That American education is bereft of meaning in all but the most cloistered areas of its purview is self-evident. Little Liam and Olivia not only don’t know the three Rs by the 6th grade, they likely don’t even know what they are. Many of them and their like will sail through on the SS Ignoble right through high school into college or university learning little more than how to use their smartphone. My purpose here is not to kvetch about the rampant ignorance that characterizes the typical product of what passes for American education, but rather to point out its uselessness. I think it better if all education, other than that necessary to learn a trade, ceased once the phone has been mastered.
At trade school, and be certain that all so called professional schools are really nothing more than centers of very focused skills requiring little more than average intelligence, the student will gain the vocabulary and numeracy necessary to fix a piston or a broken fibula. He will have little need of the influence of Dante on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or anything to do with classical or modern literature. In fact, the whole concept of a liberal education gradually proposed by the universities of the West for at least a century and a half has been a calamitous failure.
This failure has two main pillars. First, almost no student has the intellectual equipment or the desire to benefit from such an education. Second, there are only a handful of teachers able to supply it. The number of instructors capable of confronting anything more complicated than concrete reasoning is further diminished by a generational bias so deeply ingrained as to be tattooed on their DNA. This bias makes the transmission of complex information similar in difficulty to the deciphering of the enigma machine at Bletchley Park. Also, a liberal education (assuming anyone wants one) can’t be taught; it can only be acquired by the solitary effort of those who desire it.
The United States is afflicted with more institutions purporting to purvey higher education than vermin in San Francisco. These numbers are so vast as to exponentially exceed the tally of students in need of purposeless inoculation masquerading as instruction. Many of these institutions are in deep financial difficulty. Others are swimming in money of dubious provenance given the uses for which the funds are employed (Forbes 2023 College Financial Grades). But I suppose fielding a winning football team benefits the university’s constituency more than the philosophy department or the political science (a grand contradiction in terms) department. The schools of music and dance have a valid reason for existence in that their students might learn something useful.
The professional schools like law and medicine are bloated with administrative fat of cetacean dimensions. They have filled their curricula with diversity fluff that has no utility in caring for sick people, in the case of medical schools or distorting the law and rules of evidence with respect to law. Their faculties are filled with instructors who know little about either medical practice or science. A similar condition prevails in law school. Everywhere standards are lowered such that preferred applicants who are not up to requisite capacity are admitted and passed along irrespective of skill. Standardized tests are dropped, though they are the best predictors of future success. Licensing and certification exams will either be nerfed or eliminated. The situation is so dysfunctional that it would be best to close all the professional schools and return to the apprentice model.
It is possible to become a learned professional? Yes, but probably not at the typical university trade school. How can it be done? First you must find a master who possesses the qualities that make him an exemplar of professional competence and general knowledge and wisdom. Good luck. At any one time there is never more than a handful of such individuals in any field, and they are widely spread. You’ve got to find him starting from a position of all around ignorance as to whom and where he might be and then get him to take you on. But your journey to true learning is just starting even after you make connection with the pedagogic titan. He cannot teach you to become a truly learned, well-educated professional as such knowledge can only be self-acquired. His job is to set the standard you must meet to be a learned professional. And then smack down every one of your feeble attempts to pretend to such an exalted standard. With application, elevated innate intelligence, and great diligence you might make it. But it’s all up to you. Your master is nothing more than an exemplar. If you do attain the status of a learned professional you might train the next learned professional, though the odds of meeting a candidate with the requisite skills and desires are small.
An additional qualification for true learning is that it is open only to scientists. This declaration is almost invariable true. A truly educated person is fluent in both the arts and sciences. One can learn history, philosophy, the arts on one’s own, but science is very hard, not impossible – though almost so, to acquire a deep appreciation of by oneself. Of course, most scientists, even the very accomplished, are indifferent to knowledge outside their working area and are no better than smartphone users away from the lab or notebook.
The message of this doodle is that we would do best to close all our colleges and universities or make them into centers of sports. Encourage trade schools. And leave those stuck at the 6th grade level to their smartphones. Defunding the federal government or at least spreading it throughout the country such that the FBI headquarters was in Omaha while the Defense Department moved the Pentagon to Wyoming would help if we couldn’t obliterate the entire federal edifice. As the central government seems to have won the governmental game such a proposal deserves laughter and scorn amid the ashes of constitutional governance.
It is the failure and perversion of education that has led to the failure of constitutional order. If you doubt this statement – do a Christopher Wren and look around. The classroom is just another stage for the presentation of make believe.