Education: The True Picture Forms

Dennis Holy Grail
Woman: Oh, there you go bringing school into it again.   Dennis: Well, that’s what it’s all about! If only people would…

Since it always better to go unread in as many places as possible, here is a comment I, the one-trick modern-schooling-is-BAD! pony, made on an excellent essay on John C. Wright’s blog:

Modern education has two short-term goals: to render its victims utterly unable to think, and to convince them that they are the most intelligent, open-minded and morally good people ever to walk the earth. The first makes them easily lead – Fichte’s primary goal in creating modern education was obedient soldiers and workers. The second inoculates them against the sort of mental activity that might lead them to question or challenge the leadership of their betters.

If you are intelligent, good and open-minded by definition, those who oppose you must necessarily be stupid, evil and bigoted.

Thus, in the debate recounted in Mr. Wright’s essay, it is not at all surprising that a college professor, a member of the most highly educated class of people, would be totally unable to process the idea that Mr. Wright was anything other than stupid, evil and bigoted. His open-mindedness precluded his grasping an argument contrary to his rote training; his goodness prevented him from seeing that he might be wrong; his intelligence prevented him from recognizing the intelligence in a position he has been trained not to believe exists.

One branch of my family has pursued education to the nth degree: a 30 year old with multiple advanced degrees, 25 year old in grad school after 6 years in a demanding undergrad program, that sort of thing. I have better luck trying to reason with the welder/farmer end of the family than with these over-educated folks. It is impossible to establish even one position contrary to their training: it is dogma, it is anathema to dissent from the belief that we are destroying the planet through overpopulation, that religion causes war, that businesses are evil and governments good, that opposing any nice-sounding social program is a sign of an evil soul, and on and on, in an incoherent and contradictory heap of ideas. Which is the point – we can’t have the poor dears trying to make sense out of things, that might lead to actual thought. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

The problem in America isn’t that our schools don’t work – it’s that they work exactly as designed.

But that can’t really be true, right? Here’s an excerpt from an essay I’ve linked to before, wherein a Yale professor laments what really goes on in elite higher education amid all that over-achievement and brilliance:

These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. But the reality is very different, as I have witnessed in many of my own students and heard from the hundreds of young people whom I have spoken with on campuses or who have written to me over the last few years. Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

When I speak of elite education, I mean prestigious institutions like Harvard or Stanford or Williams as well as the larger universe of second-tier selective schools, but I also mean everything that leads up to and away from them—the private and affluent public high schools; the ever-growing industry of tutors and consultants and test-prep courses; the admissions process itself, squatting like a dragon at the entrance to adulthood; the brand-name graduate schools and employment opportunities that come after the B.A.; and the parents and communities, largely upper-middle class, who push their children into the maw of this machine. In short, our entire system of elite education.

I should say that this subject is very personal for me. Like so many kids today, I went off to college like a sleepwalker. You chose the most prestigious place that let you in; up ahead were vaguely understood objectives: status, wealth—“success.” What it meant to actually get an education and why you might want one—all this was off the table. It was only after 24 years in the Ivy League—college and a Ph.D. at Columbia, ten years on the faculty at Yale—that I started to think about what this system does to kids and how they can escape from it, what it does to our society and how we can dismantle it.

Heading out of town for the next few days, so may not get a chance to post much, so i leave with these thoughts: if the best of the best that these elite schools train up have no idea where they’re going or why, they can be easily lead – which, as I pointed out, is the goal. Second, the admissions process itself, with its emphasis on judging people’s souls (read it carefully – that’s what they’re doing) based on essays and extra curricular activities will almost inevitably select such lost souls. In this, it merely completes the illusion of achievement school so carefully cultivates: getting a high SAT score is an achievement? As opposed to getting a job, or making life-long friends, or building a stable family? Yet a Yalie is seen as having achieved something simply by having gotten into Yale, and is entitled to look down upon the man with a job, friends and family who didn’t.

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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