not the supply side.

What all these boot camps have realized is that coding demand is highly segmentable, and that very large segments of the work are closer to vocational careers than managerial or creative careers.

I would say 3/4 of coders are now akin to automotive technicians, complex assembly, or a switchboard operation. And, this is great!

This is the maturation of digital technology and its dispersion into the broad workforce, and it should provide ladders to good paying jobs for lots of middle-potential people.

This also doesn't imply any dampening of demand for high-performing managerial CS roles, it just properly segments CS work into high added value and low added value, and sorts human capital accordingly.

The only losers in this evolving configuration are the low-capital coders from the 90s and 00s who were paid high salaries not because of the nature of the work, but because of under supply. You see many of these now older low added value coders being segmented down.

Nursing is an interesting extension. Time will tell if their success is because of their unique contributions or because they are simply filling an undersupplied niche. I think it's likely that they aren't adding much value, and are just operating in a high growth greenfield segment (and are confusing the two), but I hope I am proven wrong!

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