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dunceSometimes it takes a long time for the coffee to work its way through the grounds.

Or if you will, one day you open your eyes like any normal day, and see something that was there all the time.

The point is, I’ve always known this in one manner or another.

What you ask?

That our education system just sucks.

I knew it in undergraduate school. It was obvious, but I of course was way into my, “damn I’m smart” phase so I figured that the awful truths I was learning about Merika, and Western Civilized?zation, and all that was just cuz, only smart folks like me were capable of internalizing this shit and not declaring open war against the government. I was “big enough to take it.” The big secret of what a dirty little nation we really were was given to me, one of the small legion of people who would smile at the masses, all the while becoming part of  the new engine of democracy. Or some such blather. It was never spelled out, nor was it ever thought out.

We regaled our friends and family at “home” in middle or as we were wont to say, the middles who were really the worker class, with tales of elite power holders mostly unknown to the masses of semi-literate drones like themselves. They of course sucked air and murmured to themselves the question, “what is going on in our colleges to produce such talk?”

It all got confounded in our hippie/anti-war/feminist/ rhetoric and colleges mostly dodged the bullet in terms of responsibility. Drugs would do ever so much better as causation to our nasty smart-ass talk.

I maintained that I was still of that elite I-know-better group even when I was shocked to learn that my decision to enter law school with the professed desire to “work in Washington for some committee or other” was never gonna happen. I learned that there were lawyers and then there were lawyers. I was not one of the latter. Those lawyers, were graduating from Princeton and Harvard and Yale and Stanford and had parents who were RICH, as in Freakin’ Rich. I was a lawyer meant for county prosecuting/defense, and handling peoples wills and small claims. That’s what people who went to your average state law schools got.

I started to get it. A little.

Since I had no desire to be “rich” or any of that rot anyway, I went my way, did my time, and emerged with a decent life style, and time to pursue hobbies of an intellectual nature.

Sure from time to time, I wished I had had it to do all over again. Paleontology was more my style. Theology and biblical studies later. I grumped as to why some people got exposed to that and others didn’t until it was “too late”. Did some schools give it’s kids a heads up on subjects like anthropology, archaeology, cosmology? I suppose they do if you are in Groton, Cranbrook or other prep type schools. maybe?

In the back of my head I realized that most of us are steered elsewhere. For our “own good” as it were. Not too many good jobs revolving around archaeology. Or philosophy. Gosh I loved that, but what to do with it? So I moved to a “practical” discipline. Law. It could have easily have been medicine I suppose. Neither requires more than an average head upon one’s shoulders.

The point is, I vaguely saw that most of us were ushered “elsewhere”, to those places where “we” were needed.

This is no indictment per se on education as we know it, nor upon teachers, most of whom are or were nearly as clueless as I. A few were frankly well above smart and did that one thing that makes them ripe for pedestal worship–they inspired a kid to follow a dream.

When I located old classmates a few years ago, I was admittedly quite shocked at what I found. I guess I wasn’t so surprised that most had not gone on to college. Pretty much I figured that a few would start and then bail when they found that they were no longer the center of attention. Jocks and cheerleaders often find their celebrity status missing in undergrad and because they never were students in high school anyway, they bore quickly in academia, leave and get cheap white-collar jobs and get on with life.

What surprised me were the number who lauded (to some old teachers who also joined the group) those teachers for being so “good” and teaching them so much. Seriously?

Let’s get real.

Basic education in this country for the vast majority, consists in learning to read at a basic level (8th grade), write a simple sentence that can be understood, and to behave. Behaving consists of learning that it’s good to be lawful, bad to be a crook, and that citizenship consists of paying your taxes and voting every four years. You learn a small amount of “correct” American history such that you are reasonably patriotic, i.e., willing to go to war and die for rich men’s greed.

That’s about it.

That gets you workers who sew the clothes, build the cars and planes, man the office machines, put out the fires, work the fields, nurse the sick, teach the next generation, and settle petty disputes over property rights. A few split off to hear your confessions and bury your dead.

The rich white dudes send their kids elsewhere where they learn to run armies, run industries, and run governments.

I do not need to know that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, nor do I need to know that Hawaii was the last state admitted to the union. I don’t need to know that Moby Dick is a classic about man’s struggle over the existence of God, and good and evil. What do I learn from dissecting a frog for god’s sake? What did I learn from all that Civil War crap? To be holier than thou regarding the South, while Southern kids were learning the opposite?

All that crap is available to be found by anyone who can use a card catalog back “in the day” or a computer today. That is simply factual DATA.

WHAT I NEEDED TO LEARN WAS HOW TO THINK.

What constitutes a rational, well supported argument? What code words suggest fluff rather than substance? What sources are reliable, and how do I discern that? What does it mean that every writer comes with a set of biases, known or otherwise? What is logic? What is charismatic bullshit and how do I tell the difference? What is just well written but basically crap? What is poorly written but true?

How do all those “things” that happened since the dawn of the written word and before, stack up into patterns that tell me something about who I am, who WE are? What can we be? What can we never be? What did WWII have to do with megalomaniacal men, and what had it to do with greed, industrialization, resources, and democracy?

We are not taught this stuff. And I’m very sure it’s intentional. They simply can’t have too many out there who are on to them. Oh, no, I’m not getting all conspiratorial here. But extremely rich people do exist. They live in a world that is divorced from us. They think they are the natural “kind” to decide things. And they do. They decide almost all the important things.

We think we matter, with our democracy and our voting. There are differences between Republicans and Democrats. The GOP figures that things were going pretty nicely when most people were poor, busy just scratching out a living, consumed by putting food on the table. The Democrats are just Republicans with a heart–let them have a life that is decent enough to enjoy a bit. They will still not interfere with us as long as they have a few toys and a couple of weeks vacation at their cabin and some fishing.  But on the big stuff, both parties are agreed–they will decide what’s best. Our kids will do the dying.

Almost all our high school educational system are designed to produce law-abiding workers who don’t raise a ruckus. Most of our colleges simply prepare MOST for those slightly more complicated necessary service professions.

Only a teacher or professor here or there, has a glimmer of truth, and imparts it. Suggests that the mind is meant for so much more. It’s meant to see the big picture, and once it has, it knows that solutions are so much beyond that of a  farm bill, or a fair trade treaty, or some utility regulation.

It’s about how we see each other as a species. How we view other species. How we see the universe.

Truth is a powerful thing. And almost nobody knows it.

I’m just starting to see.

 

 

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