The Problem of Two Cultures

In my youth the "problem of two cultures" was understood as the humanities

vs the sciences.   Today the problem seems to be Silicon Valley vs Main Street,

or Silicon Valley vs College Town.

We finally have entered a long overdue time of techlash. Not that "computer 

is about to go the way of blacksmiths or buggy whips,  that isn't remotely in 
the cards,

but pontification by high tech "experts" is increasingly seen for what it 
really is,

the voices of tech nerds promoting their vested interests.

Sometimes the point of view expressed is also anti-intellectual and, in the 

obviously ill-informed.

Not that changes in higher education aren't needed; they certainly are.  
Indeed, we need

a revolution in higher ed, starting with kicking out maybe half of tenured

liberal arts professors as dogmatic Leftists who are poisoning the minds

of the young and not-so-young.

However, to conceive of higher education as simply a matter of the demands

of the job market is to misunderstand one of the main purposes of education 

teaching culture to men and women, teaching the value of culture, and teaching

the best values we can identify for our lives.

A strictly vocational approach, as suggested by Strive Talent, has the huge 

of privileging not the best that American culture can provide but whatever sets 
of ideas

happen to be floating around society, from so-called pop culture, from 

from TV entertainment,  from spoiled millionaire celebrities,  from  buffoons 
who happen

to be rich,  from comedians, from Right-wing radio, from Leftist Enviro-freaks, 

Anarchists or from libertarians, from Wall Street, and you name it.  But seldom 

book lovers, from polymaths who are Renaissance men or women, from religious 

from smart-as-hell authors, from literary figures, and so forth.

Yes, there are counter trends, C-Span's Book TV is a prime example, but far 

than not, popular culture rules the roost.  Usually this is a bad thing, not a 
good thing.

I'm not some sort of stuffed shirt, sometimes pop culture can be refreshing,

very creative, provocative in really good ways, but far too often it provides

little more than c-r-a-p for our edification.

Sure, I wanted to become an historian when I was a college student. But I also

wanted to be cultivated, to be at home with people who like to discuss great 

who enjoy Shakespeare, who have serious knowledge of the Bible and of classics

that have given us our "deep heritage."

I recall an afternoon in a park in Kelso, Washington, back in the 'nineties.

I was listening to a recording of Beethoven's 9th symphony. A little boy

was in the vicinity and he walked over an asked a question:  "How come

you have to listen to that kind of music?"   Apparently he was raised

in a family for  whom Classical music was regarded as unpleasant,

or no better than meaningless.  Unlike my own family or the families

of my best friends, where Classical music was regarded as unarguably

the best music in existence. As a young man my friends included

a would-be concert violinist, a very accomplished organist, a trumpet player,

and so forth, and one friend had a father who was a concert baritone

who,  among other things, sang solos in annual performances

of Handel's Messiah.

I "discovered" philosophy at age 17.  I had friends who made similar

discoveries of their own by age 18 or 19 and one of the joys of college

was to talk with other young people who also saw the value in

critical thinking, in pursuing lines of reasoning, who had great curiosity

about the great thinkers of history, including great thinkers

in the realm of religious faith, viz, Aquinas or Schweitzer or Alan Watts

the Buddhist scholar,  manifestly not such simple minds as Billy Graham

or other pop preachers.

The point of all of this is that there is value in exploring meaning in life,

in learning how to think, learning how to make the best use of culture

in one's life, all of which can and usually does lead to a lifelong desire

to seek education  -in various forms- as long as you live.

None of this says that you should forget about a career; the opposite is true.

But it does say, to paraphrase Socrates, the uncultured life is not worth 

Why? Because "culture," in the sense the word is used here, is all about

being your best, in learning the best things, and -as much as it may be 

in being your best, starting with what is in your head and heart.

Sorry, but vocation centered education is only half of a real education.


From: <> on 
behalf of Centroids <>
Sent: Thursday, February 8, 2018 10:04 PM
To: Centroids Discussions
Subject: [RC] Stressing aptitude over achievement, Strive Talent pitches a new 
way to hire

Stressing aptitude over achievement, Strive Talent pitches a new way to hire


Stressing aptitude over achievement, Strive Talent pitches a new way to hire | 
A number of startups are rethinking how hiring should work, because while many 
employers require a college degree for a job, the fact is that most of the..

(via Instapaper<>)


While unemployment in the U.S. hit a 17-year 
low<> and 
the stock market keeps humming 
 there’s a lingering sense that all is still not well in U.S. labor markets.

Most jobs require a college degree these days, a proposition that’s becoming 
increasingly unaffordable even if it is attainable. Many students who graduate 
are saddled with so much debt that not even a decent salaried job can guarantee 
payback in a reasonable amount of time.

And the effects of this debt overhang ripple through the entire economy.

Against this backdrop a number of startups are rethinking how hiring should 
work, because while many employers require a college degree for a job, the fact 
is that most of the skills needed to perform those jobs aren’t taught in 

Enter Strive Talent<>, a new startup that’s trying 
to come up with (arguably) better criteria to determine an applicant’s 
suitability for a job.

For founder and chief executive Will Houghteling (Ivy Speaker 
2009<>), the issue is hardly 
academic. The son of two educators, Houghteling spent his professional career 
at the center of some of Silicon Valley’s experiments with the democratization 
of education.


Will Houghteling, founder and chief executive, Strive Talent

First at YouTube<> working with massive online open 
courses from Udacity and Coursera for four years, and then at Minerva 
 (Silicon Valley’s experiment with a university education without the college 
campus infrastructure), Houghteling was exposed to the latest and greatest 
models for making education more accessible.

With Strive, the model is to make the job market more accessible without the 
need for a college education.

“I asked myself; what is the future of college and what is the future of 
college for these populations that college is not serving well?,” Houghteling 
tells me. “There are faster, better, cheaper ways for people to get those great 
jobs they desire.”

So he developed one that he thought would work. Strive is a competency-based 
platform based on ability and potential rather than pedigrees, says 
Houghteling. Strive has outsourced the cognitive assessment component to an 
undisclosed, Los Angeles-based company, but the interview and other assessments 
are performed in-house.

The goal is to help people get what Houghteling calls “middle-skilled” jobs in 
sales and customer service. The model, he says, is similar to 
Triplebyte<>, except it’s for middle-skilled jobs rather 
than engineering roles.

The inspiration came from Houghteling’s time at Google and Minerva, where the 
model for hiring talent and admitting students was very data driven.

“In both of those instances I thought abut evidence-based scientific candidate 
evaluation,” says Houghteling.

Candidates for jobs using Strive Talent take a cognitive assessment and a work 
sample test, and then have a structured interview. Selection is then based on 
scores and evaluations rather than a candidate’s education and pedigree.

There are no educational requirements for candidates through Strive and the 
company has encouraged employers to relax their own requirements. “None of the 
companies we work with now require a college degree” for the positions Strive 
hopes to fill.

The company launched in January with an extensive pilot project at Uber to help 
them hire entry-level sales people and continued with some large undisclosed 
national retail bank, Houghteling said.

“The focus that we have is helping candidates get access to jobs that are 
family supporting and have a professional pathway,” says Houghteling. “We try 
to work with companies that are, at a minimum, paying $40,000 per year.”

Once a candidate goes through the Strive assessment process and is placed in a 
role, the employer pays a percentage of the first-year salary to Strive. The 
range of payments is from 10 percent to 20 percent, depending on the volume of 
hires that the company is hiring through Strive. The traditional fees of a 
staffing agency comes in at 20 percent to 25 percent, Houghteling says.

So far, 70 percent of Strive’s applicants didn’t have a college degree and 70 
percent were also minorities, Houghteling said, but he takes pains to stress 
that the company isn’t intended to be a diversity strategy. “Data-driven, 
objective hiring will lead to higher performing teams and more diverse teams 
because it overcomes a lot of the existing bias when you’re looking at a 

Looking out at the new reality of a tighter job market, Houghteling sees even 
more of a reason for companies to work with Strive. “I’m thinking about how the 
macroeconomic climate impacts our effectiveness. The tighter the job 
environment, the more companies need to work to find great candidates… and they 
may need to dip into pools that they haven’t previously considered.”

Beyond that, Houghteling stresses that underemployment hasn’t been addressed 
despite the increasing strength of the employment market. “We have this 
decreasing economic mobility and a shrinking middle class and we have this 
large pool of open, middle-skilled 
 he says. “That’s about 40 percent of the American economy.”

To expand the company’s sales and marketing efforts and its services offering, 
the company has raised $3.8 million in seed financing. Los Angeles-based 
Upfront Ventures led the round, with participation from Kapor Capital, Webb 
Investment Network, NextView Ventures, University Ventures and Graph Ventures.

“We have been evaluating many opportunities in the area of skills development 
outside of traditional educational channels to drive a double bottom line,” 
said Kara Nortman, the investor at Upfront Ventures who led the round, in a 
statement. “Will’s demonstrated success working within innovative organizations 
like Google, YouTube and Minerva brings needed expertise to bear on this 
critical issue. He has the rare combination of domain experience, functional 
ability and lifelong passion to build the skills marketplace of the future.”

Houghteling sees a lack of vocational training in the U.S. these days and 
thinks that Strive can also play a role there. “One-third of Americans have 
this college degree and this path to the knowledge economy, and family 
supporting, AI-proof jobs,” he tells me. “There’s not a great vocational 
training option to get people prepared for middle-skilled jobs.”

Indeed, Strive will also offer training around interview prep and 
industry-specific toolkits to get applicants up to speed before they’re placed 
in their roles. “These are short, targeting employers in courses that would be 
of especially high value to candidates,” Houghteling said.

The company said the seed funding will be used to further develop the hiring 
platform and assessment toolkits.

“For decades, we’ve asked young people to pay tuition — increasingly 
unsustainable tuition — for postsecondary education without any guaranteed 
employment outcome. New faster and cheaper models like Strive are poised to 
upend the ‘college for all’ consensus — providing guaranteed pathways to good 
first jobs at no cost,” said Ryan Craig, co-founder of University Ventures in a 

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