Yet Another Rant on Education, 4/15/11

I think I should resolve to speak about education less. The last two articles on the topic I attempted to read, both courtesy aldaily, were insufferable in different ways. “Why Bother?” in n + 1 was far too pretentious for me to finish reading. The fundamental premise was terrible: it reviewed three books by fairly prominent academics, two of which aimed to give a defense of the humanities. A little Marxist conspiracy theory is helpful here – weren’t these books designed to sell, gain the writers some more attention, maybe boost a CV that much more? I don’t think you can defend the humanities in the abstract from an established perch, especially not when there are people like me around, fighting to get poetry and serious readings into people’s hands while being paid nothing (I admit wholly to being a fame whore. It’s kinda fun). If you have a title or are well-to-do in a field, the way you defend the humanities is by giving that much more for free. I should be the one trying to sell a book. Lord knows I need the cash.

Scott Adams’ “How to Get a Real Education” contains quite a bit of advice that’s pretty good for the campus I’m on right now. But the campus I’m on right now is a strange place. The undergraduates are almost always studying; the academic workload for many classes would cause me to fail, even now; there’s virtually nothing to do off-campus if one doesn’t have a car. Most of Adams’ advice boils down to “take the initiative and do something, take risks.”  But I’ve been at different schools where every other student is trying to run a business while taking courses while dating a steady girlfriend while helping the homeless… you get the idea. There’s something really important about college being a time where it is, for the most part, you and the books alone. Obviously that can be taken to an extreme, as I think it is by many students here. But as I tell the undergraduates at times: “This is the only time in your life where people care that you learn something. After this, if you want to read a book, people will look at you strangely. Why aren’t you doing something to further your career? Why aren’t you making more money? Why aren’t you married? This is the one time where you are encouraged to work with difficult ideas, to be so much more than our limited imaginations. We need you to be more than merely successful; we need you to understand, appreciate, and become independent in the highest sense.”


  1. I think you should rant more on education, but develop and promote an overall theory of it, like that John Taylor Gatto fellow.

    Education is great. It is wasted in the United States by an insistence that the lowest common denominator is a valid target. The resulting inward-looking educational culture ends up beating the fun out of learning at the same time it alienates people from their souls.

    That in turn makes them better worker-cogs and consumer-cogs, but it’s not helping humanity.

  2. Its kinda funny, I spent part of my college life running a business while studying and having no social life, and when the business failed I spent the rest of college studying and having fun.

    Building a business now shortly after graduation, I sometimes think about how much further ahead I’d be if I had spent those last few years rebuilding instead of having fun.

    But you also make a good point, I had experiences that I probably won’t be able to replicate again for a long time now that I’m in the “real world”. I think the better perspective is just to appreciate the friends and good times I had back then. If anything, its made me a more well rounded person, I think.

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