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A New Superhero - Renaissance Man

Compartmentalization equals death.

Once upon a time, education included the Trivium and Quadrivium.  A student was required to survey the sum total of human experience before being allowed to specialize in a degree.  This is what we call a liberal arts education - liberal being the operative word in that it set one free.

A recent article triggered some deep thinking on the state of the world and the mess that we call education today.

People have gotten so narrowly focused that they not only cannot think outside the box, they can't even define the limits of the box because they can't see that far.  A typical college graduate enters the work force so specialized that he or she is incapable of drawing on multiple points of view in problem-solving.  Inspiration for the really big breakthroughs requires the ability to call on multiple disciplines.  Creativity thrives on the ability to approach any problem from many different angles.

The concept of the "renaissance man" has long since died out.  People who can competently play a muscal instrument, recite poetry, pursue independent investigations into the sciences, be able to speak more than one language fluently, discuss history with some authority, travel extensively, and so on are vanishingly rare anymore.

One key to a well-rounded education is reading.  It seems that most people one encounters these days don't read at all, or if they do, it is only within the field of their career.  Those who still read the news seem to only draw from select sources whose socio-political outlook matches their own.  Few will consciously seek out viewpoints that diverge from their own just to consider the arguments presented.

In observing this state of things, I begin to believe that it is by design.  Having populations that are highly specialized keeps them ignorant of opposing ideas, and thus divided and unable to work together.  This division serves the purpose of preventing large numbers of people from diverse backgrounds from forming alliances that could effectively change political systems.  Without unity, there is no power, and so it serves the Powers That Squat to keep us all ignorant and unable to communicate effectively.

A college graduate that has spent most of his matriculation focused on accounting makes a good wage slave.  They don't question much and are incapable of solving problems in other areas, effectively pidgeon-holing the employee and preventing them from knowing too much about how the rest of the business functions.  If he were too broadly educated, the accountant would be an effective threat to the equally pidgeon-holed executives and their corner offices and juicy paychecks and bonus packages.

Think about black projects in government or corporate worlds.  The most effective way to keep a project a secret is to let as few people in on the Big Picture as possible.  Company A has only enough information to produce their widget, but how that widget fits into the overall scheme is a mystery.

The same is true with populations.  By having an educational system geared towards specialization, people are effectively cut off from seeing the Big Picture, and so never have enough information to challenge the status quo.  This keeps most people nicely compliant, and those who get out of hand never know enough of the Big Picture to ever be a real threat.  If anyone ever causes real damage to the system, it is by sheer dumb luck and even the 'perpetrator' is unaware of what he has done.

The cited article talks about how specialization has stifled creativity, and in that respect, it is absolutely right.  However, it stops short of hitting the problem on the head.  At some level of society, it serves an elites' purpose to stifle free though and keep people pidgeon-holed because it ensures their hegemony.

This brings us to one of the main themes here on the Far Side: the internet is a huge threat to the ruling classes.  That people have free and easy access to so much information endangers the carefully crafted system of specialization.  They must scramble to ensure that we the people never figure out that we don't need their educational system anymore.  If we did, not only would they be unable to maintain their system of putting every college graduate in indentured servitude with student loans, those same graduates would start to become a real threat to the system itself as the Big Picture began to reveal itself.

The stifling of creativity due to specialization is not an unintended consequence, it is the very point of it.  The so-called education system we have is a weapon used to keep us in our assigned stations in life.  Our most effective defense and best weapon is reading and learning everything we can get our hands on.

When we understand how history, art and science work together to form a Big Picture, we will suddenly find why the Trivium and Quadrivium of the ancient world were called a "liberal" education.  Knowledge is freedom - liberation and liberty.  To obtain it requires reading, and not fiction (though it has its place).  It requires reading history, scientific theses, literature, philosophy, religious texts, and law.  It requires us to express ourselves through the arts, and to appreciate how others have done the same.

Only when we can draw on the sum total of human knowledge and experience can we call ourselves free.  It is not an easy task, but it is necessary if we are to survive as a species.  Slavery comes in many subtle forms, and 'education' is one of the most insidious, for it makes us feel intelligent while binding our minds with chains even more effective than physical ones.

If we spent just half the time we devote to TeeVee reading non-fiction from a variety of disciplines, we would see the world change radically and quickly for the better.