Thoughts on how education isn’t quite what it seems, with remarks about “inherent knowledge”

Here are some thoughts I had about education:

EDUCATION AS SOMETHING “PRE-PACKAGED” 

Education tends to revolve around something that is “pre-packaged”.  That it to say, it is something that is already created, determined, and established by someone else.  Other words that could be used include “pre-manufactured”, “pre-made”, “pre-determined”, and such.

When I was at the University I made a joke about the textbooks:

“Textbooks should have a tab on them.  After you buy them you pull the tab off to open it.  When you do this it makes a big “swoooosh” and then you can smell the “new book” and “new knowledge” smell.”

What I am referring to here is the sound and smell that comes out of some vacuum packaged things such as tennis balls.  The point is that a textbook is made up of “pre-packaged” information just like many pre-packaged products.  I mean, really, what is the difference between a textbook and a TV dinner?  Its a variation of the same thing.  They’re just used differently:  one you cook and the other you remember.  Isn’t that what education is . . . remembering?

There are several forms of “pre-packaging”:

  1. Information
  2. Patterns of thought
  3. Ways of doing things

In other words, being “educated” means that you know “pre-packaged” information, patterns of thoughts, or ways of doing things that have already been determined by someone else.

While I was at the University I made another joke:

“I spoke of University students as “mind stuffers” and that we were at the University to get our “minds stuffed”.  If we regurgitated it properly on a test then we got an “A”.  If we got enough “A’s” then we got a degree.”

What “mind stuffing” meant is that we were stuffing our minds with information and patterns of thought someone else created.  If you really wanted to be a University student then you took credit for it, as if you were the one who created it.  But all we were doing is stuffing our minds with something that was “pre-packaged” and regurgitated it later, whether it be a test or a job.

Being “pre-packaged” it is “accepted” and “approved”.  In this way, when one learns “pre-packaged” things you are conforming to “accepted” and “approved” things.  In this way, education is really a conformism . . .

THE ILLUSION OF CONFORMING

I have a saying:

“Education is conformism.”

What this means is that education is nothing but “a conforming of ones mind to something that is already pre-established”.  This creates some illusions, such as:

  • Correctness. By conforming to what is “accepted” it gives the illusion of correctness that may, or may not, exist.
  • Stability. By following what is pre-established there is also an illusion of stability.

In a way, conforming is nothing but “following what is pre-established” . . . whatever it says, you say.  The illusions caused by conformism is very rampant in “educated people”, I’ve found.

What ends up happening is that “what is knowledge” or “what is education” is really a question of how well you conform to what is “accepted”.   The more you conform the more more educated you are considered to be.  In this way, education becomes a matter of a persons skill in conforming to “accepted” ways than in things like intelligence.  I sometimes speak of this as “conforming ability”.   Some people are really good at it and some people aren’t.

PROGRAMMING

I have a saying:

“Education is programming”

What this means is that education is primarily a means to program people to an already existing, accepted, and approved way of doing things.  In this way, education tends to create “drones” or robots.  My personal feelings is that this quality is one of the “real powers” of education.  The reason for this is that modern society needs “drones” and robots to function.  As a result, programming – I mean education – is much more important.  Interestingly, after being at the University I often spoke of the “University robot”.  This is basically a person who has been programmed to think a certain way by the University.

Typically, the programming entails a process that tends to lead to a specific conclusion or type of conclusion. Generally, that is the purpose of programming, so that things lead to a certain end.  A person goes through years of schooling to basically learn this programmed process that leads to specific conclusions.  In some cases, this programmed thinking was so rigid and “pre-packaged” that I could predict what some peoples conclusions would be.  This quality I found very prevalent in University trained people.  With common people who haven’t been programmed – I mean educated – it wasn’t as easy to do.

“SYSTEMS KNOWLEDGE”

“Systems knowledge” is a term that I use for knowledge that has traits such as:

  • Its is established and defined
  • It is organized
  • It has been accepted
  • It does not rely on the person or individual
  • It is associated with some form of power or power structure
  • It is motivated by the needs of the power structure

That is to say, its a form of knowledge that has been turned into a system.

If a person follows “systems knowledge” than they must follow its dictates and follow its every whim.  The effect of this is that it tends to degrade the person, turning a person into something like a “minion”, in a way.  The emphasis is not on the person and what the person does but on following “systems knowledge” and how a person is associated with it.  The person, as a result, must conform in order to do this, even to the point of devaluing themselves.  The result of “systems knowledge” is that it raises the system above the person, who becomes someone who appears “in the background”.

In “systems knowledge” the measure of a person is in how one conforms to it.  This is why testing is so prevalent in “systems knowledge”, that is, in education. The fact is that a test is nothing but a measure of how well a person conforms.  Its really no surprise that how well a person “tests” determines where they stand in the “systems knowledge” and educational social structure.  In fact, there has developed a whole social structure based in testing in “systems knowledge”.  Many schools have things like Sterling Scholars, various awards, Honor Rolls, all sorts of degree’s, and so on reflecting this social structure.  Even what school you go to, such as Harvard or Yale, can reflect this social structure.

Because “systems knowledge” is associated with power a person who conforms to it tends to gain from its power.  My observation is that most interest in education isn’t in knowledge but, rather, in the power and power structure its associated with.  In other words, education is a means to some other end . . .

THE ILLUSION OF EDUCATION AS A MEANS OF SOCIAL CLIMBING

I have a saying:

“Education is just another form of social climbing”

My observation is that education is primarily a means to get ones foot in the door of an existing power structure and thereby gain from the benefits of that power structure.  The gains of associating ones self with a power structure include:

  • Money
  • Social status
  • Influence

In the 30+ years since I was at the University I’ve never seen one person who has been to the University who was  genuinely interested in what they were studying.  People were interested in the subject because of “some other thing” (such as shown above), not because the subject interests them.  Its clear, to me, that education is really a means for social climbing.  I often compare it to England in the early 1800’s where everyone, and their dog, were trying to marry into the aristocracy.  Why?  For the power they get from being associated with the aristocracy.  That’s all that mattered.

Since people are trying to get into an existing power structure there tends to develop all sorts of power games and struggles. In fact, it seems to me that a lot of the struggles, disputes, difficulty, and challenges that are found in the educational system are really a form of these power games and struggles . . . everyone’s fighting to get their foot in the power structure. To me, College and especially the University entailed a lot of these power struggles which gave it a ridiculous or “joke” quality.  I often remarked that “I spent more time dealing with all the crap than learning anything”.

What all this means is that a lot of education is not about education or knowledge at all but about becoming established in some form of power structure.  The power structure tends to make education and knowledge meaningful and relevant.  Without this power structure what use is education and knowledge?

“ULTERIOR MOTIVES” AND THE “KNOWLEDGE ENVIRONMENT”

All the above shows that a lot of education isn’t about education at all, or knowledge, but other things.  I usually speak of these other things as the “ulterior motives”.  This more or less means that the education and knowledge is only relevant when in a specific environment established by the “ulterior motive”.  Since the power structure often figured prominently it means that it was the “ulterior motive” and, accordingly, it made it all relevant and meaningful.  In so doing, it dictates what is important and useful.  What this shows is that the “ulterior motive” tends to distort or “color” the education or knowledge to fit its specific condition or environment.  As a result, it ends up affecting knowledge in ways such as these:

  • How things are interpreted
  • The context of things and how they are looked at
  • What’s viewed as important
  • What’s viewed as correct
  • How things are used
  • Why things are used

Because environment has such an impact on knowledge I speak of this as the “knowledge environment”.  This refers to the environment that the knowledge is set in and which gives it meaning and determines what is relevantBecause of this, the “ulterior motives” have a great impact on education and knowledge and what is considered “true”.  In many respects, they determine it.  I would even venture to say that, in education and knowledge, the “ulterior motives” play a greater role in determining what is “true” than any other thing . . . in short, “ulterior motives” are actually what determine the “truth”.  

THE OVERALL RESULT

It seems, to me, that the bulk of education and knowledge is based in a specific type of “knowledge environment” that is motivated by specific “ulterior motives”.  This environment is often very specific and unique.  That is to say, different “ulterior motives” would produce an education and knowledge that is completely different.  Nowadays, education can probably be described in this way:

Education is a condition where a person must conform (what they call being “educated”) to an established and accepted way of doing things.  If a person conforms then they usually gain in some way from the power structure that education and knowledge is associated with.  This, usually, is the primary motive of education.  This is accentuated by the fact that modern society needs programmed people – I mean educated people – to be “drones” or robots.  Education supplies that need.   

In other words, things are less about education and knowledge than what it seems.

To be “educated” really means that you have a foot in some power structure and, accordingly, gain from it and can play a part in it.  This means, more or less, that education is really rooted in a power structure.  There are a number of ways this power structure can appear such as:

  • Something related with social organization and control (such as the government or business)
  • Something related with a trade or profession (such as an Engineer or Welder)
  • Something related with a belief system (such as a religion or a teacher)
  • Something related with a social system (such as being part of a group or culture)

Being “educated in the proper subject” only allows you to gain and participate in that particular power structure.

In Western society (I mean Europe, the U.S., and other countries affected by this society) there has developed a “knowledge-based power structure” that has become quite massive and powerful (much of this is based in science and the products of science).  Being based in knowledge it has to rely on extensive education, programming, etc. in order to exist.  Being powerful everyone, and their dog, is vying to get their foot in the door of this power structure and to gain from it.  Because of this, people are not interested in “knowledge” but the power behind it.  In this way, education and knowledge has developed a great hypocrisy with it:  people “pretend” to be interested in knowledge but really aren’t.  I often speak of this as the “education hypocrisy”.  This is what I observed when I was at the University 30+ years ago and its what I still observe.

It seems, to me, that education tends to create qualities in people such as:

  • A “drone” or robot mentality.  Being programmed, they “do what is required by the system”.  Because of this, they are very good at doing what they were taught.  In my opinion, this is probably the greatest benefit of education.  But, regardless of this, we must still remember that it is a “drone” or robot mentality which is, I feel, an unhealthy point of view.
  • A social climber mentality. Many people see education as a means to climb the social ladder and that’s its main purpose.
  • People who “stand on the shoulders” of other people.  They basically “take the credit” for what other people did and “ride the wave” that was created by other people.
  • An impaired ability to think on their own.  As a result of being programmed they rely on the programming to more or less do their thinking.  Because of this, many educated people never learn to think on their own, despite the claims that they can.  This often gives educated people a unique and particular quality of stupidity or “dumbness”.

One of the ways I described an “educated person” is this way:

“A person who caters to a knowledge-based power structure with a robotic or drone-like mentality.”

How well “educated” a person is depends on how well they can establish themselves in the power structure.

THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE???

All this brings up the question of “what is the nature of knowledge?”.  If education, and the knowledge is produces, is rooted in a power structure than it is biased to that power structure making it a “biased knowledge”.   Can a “biased knowledge” be considered “true”?  To me, the knowledge created by education is only “true” within the power structure that it relies on.  This more or less implies that it is not the “ultimate truth” or the “explain all”, as the education system tends to profess.  It is just “a truth” among many.  There are many other truths that transcend this.

INHERENT KNOWLEDGE

But it also brings up the question of “is there knowledge without a power structure?”  I believe there is.  I’d say that there is a “life-based knowledge” that is independent of any power structure, education-based knowledge, and “systems knowledge”.  It is a knowledge that is rooted in ones experience of life.  As a result, it has qualities such as:

  • It is real-world based
  • It is experiential-based
  • It is personal
  • Being personal, it relies on ones abilities, skills, etc.
  • It is motivated by the needs of life
  • It is not based in any system

I speak of this as “inherent knowledge” (see my article Thoughts on ‘inherent truth’).  This is a whole other form of knowledge.  Inherent knowledge cannot be taught.  That is to say, you can’t go to school and take classes on it.  A person, though, can receive guidance and advice but real inherent knowledge ends up coming from the personal experiential experiences of life that a person has.  In this way, inherent knowledge is like the polar opposite of the power structure-based “systems knowledge” of the education system.  Because of this, they tend to clash.

It seems, to me, that inherent knowledge is more prevalent in smaller societies.  This is because there is more weight put on the individual person.  As the society gets bigger inherent knowledge tends to fade as new power structures get stronger which causes a growth of “systems knowledge” and an organized educational system starts to develop.  This reveals that the nature of knowledge changes with things such as:

  • The size of the society 
  • The weight put on the individual person

This is one reason why the mentality, ideas, beliefs, logic, etc. of smaller societies, such as primitive societies, are so different from larger civilizations.  Its not that one society is more knowledgeable or “truer” than the other but that they are living in different conditions which changes “truth” and knowledge.  In this way, the conditions of life determine “truth” and what knowledge is considered relevant. 

Personally, though there is a time and place for “systems knowledge”, and conforming to power structures, I put more emphasis on inherent knowledge primarily because it “establishes a person in life”, as I always say.  In this way, I consider what “establishes a person in life” as being more “true” than what “establishes a person in a power structure“.  In takes precedence and priority and, in actuality, has more value and meaning.

This is what it seems like to me anyways.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Education, learning, and over education, Modern life and society, Philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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