As I watch videos of the Occupy encampments and hear the nonsense that flows so freely from the mouths of the "protesters," I think of the gross failure of our public education system and of parents who so eagerly hand their precious young charges over to the schools.
Victor Davis Hanson, in writing about the roots of Occupier angst, supplies a pretty good definition of what it once meant to be educated:
The [college] curriculum was designed to instill inductive thinking. It prepared the student to write well, think, and have a corpus of dates, events, people, and places at his fingertips for reference and elucidation.But that's all changed:
In other words, for much of the 20th century, college was not that exorbitantly expensive (my hardscrabble grandfather farmer sent all three of his daughters to college, two to Stanford, on the meager profits from 100 acres of raisins in the midst of the Depression). Students emerged literate and mostly disinterested and inductive. The most impressive degrees, of course, were not history or English (much less environmental studies). Instead the palm went to engineering, physics, mathematics, and biology. These were the hard sciences and skills that few of us could master. Social sciences were relatively small enclaves. And while science majors got As in their gut GE anthropology, sociology, and psychology courses, the opposite was not true: the latter majors panicked when forced to take a basic physics or physiology class to graduate.Yes, they should be angry. But as Mark Steyn points out, "the great advantage of mass moronization is that it leaves you too dumb to figure out who to be mad at."
I note in passing that not only were there no black, Latino, gender, green, film, gay, peace, or leisure studies courses, programs, and empires, but also a general impression that no one would wish to pay for such classes that imparted little real knowledge about the inductive method or the necessary referents of literature, history, and science. So many of these classes were therapeutic. Some were downright accusatory: go back through history and as melodrama point out the bad and good guys (based on present-day liberal standards), or study how modern capitalism should be replaced by a more humane model — in environmental, financial, religious, racial, class, and gender terms.
So here is where the last thirty years all led: to too many students who are indebted, poorly educated, and without skills like high-tech engineering, sophisticated medicine, or computer design that the country needs. They are consumed with contemporary furor as the education bubble of nearly a trillion dollars in debt is about to burst. They are mad at the system that they were taught oppresses them, but also at themselves. Who would not be after spending so much money for something of so little value? Nothing is more embarrassing to watch than arrogance coupled with ignorance — and spiced with occasional glibness and the slow realization that they’ve been had.
They want Santa Claus to pay their tuition and the government to forgive their loans but they fail to direct any anger at the "greedy fat-cats" of academia. Why is that? To use Prof. Hanson's word, it's taboo:
So how, then, can students question the utility of their educations? They don’t dare object to the university’s manner of operations, or how their loans underwrote the need for a six-figured assistant provost of internal development or associate vice president for diversity awareness — or a vast number of new hip professors who just thirty or forty years ago would not be seen as professors at all.The same process of over-bureaucraticization, politicization, and watered-down content has taken place in the public schools. When the K-12 system has finished with them and killed off anything resembling intellectual curiosity or initiative, the kids passively ride the conveyor belt to the next institution, where, if they're lucky, the amenities will be a lot more awesome. Oddly enough, families often fail to give much thought to the enormous cost or the questionable value of the credential. But then, they've been told for decades that this is the only path to prosperity.
I think in over twenty years of teaching I received about 5,000 memos warning me about insidious practices of sexism, racism, classism, or other sorts of oppression, what the chair, dean, provost, president was doing about it (usually setting up a watchdog faculty committee) — and not a single one wondering how we could bring rigor to the curriculum and real learning to the students.
That's all changing. At some point it will dawn on even the most inside-the-box drones that something is wrong with this picture:
This is just sad. Please consider homeschooling. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
Picture above taken by Zombie, who has done a massive Occupy Oakland photo essay.
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