Thoughts on the problem of scholastic testing and illusions caused by the scholastic situation, among other things

Here’s a thought I had:

When I was in college/University I began to question scholastic testing.  By “scholastic testing” I mean testing associated with schooling which primarily professes to able to measure things like intelligence, “smarts”, and such.  It includes all the tests seen in school, as well as their qualifications.  These include things like the grading system, with all their A’s and B’s, the GPA system, various forms of competitions, and even the Masters and Doctors thesis system.  Basically, “scholastic testing” is anything a scholastic institution does to “attempt” to measure people From my observation that is what it is . . . an “attempt”.


There is a belief that scholastic testing is some sort of an accurate thing, almost as if it is the voice of god.  Of course, I don’t believe that at all.  I often say:  “I refuse to be tested or graded . . . and to be scaled down a letter or a number!”  To be frank, I find it insulting to have people associate me with a letter or number.  I don’t care what its for.  I am not a letter or number.

The very thought that a single letter or number can encompass the complexity of intelligence and understanding of a person is absurd and asinine to me.  I can’t believe that the scholastic institutions actually believe it (or anyone for that matter).  This is one of the reasons why I began to question the scholastic institutions and lost faith in them.  How can I believe an institution that is stupid enough to believe that a number or letter mean so much?  So, the questioning of scholastic testing is closely associated with the questioning of scholastic institutions.

I began to question scholastic testing when I was studying to be psychologist.  During this time, I became particularly interested in psychological measurement.  As a part of this, I began to look at grades as they are a form of psychological testing (which many people, I’ve found, don’t seem to realize).  After a period of time, it became clear that grades were totally ineffective as a form of measurement and were being taken far too seriously (see my article:  Thoughts on how grades really don’t measure anything).  After a while, this questioning eventually led to the questioning of all other forms of scholastic  measurement.

My observation is that anyone who believes in scholastic testing tends to display qualities such as these:

  • They tend to be someone who is gullible and believes whatever they are told.
  • They are trying to gain from the power structure that the scholastic testing caters to.  By doing what it says they can gain from it (like a job or prestige).
  • They are just “following along with things” accepting the way of things.

My experience has shown that there is great truth in these.

Its really no surprise, then, that I have not seen one person who has questioned the validity and accuracy of scholastic testing!  This has always amazed me.  Here they are being judged by it, with their lives depending on it, and NOT ONE person questions it!  To me, that is very revealing and shows a significant quality found in the scholastic situation, what I call the minion mentality . . .


In my opinion, what scholastic testing actually measures is how much of a minion a person is.  To me, that’s a very accurate statement.  By “minion” I mean a mentality where a person does things like these:

  • They believe whatever they are told
  • They do what they’re told to do
  • They do what they are expected to do

Typically, this is done mindlessly and thoughtlessly, much like a robot.  This means, more or less, that the scholastic institution does not create “thinking people”, as it generally professes, but people who mindlessly follow the dictates of that institution . . . what can perhaps be described as an “educational minion”.  They follow the logic and pattern of thinking it teaches and they believe the information it states.  Since these qualities are so important for success its not surprising that the need to be looked at highly by the scholastic testing has becomes so critical.  Basically, being a minion becomes the ONLY means of success in the scholastic institution.

Because of this, scholastic testing favors the minion mentality.  In fact, the prevalence and belief in scholastic testing tends to inspire and promote a minion mentality in scholastic institutions.  In this way, a scholastic institution is really an “institution of the minion mentality”.  Because of this, the minion mentality becomes the “ideal” of a scholastic institution.  A good scholastic minion will get good grades and marks and will do whatever that institution requires.


In general, scholastic testing is based on some form of a comparison, in one way or another.  Its a comparison between two things:

  1. What you do
  2. What the teacher says you should do

In this way, the comparison tends to be in relation to two things:

  1. An already pre-fab pattern of thinking
  2. Pre-established information

The important thing here is the word “pre-fab”.  This means that they are already existing.  In this way, in the scholastic institution a person is compared to something already existing.  Nothing is new.  Perhaps even more importantly, a person is compared to something already existing that is “approved”.  Its this “approval” that makes it “right”.

A persons “success” depends on how well they can fulfill these comparisons.  This is why one becomes a minion in the scholastic world . . . you do whatever the teacher wants and expects.  Remember, your success depends on it!  I can remember that I could actually feel myself turning into a minion when I was in school . . . a “yes man” to the scholastic system, a non thinking person who did what was expected.

Because of these comparisons scholastic testing, or measuring the minion, expects these things:

  • It expects a specific pattern of thinking or way of doing of things
  • It is expecting a specific answer

It does not know what to do when things do not follow one of these paths.  Typically, in the scholastic institution, they will ignore things it can’t relate to and will go right back to their pre-fab things almost like a default.  At least, that’s what my observation is.  In this way, the scholastic institution actually practices an avoidance of things it can’t relate to.  This is contrary to what it professes.

The scholastic institution has no way to measure or take into consideration things such as:

  • It does not measure creativity (unless you create something that is already a creativity that is “approved” by the scholastic institution)
  • It does not measure problem solving ability (unless it is an already established pre-fab form of problem solving technique with pre-fab answers)
  • It does not take into importance of making of mistakes and the solving of ones mistakes as well as the process this takes
  • It does not take into consideration the natural pattern of discovery
  • It does not allow time for things to take place (in the scholastic institution, you generally have to “learn on a time table” and be ready to regurgitate it properly and at the correct time)

Personally, I don’t believe these things can be measured.  But, it seems to me, that these qualities are what has actually created most of everything in the world and has allowed humanity to survive all these centuries . . . not the regurgitation of pre-fab and pre-approved things.


My observation is that some people have a “knack” or skill at being minions.  As a result of this, they tend to do good on scholastic testing.  This does not mean that they are “smarter” or understand things more.  It shows that they do what they are told in the way the system wants and, accordingly, gets its approval and support.  This creates a great illusion caused by the scholastic testing . . . a person who tests “smart” but really isn’t.  I call this the “illusionary scholar”.

I noticed this phenomena very early in college, though I saw beginning signs of it in public school.  Basically, there were all these “straight A” students that didn’t seem to understand anything.  To be frank, it was my questioning of this that first started my inquiry into grading and scholastic testing.  I couldn’t understand how these kids could get good grades when they didn’t really understand the material.  As I watched them it appeared, to me, that what they did is learn things only from the context of “what the teacher wants” . . . they learned “what the teacher wants” and “repeated what the teacher wants”.  As a result, they did good on the tests.  But doing “what the teacher wants” isn’t the same as understanding the material.  It became clear that these were totally different things.

This would become even more apparent, later, when I basically started to do the same thing.  When I was at college taking general education I took many classes that did not interest me.  As a result, I had to find a technique to get through the class with passing grades.  What I ended up doing is similar to what those students were doing above.  More specifically, I did things such as:

  • Each teacher has a unique character and way of doing things.  From experience I could predict what specific teachers would expect and put on their tests.
  • As I listened to the teachers lectures I would watch what the teacher emphasized and saw as important.  I would put emphasis on these as they would most likely put them on their tests.
  • Being aware of what they most likely would put on their tests I would only emphasize and remember that, disregarding everything else.
  • I would do things the way the teacher wanted, whether I agreed with it or not, such as writing an essay about a theme I knew they’d like or in a way they’d like.

I ended up getting good grades, believe it or not.  But, later, I was stunned how I did not understand anything.  I took all these classes and didn’t learn that much from them.  I wondered how that happened.  From this experience I became even more interested in grading and scholastic testing as I, myself, showed that a person could pass a class with good grades and understand nothing.  I, too, became an “illusionary scholar”.  As a result of this, I began to question the learning process itself, of how people learned things.

It became clear that schooling and education often created a condition of “appearing to learn while not learning” which is nothing but “doing what the teacher wants”.  I eventually called this “slotted learning”.  What this means is that, when you take a class, a person puts all the material in a mental “slot” for that specific class and for that specific teacher . . . they remember what the teacher wants in the context the teacher wants.  Because it is specific to a class and teacher it becomes “slotted”.  In that way, you are not learning the material but, rather, what the teacher wants.  Because of this, a person may do good on the test but, in the greater scheme of things, they really don’t understand the material.

Some other qualities of “slotted learning” include:

  • There is little or no application of material (unless its in a pre-fab and approved way)
  • There is little or no creativity (having to conform to a teachers material does not allow for creativity)
  • There is little or no reflection on the material (in school your job is to memorize and do what things in a pre-fab and pre-approved way)
  • There is little or no “thinking outside of the box” (everything must stay within the confines of the teachers material . . . your grade depends on it!)

In these ways, “slotted learning” tends to create a narrow point of view and perspective.  But the illusion of this is that it doesn’t appear narrow.  This is because of things such as:

  • One does what is accepted and approved by the teacher
  • Any material a school teaches is esteemed
  • A good score with scholastic testing gives it a stamp of approval
  • It is new information and ways of doing things

In this way, “slotted learning” creates a “narrow point of view that doesn’t appear narrow” in addition to “learning without learning” (the “illusionary scholar”).  We could call this narrow point of view the “mind broadening illusion” as it appears to broaden the mind when it really isn’t.

It seems, to me, that “slotted learning” is one of the big problems of schooling and the source of some of its greatest illusions.   It basically creates a lot of “dead end learning” or “learning that goes nowhere”.   In my opinion, this is very prevalent.  I tend to think that most of what people learn in the scholastic situation ends up in a “dead end”.


I often use the expression “scholastic situation”.  It refers to a condition that has things such as:

  • A teacher
  • A student
  • Material that the teacher presents to the student
  • The student must learn material
  • The student is judged by how well he repeats the material

The scholastic situation has a number of traits:

  • It is a social affair involving two or more people
  • This association is given great emphasis as if its the only way to learn
  • It is a dominant form of relationship
  • It is very organized
  • It demands submission and conformism
  • It is the basis for the learning process
  • It is done for hours and hours

We see, then, that the scholastic situation is a social affair that is long standing act of conforming ones mind to what another has created.


The scholastic situation, in my opinion, is not a natural pattern of learning.  Its based on a natural process though.  I would be more inclined to call this more natural process “instruction” and that caused by the scholastic situation as “education”.  Some qualities of each include:

  • “Instruction” is when a person is “guided” or shown the beginnings of how to do something.  They are then “let loose”, so to speak, to figure things out as they go along.  This puts great emphasis on the person and their ability to do things, discover things, and solve problems.  It is also very much rooted in doing.  This is how many trades, abilities, arts, etc. were taught all over the world since the beginning of time.  It seems, to me, that this is actually how most things were created in the world.  I often tend to feel that the trades are what created a lot of things in Europe, not the professions or the Universities.  These only became prevalent in the last several hundred years particularly as a result of the industrial revolution and probably primarily a result of the money and economic power that backed it which made the men who created more “important” than tradesman in the former centuries.  As a result, the professions and the University became more powerful.
  • “Education” is when a person is told something pre-defined and who then primarily repeats it over and over again in some way.  Their “success” depends on how well they repeat the pre-defined procedure (such as on a test, some assignment, or in a profession). In this way, education is primarily based in a comparison with something already existing, as I said above.  Unlike “instruction” it does not put emphasis on the person, or emphasize ability, or a persons ability to discover or solve problems.  This is why, to me, “education” became mind numbing and seemed to squash me as a person.  As a result, I felt dumber as a result of being educated.  I found that this feeling is not uncommon in people.

It appears that the scholastic situation is a result of specific conditions.  In Europe, it appears that the more involved scholastic situation is a result of things like:

  • The Christian conversion, which requires everyone to “learn the truth of Jesus Christ”
  • The rise of the University, which turned learning into a controlled system of pre-defined knowledge

These created a more intense, controlled, and systemized “instruction” that slowly turned into “education”.

The problem with “education”, and why it is unnatural, is because of things like these:

  • It is too controlled
  • It takes too much time out of a persons life
  • It entails too much conformism
  • It is too intense and involved
  • It doesn’t allow the person to do things on their own

As a result of these, “education” is actually an unnatural form of learning, at least in my opinion.  Even when I look back on my “education” it has this quality of being unnatural.  I felt like I was more like a robot.  This isn’t surprising as the scholastic situation is really a “situation of conformism” where the student must conform to the material presented by the teacher.  Of course, the scholastic situation promotes conformism, by requiring the student to conform to the teacher, and this thereby, by its nature, creates the minion mentality.  

Through the years the scholastic situation has become very organized and with great social and economic power.  It has become so massive, organized, and controlled that it has taken on qualities similar to a machine . . .


By being a minion a person becomes much like a robot.  What one ends up becoming, then, is a robot to a big vast machine, the Scholastic Machine.  This is the great machine of the scholastic institutions.  In many ways, the purpose of the Scholastic Machine is to create minions to serve its purpose.  One of the ways it does this is the use of scholastic testing.  It does this by ways such as:

  • It guarantee’s that the minions will do things properly
  • It creates a form of “minion social structure” (measured by who is the best minion . . . for example, the one with the best grades wins)
  • With the “minion social structure” it creates favoritism
  • The “minion social structure” allows for the pursuit of power by some of the minions

In these ways, scholastic testing actually help bonds the scholastic institution together and creating a unified system.  In addition, scholastic testing allows a means of control of its minions.  


In the past 200 years, as a result of the Industrial Revolution in particular, the Scholastic Machine has expanded and have become a part of industry, trades, and professions, becoming the Economic Machine.  In this way, the Scholastic Machines has grown and expanded beyond its original foundations.  As a result of this, one goes to a scholastic institution, nowadays, generally to learn how to be a minion to the Economic Machine.  In this way, the Economic Machine turns people into robots or machines following the pattern of the minions of the Scholastic Machine.


The minion mentality has had great impact on the creation of systems that have become so organized that they are like big massive machines.  For example, it has created a very organized Scholastic Machine and an Economic Machine, as described above.

I would even go on to say these things:

  • That the minion mentality and the system are interdependent and need each other to survive. 
  • Because of this, one of the main purposes of the minion mentality is to create and maintain a system. 
  • As a result, one of the primary purposes of the minion mentality is to become part of the system. 
  • This means, more or less, that the scholastic situation is not about “learning” or “education”, in actuality, but to become part of the system. 

This later aspect I often speak of as the “great education lie”.  This is because people are not really being “educated” in the scholastic situation . . . they’re being turned into minions, programmed to think and know specific things.  That is actually what’s happening, at least that’s how it appears to me.

My observation is that the scholastic situation does not do these things:

  • It does not make better people nor a better grade of people.  I see no evidence of this.
  • It does not make more “intelligent” people or people that are “smarter”.  This is because people are learning information and patterns of thinking other people came up with . . . they did not create them.  As a result, the “intelligence” they are displaying is not theirs but the work of others.  I speak of this as “standing on the shoulders of others” which is prevalent in scholastic situations and is one of the great illusions of scholastic institutions.  I would even say that any schooling, or learning, is nothing but standing on the shoulders of other people.  A person is taking what someone else created.

What is actually happening is that people are learning what the system wants, which is the creation of other people.  As a result, they are allowed to participate in the system more then common people and can then gain from the system.  What this means is that “education” is really about being able to associate with a system.  It really has nothing to do with learning, knowledge, and “expanding ones mind”.  In some respects, “education” can be called “learning the language of a specific system”.  Another way I described it is as someone learning their lines in a play.  Taking classes is really learning those lines.  This makes the scholastic situation much like theater . . .


My observation is that people who are considered “intelligent” are usually not intelligent . . . they just act in a way that is accepted as being intelligent and then use accepted pre-fab information and patterns of thinking in order to justify it.  When I was at the University it became clear that this was, in actuality, what a lot of people were doing.  It was as if they were all learning their part in a play.  This is why I often compare a student to an actor learning his lines of Shakespeare.  When I was at the University this is actually what it looked liked to me.  Instead of saying “my kingdom for a horse” they say “the parts of a paramecium are . . . ”  Because of this, I often spoke of the “scholastic actor”.  I think that there is a lot of similarity between acting and education.  They seem variations of the same thing.


There is something which I call the “plagiarizing of ideas”.  This is basically using other peoples ideas as if you were the one who created them (I should point out that not only does this refer to ideas but patterns of thinking as well). This tendency is rampant in the scholastic situation. People will talk as if they “own” the ideas and they are their creator. This creates an illusionary authority that is common and is very deceiving . . . but its an authority they didn’t earn. That is to say, since they did not create it they do not “own” it and are, therefore, using someone else’s “ownership” as if its their authority.

I always say, “its an authority based in recitation”. Typically, they “recite” something someone else created (which is often what they read or heard in a lecture) and, then, in the fact that they quoted it properly, they take on the “air” of authority.  I’ve seen some people who actually start to believe that they came up with it!  Its as if there is an equation:  reciting properly=authority.  Some of the origins of this equation include:

  • It has an origin in scholastic testing.  This is because in testing a persons score is determined by how well one recites or, rather, how well one gets the correct answer on the test.  In this way, scholastic testing is really a form of telling how well a person recites properly.
  • In many ways, “reciting” is the very foundation of the University system.  Its the origin of the whole system. For example, in the early years of the University system one went there to learn how to “recite” Aristotle properly and to “recite” him properly in debates.  Since the University system is the basis of the education system this mentality carries right on down to it.  I think it would be too far off to say, “education is recitation”.  

In my observation, this “authority based in recitation” is what a lot of “scholarly authority” actually is.  I speak of this as the “illusionary scholastic authority”.  It makes people seem “smart”, “intelligent”, and so on.

This deceives many people.  In fact, a lot of what are called “smart people” consists of people who are doing nothing but plagiarizing other peoples ideas. There are even a group of people who have practically turned it into an art form.  One reason for this is that by developing this illusionary authority it allows them to deceive people, and the system, which allows them to get ahead.  Because of this I have learned to be very watchful for this as it is very prevalent in scholarship nowadays.


When I began to see all this I was actually quite stunned.  This is because I was brought up with the point of view that education somehow improved a person deep down inside, almost like a moral or spiritual cleansing, enlightenment, or transformation.  I’ve seen no proof of this.  I know, now, that this originates from a point of view coming from several sources:

  • The 1700’s which is often called the Enlightenment.  This point of view emphasized the almost miraculous powers of knowledge almost as a cure all.  This era has created great myths about knowledge and education.
  • Another origin is that I was brought up in the post WWII American glory days with the moon landing, economic progress, TV, and such.  As part of American glory they harked back to America’s origin . . . the 1700’s . . . which emphasized a lot of ideas coming from the enlightenment.  As a result, I was instilled with a lot of these ideas, of the miraculous power of knowledge and learning and such.  This was further intensified by the achievements of the US.

Initially, I believed all of it.  I had no reason to doubt it.  Of course, now I see a different picture.

I still see many people who believe that “being educated” has this miraculous enlightenment or transformation quality to it, that they are somehow better because they know Einsteins theory of Relativity, took a class on calculus, or graduated with honors.  As I once said:  “So what about education . . . you’re just doing what your told.”  


Contrary to what it may seem, the system created by the scholastic situation is a world unto itself, something like a club or a tribe.  This is why you must go to school and learn all that stuff.  In this way, learning, or education, is really more like an initiation to the “truth” of the club.  This is because a system is a “closed environment”.  By this I mean that it requires a world that is conducive to its perspective and point of view.  This is easy to maintain in the scholastic institution and, to a lesser extent, in the working world.  But this “closed environment” does not work that well in the greater world.

The “closed environment” requires specific conditions such as:

  • A controlled environment
  • A situation that favors its perspectives
  • An absence of things it can’t relate to
  • A continual reiteration of its pre-fab and pre-approved knowledge and ways

These are requirements of any system.  The problem is that the world does not fit the conditions of a system . . .


The fact is that the real world was not created by a minion mentality, the scholastic institutions, or by any system.  By “real world” I mean the world as it really is . . . not some abstract intellectual idea of the world.  In actuality, the “real world” is independent of the scholastic institutions and the minion mentality it has created.

One of the great illusions of the scholastic institution is that it gives the impression that what it creates is identical with the “real world”.  It is not.  In fact, the main purpose of scholastic institutions, in actuality, is to try and give an interpretation of the “real world”.  In this way, scholasticism is really nothing but a playing “catch up” with the “real world” which it never quite catches.  This is why knowledge keeps changing and why this goes on endlessly.

This shows some facts:

  • The creation of the scholastic minion has no bearing on the “real world” . . . they are always trying to “catch up” to it and to interpret it
  • The measurement of the minion does not effect the”real world” . . . the minions measurement only has value in the scholastic institution

This means, more or less, that there is a whole other world beyond the scholastic and minion mentality.


The favoring of the minion mentality, that is done by the scholastic institutions, tends to make everything “minion-like”.  As a result, it has qualities such as:

  • It follows a predictable path
  • There’s a lack of variability

This causes things like:

  • It depends on “next step scholarship” (this is taking the next logical step based on already established thinking and facts . . . it may seem “new” but its actually an elaboration or continuation of existing things and ideas)
  • It lacks originality
  • It displays repeatability (often this is disguised behind new words and expressions)

These create a condition that is one sided and unchanging.


It seems, to me, that a lot of creativity, innovation, originality, and new things are seldom a result of the scholastic situation, itself, but actually originate from things coming from outside it.  These include things like:

  • Peoples personal experience
  • Peoples personal abilities
  • New attitudes and points of view
  • Conditions originating from outside the scholastic situation (such as in industry or real-world situations)

The scholastic situation does not create new things as much as one would think.  I tend to feel that if we had to rely totally on the scholastic situation then very few new things would probably appear.  This is because the scholastic situation is inherently static.  Scholastic testing helps guarantee that static situation by making everyone “do what they are told”.


In actuality, the scholastic situation is primarily a place where one “learns” tools, so to speak, in an already established way.  These “tools” are the knowledge and patterns of thinking that a person must imitate in a pre-determined and pre-approved way.  These tools are “static” . . . they must be used “this and that way”.  Scholastic testing measures how well one uses these “tools” in “this and that way”, in the proper pre-determined and pre-approved way.  As a result, the scholastic situation really creates “minions of tools”.  As a result, when one leaves school a person is not unlike a programmed robot programmed to do something in a pre-determined and pre-approved way.  We must remember that this condition is actually opposed to creativity!  In this way, the scholastic situation actually tends to stifle creativity.


To me, creativity is a sporadic and unpredictable thing which makes it a lot more rare than it may seem.  It doesn’t just appear on command.   I’ve always said, “that, of all the people who go to the scholastic institutions, it probably takes thousands of students to create one act of creativity”.  The vast majority become “minions”, and robots to a system, or forget what they learned.

I always like to tell the story of when we were traveling through dinosaur country here in Utah and when I was walking through a museum I saw some new theories about dinosaurs.  I said something that amounted to this:  “Just think of it!  How many students have to go to school, how many hours have to be spent in school, and how much money has to be spent, just to create a new theory?”  In other words, for every new idea there has to be thousands of students learning the same thing, spending thousands of hours learning it, and spending thousands of dollars to do it.  I then posed this question, “Is that theory worth all those people taking all those classes, wasting all that time, and spending all that money?”  What this means is that creativity is has a low statistical probability, such as “one in a thousand”.  As a result, we have to have 1000 people doing something before one things appears.  This does not mean that the scholastic situation caused it to appear.  Otherwise, it would be more frequent.  We’re waiting, in actuality, for natural ability to appear in someone . . .


My observation is that people who are creative tend to have to overcome the”programmed” attitude and ways that the scholastic situation creates.  Many people, from what I have seen, do not overcome it or only to a small degree.

One of the ironies of the scholastic situation is that it causes a conflict between two things:

  1. It gives tools for creativity
  2. It stifles creativity

In other words, it both helps and hinders.  The scholastic situation does not allow for a reconciling of these qualities.  This is what the individual person must do on their own and, in my opinion, that is where the “real learning” is located.  This means that the great act of creativity is actually independent of the scholastic situation.  But there seems to be this belief that the scholastic situation “teaches” people to be creative.  I see no evidence of this.  People are mistaking creativity with the “approved” way of doing things . . . they think people are creative because they are replicating what the scholastic institution wants and doing it properly (“they are doing what they’re told”).

Not only that, much of creativity originates from outside the scholastic situation, as I said above.  This means that the scholastic situation cannot be viewed as the source or origin of creativity.  It may impart “tools” on people to use but its up to other things to develop it:

  • Personal effort
  • Outside influence

This means that scholastic testing has no real bearing or influence on creativity.  As a result, it cannot claim to measure it and, as a result, how well a person “measures up” has no value.  This means that how well a person does in school reveals nothing about a persons creativity.  

I’ve always said, “if ability is not brought to the scholastic situation then ability does not appear”.  This means, more or less, that any ability already lies within a person and is not a result of the actions of a scholastic institution.  In other words, ability is not really “learned” . . . its already within a person.  Its natural ability.

Natural ability appears a number of ways:

  • The ability already exists
  • The scholastic situation can bring out a hidden natural ability by doing things
  • Any ability that appears in the scholastic situation is really imitated and is not ability at all
  • A person does not “learn” in the scholastic situation.  That is, they don’t have an ability, develop one, or imitates ability

My observation is that natural ability often tends to develop outside the scholastic situation and in several ways such as:

  • It appears before they even began school, in some form or another.
  • It develops after they left school.
  • It develops as a response to conditions, such as in the working world.


Many of the so-called straight A students are perfectionist people . . . they have to “get it right”.  Because they get straight A’s they are viewed highly be the Scholastic Machine.  This is because they measure highly on scholastic testing.

The problem with this perfectionist mentality are these:

  • They don’t ever make mistakes
  • Many have problems if they do make mistakes (even to the point that their ego is shattered)
  • They don’t know how to solve their mistakes

If one looks at history one can see that the people who make mistakes, and solve them, are really the most productive people in the world.  In short, the people who do things are the people who overcome mistakes.  Its all about being about to deal with mistakes:

  • Being able to see them
  • Being able to acknowledge them
  • Being able to overcome and solve them

But because these people make mistakes they tend to do poorly on scholastic testing . . . they don’t get it right the first time.  As a result, they end doing poorly on tests and in scholastic testing in generally.  They end up struggling with the Scholastic Machine and are often not viewed very highly.

The problem is that scholastic testing does things such as:

  • It tends to emphasize getting it right the first time. 
  • It favors people who get it right the first time
  • It doesn’t teach how to solve ones mistakes
  • It excludes people who make mistakes

In that way, scholastic testing is at odds with real world reality.  As a result, scholastic testing actually pushes away the most productive people.

I will never forget the day I decided to drop out of the University.  A psychology professor had been to some national convention of schools of psychology (or something similar).  He said that, according to what was being said, “my advice to you is that if you don’t get at least a 3.8 GPA you better go into some other field”.  He then went on to say that “even that’s not enough . . . you better do more than that and do as much extra-curricular activities as you can.  That’s the only way you are going to get into a graduate school of psychology.”  I just about stood up and said, “but you eliminated the most productive people!”  I was speaking of the “average student” . . . the students who make mistakes.  I could see that the scholastic institution was all a stupid game.  As a result of this I completely lost faith in the scholastic institution.  I also knew that these perfectionist 3.8+ students would end up destroying psychology (which they did).  It also became a major motive for my personal inquiry into scholastic testing.


I’ve always felt that the over-reliance on scholastic testing is creating problems and these may become more pronounced in the future.  It will do this in a number of ways:

  • It only allows people who do what it says to do anything
  • It prevents people, with abilities it can’t measure, from doing anything
  • It hinders the development of abilities that do not follow its dictates and testing procedures
  • Everything must follow its dictates and its approval
  • It has its own social and power structure . . . a world unto itself, that is removed from the rest of the world

In these ways, scholastic testing is actually creating something like a bottleneck and is strangling innovation, new ideas, creativity, etc.  I would compare its effects to what “red tape” causes in government and business.  When things “must be done a certain way”, and only those people who “do it that certain way” can do anything, it slows everything down and hinders things from development.  To me, a lot of scholarship, nowadays, looks that way.


You must remember that the only way you can do much in scholarship, nowadays, requires a person to have “good grades”, or have this or that degree, and such, which is nothing but a demonstration of your minion mentality as determined by scholastic testing.  To me, its like saying, “you got to be a minion to do anything or be taken seriously”.  The result of this is that the minion mentality becomes firmly established in the mentality, points of view, and logic of scholarshipBehind much of scholarship, today, is an attitude of “doing what you’re told” or “doing what’s approved”.  To me, this is becoming very evident.  For example, a lot of studies, research, etc., nowadays, is done to satisfy the Scholastic Machine or Economic Machine and their dictates.  As a result, scholarship tends to be biased to gain the support of the Machine, system, or power structure that it caters to.  What its doing, from what I can see, is creating a distorted and narrow vision of the world and a narrowing of scholarship.

Much of this condition is caused by the prevalence of scholastic testing, which enforces the authority of the scholastic institution onto people.  In short, to succeed you must pass, get good grades, have a degree, etc. . . . and the scholastic institution dictate and control these.  Because of this, scholastic testing is creating a “sycophantic scholarship”, a form of scholarship that is based on doing what the scholastic institution requires, and the creation of a bunch of people who “suck up” to it.  This, then, determines all that they do and the attitude in which they do it.  I can often tell if someone has been to the University, for example, by this “suck up” attitude and their conforming to “approved” ways.  I can also see it in studies, theories, and other forms of scholarship and learning.

To me, “sycophantic scholarship” is a new form of scholarship with its own mentality that has been created, in large part, by the prevalence of scholastic testing.  One could say that it has qualities such as:

  • Its motive is not “learning”, “truth”, or “knowledge” but in repeating what is approved by the Scholastic Machine
  • Its motive is not in inquiry, discovery, or creativity but in conforming to the Scholastic Machine and its dictates

If a person goes into the Economic Machine then they tend to carry these attitudes with them . . . the Scholastic Machine being replaced by the Economic Machine.

This tendency to “sycophantic scholarship” seems to be inherent in the University system since its creation over 1,000 years ago.  It has changed through the centuries.  In a simple way I could define the stages in this way:

  1. Classical – about 1100 to about 1500.  This is a result of various old knowledge (Aristotle, Roman law, middle eastern medicine, etc.).  This learning of the old knowledge began the “repeating” and “conforming” mentality that defines the minion mentality of the Scholastic Machine.  
  2. Religious – about 1500 to about 1800.  This is a result of the Protestant Reformation.
  3. Scientific – about 1800 to about 1950.  This is a result of the economic boom that followed WWII.
  4. System – about 1990 to today.  This has come about as a result of things like organized institutions, the internet, and the opening of a world market.

It seems that all stages display the qualities of “repeating” and “conforming” described above . . . except for the Scientific and Economic stages (about 1800 to about 1990).  This period of time had great creativity, innovation, and original thinking.  These qualities, it seems to me, have been destroyed by the System stage which has ushered in a new era of “sycophantic scholarship”, which is what I have been describing.

I tend to feel that the reason why the Scientific and Economic stages were creative, innovative, and original were because of things such as:

  • It was a new form of thinking
  • It was applying this thinking to new situations
  • This caused new situations to develop
  • It was largely unregulated and uncontrolled

In short, it was so new that nothing could “harness”, regulate, and control it.  Things appeared motivated out of necessity and need.  It took a little less than 200 years for the Scholastic Machine and Economic Machine to fully “harness”, regulate, and control it.  Once this happened the System stage appeared and these qualities were destroyed.  This shows some important points:

  • Creativity, innovation, and originality are a result of an unregulated uncontrolled condition
  • Regulation and control stifles and destroys them

Once the control of the Scholastic Machine and Economic Machine became powerful enough they destroyed them.  I seem to think that this really began to become significant in the 1920’s and got progressively worse over time until its power became very great in about 1990.  A significant part of that regulation and control comes from scholastic testing which imparts a control over knowledge and patterns of thinking as well as control of the students.


Looking at it now its very evident that everything is really about power, in some form or another.  The scholastic situation has become a means to power that has developed and grown through the years.  This power appears in ways such as influence, money, status, etc.  In general, it is a form of social power.  Because of this, scholastic testing is a means to that power and is part of the power game that the scholastic situation has become.

What does this mean?

  • It means that “knowledge”, “learning”, and “education” is really rooted in a social power.  To put it another way, any worth of knowledge lies in its social power.
  • It means that the knowledge that comes from the scholastic situation is biased toward social power.  If it doesn’t gain or promote power than it is has no value.
  • Scholastic testing becomes a means for the power structure to keep control and power.

Over the years I’ve begun to see that when one looks at knowledge one should look at it from the context of social power.  Looking at it from this angle everything changes.  When social power becomes the basis for knowledge I speak of it as “power-based knowledge” and scholastic testing becomes the means of control of that power.

There are other forms of power besides social power.  These include:

  • Personal power – something that has meaning to a person
  • Real-world power – power that comes from the real world situation
  • Situational power – power that comes from a specific situation

With these forms of power no testing is necessary.  This is because there is no power structure to administer and control it.  Any testing is really a matter of whether something works or not.  I speak of this as “relevant-based knowledge”.

Here are a few points showing the difference between the two:

  • “Power-based knowledge” is rooted in a social power.  As part of its power it uses testing, such as scholastic testing, to keep a control.
  • “Relevant-based knowledge” is rooted in participation with the world.  Proof of its correctness is found by experience in the world.

To me, “power-based knowledge” is only relevant, and true, in the social power whereas “relevant-based knowledge” is relevant, and true, in the overall real world.  This is quite a difference.  This means, more or less, that scholastic testing is really only relevant in its social power which means that it is not relevant in the overall real world scope of things.  This creates a whole new form of knowledge . . .


All in all, the scholastic situation tends to favor and create a specific type of knowledge, which I call “system-based knowledge”.  This is, to me, a specific type of knowledge that is applied and used for specific ends, namely for the system.  It does this in ways such as:

  • It supports the system
  • It maintains the system
  • It organizes the system
  • It allows a person to participate in the system
  • It allows a person to gain from the system
  • It is a source of power for the system (in this way, it is a form of “power-based knowledge”)

In these ways, it is very system focused.  Once one leaves the system then the “system-based knowledge” becomes redundant and useless.  This is why most of what you learn in school has no value and is never used and, as a result, is forgotten.  I’ve often jokingly stated that a person only uses less than 5 percent of what one has learned in 15 or 20 years of schooling.  Personally, I think there is a lot of truth in that.  There are a number of reasons for this, such as:

  • It only has value to the system
  • It is never used in “life”

As a result, “system-based knowledge” cannot be described as a “life knowledge”.  It does not really help a person in life.  The fact is that a person could go without knowing a lot of what they teach in school and it wouldn’t effect them that much . . . as long as they don’t have to participate in a system of some sort.  That’s when “system-based knowledge” is needed.  But most people only minimally participate in a system that requires a great deal of knowledge.  I personally think that most people live life with very little knowledge of things . . . and if they do know it its not used.  That’s what my observation is.  This is why I say that knowledge is over-rated and most people don’t need to be “educated”.  They don’t need to know the main points of the Magna Carta, or what a spleen does, or where Timcutcorry is located, and such.  I think that, in everyday life, knowledge is not needed all that much.  Life, in actuality, needs other things, qualities, and abilities.  

A lot of what one hears today is “system-based knowledge”.  It has qualities such as:

  • It, of course, caters to a system of some sort
  • It originates from a system, such as a University or profession
  • It is often made up of statements or something intellectual and abstract
  • It is for a specific theme or subject
  • It tends to cater to certain people
  • It tends to be for specific situations
  • It expects you to conform or believe it
  • It is not “life centered” or revolves around life
  • It tends to not have meaning, except in certain situations or for certain people
  • It tends to have no practical use
  • Typically, a person could live without knowing it

Many people get “wrapped up” in “system-based knowledge”, believing whatever it says.  Its not that hard to get “sucked into it” (I know this from experience).  Not only that, its very easy to view “system-based knowledge” as a form of “life knowledge”, that knowing it somehow is useful to life (I also know this from experience).  Its very easy to start thinking that knowing what type of creature a “hippocampus kuda” is or what a “section modulus” is used for somehow benefits us and makes us better people.  In actuality, knowing it does almost nothing.  This, from my experience, is typical for most knowledge in general.  If one stands back, and actually looks at what happens, I think its clear that most knowledge has no value in real life.

Scholastic testing, though, caters to the scholastic institutions which is a system.  In this way, scholastic testing is actually measuring “system-based knowledge” and only focuses on that type of knowledge.  But, as I said above, this is a specific form of knowledge, catering to a specific system, and is not a “life knowledge” that encompasses the greater aspects of life.  As a result, scholastic testing is limited in its scope, narrow in its conception, and only see’s a partial image of things.  In this way, I often compare scholastic testing to determining what people are like by observing them in church on Sunday.  The problem is that everyone is on their “proper church behavior” and wearing their “Sunday best”.  This does not reflect their normal everyday behavior and sees people in a limited and narrow way.


Because of the way things have progressed there has developed too much of an overvaluation and dependency on scholastic testing.  This has caused whole myths about its value and effectiveness as well as an over emphasis on its meaning.  Its caused a number of effects such as:

  • Some people think scholastic testing is not unlike a judgement from god saying that a person can or cannot do something
  • Many peoples lives are determined by it
  • It can greatly affect a persons self-esteem and how they view themselves

I’ve always believed that scholastic testing has become so overvalued that it is beginning to strangle things to death.  Its like saying “things must be the way we want or else”.  Its almost like an ultimatum.  But its like what I always said:  “who made the designers of the test god?  What makes them so right?”.  Well, I don’t believe they are.  I have so little faith in them that I refuse to be tested by them primarily because I know that they will be taken far too seriously.

I’ve always liked to point out that, when I was interested in psychological testing, not one person suggested that we should ask the high and mighty applications department at Harvard how they determined who was “best”.  Isn’t that supposed to be some high and mighty institution of education and learning?  If that’s the case, then shouldn’t they have some magic wand to tell who the “best” is?  But, in reality, they don’t have a magic wand . . . no one does.  But, yet, no one notices this.  Why is this?  Because its all a game . . .


When I look at it, overall, scholastic testing is really one big stupid game of power.  Its a game where the “winner” gets things like a job, money, prestige, status, fame, etc.  Its a game because there are more people than there are positions.  As a result, there are many people fighting for a single slot.  This gives it a quality much like a fight or, perhaps, even a war.  I would say that, when I was at the University, it looked like a “quiet and silent war between people that everyone pretended wasn’t happening”.  In addition, there can be a lot to gain from “winning” this game.  This, I found, is what most people are after.  These create conditions that justifies this ridiculous overvaluation of testing (such as how a person who gets a 3.101 GPA is “better” than a person with a 2.909 GPA or that a person who graduates from Harvard is better than a person who graduates from Utah Valley University).

And, remember, the results of this stupid game and fight for power is determining who does what nowadays.  The problem of this is seen in a number of sayings I have:

  • “If the people of the past had to be qualified to do anything then very little would of happened in the world”.  That is to say, if people had to pass scholastic testing in the past then very few people would of passed and, accordingly, very little would of happened and been created.
  • “The world was not created by people who were qualified”.   I have always felt that most of the people of the past, who created things, probably could not pass scholastic testing and would not be considered qualified to do anything today.
  • “The world was created by people who didn’t know what they were doing.”  Scholastic testing implies that you “know”, hence you get the right answer on the test.  In the real world, people didn’t know.  This means they were probably more likely to get the answer wrong if tested.
  • “The world was created by people trying to figure things out.”  Much of what has been created in the past was part of a process of figuring things out.  Notice how I use the word “process”.   Scholastic testing requires a definiteness to things (that way you get the answer right) which is contrary to a “process” which is indefinite and requires a “working through” of things.

Personally, I think the overvaluation of scholastic testing is doing things such as:

  • It is halting a natural creativity
  • It is forcing any creativity into a specific direction, namely the direction of some form of a system
  • It creates a “one way” of doing things
  • It hinders other ways of doing things

In this way, it becomes like a bottleneck or a strangling.


That’s what it seems like to me anyways.


Here are some related articles:

Thoughts on how grades really don’t measure anything

Thoughts on the problem of grades, tests, qualifications, and seeking gain from the power structure, with remarks about repeatability and creativity

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Education, learning, and over education, Grades, scholastic testing, psychological measurement, etc., Modern life and society, Psychology and psychoanalysis, The 'system', 'systemism', and the power structure and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s