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Thursday Take-Down of “Our Education”

Studying is essentially still this: converting stuff in books to stuff in brains. In order to do well in school you have to have a large storage and excellent read/write access to it. Very much as if processor, programming and sensitivity to context do not matter. It is like our education system is stuck in not caring about anything but our memory capacity. And so it produces the new standard uniform class of power people who have muscled memory, and the disciplined balls that go with it. I’ll try to explain why this is as unnecessary as it is bad and why it’s nevertheless unlikely to change.

When we were hunter-gatherers muscles and testosterone got you into power. After this, the word was orally transmitted, and those with the memory and the voice for it became priests on top of the power chain. Then writing was invented and, slowly but surely, this world became dominated by intellectuals with the skill of memorizing and reproducing. Meanwhile we have computers and the internet but the power equilibrium is protected; creativity and diversity are suspect challengers of powers that are by now so intertwined that intellectuals defend the timeless value of hunter-gatherers bowing to the priests of a new meritocracy based on the memory and discipline to make money.

That this is unnecessary should be clear from the fact that who buys computers based on the single criterium of storage is demonstrably stupid. Its badness is that which has been denounced by philosophers for centuries. Whether it is Nietzsche calling out a stalemate of given wisdom or Foucault pinpointing fixed-power games as stifling humanity in both its quest for truth and its openness to accept otherness as asset, creativity and diversity is barked upon. The powerful always want everything to stay the same even if it means the giving of lip service to art, by castrating creativity to innovation for instance or making a point of all kinds of diversity as long as they don’t challenge the merit of memory – and of the endurance and staying power that goes with it.

The thing with a status quo is that it is hard to unsettle. Specifically because it works as a self-fulfilling prophecy: see the success of people with memory and discipline (and some modicum of the priests’ or politicians’ double tongue and maybe some muscles and some beauty to boot), our education works if you can just make yourself to fit in it. Well, what’s wrong with this is the education system itself: use technology to relax it, and new human values will emerge. They will be better because nobody wants to go back to grunting and hunting, I gather, but that’s the problem right there: what’s better for the many in future is worse for the happy few of here and now. They will fight for their privilege and even if they are, basically, stupid memory-reproducing people disciplined into dullness, they will know to draw the line in reforming our education system.

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January 18, 2018 - Posted by | boredom |

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