Monday, May 07, 2007

University, who should go?

Many intelligent and successful people did not go to university, or dropped out. And yet most parents want their kid to go, and surely for good reason.
Never having gone, I don't know much about it. So chime in, you: assuming sufficient money and intelligence is there, who should go to college and who shouldnt? (University... college... it's rather confusing.)

Final Identity brings up:
"Another point is, that education is not -- and should not be -- about employment, but about self-growth and enlightenment."

Yeah... Nobody is bigger on those things than I am. But is a very expensive and rigid education really the place to get them?
And will people really spend that kind of money and time for those things, for themselves and their kids?

Another thing is: is it really healthy to never try to work until you're 28?

F.I. also adds:
"So, the method we have over here has a load of weaknesses. And it's in flux -- most citizens of the USA think of "higher education" as a ticket to a higher-paying job (and that is a general truth) so they spend their undergraduate time taking things like Hotel Management rather than Greek Drama. And then calling themselves "college-educated." They aren't. They haven't read the classics, encountered cultures different from their own, learned some essential human criteria by which good and bad can be judged, mastered a foreign language or five, discovered their own limitations. They've just followed a materialist path, and college has enabled their addictions.

By the way, Eolake, I'm not surprised you're of a non-traditional type of education. Ben Franklin said, among many other maxims, that one should try to spend one's life with those of great means and little education, for they rightly think practically about the world. To him, an "education" meant a snobby, upper-class, useless type of sherry-drinking brandy-dandling thing accessible mostly to the effete idle children of the upper classes. What shocks me is that, so different as I am from that sort of person, my background and resume make me look more like them than unlike them, simply because I valued a real education."

TTL boldly goes forth with:
"I never went to University. Never even considered. What a waste of time that would have been. Instead, I spent those years studying many interesting subjects: music, philosophy, computer science, art, physics, psychology, etc. Something I would never exchange for doing hard time in a University.

The only thing I feel I may have missed not going to the Uni is the camaraderie among the students. But that hardly seems worth the sacrifice in tolerating all the bureaucracy and other nonsense.

Some people go in order to get a degree. But the degrees are only good if you want a job that is paid out of money confiscated from the citizens. I despise that kind of jobs.

In honest jobs where you offer real value to the marketplace, and where people pay you voluntarily, you are never asked for degrees. In fact, in the most high profile projects a degree is a liability. It reveals that you are not capable of thinking and studying on your own. Also, it reveals that you tolerated the University 'culture' which is a sign of lack of creativity and true talent.

Please view Sir Ken Robinson's talk Do schools kill creativity? It is one of the best talks I have ever heard. Certainly the very best on the subject of education."

Wonko interjected:
Here in the UK we have a Government that is committed to pushing more and more young people into Further Education, irrespective of whether we as a society and nation need them to, or they are suited to it. 25 years ago around 5% of 18 year olds went to University, today nearly 50% go on to Further Education"

This sounds totally astounding to me. For sure I can't imagine that fifty percent of the youngsters in this town will go to college, or would enjoy it. (I live in a working class town in Northern England.) Read more of Wonko's long comment in the Comments section.

Laurie/Signalroom contributed:
Final Identity, thank you for that incredible bit of writing. It was so refreshingly astute, and I even learned a new word, je-june:) I read that initial piece out loud to my companion Jeff, who gave it high kudos as well. Have you ever read John Taylor Gatto's "The Underground History of American Education"? I recommend it highly, though it's long. Since reading it I have never looked at the public education system (U.S.) without shuddering.

TTL, I continue to look for your comments which are obviously well thought out. Thank you for posting.

I quit college my second year to move into a Zen Buddhist meditaion center where I thought I might learn something truly of value, the true nature of my self. I was not disappointed. I went back to undergrad. and got a degree in theology which was a complete waste of time. I went on to graduate school at 37 because my life was at a standstill. Three years later and thousands of dollars in debt, I left without a master's degree feeling totally hoodwinked by the system (and by my own mind in looking for something real from the system). My most satisfying and original bit of writing had been given the lowest grades because I refused to use significant and professional "sources." My own mind was apparently not source enough.

I am now working in the public school system with kids who have behavioral issues. I refuse to be a teacher in the system, I consider myself a companion to children (though it's different on paper), helping them remember their souls through the deadening conformity of their school day. I consider my job sacred (to myself), though on paper it looks mighty humble, and I am a puzzle to my administrators, who know that I have intelligence, but why am I working such a low paying job?

I am a product of the public education system, and I believe it accounted for much of the depression I experienced as an adult. I have re-educated myself out of depression and cynicism via deep inquiry into EVERYTHING, everyone, and most notably, myself. Deep inquiry, especially through meditation and long periods of silence (for me) have yielded wisdom, not an education.

I very much appreciate this thread.

Laurie

posted by Eolake Stobblehouse @ Monday, May 07, 2007   27 comments links to this post

27 Comments:

At 7 May 2007, 15:38:00, Blogger Hannah said...

I think the Dutch system is quite good, in this respect. At age 12, you take a test. This chooses one of three or four levels of "middle school" or "high school" that you'll attend. The highest level teaches Greek and Latin, so it's the most theoretical. The material handled changes as you go down the line from less theoretical to more practical. The trend continues to university, though really only the highest level is really called that. University spawns the researchers, roboto programmers, mathematicians and other high level/theoretical stuff. I've done HBO, which aims at management, some pratical knowledge and some theoretical stuff.

Basically, you end up where you're the best off. Not interested in book learning? Cool, go learn to do something that you are good at and interested in. Everybody can work their way up, if they want. I think that's one of the smartest ways of doing it.

I understand that parents are pushing for university educations. In another six months, I should be done with mine. But half way through high school, I broke out of the standard track and went and did my own thing. It's also taken me nearly 6 years to do university instead of 4 - because for me, it was about the journey and not quite as much the destination. I think people should do what they want, to get where they want, and not be worried about whether or not they have a high level education. It doesn't always mean that much. :)

By the way, another blog that I follow also happened to write about this subject and has an interesting point. Click here to read it.

 
At 7 May 2007, 17:18:00, Anonymous Jes said...

I personally think it should simply be up to the individual person and what his or her goals are. I've been going to college for a few years now, and I'm about to drop out because it's taking too much time and distracting me from things I'd rather be doing. Still, I wouldn't change it if I could, because I know I'm a better, more intelligent person for having gone.

 
At 7 May 2007, 20:03:00, Anonymous Monsieur Beep said...

Although I have a university education, my present job isn't based at all on my education (also in monetary aspects).
Still, I would definitely want to go to university if I were confronted with the choice again, if only for the reason that it gives you better insights, and makes you, well, an educated person.
Nothing against the bricklayers and tar men, though. My present job also involves walking through cow manure sometimes. I work as a milk recorder.

 
At 8 May 2007, 02:47:00, Anonymous Pascal said...

Monsieur Beep said...
"Although I have a university education, my present job isn't based at all on my education"


An average of 17% of people choose, of their own volition, a career other than what they studied for in College/University, according to a reliable recent psychology article. They follow the "standard" road, then find their own path.

I agree that higher education makes for a more cultivated mind. I definitely appreciate the one I received. But to make degrees the mandatory condition for success in life? Bull.
George W. Bush didn't need to study hard to get where he is now. And if he had more smarts, he'd be popular, too!

"I work as a milk recorder."

I knew heated milk could run, but not that it had a voice.
Produced any hit songs, lately? Like maybe "Mooove on, your life's udder control", it this your doing? ;-)

 
At 8 May 2007, 03:59:00, Blogger Final Identity said...

This question comes up a lot on the Monster.com jobs website. The nature of a typical North American undergraduate education is changing these days. Used to be, if you got an "elite" education from a "selective" college and received a BA, then you were in line for any of a number of positions in society and the workplace. But then we started de-valuing that, even though the public relations ploy continued, that you'd do well with the school's diploma.

I'm a victim of this change, in some ways. The degree I took from a highly selective institution would have been worth an entry-level or higher position in publishing, journalism, foreign service, middle management in many corporations, sales, even certain types of engineering, civil service, and general business, in 1970. But by 1990, absolutely none of those positions would be offered on the basis of that BA alone and instead would require extensive certifications and testing which, in essence, countervail the whole notion of a BA. I got the degree halfway between those two extremes, thinking the old system would work for me and only finding out when it was too late that it wouldn't. In essence, my professors lied to me, basically in order to make their own jobs look more applicable and important than they are.

Another point is, that education is not -- and should not be -- about employment, but about self-growth and enlightenment. A lot of the stuff going on even on these web-boards -- a sort of sophomoric bull-session in which people without common reading or education try to hash out old chestnuts which, really, they're neither qualified nor able to attend to -- happens to little effect any more in our society, precisely BECAUSE people resist the call to an education directed at enlightenment. A lot of people want to hash these things out, but then when they try to, they fail. They lack the background. As an obvious example, a thousand times a day somewhere on the internet, programmers holding ample computer certifications argue the existence of God, come to no new understandings, and then in seemingly unrelated developments wonder why their lives feel empty and why girls don't like them. The legitimate solution to their problem would have been a good undergraduate education (of the enlightenment sort, not the pre-job sort). But we've fooled them into thinking an undergraduate education would have been a bunch of engineering classes, information which they "wouldn't need" in their certification-driven profession.

What kind of alternative is there? I sometimes worry about something like the Dutch system, since it can so horribly send a person down the wrong paths if the testing is inaccurate. And it implies a horrible set of class distinctions, in which the "plodders" have to go do things with their hands which will be of great utility, but will also always be of servitude to the "thinkers." Too close to Heinlein not to make one shudder, if it goes wrong.

But for me, that would have been much better than what I did get. I had childhood strengths that were never fostered, and although I had a great "fascination" for certain subjects, and probably could have shown a high degree of ability in one or two of them, since I was in a country where there's no "vocational examination" taken early on, I was trapped having to follow something else. This elitist path (selective Liberal Arts college) in the long run turned out to be no more than an anachronism useful or even tolerable only to those who are so wealthy they need not consider eventual employment. I would have loved for Ajax in Amsterdam to have "tested" my soccer ability, for example; I actually was named my High School's most valuable player despite being half the size of most of my classmates at the time -- any kid with that kind of credential in Europe gets at least a CHANCE at a life of professional sports, but I didn't even KNOW that it could have been done if I'd gone elsewhere, and certainly didn't live in a system where it was a possibility at home. Same with my clarinet, which I imagine in more structured European systems is fostered very early on.

Similarly, as a child my development in music would have had to rely on mom and dad to buy private lessons, which they didn't do. By the time I independently figured out that I would have liked to have spent a lifetime developing that talent, I was too old to develop it. I first touched a piano at 5, showed remarkable prowess, a natural ear for melody and memorization of sounds, quick harmony understandings, perfect pitch. Then, I never touched one again until I was 21. No wonder my entire youth seems, to me, a blur of wasted energy -- I wasn't doing what my talents were best slated for, and nobody was out there advocating for them because I was too young, mom and dad abandoned the responsibility to teachers (so they could be comfortable knowing they "hadn't pressured me"), and teachers were both inept and unequipped to enable excellence -- or progress at all.

So, the method we have over here has a load of weaknesses. And it's in flux -- most citizens of the USA think of "higher education" as a ticket to a higher-paying job (and that is a general truth) so they spend their undergraduate time taking things like Hotel Management rather than Greek Drama. And then calling themselves "college-educated." They aren't. They haven't read the classics, encountered cultures different from their own, learned some essential human criteria by which good and bad can be judged, mastered a foreign language or five, discovered their own limitations. They've just followed a materialist path, and college has enabled their addictions.

By the way, Eolake, I'm not surprised you're of a non-traditional type of education. Ben Franklin said, among many other maxims, that one should try to spend one's life with those of great means and little education, for they rightly think practically about the world. To him, an "education" meant a snobby, upper-class, useless type of sherry-drinking brandy-dandling thing accessible mostly to the effete idle children of the upper classes. What shocks me is that, so different as I am from that sort of person, my background and resume make me look more like them than unlike them, simply because I valued a real education.

And yes, I'm still looking for a job ... anything that isn't utterly soul-destroying. I suppose wishing to have a soul, and keep it while working a job, is in itself a kind of effete and privileged point of view. :(

 
At 8 May 2007, 04:39:00, Blogger Paul said...

In the States, it's harder now than ever before to get a well paying job without some higher education.

I didn't go to college for a job -- I went to learn about all the things I was interested in. So, I took my time and a lot of classes. Looking back, that was one of the best life decisions I've made.

All the same, I recognize that college isn't for everyone. Some people get very little out of it other than a headache. Folks who don't need or want college shouldn't have to attend just to get a good job.

 
At 8 May 2007, 08:57:00, Anonymous dreary lane said...

George W. Bush didn't need to study hard to get where he is now. And if he had more smarts, he'd be popular, too!

He's been selected as "The Worst President Ever" by many historians already. Untouched by his illegal war crimes, lies, manipulations, perjury, murder, his list is long.
Also the LOWEST approval rating in history. Color that INJUSTICE. Screw the universities. Nobody needs those clonies preaching cob web evolution lies either.

 
At 8 May 2007, 09:52:00, Anonymous Mooh said...

Pascal, the job of a milk recorder is to record the milk quantities and taking milk samples from each cow in a dairy herd, so the farmer can make decisions on how to feed the cows appropriately and knows their performance.

And when done, I indeed sing along in my car: "Moohooh rolling home mooh!!"
"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
""""MILK IS HEALTHY""""
"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

 
At 8 May 2007, 11:39:00, Blogger eolake said...

Final Identity, are you saying that a the right higher education would make those programmers have richer lives and more girls?
(I'm not being sarcastic, I'm just a little in doubt of what you're trying to say in your third paragraph.)

 
At 8 May 2007, 14:31:00, Anonymous ttl said...

I never went to University. Never even considered. What a waste of time that would have been. Instead, I spent those years studying many interesting subjects: music, philosophy, computer science, art, physics, psychology, etc. Something I would never exchange for doing hard time in a University.

The only thing I feel I may have missed not going to the Uni is the camaraderie among the students. But that hardly seems worth the sacrifice in tolerating all the bureaucracy and other nonsense.

Some people go in order to get a degree. But the degrees are only good if you want a job that is paid out of money confiscated from the citizens. I despise that kind of jobs.

In honest jobs where you offer real value to the marketplace, and where people pay you voluntarily, you are never asked for degrees. In fact, in the most high profile projects a degree is a liability. It reveals that you are not capable of thinking and studying on your own. Also, it reveals that you tolerated the University 'culture' which is a sign of lack of creativity and true talent.

Please view Sir Ken Robinson's talk Do schools kill creativity?

It is one of the best talks I have ever heard. Certainly the very best on the subject of education.

 
At 8 May 2007, 14:36:00, Blogger eolake said...

"the degrees are only good if you want a job that is paid out of money confiscated from the citizens."

That's a hard statement...

 
At 8 May 2007, 15:14:00, Anonymous ttl said...

Eolake: "That's a hard statement..."

That's a pretty hard statement about my hard statement. :-)

Why would a private sector employer care about a degree? It's a piece of paper!

They may specify a degree in a job advertisement in order to limit the number of applications from non-suitable job seekers. But ultimately they are looking for someone who can deliver the result they want. An entrepreneur who ranks superficial criteria above professional capability will soon be an ex-entrepreneur.

 
At 8 May 2007, 15:22:00, Anonymous ttl said...

Of course, depending on the country, some fields are (sadly) regulated by law. Medicine, for example. So, if you want to enter such a field you either need to get a degree or move to a country where people are free to offer services in that field.

 
At 8 May 2007, 15:34:00, Blogger Final Identity said...

Eolake: to briefly answer your question, I was making a quick metaphor. I was interested in two subjects: one, the sophomoric and unproductive nature of a LOT of the discourse which I see going on (fueled as it is by lack of "real" education); two, the fact that many people in that woefully uneducated state congratulate themselves by claiming they are "smart" merely because they're well-trained in a given technical field. The idea of more girls was a flip joke; of course women don't flock to computer programmers, no matter HOW much "real" education they have. :)

What you might have missed from my third paragraph was the idea, that I find much internet board-posting discourse (including much of this thread) to be rather jejune. Were our participants more legitimately educated, and less interested strictly in the material gain to be had from technical certifications, our findings here might be worth a great deal more. Instead, the bright ones among us are left without common ground upon which to base our discussions (too often we feel have to summarize some work or philosopher that we think of as fundamental, rather than merely reminding our readers that the subject has already been covered?) and then many of us clutter the discussion with non-germane points, with personal bug-a-boos, or with tangential thoughts that derail something otherwise productive. But it's the best discourse I can find in this woefully under-educated world! An education would start to alleviate some of those troubles.

Now, let's ask whether Satan was really the hero of Paradise Lost ...

 
At 8 May 2007, 15:56:00, Blogger Final Identity said...

Eolake has furthered the discussion thusly:

"Final Identity brings up:
"Another point is, that education is not -- and should not be -- about employment, but about self-growth and enlightenment."

Yeah... Nobody is bigger on those things than I am. But is a very expensive and rigid education really the place to get them?
And will people really spend that kind of money and time for those things, for themselves and their kids?

Another thing is: is it really healthy to never try to work until you're 28?"

Well, I personally don't think the average citizen of the USA is capable of the type of mind-expanding experience which OUGHT to happen in an enlightenment-directed (rather than career-directed) education that happens at young adulthood. The typical college system, of taking a kid at 18 or so, and holding him in a safe zone where he can experiment with his brain for four or so years, ought to provide for a type of personal growth that simply isn't going to happen if he tries to do it on his own. Professors who know how to direct young minds, laboratories set up for that purpose, etc. etc.

Now, I don't claim that most people DO get this from their typical college education. As I posted earlier, I think most simply think in terms of eventual profitability of a given pre-career training. "What are you going to do with that?" they kept asking me, about my degree in literature. What I wanted to answer was, "Up yours, for expecting an education to be practicably applicable to your moronic view that mankind's place is in the corporate cubicle." I tried to be polite instead. Maybe I should have mouthed off.

So where CAN people get that sort of thing, the "enlightenment" or "growth" regime? I think it's dying out. A private elite liberal arts college might be a good place, if you can afford it. But those degrees are now scoffed at by the employment marketplace, to the point that the graduates are widely assumed to be incompetent merely because they haven't taken a class in typing or in automotive engine management. And the term "liberal arts" has become devalued, such that many uneducated potential employers and girlfriends think it means "didn't finish" or "got an associate's diploma." It certainly has lost its old meaning, of "all the fields" (sciences, maths, languages, literatures, arts) and now means "artsy fields" (humanities, social sciences ALONE). I'm sad for this change, for myself -- I have a legitimate, rigorous Liberal Arts training, and therefore am probably better at science than many supposed "science graduates" from easier schools who just got job-directed training. And I'm sad for this change, for society at large -- a well-educated populace is one of the cornerstones of a liberal democracy. We don't have a well-educated populace. We're good at MAKING MONEY and at GOING TO A CUBICLE, as a society at large; but we're not so hot at thinking clearly.

 
At 8 May 2007, 17:25:00, Blogger eolake said...

"Jejune", huh? And here I thought TTL was being provocative! :) :)

 
At 8 May 2007, 18:19:00, Blogger Final Identity said...

Hunh? "Jejune" means "thin" or "without nourishment."

We often get it wrong, to mean "youthful" or "childlike," but that's just because we English-speakers like to collapse meanings together and the "jeune" of our collective French memory ("young") gets absorbed in there.

Anyway, the jejune-ness was my point. As with freshman literature papers on Milton, which often and stereotypically address the question of whether or not Satan was really the hero of "Paradise Lost," so too this thread and many others like it on the internet addresses something neither soluble nor novel. I'd much prefer that we talk a bout changing higher education, and how, and what the different current forms of it are, but instead I find it necessary to simply report on current trends in higher education.

In other words, before discussion of the current state of things can come, we must first describe and report on that state. Among educated people, the reportage could have been assumed to be done and over with, so that more productive discussion could follow.

It's a common failing of modern discourse on many subjects. We're all of us busy informing one another of the basics, rather than moving on from them to educated conversation.

 
At 8 May 2007, 21:25:00, Anonymous Wonko said...

I did not go to University - or Further Education as some prefer to call it. This was not so much through choice (at least not one I made deliberately and knowingly), as through missed opportunity. I did not actively persue the idea of going to University, nor did anyone at my school sit me down and make me fill the forms in to apply. It kind of... washed over me. It is something I sometimes regret, and sometimes I don't. I think the issue was that I never had a definite career in mind, nor did I have a favoured subject that I could focus on. I'm too interested in too many things, so perhaps University would not have suited me.

One lesson that I have learnt from friends who did go to University (mostly Oxford and Cambridge), was that going there was as much about learning to live as an independant adult away from home as it was the formal learning. I think there's a lot to that, but it strikes me that you don't have to go on to Further Education to gain that experience. Learning to run a household budget, prepare and cook your own food, doing your own washing - ok, bad example ;o) - and making new friends seem just as valuable to me as studying "The Classics" or whatever you chosen subject is. Please note that I consider them equally important to a balanced education. The very name University does indicate the learning of "all things".

Here in the UK we have a Government that is committed to pushing more and more young people into Further Education, irrespective of whether we as a society and nation need them to, or they are suited to it. 25 years ago around 5% of 18 year olds went to University, today nearly 50% go on to Further Education, and the Government wants that to grow yet further. The result is that we have had to do away with the Student Grant, replace it with Loans, and charge students tuition fees, because the Taxpayer simply cannot afford to pay for that number of Students. I realise that this is and has been the case for a long time in many countries, but we have only recently gone down this road. Most students starting their degrees now can expect to leave University at least £20,000 in debt. Is that really the right way to set them out on a life time of work I find myself asking? It used to be that University was the preserve of the scholastically talented, and yes, the priviledged. That was not fair, but is a degree free with 10 box tops and a cheque for post and packing any fairer?

There does seem to be a social thing developing that all schoolchildren are expected to go to University. One way or another we, as a society are expected to pick up the bill. Whether that is through taxation or through a market system (or the combination of the two we seem to have developed) is one of many big questions. I won't pretend to have the answer to that, but I do have to ask if our society actually needs as many University graduates as we are getting? Has the increase in numbers proportionally decreased the worth of an individual qualification? Are we - given the increasing worries about paying for our retirements - simply unnecessarily removing a potentially productive section of population from the workplace for four years?

I am in favour of targetting different kinds of education at different people. Some are best suited to the traditional "book learning" style, whereas others will be infinitely happier working with their hands. As the old phrase says: "The World needs ditch diggers too". We seem to have become so preoccupied with "fairness" and "equality" that we are ignoring that plain fact that everyone is different. We all have different skills, talents, and it has to be said different abilities to learn. There are dumb folk, as much as there are clever folk and treating either the same as the other does each a disservice. Homogenisation is equally as bad in my eyes as elitism. So, I would be happier with something akin to the Dutch system, though I acknowledge the concerns about how that testing is carried out. I think that we have to bear in mind that any system that involves Humans almost by default is going to be unfair to someone. All that we can do is minimise any unfairness.

One last point. A friend of mine who lectures at a University made the following comment to me. he said: "Do you know why most University degrees are four years now, instead of three?" I had to confess to him that I didn't know. "It's because we spend the first year bringing them up to the standard of education we used to expect them to have on leaving school. So, it's only after then that we can actually begin the degree proper."

 
At 10 May 2007, 15:33:00, Blogger Final Identity said...

I wrote a nice long reply but the system lost it. :(

 
At 10 May 2007, 18:03:00, Blogger eolake said...

That's a pity.

I'm so paranoid I save after at least every paragraph.
If I write in a web page like with comments, I drag it to my desktop every so often.

 
At 11 May 2007, 19:00:00, Blogger Final Identity said...

Well, the only big point I was making was, in response to the dude who said his friends found their university years were mostly about learning to live as adults. Silly them, they didn't even realize all the ideas which slipped in through the back door! If all you got from a liberal education was how to cook ramen and balance a checkbook, it certainly wouldn't be worth the exorbitant tuition fees!

 
At 13 May 2007, 21:22:00, Anonymous Wonko said...

To be absolutely strict about final identity's last comment, I said it was: "...as much about learning to live as an independant adult away from home as it was the formal learning." not the main thing as you suggest. If all they learnt was about cooking for one and not getting too overdrawn, then I would agree with you. In actual fact I think that learning these kinds of 'life skills' to use a rather horrid phrase is something that our education systems sadly fail in. I would hope that all school children are taught these things by their parents, alas that tends to be the exception rather than the rule, and neither schools nor universities are really set up to fill that gap.

 
At 13 May 2007, 22:45:00, Blogger laurie said...

Final Identity, thank you for that incredible bit of writing. It was so refreshingly astute, and I even learned a new word, je-june:) I read that initial piece out loud to my companion Jeff, who gave it high kudos as well. Have you ever read John Taylor Gatto's "The Underground History of American Education"? I recommend it highly, though it's long. Since reading it I have never looked at the public education system (U.S.) without shuddering.

TTL, I continue to look for your comments which are obviously well thought out. Thank you for posting.

I quit college my second year to move into a Zen Buddhist meditaion center where I thought I might learn something truly of value, the true nature of my self. I was not disappointed. I went back to undergrad. and got a degree in theology which was a complete waste of time. I went on to graduate school at 37 because my life was at a standstill. Three years later and thousands of dollars in debt, I left without a master's degree feeling totally hoodwinked by the system (and by my own mind in looking for something real from the system). My most satisfying and original bit of writing had been given the lowest grades because I refused to use significant and professional "sources." My own mind was apparently not source enough.

I am now working in the public school system with kids who have behavioral issues. I refuse to be a teacher in the system, I consider myself a companion to children (though it's different on paper), helping them remember their souls through the deadening
conformity of their school day. I consider my job sacred (to myself), though on paper it looks mighty humble, and I am a puzzle to my administrators, who know that I have intelligence, but why am I working such a low paying job?

I am a product of the public education system, and I believe it accounted for much of the depression I experienced as an adult. I have re-educated myself out of depression and cynicism via.
deep inquiry into EVERYTHING, everyone, and most notably, myself. Deep inquiry, especially through meditation and long periods of silence (for me) have yielded wisdom, not an education.

I very much appreciate this thread.

Laurie

 
At 16 May 2007, 00:47:00, Anonymous Pascal said...

"[George W. Bush]'s been selected as "The Worst President Ever" by many historians already."

Hey, that's a historical achievement... in some twisted sort of way! :-(

"Do schools kill creativity?"

Well, it almost did for a german student, long ago, named Albert Einstein. He never forgot...
"The school system is excellent for producing well-trained doggies."

"Of course, depending on the country, some fields are (sadly) regulated by law. Medicine, for example."

Well (again), in theory a degree is official confirmation that you learned stuff you needed to know for a given job. In theory.
I'll grant you that there is much relativity in this theory's application. :-)
It is not the idea which is wrong, organized learning is useful. It's just that bureaucratic mentality ruined it. As a sincere believer told me regarding the Pope's latest statements in Brazil: "Sometimes, I wonder whether the sole purpose of the Church might not be to actually sabotage religion and destroy people's faith." I once heard about a student in my alma mater, a few years earlier, who was major of his promotion, and considered a prodigy. If it was in a Medicine book, he knew it. Well (once more!), the day he entered internship and found himself next to a patient he had to examine, he just froze right there. Couldn't do a thing. Struck dumb. He was hopeless in real-life Medicine, and it took all those years for everybody to find out...

As for Medicine, it is vitally necessary that there be laws regulating its practice. Ignorance can too easily be fatal in this field. The fact that there are bad medics, and probably lots of them, doesn't mean that anarchy would be any better. (Just ask the Iraqis if they were worse off in Saddam's days. A bad rule is often better than no rule at all.) Many "alternative" medicines have a definite efficiency simply because THEY still listen to the patients, and treat them as more than bodies representing "a case". But they're also risky. Chiropractors believe (according to their founding theory) that they can treat cancer or contagious infectious diseases solely by manipulating vertebrae: trust one to treat an appendicitis and you're dead. Rely on homeopathy or acupuncture to cure Aids, and you're finished. Of course, rely on "pink pills" alone to miraculously solve your depression and you're not much better off. The ideal path is a wisely medium one, somewhere in-between them all, acknowledging both knowledge and know-how. Incidentally, I was TAUGHT, again and again, that a good patient interview is the spinal column of Medicine, harvesting essential and sometimes vital informations. Again, the principles in themselves are good, their application is where things really screw up.
Just like politicians would usually be awesome folks if they bothered to hold true to their campaign promises...

Now, for competences that are less vitally linked to scientific knowledge, of course a degree may be superfluous. Anything artistic, for instance. You know me, I'm not for a robotized, standardized human society. Science needs to be assimilated, creativity requires little more than to be nurtured.
But don't ask my recommendations for creative science, like Fundamental Physics! ;-)

Final Identity said...
And the term "liberal arts" has become devalued, such that many uneducated potential employers and girlfriends think it means "didn't finish" or "got an associate's diploma."


And when your prospective employer is less educated/competent than YOU are, either he'll never hire you, or he'll make sure his inferiority complex resentment imprints in your very flesh over the years...

"A well-educated populace is one of the cornerstones of a liberal democracy."

If you were a gal, I'd ask you in marriage! I'm in love with the way you think.

Wonko said...
"but I do have to ask if our society actually needs as many University graduates as we are getting?"


Fast-food restaurants definitely need that many waiters, absolutely. :-P

"Homogenisation is equally as bad in my eyes as elitism."

From one extreme to another, this is how Mankind typically solves all its problems. Effectively avoiding the need to find new solutions to old problems! It's so much simpler to just shift between two problems back and forth, and calling that perpetual motion an evolution...

The Doctor: "My job is the oldest in History. Taking Adam's rib to make Eve, that was a medical procedure."
The Architect: "Excuse me! Before creating man, the Universe had to be built. This is the task of an architect, isn't it?"
The Philosopher: "Count on it! Before building anything, the Thought had to bring order to the primitive Chaos."
The Politician: "And who, pray tell, do you think invented Chaos in the first place, hunh?"



Final Identity said...
"I wrote a nice long reply but the system lost it. :( "


I would've bet you were one of the people smart enough to use a .TXT file for typing... Guess you got distracted?
Considering how often Blogger will act up on me as if I were a turban-bearing bearded guy with an arabian name asking for airliner flight lessons, every time I'm about to post a typed comment I do [Ctrl + A, C] and paste it on top of my little list. The one keeping count of every thread's number of comments next to its title. That way, I always know where to look for new posts. :-)
And I didn't learn to be organised in University, this part's 100% self-taught. Paranoia can be quite useful sometimes.
"Remember, you're only paranoid if there actually ISN'T a conspiracy against you." Newsflash, people: there's a conspiracy against ALL of us. It's called Windows. The more security updates I receive and install, the harder it is and longer it takes for my PC to start up.

I really should catch up on all my backups... I hear that Windows is the most widespread computer virus in the world, and I believe I've got it!

"If all they learnt was about cooking for one and not getting too overdrawn"...

I think they have a class for that in high school, called Home Ec? ;-)

It seems that people also need badly to be taught how to live in a couple and make it work. It's too important to handle unprepared. Like driving, marriage should require an aptitude license. At least for the sake of the kids. (I'm half serious there.)

Laurie said...
"My most satisfying and original bit of writing had been given the lowest grades because I refused to use significant and professional "sources." My own mind was apparently not source enough."


Well, how many times did your own mind get invited on TV, or shake the hand of a very influential person? This tends to sum up the value that the System grants to ideas.
Which would explain why televangelists are so highly regarded in spite of the raw mass of inane stupidity they eructate on the cathodic screens and printed dailies. Or plasma screens and digital media, if you're "hip".

..."and I am a puzzle to my administrators, who know that I have intelligence, but why am I working such a low paying job?"

It all depends what kind of payment you are considering in this assessment. I suspect your reward is higher than what they can see. :-)
Money is nice to have, but the best things in life can only be given and received.

"Happiness elixir for sale! Hurry, hurry, get your bottle while supplies last! There won't be enough for everybody! 100% natural snake oil, $0.50 a bottle. Ask for the genuine, original, Dr Krookenstein's Elixir of Happiness!"

 
At 16 May 2007, 15:17:00, Anonymous Wonko said...

Pascal said: "Newsflash, people: there's a conspiracy against ALL of us. It's called Windows. The more security updates I receive and install, the harder it is and longer it takes for my PC to start up."

There's a simple solution to that one. Install a Linux distribution! I changed to Ubuntu earlier this year, it was the best thing I've done relating to computers in years. No Micro$oft, no Windoze, open source, it's free(!!!) and very few viruses.

 
At 16 May 2007, 23:21:00, Anonymous Proctology professional Pascal said...

Yeah, it's strange how microbes seem attracted by crap.
Did you know that one third of the mass of stools is actually bacteriae?

(Okay, sorry, it's a bit early till the Sunday lunch chat, but I couldn't wait.)

I'm seriously considering getting one of those $100 laptops when they become available in the West. Or the Middle-East, in the present case...
Stick a USB key up their, um, port, and their memory limitation (their only weak point) is a thing of the past.

 
At 16 May 2007, 23:23:00, Anonymous Pascal also said...

A thing of the past... like a flatulence in the wind. (Famous Elton John song)

 

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