Sometimes 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.
George Carlin hit the nail on the head in his skit about “Who the real owners are” – the filthy rich who want it all. But what they don’t want is a population of citizens capable of critical thinking.
Carlin was a very funny man, letting you swallow ugly truth with a laugh.
exactly…their game is up when too many figure it out. !END
List of X said:
Learning how to think is the most important thing anyone can learn in school or college, but I don’t think there is really a way to learn it without learning the data, like history, math, science. Because thinking is just learning to recognize the patterns and to extrapolate them.
my point is that anyone can find the facts, what facts are the key. And we can’t understand what facts are important unless we understand processes and large chunks of history from broad prospectives. We need to get the interplay of resources and climate to some degree to understand the rise of western Europe. Basics are essential of course, but we approach education from pieces rather than as a tapestry of interlocking causes and ingredients. 🙂 !END
“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?” – These are definitely the most important things people need to know and understand in order to be truly educated and wise. I do think List of X is right that you do need to know the facts first (one big lack in our educational system is the lack of emphasis on a deep understanding of history). It seems as if some people manage to learn critical thinking and understand the answers to the questions quoted above and some don’t. But you are right, it is usually not something taught in schools except by certain professors who go above and beyond. And yes, I agree this is intentional by the powers that be.
I agree completely that one major key is a very much deeper understanding of history…we spend way too much on dates and places, and don’t understand the underlying reasoning behind things. It’s easy to say for instance that “religion created more wars than anything else” when the truth is that there were underlying issues that motivated people to these wars, and religion became a convenient excuse to do what was desired anyway. It’s important to know that otherwise our “enemy” is wrongly targeted. !END
This is too good to keep to myself. I shared this on Twitter tonight.
You’re right about the educational system. Most students are given basic skills, facts without context, incentives to conform, and some nice, meaningless distractions in the form of team sports. Critical thinkers, free spirits, creative types, nonconformists, and neurodiverse youth struggle in the school environment. The end goal is to create tiers of workers, not well-rounded citizens and certainly not critical thinkers. And THAT’S if you’re lucky and you’re brought up in a physically safe, well-funded school with sufficient books and equipment — don’t get me started on the state of some urban schools.
Regarding your comments on learning how to think my undergraduate Logic and Inquiry class opened my eyes to inductive and deductive reasoning, logical fallacies, and common rhetorical techniques. I firmly believe that such courses should be taught to middle and high school students.
What a good point you make in requiring logic classes in high school. Surely we need more thinking going on and less emotional knee-jerk reactions. So much f what passes for argument these days is anecdotal and emotionally charged rather than a rational assessment of facts. Thanks for the referral…:) !END
But isn’t what you say true for all countries, to a greater or lesser extent? People who accrue power like to hang on to it. America for all its faults is at least a democracy (however helpless you feel); people are allowed to dream and to try to achieve their ambitions. I think its less a case of the establishment actively discouraging people from moving up or on, than of just not actually caring very much how the less well-off are faring (so long as they’re not taking to the barricades). You do need to know facts. History teaches us that people go on making the same mistakes. The life of Christopher Columbus is the epitome of the American Dream. Hawaii was an independent republic when it was annexed by the United States as a territory in 1898 (What was that Mao said about democracy coming from the barrel of a gun?). And what is happening in Ukraine happened in Austria in 1938. Enough, already! I need a cup of tea.
What I said is undoubtedly true of a whole lot of countries, most in all probability. The argument that the cabal of extreme wealth that rules the world, does in fact come from “all the world” though it might well be over-represented by western elites. America in a sense stands no better. However, at least in most countries these days, the Democratic model (i.e. the model of give them enough cake that they spend their time eating cake and not meddling) is the one at the forefront, while the GOP model is more adopted by repressive dictatorships. The GOP model does allow for the occasional “man from the bottom” to arise, where he is notably touted as the “proof” that hard work and perserverance are the American way. Such people as Ben Carson, Alan West, Herman Cain and others serve double purpose–to “prove” the Protestant work ethic works for those who are American enough to try, and that the system is not weighted against people who are poor and of color. Neither of course is true, from my point of view, but that is their argument.
Where we differ is that you seem to think this fact that most fail in their dreams is merely a sad fact that is ignored by the wealthy, while I think it is systematically insured by what passes for education in this country.
Indeed people will continue to make mistakes, but hopefully at least new ones rather than the same old ones. When we don’t explore our errors from the broad prospective of global history, I’m not sure we learn the lessons that are offered. And in not learning, we are as they say, doomed to repeat them.
Thank you for an excellent reply. You make very important points, and I suspect we are not in major disagreement. Democracy, no matter how poorly employed remains a better system than any other yet implemented. !END
I don’t think it’s the fact that they fail that is ignored, so much as the fact that ‘they’ are ignored. Yes, I agree with your idea that the establishment think, ‘give them enough cake to stop them meddling’. But I don’t think that it is planned repression. It’s just selfish thoughtlessness, really. At least in the west they throw buns to the less well off. Try living in Africa, or any country ending in stan. Thanks for the reply, had to go off and look up GOP. I’ve often wondered what if meant. I thought it was some kind of opinion pollsters (!).
Hardly opinion pollsters of any repute, Elaine
can’t comment really, not being American.
I get your point…No doubt to some it is simple ignorance of the actual outcome of the process…but for me at least, it’s deliberate at some level…by some people…sorry that GOP was an unknown…I forget that there are so many who read here who are not Americans…there are few commenters from outside the US so I forget…please just yell at something you don’t undrstand..!END
Everything of real value that I’ve ever learned, I learned it by myself.
many would agree with you Hansi…many would… !END
Snoring Dog Studio said:
Sadly, who decides which facts are the important ones to remember? Usually, it’s men – mostly white men. The histories and facts that arise from disparate groups, from women, also – are lost to us. We want to say we’re capable of critical thinking, yet how can we be when we never even experience or know what happened in those other worlds? The need for discovery needs to be taught in schools – students need to be taught that the truth is what rises to the surfaces, but it’s not the entire picture.
Brilliant post. I still stand by the adage that we all must do what we can. I’ve been seeing for a long time. One thing that stands out, is that recently, as a few of us caught up on what’s been happening to so-and-so from school, it occurred to me suddenly, “Does anyone at this table think Billy Bob was better than John Smith at football? or was it really just that Billy Bob’s parents were loaded? his mother had time to schmooze the coaches? and his dad drank with Colts?” Nods all around. I don’t know when we came to know it, myself, with Billy Bob, sometime after college — but none of us knew at age 18. And how much of that applies to academia, and performance arts? What do these people actually EARN?!?
I hope it all ends up meaning that we realize that whatever education our kids are getting at school is just the tip of what is required to give them the tools necessary to negotiate this increasingly complicated world. And the rich will always proceed by way of entitlement and the rest of us cannot sit back and be complacent. Education is our only means of fighting back…we have to know the enemy as it were. !END