Sunday, December 19, 2010

Graduating without Knowledge

There was an article (editorial) in the newspaper this morning about Liberal Arts Education from Victor David Hanson ( I'd like to say that it was impressive but when preaching to the choir about education, it just reinforces those feelings of futility. To reiterate what a Liberal Arts Education entails, is what we would call a 'broad' education. Being well read, knowing literature, the arts, philosophy and how to think are all part of a Liberal Arts Education. When we speak of 'educated people,' more likely than not, we are talking Liberal Arts, not specialties like Medicine, Accounting or Marketing.

Two things happened since I read the article this AM. First, I got a visit from a friend that went to a Christmas party last evening. One of the attendees of the party pulled his daughters boyfriend out of the party and told him point blank, that he was going to beat the hell out of him if he didn't start talking correctly.

"Was he swearing and being crude?" I asked.

"No. He was speaking in computer language."

What he meant, was that this young man was speaking in Texting language. For instance, TMOR means tomorrow. So instead of saying "tomorrow," this gentleman said "Tmore." He may have told his girlfriend "459" or "831" to indicate he loves her. What I say is "huh?" I mean it. "huh?" Maybe I'm getting just too old. I don't text only because my eyes and fingers are not nearly as good as they once were and if I want to find something out, what's wrong with email or just talking on the phone? Why speak in Text? And can you really, adequately convey linguistic meaning with simple text abbreviations? IDK, IMAO IHNI. (see for the key to these and many more acronyms) When you think about it, he is speaking a completely different language than the one he grew up with. This language, in its own way, indicates the young man is pretty sharp. I don't know, but I'll bet the young man has never read a serious work of literature but he can speak a language that was made up and evolved over just the last 10 years or so. He is not dumb in the sense that he can not learn, but dumb in the sense that if he isn't interested in it, it has no meaning. Like many of todays youth, "not only don't I need or want to learn anything new, but I refuse to." Now that's dumb. Parents seem to be okay with it though, as long as whatever the kids doing doesn't get them thrown in jail or, heaven forbid, cause parents to have a scheduling hiccup.

How many freaking ways can we dumb down our youth? We know youth. Youth can invent more ways to dumb themselves down than we can even imagine. In my time (youthful time that is) we used chemicals, brain altering drugs to dumb ourselves down. Todays youth are so lazy, they just don't do any of the work and skip the drugs. They become dumbed down naturally, by not learning in the first place. Holistically dumb, the new path towards mediocrity. Sit in front of a TV all day long and don't think. "Let another person write the entertainment I am watching, let another person tell me how I am suppose to think. If I can't understand the words I'm hearing, it's someone else's fault they didn't teach me or the person writing it is just too brainy and needs to come down to the real world. Don't expect me to make an effort to learn, I am okay where I'm at, cause no waves, cause no problems."

So what does this have to do with a Liberal Arts Education? A lot of kids today, think 13 to 20 years, can barely read a book. Yet they can read and understand text message abbreviations. They are not dumb, we, as a society of parents, teachers, community, etc. do not hold our younger generation to be accountable for learning Philosophy, Literature, Art. No, a bunch of talking heads tell us on Television that in order for the USA to succeed in this new world order, it is imperative to have a college education. Wait, when I went to college way back when, you got a broad based education, a Liberal Arts Eduction. Sure, I specialized in Biology, but, I took a lot of other classes in Art, Literature, Language, Mathematics, Government, Anthropology, etc. I got a well rounded education. So we do not make our kids learn those traits that allow them to become broadly educated, yet we want them to attend college to become..what? Better Worker Bees? If you want want better and more honey, then you need better Worker Bees. Do better Worker Bees need to read Shakespeare? Or discuss the Baroque period of Architecture? No! Better Worker Bees need to figure out how to make more and better Honey.

Do we need more college grads or do we need more specialized trade school type education possibilities? If you need someone to fix your computer (think Honey maker), then you need someone that has learned computers (Worker Bees), software, hardware the works. Two years tops in a trade school. If you need someone to tackle nuances of a written contract that purports to place ideas, principles and perhaps assets into an agreement, then perhaps you need someone who has had a broad based college education and the ability to discern what the intentions of two parties may be. Trade School = 2 years. College = 4 years. Buzz, Buzz.

We pass kids from High School that can not read or write. I've seen college graduates that couldn't discuss the basics of their chosen field, let alone discuss anything outside their specialized little realm. I've seen college graduates that could not write a coherent one page memo describing what they did yesterday, let alone what they did on summer vacation. What they went to college for was for four years. They didn't attend college to get a Liberal Arts Education, they became nurses or accountants so they can work in industry and support the structure of our basic economy. There is nothing wrong with this, but they did not have to go to school for four years. They just need to learn a trade, and that's what they learned. It is obvious since they can not write a simple memo, or discuss the broader issues of society but they did learn a trade that gainfully employs them, that they got what they wanted, a job in a field of their choosing. But it is not college and it is not a Liberal Arts Education. We have turned our colleges into trade schools. Trade Schools that cost more than twice as much for an education. Perhaps we have too many Colleges and Universities today that do not act like Colleges and Universities, but act like Trade Schools. Maybe when we apply the term 'College' or 'University,' the term should have a meaning beyond mere training for a job, but perhaps, a meaning of a Liberal Arts Education? Just a thought.

Here is a second problem that I see with Liberal Arts Education. I don't know how to bring this up, but we can start with the person that wrote the article today, Victor David Hanson. Mr. Hanson according to Wikipedia, is a registered democrat but a staunch conservative. Interesting contrast and it works well with what I am about to espouse. Mr. Hanson is indeed smart, a true product of the Liberal Arts Educational establishment. He is able to read, discern and enable his own opinions based on data gathered from here and there. He is one of the individuals that others actually parrot: a talking head, an intellectual leader. Mr. Hanson as a conservative though, should know better than most, that the meaning of the term 'Liberal' has, due to his fellow conservatives, become synonymous with Ultra Left Wing, do-gooder, government intrusion sort of ideal. In effect, the word Liberal has been trashed. He advocates for a Liberal Arts Education as well as I. I think our problem now is if you ask a student to get a Liberal Arts Education, the students parents, parents peers and possibly even the students peers may think you turned into a radical because you are off to get a Liberal Arts Education. Most citizens today that do not have an education and many that have been educated in specific arts, may not realize that a Liberal Arts Education, is the type of education we want in our leaders, our policy makers, even our military leaders. This is the type of education, along with experience and research, that allow ideas to sprout, new and better methods of doing the same old thing to occur, and ways to solve complex problems of society to be introduced for discussion and implementation. Yes, a Liberal Arts Education offers all these things. the problem today is it also offers the word Liberal as part of the Educational Process. Our Country has become such an 'un' and 'under' educated place to reside, that it is hard to discuss education at all. The person who watches the Discovery Channel every evening now believes that their knowledge of natural science is equal to that of most college grads. To suggest that perhaps there is much more to a college education than what was mentioned in a few hours on the Discovery Channel, could spark a nice debate, and one that could not be won by those who haven't experienced a true Liberal Arts Education.

That's it for now, I have a SNERT to deal with.

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