Archives for posts with tag: education

More than ten years ago I was preparing my thesis.
To get a ‘title’ – BA in sociology, in my case, each Romanian student must submit a paper to a commission. To help them, students are allowed to chose a Professor.
My choice had been Petre Anghel.
We had many interesting ‘exchanges’. Before, during and after preparing my thesis.
One of the most interesting ones had been about education.

Education is, maybe, the most ‘conservative’ things known to man.
The transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next one is the single thing which allows a society to survive.
And to thrive, if each successive generation diligently improves
what has been bestowed upon it!

Petre Anghel

Fast forward to right now.

The US is the current ‘top dog’.

According to my Teacher, for a nation to reach this ‘stage’ it needs a smooth flow of knowledge from one generation to the next one. And a strenuous effort to improve that knowledge made by each successive generation.

Nowadays, both current generations – the one trying to pass over its knowledge and the one at the receiving end of the process, are dissatisfied with the current ‘education system’.
Many belonging to the ‘mature’ generation are obsessing about ‘who runs the system and towards which end’ while the ‘learning generation’ is buckling under the costs incurred during the process.

Do I need to remind you that it’s the conservatives the world over who are whining about this?

OK, I understand the whiners living in failed states. Afghanistan, Somalia…
But those enjoying the perks of living in the ‘civilized’ world?
What are they complaining about?
Weren’t they in charge while the current education system had been put in place?
Aren’t they the parents, and educators, of the current student generation?

What’s going on here?!?
Why are the American Conservatives, living in the most advanced country of the world – no doubt here!, the most vocal critics of their own education system?

What, and why, went wrong?

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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
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If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

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I challenge you to try an experiment.
Click the illustration bellow, copy the link and post it to your favorite social media.
Then observe the likes you’ll get. I wasn’t surprised to notice that many people on the right side of the political divide were quite fond of it’s spirit…

‘Yeah, only MLK hadn’t been “formally affiliated with either political party“…”

Well… how about this one?

‘OK, and your point is…?’

That there’s not much real difference between the radicals. Between the radical members of both parties.
Both are so convinced that they ‘know better’ that neither have any qualms trying to impose their vision upon everybody else.
Both are so convinced that they are right that they ‘hate’ all other authority but their own. And they hate each-other’s guts… only that comes with the territory…

Let me start with the beginning.

I grew up under a communist regime. Drowning in propaganda. The education system was finely tuned to raise us, children, as ‘the New Man’. All cultural effort – culture was ‘sponsored’ by the communist state and heavily censored, was meant to achieve the same goal. Immediately after the communist regime had grabbed the absolute political power, the legislation had been altered to reflect the ‘new reality’. And then used to convince the people to change their behavior according to the new rules.
According to whatever the new masters had in mind …
So that they could control everything. That nobody else could have exerted any authority. That nobody else could have had any real influence over anything.

And, as you might know, the communist regime – most of them, anyway, had eventually crumbled. Under its own weight.

Which teaches us two things.

That whenever a system is run in an authoritarian manner, mistakes keep piling. One on top of the previous one. Constituting the dead-weight which will eventually sink the ship.
That no artificial ‘New Man’ will ever survive for long. Yes, you may ‘legislate behavior’ – even against the true wishes of the general population, only the ‘new’ arrangement will not last for long. For a ‘legislation’ to be able to survive for any substantial amount of time it has to reflect the ‘true heart’ of those called to put it into practice. To ‘follow the rules’. That you ‘can restrain the heartless’ but for only as long as the ‘heartless’ remain a small minority.

Want to ‘change’ something? Then open people’s eyes first. Only that way they’ll eventually open up their hearts.

‘What about the spat between AOC and Ted Cruise? Where’s the link between what happened with GameStop and MLK’s attempt to regulate behavior?’

Both AOC and Ted Cruise hate the fact that there are independent agents. Besides them, of course. That there still are people who call their own shots. Private companies they cannot control, media venues, independent authorities… The ‘AOC’-s and the ‘Ted Cruise’-s of this world hate each-others guts but have more or less the same convictions.

That they are right – and everybody else is wrong.
And that there must be a way!
That there must be a way, a ‘rational’ way, in which their righteousness may be imposed upon the rest of the world.

That ‘rational’ way implying two things.
Control over the ‘material’ resources and control over people’s minds.

That’s why the communists had ‘abolished’ private property. That’s why the (no longer free market) contemporary capitalists are OK with extreme wealth polarization. As long as they on the right side of the ‘in-equation’, of course…
That’s why education has become such a hot subject.
That’s why control over the legislative process has become so important.
Why controlling the markets – controlling them, not preserving their freedom, is paramount…

The only bright thing in this whole mess being that the two sides still hate each-other’s guts.
Which gives us some more lee-way.

Time to understand that for progress to be possible we need to take care of our roots. To ‘conserve’ them!
Time to remember that ‘pruning’ needs to be done carefully.

That we have to ‘cut’ only what’s ‘wrong’, not everything we don’t like.

How to tell those two apart?
‘Humility’ comes very handy in these moments….
Freedom isn’t for free. Nobody is free by itself, only together.
Those who really want to be free must start by respecting each-other.
That’s how mistakes are avoided. By asking for a second-opinion. By listening to what others have to say on the matter.
That’s how normalcy is being defined. And preserved.
How we learn what’s ‘wrong’. How to tell what works from what needs to be pruned.

I cannot wrap this up before giving you a fine example of how ‘propaganda’ works.
It starts with cutting up the truth. By actually pruning it to fit the purpose. Then let’s our already primed brains to do the rest.

See what I mean?

We’ve arrived at a very interesting point in our evolution as a cultural species.

Having more or less solved our existential problems – food, shelter, companionship, we’re hard at work towards building ‘self esteem’.

Putting it in Abraham Maslow’s terms, a good portion of the humankind – most of those active on the internet, the netizens, have reached the ‘self-actualization’ stage.

The problem being that we’re so preoccupied with ‘expressing our true selves’ that almost nobody listens anymore. Truly listens…

The kind of listening needed when we try to learn something. To understand what’s going on.

As opposed to the listening used when educating somebody.

When attempting to learn, we listen opening our minds. We let information in and structure it afterwards.
When educating people, our listening is focused. We take information in with the sole goal of detecting dissent – in order to stifle it, and openings to exploit in our quest to implant our opinion about the world in the minds of our ‘targets’.

Take a breath.
And exhale carefully not to inflate another bubble.
There are already a lot of them waiting to burst.

takes-a-village-quote

I’ve spent the first 30 years of my life under communist rule.

One of their many ‘mantras’ was: ‘Children are the future of mankind’.

Communist rule had brought about so much happiness in Romania that people had stopped making children.
Concerned about the future the communists had decreed that from then on abortion was to be considered a crime – after it was freely available until that time,  October 1, 1966.
As a consequence more than 10 000 women died after botched abortion attempts – all other methods for birth control had been banned also.
Add to those deaths the individuals, mostly youngsters, killed while attempting to flee communism by sneaking across the borders.

But there was one good thing that communist rule had brought to the people. Not that much because the communists really cared about the fate of the individuals but because they needed skilled laborers in order to put their plans into practice.

Schooling was free.
You could learn as much as you wanted without having to pay a dime.
One had to pass some exams, positions were limited for higher education, but if you were smart enough and diligent enough you could go really high. Specially in the area that is currently known as ‘STEM’. ‘Humanities’ were somewhat off limits, because one could get ‘funny’ ideas when delving too deep in that area but STEM was OK.

Fast forward to our days.

Half of my University mates – I have a MSc in Mechanical Engineering – have emigrated right after Ceausescu was toppled while political power in Romania has fallen under the constant grip of a small coterie which doesn’t really care about what’s going on and/or has not enough intellectual flexibility to understand that we are currently running towards a dead end.

In the end the ‘good’ thing has proved to be a poisoned apple. By tuning the schooling system towards their own goals the communists had created many generations of  superb engineers – who were welcomed by the ‘greedy capitalists’ – but also had completely discouraged independent thinking – the kind needed to breed honest politicians and effective public figures, if you can accept those concepts as anything more than empty words.

Gazing over the borders I became even more despondent.

Forget, for a minute, about child pornography, sweat-shops and so on. These are absolutely horrible but we might console ourselves with the thought that those who are involved in them are either mentally disturbed or blinded by greed.

But something like this?

rape threats

Supposedly a feminist writer is followed by either like-minded people or opponents of her ideas only both categories belong to the wider category of ‘intellectuals’ – people concerned with ideas, human rights, philosophical thinking, etc., etc….
In this context to threat a mother that you are planning to rape her child is way above anything that was imaginable until this moment.
It’s as if being able of sophisticated thinking is no longer one of the venues towards becoming a better person – by simply being able to understand how much pain is produced by evil or careless behaviour.

Then I came across the meme at the top of my post.

I must confess that I don’t like her. For various reasons that do not fit here. Enough to say that while watching the DNC 2016 I had the distinct impression of being transported back in time to one of the congresses organized by the Romanian Communist Party.
Because of my dislike of her I had the tendency to believe that she had actually wrote that.

trust-but-verify-quote-2

So I did that.

false

“While it’s true that Hillary Clinton published a book in 1996 called It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us, it does not include the above-displayed quote, and Clinton (a parent herself) has not said at any point that she believes that children should be raised by the state with parents taking a secondary role.

 

OK, some of you will tell me that Snopes is leaning towards the left and that you cannot always trust its findings.

I can agree with that. Sometimes you should not believe your own eyes, let alone what you read over the Internet.

But my argument still stands.
What has happened to us?
Why are we so willing to involve even our children in our political lies? It doesn’t matter here who lied – Snopes or those who ‘cooked’ this meme…

What are politics for if not for securing a future for our children?

What kind of future can be build on lies?
On this kind of lies and on this kind of threats…

When are we going to understand that the state which side-lines the parents is a fascist one – fascism and communism are close authoritarian cousins, that no one can survive for long outside a community and that the community, as a whole and each of its members, fare better if all its members have a real chance to develop their potential?

Education and health care should not be treated as ‘individual rights’.
It is obvious to the naked eye that societies who take good care of their members while simultaneously respect their freedom fare better than those who let their members fend for themselves without helping them train for today’s job market and without extending them any safety net.
We keep saying that we need better skilled individuals and do nothing about it. We keep saying that in a free market there are risks that have to be taken yet we step back when a risk taker who happened to have failed, honestly, asks for our help.

OK, I understand. The communists dissuaded their children from studying ‘humanities’. Simply because they might have started to ask the very same questions that I’m asking today.

But what happened to the rest of the world?

Who is thinking about the future, beyond planning for future cash-flows (extremely unreliable in the first place), anyway?

quotes-about-education-16

but also

So?

The way I see it ‘education’ is a blanket term that covers many things:

– Mental conditioning into obeying the prevailing rules of the moment/place
– Accumulation of information that is deemed useful by the educators.
– ‘Training of the mind to think’ – only this cannot be done without first supplying the student with some information on which to hone his mind.
– “Training of the mind to think” according to the rules of the moment/place – the term currently used for this kind of attitude towards thinking is ‘science’. If those rules are not obeyed then not only that the results of the thinking process won’t be recognized as valid by the community but the thinker won’t even be able to share them with those around him because those results won’t resemble anything known/familiar/acceptable to most of the members belonging to that community.

– Training of the mind to think outside of the box. To be able to do that a student needs first to learn what a box is so he must graduate through the first four stages AND to overcome some of the conditioning he was subjected to during the first stage.

Only after he “awakens” a student might start to discover for himself the rest of the world. And only if he uses his newly found awareness in a sensible way he will be able to share the results of his thinking with those around him and thus contribute to the long time survival of the society (family, community) that has nurtured him through his ‘coming of age’.

And only if that society (family, community) takes good care of its young it will have any chances to survive.
‘Taking good care of its young’ meaning encouraging them to open their wings in search of their full potential, not shackling them down to the nest in search for absolute safety.

 

 check first    stop for the school bus
‘Supposed to stop’ and ‘will stop’ are two completely different things. We dearly need to teach our children that their safety is primarily their responsibility and that they need to check first (that the incoming driver has stopped, for instance) and act only when the circumstances allow it. Hoping that the adults will behave in a responsible manner is a legitimate wish but nothing more than that.
Educating the reckless drivers (punishment is a legitimate teaching tool) can make a difference indeed so we should pursue this venue also but there is a catch here.
Don’t you think that our current attitude towards the children conveys some sort of indifference about ‘tomorrow’?
Treating our children like they were totally irresponsible morons only encourages them to behave as if they really were so. And do you honestly imagine they’ll morph into ‘grown-up adults’ in a jiffy when they’ll reach the ‘magical’ age of legal drinking after being treated like that?
And something else.
People not only don’t stop for the school buses but also rip off children financially (high tuition and huge public debts that will fall in their laps), nutritionally (kids are among the preferred targets for the advertisers who promote junk food), emotionally (we abandon our kids in front of their computers, laden with stupid video games we sell to their parents for a hefty profit) and even sexually [ (long time) “Child abuse victims in Britsh town claim compensation” ] .

Is it because we don’t care anymore? Have we lost all our hope for tomorrow and trust in our fellow human beings?

Somehow I disagree with the notion of ‘over-education’… warped-education maybe?
My take is that nowadays the formal education system errs in two directions: induces false hopes coupled with an ineffective attitude: “Carefully toe the line and everything will come out fine.”
In a way this is true, only for two different groups of people: those who toe the line are not the same as those for whom everything comes out fine.
And this also valid for what is happening in the advertising business.