Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Funny thing about Education - the best lessons are often not (intentionally) taught

It's no news that listening to the news can ruin your day, but even though most of what news-makers find worth talking about, isn't worth talking about, there's still that occasional golden comment that can bring you some valuable free lessons and laughter - if you don't mind that laughter being highly acidic, a tad dry, and with a smile that bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the Joker's that is.

For instance, this comment, which we see in one form or another, all the time,

"How could they do this?! Why would they do this?!"

, coming as it usually does, with some relation to schooling - teachers and students - it never fails to stir a slightly deranged giggle, but still, a laugh's a laugh and laughter's the best medicine, or so they say ("Why so serious?"), and there are millions of laughs to be found in listening to people talking about the news.

And they're not too difficult to find either. Just look back over some recent news, jog the cycle back just a few clicks, and you'll find loads of 'how could they do this, why would they do this?!' stories running the gamut from college rape culture (college kids raping, or watching, or lying about, raping each other), as well as the ever popular instances of teachers having sex with students (so many that HuffPo keeps a running link to group them under as they happen), and if that's become too tame, there are teachers exhorting people to burn down pizzerias. And of course there's also College athletes & coaches playing at education, and their rioting - winning or losing team - fans, and let's not forget the latest popular craze of rioting and burning down our cities - there's lots of occasions for the punchline to be delivered.

However horrifying the particular news story might be, it's almost always accompanied by that unintentionally golden punchline comment, which, if you don't mind the punch to the gut, it makes the medicinal laughter go down. Even when you can see it coming from a mile away, it still works, usually with a comically rubber faced delivery, of:

"How could they do this?! Why would they do this?!"

Comedy gold. Hmmm? What's so funny about that? Well, of course it's not the situations themselves that are so funny, but people's reactions to them.

You're not laughing? Maybe I can give a hint or two more that won't ruin the joke with an explanation.... Here, try this fairly recent example, from a local humor talk show, when the host, Dave Glover, made a passing comment about how our MO senator McCaskil caused a twitter storm, when she had made a rude comment about rude students and then she made an even ruder apology for it, over something about disliking how Duke's basketball coach has too many students who were 'one and done' - played one year and left for the NBA. Well the gist of Glover's comment (from memory here) amounted to:
"I don't know what she's talking about - you go to college to make a good living, if the NBA offered you gobs of money to play after one year of college, why on earth would you pass that up? Even if you were injured, you'd have quite a pile of money to sit on and the time to go back to school if you wanted to!"
Well, one very offended edu-enthusiast called in and berated him for it, railing on to the effect of:
"These kids need their education! They don't know how to handle their money or go into business, and when they wash out of the NBA they beat their wives and kill people!"
Now that's funny! Happily the host got at least part of the joke, chuckling that
"I don't know what you think those last one to three years of college is going to teach them, but I don't think it's going to turn their entire lives around - if you're a douche a year into college, you're still going to be a douche after graduating."
Now please, the least interesting part is what they were disagreeing about - how much college a student needs. That's just rehashing the convoluted heart of the one sided debate on education that we've been pleasuring ourselves with for over a century, which might be summed up as:
"Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, knowledge is power, so get an education to get the knowledge needed get a job and make lots of money, and never forget that Having lots of money is bad, and pay attention in school so you can earn more of it."
Seriously. Think about it. Very (Joker) funny. What the interesting or amusing part of their exchange is, to me anyway, is what they both not only agreed upon, but didn't even think to question - that we send kids to school to get a 'good education', which both understood to mean getting the skills needed to get 'a good job' or IOW learning to 'do this to get that' - or as the caller said, 'learning how to manage their money so they don't beat their wives'. Now goddammit, that's funny!

You're... still not laughing? Oh come on, you're not even trying here! Look, think of all that the 'Do this to get that' mindset both implies and excludes from the minds of those 'educated' by it; think about how often people are asking, usually in stunned amazement, of those who've studiously learned one skill or another - managing money, or managing people or engineering this or that - and so after learning nothing more, and even much less, than some such set of useful skills, with very little, if any, time 'wasted' on reflections of what they ought, or ought not do (except maybe to say "it's insensitive to think about what is right or wrong"), after subjecting students to 12, 16, 18 years or more of that, they then, then, then think to ask in the wake of the latest demonstration of bad behavior:
"How could they do this?! Why would they do this?!"
What do they think their behavior demonstrates, besides the uber-satisfied skill of having learned to 'do this to get that'? Oh my. That's when I find myself trying my damnedest to not be so serious, shaking my head to swerve instead into the laughter, however caustic, venting to myself or to their faces or to the radio, saying:
'You're asking the wrong damn question, ask instead: Why wouldn't they do exactly what they are doing?'
Which is worth a good laugh, or at least it is, if like me, you've got enough experience with them to know that their reply is going to be - an almost Three Stooges-ish I-can-see-the-joke-coming-from-a-mile-away slapstick humor as they indignantly reply:
"Why wouldn't they?! Because it's ruining their lives; their businesses; our country; the world!"
ROFL. It's hard to suppress the urge to shout back: "No, no, no, you're missing the point, you're asking the wrong question!" But you know they weren't going to get either the joke or the point, no matter how obvious you make it. Even so, I've got to ask: 'Why wouldn't they do those outrageous things that you're so shocked 'shocked I say!' over their having done?!'

If  you too are still coming up giggleless, maybe you can strike comedy gold by digging a bit in the mine of the idiot Misosophers - a Philosopher is one who loves wisdom, a Misosopher is one who hates wisdom - this recent one's handy, a fellow aptly named Swift, who comes closest to getting the point of the joke (though probably still without cracking a smile), as he says:
"‘The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,’ he says. "
You can tell that the roots of the Joker's joke lie here, and that the jokes sadly on us all, because the very next thing the reporter says is:
"This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion—that perhaps in the interests of levelling the playing field, bedtime stories should also be restricted...."
Now it's true that Philosophy, the Love of Wisdom, did find its beginning in Plato's Socratic dialogues, including Socrates' seeming (if taken un-ironically) proposal, from The Republic, to do away with the biological parents (funny how they never seem to ask 'What to do about the parents?') in favor of the supposedly higher ideal of raising children communally. But it's only as Philosophy has descended into Misosophy, where you find their practitioners reluctantly, truly reluctantly, admitting that such ideals could have 'issues' on being put into practice. Still though, they say:
"‘I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,’ quips Swift."
Note that his primary interest is not in attempting to raise as many people as possible up, which would be the wise, kind, thing to do, but in desiring to impose a leveling 'equality' upon all, i.e. cutting all the poppies down to the same size - does that seem either wise or kind or interested in either? As usual, education is seen as the tool for such (malicious, IMHO) social engineering.

Of course they have no intention of confining the leveling of such valuable stories to bedtime alone, but to educational curriculum as well, where they've been at it since 1800 (do yourself a favor and read Terrence O. Moore's "The Story Killers"), and have now moved to the point of gutting even the pretense of teaching historically important stories in college History classes as well.

It should come as no surprise that like minded educational professionals have decided that a state required history qualification can be met, with history which leaves out some of the most important history of the last century, as one irate professor of History notes:
All of my colleagues among the historians at Sacramento State believe the subject matter of the new introductory “history” course fails to give students an adequate grasp of the significant events and personalities that have shaped U.S. history over the past 100 years, and violates the spirit of a California Code (Title 5, 40404), which establishes American history as a G.E. priority for CSU students.

The new introductory “history” course leaves out, among other things, the Progressive Era, World War I, women’s suffrage, the Great Depression, FDR, the New Deal, World War II, McCarthyism, the Cold War, the Korean War, the nuclear arms race, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the JFK assassination, Freedom Summer, the United Farm Workers Union, the Vietnam War, Stonewall, Watergate, Second Wave Feminism, the Iranian hostage crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War, globalization, the 9/11 attacks, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Swapping an anthropology course for American history will leave our freshmen and sophomores little understanding of how American institutions have changed through time; how events such as World War I and II transmuted those institutions; and how the historical context altered the balance of power between the branches of the federal government and contributed to the rise of the United States as a global superpower.
And that brings us back to my earlier point:
'You're asking the wrong question, ask instead: Why wouldn't they do exactly what they are doing?'
Lovers of Irony should appreciate the humor that lies in the fact that both the haters of history and the haters of wisdom are the ones that actually come closest to grasping the truth of the matter - they'd like to deprive everyone of worthwhile stories, because they know them to have a real, positive, affect - as the Misosopher reported, story time can have a positive affect that is:
"... bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t"
, remember? And having had the 'privilege' of being filled with stories that made the thoughts which lead to detestable actions, if not unheard of, at least unwelcome and unfavorable ground for them. The child raised, night after night, day after day, with good, engaging, inspiring, stories, told to them, not to be tested for a grade, but with love and affection for their enjoyment and benefit, drive the more naturally barbaric narratives to the twilight fringes of the mind.

And the only response the ProRegressive misosophist has is "How unfair! Stop that virtuous cycle now!"

The Pro-Regressive demonstrates time and again, that they know that the answer to the question of 'why wouldn't they do that [outrage]?', is that those who are raised on the best stories told to them by those who care most for them, are far less likely to behave like savages, than those who are not, because possessing those stories deep within you, makes barbaric actions repellent to such a person.

And the barbarism isn't repellent because they're called crimes or come with penalties, but because if those stories live within them, then they'll have little or no inclination towards such base and dark thoughts in the first place, and would feel revulsion and shame on even recognizing such endarkened thoughts on their own mental home turf.

Swift demonstrates without a doubt that they know this! Yet callously, spitefully, their first impulse is to deprive, or at least dampen, those who do benefit from them, over attempting to spread them to those who tragically lack them - they don't want to improve the lot of as many as they can, but to make everyone equally bad off. They don't want to increase wisdom, but to make it more rare, and those are not the actions of people who love wisdom, but who hate and resent it.

So what of those students who were raised to be tested on skills almost exclusively directed towards managing money or engineering machines and improving performance and power and to the strains of 'knowledge is Power!'? Getting only timely messages and nudges instead of timeless stories, they have no time or interest in those stories that an ever diminishing few are being blessed with having had the privilege to be raised upon, and without those stories living within them, why wouldn't they behave like barbarians (keeping in mind that for the ancient Greeks who coined the term, 'barbarians' had to do, not with race, but with what a people were encultured, read - or didn't), because it would get them charged with a crime? Seriously?

Crime Fighting Stories
Come on now, if you want decent answers, you're going to have to up your game on the questions you bother asking.

Why would the potential criminal care or be concerned about, committing a crime? What do they mean by crime? What do YOU mean by crime? Breaking the 'law'? Meaning... some rule that carries a penalty?! Look at how full our prisons are, is there some reason to think that those who do things that land them in prison, think about the consequences of their actions?

Ask yourself again, what do they understand, what do they know, what do they believe, what do they care about to the depths of their soph-esteem, that would make them at the very least, uncomfortable, about doing those [insert outrage here] things? If they're thinking about whether or not they'll get caught, they're already lost to you, for if the penalty is what you're counting on dissuading them from committing a crime, you're a day late and a dollar short and you might as well call the cops 'cause it's a police matter now.

What do they understand, what have they learned, what have they been taught, what is it that in the way that they are in the habit of actively seeing their daily lives, that would make them even wonder about what another person, nameless or known, would feel, on having a crime committed against them? What would cause them to even wonder about what might cause that other person pain? Why on earth would such higher thoughts, one of the few true fruits of real Progress, ever even enter their minds?

Unless they are taught to think ABOVE 'doing this to get that', then their first thoughts will be of 'what to do to get what they want', instead of first going up through 'what would be best', and only then, what they 'should be doing to get that'. Which thoughts do you think entered the minds of the college students raping their fellow college student on the beach in the middle of a party? Those which first went Up through what they should do, or first went out towards what they desired to do? Without learning to first go upwards, they will first seek outward, 'practical' considerations, 'can I do this to get that...' and maybe, maybe, if they're parents are real lucky, they might momentarily wonder '... can I get away with it?'

The first thoughts of 'What do I want', rather than 'what should every person consider', are - no matter how smart, or how many degrees they might possess, or what team might have picked them up - the thoughts of an idiot. And I'm not being unnecessarily harsh, that is the root definition of an Idiot, looking no further than your own desires and council, ignorant of wiser actions or the ramifications of your actions.used derisively in ancient Athens to refer to one who declined to take part in public life. And, not too coincidentally, that is how criminals tend to think. Out, not Up.

You deter people from committing crimes by elevating them to the habit of seeing other people as being people, people with lives, thoughts, feelings, rights, which, even when radically different from yours, are important to them, and which violating would be an act of a horrific beast, certainly nothing that a decent, kind, caring, responsible person, would ever consider doing.

That is what a decent Education should accomplish, instilling the habit of looking Up, before looking Out - which is what is eliminated by reducing the concept to training students with a set of useful skills for 'doing this, to get that'.

And... what in our society, what in our culture, what in our schools, what in what you practice and exhibit towards others, would help ingrain such habits of thought in another person? Go on, I'll just sit here while you think of which sarcastic sitcom, cartoon, movie, which 'heroes', demonstrate those qualities? Which comedians it is you listen to that make you think that good people are better and smarter than rude and cynical people? Which politician is it that you promote which puts their constituents upon a pedestal? Which sports star it is you cheer for who plays the game as a means to skillfully reveal their character? Which Sports hero demonstrates in his on field and off field behavior and demeanor, that a winning score isn't everything? Which Sport encourages that? Which... you're getting the picture, right?

So when someone asks you 'Why would they...', I suggest asking them 'Why wouldn't they do, exactly what they are doing?' What about such people (and for you looking for 'code words', 'such people' refers to nearly the entire damn population of the planet), what they believe and admire and emulate, would prevent them from doing exactly what it is that you are so 'shocked, shocked I say!' about?

Were they raised on nursery tales that led them to value doing the right and decent thing? To empathize with others? Were they raised to see anyone working at a job as worthy of respect (or are some jobs what you go to school so you won't have to do)? Victims? Leaders? Weaker fellows? Were they raised on tales of admiration? Achievement?

Were they encouraged to wonder? To question? To value the Truth above all else, and to pursue answers because they're true (rather than counting towards their GPA)?

Were they raised on tales that admired what is worthy of admiration, and stirred revulsion for what is not? Did they distinguish between Heroes and Villains... or did they go out of their way to point out how the lines between the to could become blurred?

Were their daily lessons geared towards teaching them how to manage their awareness and attention? How patience and practice result in skills and abilities from numerical calculations, to musical scales, and recreating beautiful drawings (and the relation between all three)?

Did their daily lives and lessons teach them to revere what is Good, Beautiful and True in the world and people around them, and urge them to live lives of the same quality? No?

What did they learn at school and from what they put in their heads? To get good grades so they can get a good (meaning high paying) job, manage their money so they don't beat their wives, and laugh along with snide, sarcastic 'comedians' who belittle any and all who don't tow the politically correct line?

Learning to 'do this, to get that', is a valuable skill to have, but as a means of choosing what to accomplish or what is worthy of accomplishing, it is a skill that leads inevitably to results that prompt baffled onlookers to ask 'how could they do this, why would they do this?!'.

So again, I ask you, why wouldn't they have done exactly what they did do?

The Once and Future Kings
And why have you not been wondering about that? Take a look at your own 'credentials' - diplomas, degrees, certifications, permits - and ask yourself just who it was that taught you to not think, about what they aren't thinking about, either?

There you go.


And if you'd like some answers, or better yet some better questions, you might take a gander at what the curriculum of Columbia University ("King's College" at the time) was in 1763. "As you look through this list, keep in mind that the average age of the first-year student was fifteen!"

And no, it's not just a 'meme', this is how it was, at Columbia, and it was also very much representative of the other schools who formed the Education of the Founder's era. And, no, in case you're wondering, the point of an education, then, wasn't 'to get a good job', it was to learn to be a more aware, capable, worthy person, capable of living a life worth living.

Oh, and incidentally, that sort of person is quite capable of 'earning a good living' in any field, and under any circumstances - even if it means starting a revolution and creating a new nation to do it. Which is one lesson that is usually not intentionally taught to day. But that doesn't mean you can't learn it for yourself.

But then, where's the humor in that, right? Why so serious...?

First Year
Sallust, Historia
Caesar, Commentaries
Ovid, Metamorphoses
Virgil, Eclogues
Aesop, Fables
Lucian, Dialogues
​New Testament
Grotius, De Veritate
Latin Grammar
Greek Grammar
English & Latin Themes
Cornelius Nepos
Second Year
Cicero, De Officiis
Quintus Curtius
Ovid, Epistles
Virgil, Georgics
New Testament
Xenophon, Institutio Cyri and Anabasis
Farnaby, Epigrams
Greek Grammar
Latin Grammar
Wallisius, Logic
Sanderson, Compendium
Johnson, Noetica
Latin & English Themes and Verse
Third Year
Cicero, Orations and De Oratore
Pliny the Younger
Aristotle, Ethics & Poetics
Plato, Dialogues
Xenophon, Memorabilia
Compendium Ethicae
Syllogistic Disputations
Latin & English Themes
Latin & English Verses
Fourth Year
Cicero, Tusculan Disputations
​Tacitus​, Histories
Homer, Odyssey
Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Hebrew Grammar
Biblical Hebrew
Moral Philosophy
Latin Themes
Latin & English Verses

1 comment:

neal said...

So, my sons former girlfriend majored in psychology. She ran away to Detroit. Hooked up with a jihadist.
I think she will have issues trying to redeem the dead parrot.

Her father, an agnostic tradesman. Divorced from the old worn out stripper Mother.

I thought she would end up turning tricks in California. Dreams, and such.