Thoughts on modern education – decreasing the value of ability

The other day I said some interesting things about the inundation of kids going to the University (I actually previously wrote a similar article called “Thoughts on the problem of the inundation of people into college or the University“).  What initiated it was hearing several ‘stupid’ things that they were researching at the Universities.  In the subsequent conversation I made this statement:

“Nowadays, every kid and their dog HAS to go to the University.  What this has done is decreased the quality of students going to the University.  To do this is sort of like requiring everyone to have to go to art college whether they want to or not.  Sure, many of them will pass, and may even do good, but what’s going to be the result . . . a bunch of people whose drawings look like stick figures . . . there will be few, if any, Michelangelo’s or Rembrandt’s.”

What this more or less says is that kids are being ‘forced’ into college without having any desire and inclination to do so and many of these don’t even have the ability of being intellectually inclined.  As a result, the quality of student has deteriated.   This states something I have never heard anyone mention before but which I have always believed:  that a person needs DESIRE and ABILITY to do intellectual work, such as required when going to the UniversityIf you don’t have it then you shouldn’t go.  To truly do the ‘mental work’ of the University requires a specific type of ability and skill, inspired by desire, and the average person doesn’t have it!  In my opinion, most people should not be going to the University.  With the inundation of kids going into college there is an increase in people with no real intellectual ability at all and, they’re graduating. 

In many ways, scholarly work is an art and, just like art, some people have the knack . . . most don’t.  I have confronted this fact time and time again.  It reminds me of when I was going to college.  A friend of mine was in Graphic Arts.  I often went and looked at what everyone was doing.  A lot of what I saw was almost childlike with little artistic skill . . . but yet they passed . . . many graduated with degree’s!  But, frankly, very few had any real skill at doing it, though they graduated.  This same situation is being replicated at the University in general:  people with no intellectual ability are being graduated.

In general, the ability at intellectual work has been downplayed and trivialized, almost as if it means nothing.  This has always appaled me.  In my opinion, it has severely undermined education as a result.  They’ve made it out as if any “Joe blow” can do it!  That’s like saying anyone can go to art college and become another Michelangelo.  This ability at intellectual work has been glossed over for a number of reasons:

    • There is a myth that if a person ‘passes’ then this means that they have ability.  My experience is that whether a person passes or not really doesn’t mean much.  I have learned not to rely on grades and other means of ‘measuring’.  These all sound good but are actually useless (I wrote an article concerning this called “Thoughts on how grades really don’t measure anything“).  In fact, the reliance on ‘measuring’, and assuming its correct, is a major reason why we are in this problem.  The fact is that many people can ‘pass’, and often with good scores, without any ability at all (as was shown with the Graphic Art classes I described above).  Not only that, its a fact that many ‘intellectually-gifted’ people have problems learning and developing according to the University guidelines.  As a result, they end up having problems, which makes them appear that they have no ability.
    • The idea that if you learn you “learn”.  What I mean by this is that there is an idea that if you take a class, say, and then are tested, and get a good score, then you have “learned”.  In actuality, typically all you have done is repeat what you were told.  This is not necessarily “learning”.  My experience is that few people actually “learn” from classes . . . they “remember”.  I know that even from my own experience.
    • A lot of intellectual work has become ‘systemized’.  By this I mean that “knowledge” has been catalogued, classified, organized, and such to the point that much of University work is learning how the systemizing works.  I found this out when I was at the University.  I could see that a lot of it was nothing but ‘learning the ropes’.  I found that, in many cases, I only had to figure out what a specific teacher wanted and I’d get high scores . . . whether I knew the matarial or not didn’t matter at all!  As I talked with other students I found that most were doing the same thing, though none, that I knew, were aware of it.
    • That a lot of University work is, in actuality, ‘monkey see, monkey do’.  Contrary to what people think, the bulk of University work is ‘doing what you’re told’ or, in other words, ‘learning to conform’.  As a result, how well a person does at the University is often a reflection of how well they can do what they are supposed to do which has no bearing on intellectual ability. 
    • That education has become nothing more than an assembly line Teach ’em, test ’em, pass ’em, and send ’em off so a new batch can come in.  A lot of learning or education techniques, nowadays, is nothing more than how to do this assembly line process quickly, efficiently, and adequately . . . and make it look convincing.  In many ways, that IS education nowadays!
    • The ideal that ‘anyone can do it’.  This particularly preys on the ideal of success and accomplishment and how ‘anyone can do it’ in the U.S.  Because of this attitude, the emphasis is not on if you have ability, only that you ‘did it’, regardless of how that was obtained (including cheating, manipulation, etc.).  It like saying that ‘anyone can be a Michelangelo’, which is more or less saying that natural ability means nothing and that anyone can develop the ability.  I see no proof for this assumption. 
    • That going to the University or College is often to make a political/legal point.  For some people, being ‘educated’ is a political/legal point.  This is very prevalent for females, it seems, who HAVE to go to the University to somehow proove a point.  I even read, in a newspaper the other day, that there is a decrease in Pacific Islanders and American Indians going to the University and that this was a “great concern” . . . what, a concern???  It seems, to me, that the only concern is its political/legal meaning.  It shows how there is a special emphasis to try to get minorities and such into the University.  This attempt typically overlooks ability and is often ‘artificially induced’.  That is to say, they are given ‘concessions’ or help in some way (that other people don’t get).  But the fact is that many don’t have the ability, or desire for that matter
    • That the end result is ‘success’ and money.  I learned that many people go to the University to make money.  As a result, they do “what is required” to get to that point, whether they have ability or not.  Typically, they do the minimum amount they have to in order to get by.  I was quite stunned how prevalent this was.
    • The fact that there are too many people going to the University.  Because there are so many people all that is important is that people can ‘do what they are told’ to pass.  There is no reason to emphasize ability . . . just get as many people through as possible.  Because of the mass of people the Administration increasingly relies on ‘cheap’ ways of determining who should go where (such as GPA and extracurricular activities), which are not very accurate and seldom show ability
    • Many are there because they are told to be there.  Since the 1990’s, especially, it seems that every kid has to go to college right after they graduate from high school.  Parents are starting ‘college funds’ before their kids can even talk!  Basically, parents are ‘forcing’ their kids to go to college.  I know one instance, for example, where the parents are trying to get their daughter to “decide what she wants to do”.  She says she wants to do this, then that . . . she doesn’t know . . . she doesn’t have any desire to go.  But yet, they will make her go.  This scenario does not make a good student, or intellectual person, but its an all-too-common scenario for those going to college and a major factor in the low quality of students we now see. 

What this shows is that the University is no longer a place of learning for those who have the desire and ability.  The inundation of students has required the University, and education system in general, to take ‘shortcuts’ and ‘assumptions’ which no longer emphasizes (or develops, in my opinion) ability.  This is done primarily to ‘get as many people through as they can’ which is allowing people who have no desire or ability to pass.  One of the results of this is a decrease in the quality of students and, also, a decrease in the people going into the working world afterwords.  Because of all this, it basically turned knowledge, learning, and education into a “common” everyday thing anyone can do which, in a way, has undermined education. 

In many ways, modern education is like teaching kids ‘shortcuts’ to draw, sculpt, or paint like Michelangelo.  Sure, it may look good but its not the kids who are doing it but the shortcuts that they were taught which gives the illusion that they are another Michelangelo.   I can see this quality in many so-called “educated” people:  they are not people with desire or ability but people who were taught ‘shortcuts’.  To me, the use of ‘shortcuts’ is one of the hallmark traits of “educated” people. 

Unfortunatley, the University is nothing but a system with a system mentality.  As a result, those who develop a ‘system mentality’ will ‘pass’ and graduate.  The problem is that the ‘system mentality’ has nothing to do with intellectual ability at allBecause of this, ability is growing to have less and less value, which means the quality of student and graduate is decreasing.

In many ways, education has become nothing but a ‘training of robots’.  I often jokingly speak of “formally educated people” as the “officially educated robot” because they are “educated” by the system “officially”, which makes it look great.  This means they go through an “official” program, get tested “officially”, and graduate “officially”.  In many ways, education is nothing but an act of “officialness”.  If you do not learn things “officially” then you are not “educated”.  Because of this, intellectual ability has been replaced by “official approval”. 

Its interesting to note that I’ve often found that I don’t like to talk to University-trained people all that much mainly because they have an ‘official robotic’ way about them.  Some of their conversations sound like its a memorized textbook statement . . . sounds impressive though, and thats all that matters . . . right?!  They are like this because they have to develop an attitude of conforming and doing things a specific “approved” way in order to pass a class, to pass some certification, and to deal with the responsibilities of a profession.  As a result, they do what is required of them to get where they want . . . an example of the mentality of the ‘officially educated’.  They are ‘robotic’ because they are conforming, matching their mind and thought to the “official” educated line . . . in a way, replicating it (monkey see, monkey d0).   As a result, the “officially educated robot” has a quality of narrowness and a lack of originality.  In fact, I can often tell a University-trained person just by that quality alone.  In a way, the “officially educated robots” attitude is one who is ‘seeking approval’.   This is not surprising as the University-based attitude is based in a seeking-approval-from-the-system mentality.  This mentality determines what is right or wrong.  It determines who succeeds and who doesn’t.   It determines what they think and do.  It determines how they judge things.  It determines their stance in life.  It determines their point of view in life.  But these are not ‘them’, in actuality, but the “University system that speak through them”.  I often eat at a fast-food restaurant next to the University and, a number of times, I’d read the University paper they had there, whose articles were written by students.  As I read it I can see the ‘seeking approval’ mentality.  You could see the ‘conforming’ attitude.  It was just a bunch of kids playing the University ‘monkey see, monkey do’ game . . . yup, they did what’s right so they will get a good score!  Frankly, it made me chuckle.

But the end result of all this is that the importance of ability has been lost.  Education and intellectual things are being treated like its some sort of commodity you buy at the store . . . . anyone can do it, all you need is money.  This has made it all so “common” and “everyday”.  This, in my opinion, has completely devalued education and knowledge in general.

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