Here Thar Be Monsters!

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30.4.16

Minutae And Intersections

What is wrong with modern education systems?  Why can't we turn out smart people?  And what kind of system created the giants of history?

Modern education has become the domain of "educational theorists" who spend their time worrying about techniques and feel-good pablum that does nothing to educate.  Silly little trust exercises, group think workshops and rote jingoism are not education.  They are indoctrination.  Indoctrination does not teach one how to think, but what to think.

Students graduate with no framework on which to build a lifetime of learning.  In fact, most come out of school thinking they now know everything they will ever need to know.  This is a horrible and frightening fact that serves only those who need button-pushers and lever-pullers.  The biggest problem is that the corporate world is fast replacing the pushers and pullers with a far more (so they think) malleable and controllable workforce.  And even bigger problem is that these poor folks have no tools to think their way out of the coming wave of mass worker displacement.

It is a fact that many of the giants, on whose shoulders we stand, did not receive the standard 16-year education we consider necessary today.  People like Thomas Edison, Edgar Allan Poe and Albert Einstein had only the most cursory educations, by our current standards, yet they changed the world with little more than the ability to read, write and cipher, and a strong impulse towards autodidacticism (self-learning).

One thing notably missing in today's world of corporate education are schools of thought, even though the idiom still exists.  Once upon a time, different schools had different approaches to learning and the belief systems they espoused.  A quick look at art history shows that most of the great movements in art came out of specific schools with innovative approaches to the philosophy and techniques that creates art.  The Bauhaus, for instance, distinguished itself by merging handcrafts with fine art, and teaching a "form follows function" philosophy of art and architecture.  Aristotle, Plato and Euclid all created schools to promote their unique views and interpretations of the real world.

This approach had the advantage of allowing students to choose for themselves which philosophies best suited their own weltanschauungs and created a true marketplace of ideas.  Professors survived by having world views that were more actionable than another.  One chose a university, not by success on the football field, but by which one taught the most successful ideas and processes.

In the modern system, there is little difference in schools anywhere.  One is taught the Big Bang, Evolution, Electrical Theory and so on as if it is all set in stone, with no room for improvement or, especially new ideas.  Instead of reading the giants and discussing their propositions, and then arguing with the professors, one sits quietly in lectures, memorizes "facts" and vomits them onto bubble forms, never having learned why or whether there are competing ideas.

In Western education (Eastern followed a similar track), there were the Trivium and Quadrivium.  The Trivium we all know as Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric (input/processing/output).  The Quadrivium consists of Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy (observation of the Natural World).  Together, these are the seven Liberal Arts that every educated person was required to know in order to think critically and express their ideas coherently.  Only after mastering the Liberal Arts could one go on to specialize in the Practical Arts (law, medicine, etc.) or Trades (finance, manufacturing, etc.).

This is radically different from the namby-pamby Educational Theory approach.  Educational Theory seeks the simplest and most effective means to stuff information into a brain.  It does nothing to teach processing and expression (at least non-emotional kinds).  It is experiential rather than intelectual, and focuses on "approaching a child at their developmental level," rather than challenging the child to rise up to something greater.

No wonder the vast majority of kids today are deathly bored in school.  No challenges to learning and a future of drone living pulling one specific lever and pushing one specific button.

On top of these radically different approaches to learning and content, there are no options in schools of thought.  The information at Harvard is the same as the information as Cal Tech, with the only possible differences in the organization of the chapters of the "professor's" textbooks.

Even worse, there is no sense of connection between disciplines.  In other words, there is no philosophical connection between the arts and sciences.  Cosmology and Philosophy are just credits on the transcript, not a means of uniting diverse information into a coherent picture of the Universe.  Without the tools of critical thinking, kids can't take new information, analyze it and plug it into a resolved tapestry of understanding.  And without that ability, there can be no new ideas, processes or insights.

The current technique of education presents a finish picture to young minds.  When new information comes along, the mind tries to fit it into the finished picture.  If it doesn't fit, it is discarded without any attempt to modify or interpret the information with a basic set of tools.  Thus, radically new ideas are thrown out because no one can analyze the structure of the idea or express it with any kind of coherence.

I was lucky.  I had some very intelligent teachers, beginning with my parents.  My teachers spent a lot of time showing me that class work was only a taste of what is available.  I was taught how to be an autodidact, a self-teacher.  I was given the tools to analyze and express new ideas, and incorporate them into my weltanschauung.

People are amazed at how many languages I speak (17 with 4 fluent).  It's easy, actually.  Once you master grammar, the rest is plugging in vocabulary.  Grammar is more or less the same in every human form of communication.  There are subjects, verbs, objects, qualities, quantities, and time.  That's it!  The rest is just learning how to say "green" with different words.

Grammar teaches framework.  Logic teaches structure.  Rhetoric teaches expression.  Music teaches harmony.  Geometry teaches Nature.  Astronomy teaches place.  Arithmetic teaches quantification.  Together, they form a complete image of the Universe we call Philosophy, and Philosophy leads to Cosmology, which is speculation on how it all began and how it will all end.

What a sad, tiny little Universe today's students must inhabit.  They are presented with a complete story.  The walls are already built and they only need to run around touching up the plaster and paint.  Nothing to discover.  Nothing to invent.  No room for changing the world.  WYSIWYG.  And the only thing you are allowed to see is what "they" tell you to see.

Without the basic tools, these poor young minds have no way to teach themselves, and worse, no desire, because they believe everything is "settled science."  They resign themselves to a lifetime of pushing and pulling, never knowing how vast their potential truly is.  With a steady steam of cinematic history and "unreality" (a.k.a. Virtual Reality), they can't even distinguish between what is real and what is complete fantasy.  How can you evaluate a film "based on a true story" if you have never studied history and don't know what a book is.

Truly, the only answer is to become an autodidact first, then teach your children, as well.  We cannot depend on ANY schools in the modern system to actually educate anyone.  They are pusher-and-puller factories.  If you want children who will change the world and have any hope of becoming true leaders, then the process begins with your own habits.

Turn off the teevee.  Use your computer for research and reading in your spare time.  Write a blog to clarify your thoughts and challenge others to think about new things.  The place to start is HERE.  It's never too late to improve yourself.

The rest will follow.

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