William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

A New Kind Of University: An Open Discussion

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We agree that the university system is “broken.” The reasons why are obvious: ideology and money have so corroded the foundations that a collapse is imminent. These facts naturally lead to one question (phrased two ways).

What is the purpose of a university? Why have one at all?

(That it is broken I take as obvious. Here is one documentary. I know nothing about the organization behind it.)

For most it is to “get a degree”, which is to say, to be awarded a document with as much intellectual validity as that issued to the Scarecrow, who, it will be remembered, after he became credentialed began spouting mathematical nonsense—with the utmost confidence in himself.

What the “degree” is in matters almost not at all, except to a remnant. And it’s that remnant which will become of eventual interest to us. The “degree”, however, is necessary because most employers, forbidden to engage in systematic intelligence or aptitude testing, require the “degree” as an increasingly weak measure of potential. Worst of all is that most holders of “degrees” are just like Scarecrow and assume their diplomas guarantee their opinions.

It’s true that by the time children ascent to university they have been stewing in ideology spooned out by “educators” too in love with theory and so emerge from high school largely untutored. (Side note: it is interesting that many “researchers” in education write that their findings are “novel”.) That a large fraction of students entering university unable to read or calculate and who are misinformed and uninformed about much accounts in part for the decline in the value of a university education.

Now if the purpose of a university is to provide jobs training, then it’s going about it badly. A child wanting to be an accountant would learn what he needed were he to attend a, say, six- or twelve-month daily (a full eight hours) program. Further, this young man would escape the ideological hemlock he would be forced to imbibe at regular university. He would live more soberly as well, as class begins tomorrow morning, every morning, at nine sharp.

He would be younger, too, than a university graduate, and be far, far less in debt, if he is in debt at all, because his teachers would not require (I use that word purposely) vast salaries, and the place at which this training would take place could be in the basement of some accounting firm, or wherever.

The criticism is that he would be less “rounded”, but this is clearly false. He merely would have not had to have undergone training in material that was not suitable to him, or that was best avoided, or that he was unable to complete. He would instead know what he has to know, and be certified as actually knowing, what it is an accountant needs to know. He would be a proficient accountant, which was his desire.

If this is true for accountants, it is true for “business” as well, and “business” now comprises an enormous proportion of “degrees”. And if it’s true for “business”, it’s also true for “communications”, and if true for “communications”, it is true for “comedy writing”, etc. (These are all actual “degrees”. Have fun looking others up yourself.)

The vast bulk of students, therefore, would be better off were they to attend jobs-training classes, as plumbers and electricians now do.

I know what you’re thinking but don’t want to say. Plumbing and electricity are low fields of endeavor, whereas a university “business” graduate from a named school has embarked on a sort of high adventure. Well, this is true, in the sense that snobbery plays an outsized—no: fundamental—role in the university scheme. This is largely why parents want their child to attend a “good” school, because, used as they are to a culture saturated in advertising, a “brand” name “degree” is seen of significant value. And it is, too, as most employers buy the same line of reasoning.

So far we have jobs and branding as purposes. These are the largest. Following closely in importance is “research.” Many people who want to engage in basic mathematical and physical subjects would be better served, in just the same way as jobs candidates, to engage in direct training in the fields in which they have an interest. This is already done, too, in what we call “graduate school”. There, the pretension of being “well grounded” is abandoned and students get right to it, apprenticing themselves to a master (if we’re still allowed to use this word).

“Research” is also broken, though. Scientists are too enamored of money and politics. It’s doubtful even a handful of scientists remember what it was like before the tsunami of government funding (which began mid-Twentieth Century) washed away the vestiges of the old ways of learning. To them, it is inconceivable their work could take place without government oversight, influence, direction, restrictions, and bureaucracy that accompanies the money.

The solution is to cut the money off, or most of it. That won’t happen, of course—the Deans and Deanlettes wouldn’t stand for it; neither would the half dozen offices of Diversity & Grievance which rely on grant indirects—so any solution to fix research will have to happen outside the university system.

We finally arrive at the last component, and the most important. Training to become an interesting person. This is desired, as I said above, only by a remnant. It can only be accomplished by a few, because it requires the most from a person. Just as all men cannot be the center on a professional basketball team, not all handle the rigorous effort this component requires. It would be well, of course, and preferred, if the folks who went into the sciences first had this training, but it clearly isn’t required for all.

The fiction is that everybody who now attends university gets this last component. Students attend to acquire a “general education” and to become “well rounded”, as said. But, with decreasing exceptions, this is a farce. (I won’t bother trying to prove this here.)

Solution? Parents won’t give up on branding, and employers won’t relinquish desire for “degrees”. To become a scientist, it is required to first submit to four years of standard university. The remnant still want to become interesting, and are interested “in the best that has been thought and said”, as racist and sexist and X-aphobic as that is, but they have very few choices, and anyway most are torn between education and employment.

The money is now controlled by the government. The Feds took over student loans with Obamacare (remember that?). The screechers who are responsible for the most poisonous ideology (they are usually in “Studies” departments and the humanities) won’t stand for any cuts in funding. Can you imagine any university eliminating its offices of Diversity? No, sir, you cannot. You can only imagine the doomed attempts.

The solution, I think, is that there is no solution. Even small, faithful (to Truth) colleges, which are aware of the depths to which we have sunk, often offer “Business” degrees, because without them they would have a difficult time attracting paying students. (Economics as it was classically thought of is not what I mean; and anyway, Economics cannot, and should not, stand on its own.)

Well, that’s the situation. I have my own ideas, not to fix what exists, but to separate from it. What would you do?

Update I very stupidly left off Entertainment, perhaps the main purpose of our largest schools. Go team. Entertain us!

42 Comments

  1. A start would be to eliminate all government approaches to educational funding in favor of income-share agreements and thereby provide the students a price signal.

    This would do nothing to encourage studies of the true liberal arts, i.e., those disciplines that help one exercise the franchise intelligently. But it would focus the minds of those whose motivation is to equip themselves to make a living.

    As to “well-rounded,” why is familiarity with Picasso’s blue period considered broadening but mastery of neural networks is not?

  2. A fairly simple way would be to not give any more federal loans for college. The ability for the job you are learning or training for to repay a loan will go a long way to filter out junk. That researchers like money is not a major problem to me. Even this site has a “please donate” button (which I have used).

    Right now, the main problem is that most all schools and research are in Friedman’s 4th quadrant. A return to the first quadrant will not remove all the issues, but it will go a long way. Imagine what the Sierra club will be forced to do if it can’t get the government to pay for global warming studies? “The Earth is Dying (paid for by Greenpeace)” as a study title would not garner as much belief or attention!

  3. Joe,

    We wrote the same comment, nearly, at the same time.

    I too have always wondered why “technical” people must branch out and learn more, but the arts and others must not join us in Diff Eq.

  4. As generalities, these observations are accurate. One thing to add or maybe just emphasize is that the paradigm today is that everybody should have a chance to go to college, and by “chance” I mean having most academic and some economic impediments removed. Any high school graduate with the barest whiff of ability to read and comprehend is encouraged to apply, and will be accepted somewhere. This waters down the average aptitudes classes which in turn discourages instructors who long for actively engaged and bright students. Universal admission of poorer inputs lowers the quality of outputs and wears down the machinery as well.

    OTOH, we’re seeing a trend toward more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) students as these curricula lead to more lucrative job prospects. Allied-health disciplines are in high demand as well. Many of these students participate in internships and other experiential learning activities, an increasing emphasis on campus. Another growing area is certification credentialing, often only one year off concentrated coursework (a lot of it online) in a subject area (think cyber security, for example) that ignores general education courses. That diversification is likely to continue.

    I don’t think much can be done actively to “fix” what are system problems; there are too many moving parts to deliberately manage. I do ascribe to the Constructal Theory (https://constructal.org/) that says that systems, if they are to survive, follow their inherent design features that naturally and eventually overcome or redistribute any blockages to flow. Higher education certainly is a complex system which is adaptive, but it’s a fully mature system that has occupied most of the available territory. Changes will be reconfiguration of mostly existing currents and channels.

  5. Briggs

    May 10, 2016 at 9:11 am

    James,

    Scientists should be paid, of course. But you notice that they don’t have a Please Donate button. I rely on generous and magnanimous readers and private sources. But too many derive their incomes solely from Government. That means the system is inefficient. There are too many scientists, just as there are too many anything that is government subsidized.

    You hear this from some professors, too, who admit they are graduating too many students (at PhD levels, I mean).

    Your point excellent about “paid for by Greenpeace.” What gets me is why people automatically see as pure announcements “paid for by Government.”

  6. In last night’s episode of “Houdini and Doyle”, Houdini related that if he’d completed school like his parents had wanted, he would have wound up earning $15/week teaching (instead of becoming the world class illusionist he became).

  7. Forget football. Videos of pulsating dance parties and raves are used to recruit know-nothing high school seniors—which is just dreadful. The university tells them that they are signing up for four-year party. And then the university wrings its hands (ha! no it doesn’t) when the students act as if they signed up for a four-year party, and engage in clubbing-type shenanigans which may or may not involve legal down the road. At least football gave some kind of cover for drinking too much when you shouldn’t.

    I know a chief librarian at big name university, and I like to ask him if the students are reading books. He says, “They are studying hard, but they aren’t reading books.”

    Lastly, the theme for many academics in the softer sciences when they write policy papers or giant books (it doesn’t matter on what topic) their solution is a variation of “more government money.” I am so sick of government money being the answer for every stinkin’ problem.

  8. “The Feds took over student loans with Obamacare (remember that?).”

    This is untrue. The Feds controlled 80-90% of student loans decades before Obamacare.

  9. James:

    “Well rounded” is defined by literature and related faculties to mean the ability to converse on the subjects in their fields. It’s a badge of membership in a club, like the ability to quote Cicero once identified one as educated.

    Of course, I was reaching to arcana when I gave neural networks as an example, and, to a much lesser degree, that’s somewhat true of differential equations (of which, I might add, those who pontificate on climate issues routinely betray their ignorance). But some math should be considered a component of the liberal arts as I defined them above. For example, statistics, together with enough algebra and calculus to support it, are important in enabling one to exercise the franchise intelligently. So should economics and at least enough physics to recognize as nonsense most of what the press writes about energy.

    There is value to society in having a critical mass of the populace conversant with these disciplines, over and above any benefit they may have in enabling citizens to earn a living.

  10. “Rounded” is an Orwelian nonsense word — completely devoid of meaning.

    I supposedly became “rounded” after choosing Film Arts 101 over intro to Sculptor 101. At best I became half-rounded, so to speak.

    If I were to have been “rounded,” I would have been exposed to Austrian economics alongside the prescribed ideology of my minor, Keynesian economics.

    Alas, that type of rounded education rarely occurs.

  11. Indubitably, Jim, indubitably. There are five economics books that should be required reading: Menger & Baum von Bawerk’s Capital and Interest, von Mises’ Human Action and Theory of Money and Credit, Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics, and Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.

    To me, Basic Economics has the least philosophy entrained and The Road to Serfdom the most. Economics cannot be understood, I think, without philosophy and/or logic. You can understand economics without needing mathematics as such. My understanding of the Austrian School posits that you should eschew mathematics (applied mathematics definitely via statistics should be eschewed … applied mathematics may prevent understanding the logic behind human action) altogether.

  12. @MattS,

    My recollection might be incorrect, but Federal loans were fully GSE prior to Reagan, privatized (partly?) by Reagan, then re-nationalized by Obama.

  13. I must disagree with the notion that people would be better served by excising the variety from their education, whether or not this is the intent of Briggs.
    I particularly appreciate my liberal arts education at my tiny, dedicated-to-Truth private college alma mater, because I otherwise wouldn’t have realized my skills are entirely better suited for a major in mathematics rather than engineering, though I enjoyed thoroughly learning all I could of mathematics, organic chemistry and biochemistry. My religion courses placed my faith in context, as I learned in depth the history of the Christian church. Even my random 400-level class in the African-American civil rights movement has equipped me to utterly dispel many of the myths promulgated by leftists. I did take a few courses which ended up being sad excuses for education, but overall my college education was of tremendous value to me.

  14. @cdquarles,
    The DOE under Clinton started issuing student loans directly again without technically undoing the Regan privatizations. This drove the majority of private issuers out of the market and the DOE was directly issuing around 80-90% of student loans by the time Obama took office.

  15. Sander van der Wal

    May 10, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Big telescopes are expensive. So are Large Hadron Colliders.

  16. There may be a self correction in operation. The universities without classrooms–Phoenix, Liberty University, etc.–are becoming more and more widespread as institutions that train for a job (which is what many people desire for a “higher education”).
    For institutions that do train for a higher education we have as models, St. Johns College (Annapolis, Santa Fe), St. Thomas Aquinas, and many other Catholic Colleges (I’m not familiar with non-Catholic colleges like these but maybe readers are). So, it’s our responsibility as parents to send our kids to these, and if these aren’t what the offspring wants or needs, then let do the University without classes and earn some money while they’re learning.

  17. What should young people do if they desire a real, classical education?

    Christi pax,

    Lucretius

  18. Even separating federal money from colleges probably will not help. There appear to be a large number of businesses out there that are happy to have employees indoctrinated by liberals—computer firms come to mind. Not to mention the lack of skills is justification to bring in outside labor at a cheaper cost. The country is seeped in the liberal ideology and cannot see any problem with that. Again, this is something only Nature can fix.

    Our liberal, lying college has a “continuing education class” on wind turbines, actually wind propaganda as far as I can tell. So even if it’s not actual course work, the lies and deception are still there. Far too many have drank the koolaid.

    Bernie Sanders has the solution: free college. Then college is exactly like high school and only a master’s, PhD or vocational education will stand out. (I know that’s not his goal, but that will be the outcome.)

    James: Maybe people should learn diff eq—http://www.vagazette.com/ct-flight-delayed-professor-doing-math-20160507-story.html

  19. Perhaps universities should guarantee their students’ college loans? At least that would give universities an incentive to provide more than a credential, but an education that is worth something, and to actually help those students who seem to be struggling or losing focus.

    Lucretius: I agree with Bob Kurland that they might consider something like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._John%27s_College_(Annapolis/Santa_Fe)
    They have a remarkable program.

  20. We have the best university system in the world here. You guys can whine and moan over the reality that liberal people are more likely to become educators or you can simply make your arguments. I had a run-in with a soc teacher once, I took it all the way up, argued my point, and won the day, (and my position was terribly politically incorrect, but it was true). If you feel you’re being stifled, speak up louder. If you find that’s not working, perhaps it’s your argument that’s the problem.

    JMJ

  21. The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUCZXn9RZ9s

    Homer Simpson understands:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fO1Vhc88QkM

    “Give me a credential and a pair of eyeglasses, and I will move the earth.” — Archimedes

  22. Ye Olde Statistician

    May 10, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    Eisenhower warned of the government-educational complex in his Farewell Address, the same in which he warned of the military industrial complex.
    http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwightdeisenhowerfarewell.html

    John Lukacs discussed the inflation of education in his 1970 book, The Passing of the Modern Age, and again in 2002’s At the End of an Age. As more and more diplomas are awarded, inflation sets in and the individual diploma is worth less and less.
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-autumn-of-modern-ages-age-of.html
    [full series starts here: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-autumn-of-modern-ages-preface.html ]

  23. JMJ–When is the last time you’ve been on a US college campus? Yes, our education system “works” with motivated students, but they have to have fortitude not to be dulled by the 101 courses (Sorry, you clearly know the material, but you have to take this anyway) taught by bored professors or ill-informed grad students.

    Don’t forget the remedial courses (are these on a different fee structure?). If you are a curious, talented student, you will be exceptionally fortunate if you have one professor who takes an earnest interest in you and your development. Most kids leave college with no one they can immediately turn to write a letter of recommendation for them.

    Professors themselves. Wow, I love professors, but for too many it’s “just a job” with some swell perks like traveling to far-flung locales for conferences. Why are so many “working from home”? How is that possible? Why are so many students not cracking open a book? How do they not know basic middle-school vocabulary? Why do they think history has nothing to do with them? Why do they think the life begins and ends with their smartphone?

    There is a vast amount of damage that was wrought by the baby-boomer generation. We aren’t just talking about armed takeovers of the president’s office (but who is trustee now?). I don’t blame the baby-boomers, but I blame their elders and betters who were too indulgent and let them get away with it.

    What happened to Latin? Where are the foreign language requirements? The wider acceptance of pass-fail is because of this generation. I met a man once who agitated for pass-fail at one of the Big Ten, and he was so proud of this accomplishment that it could have been on his resume.

    Perhaps the high tuition is worth it if you are walking away with knowledge of Latin and Greek, and some fundamental illumination of what it means to be alive. But if you are just going to college to pick up some information that can be put to music on School House Rock, then maybe it isn’t for you.

  24. Sheri: that professor is an economist.

    Joe Born: You state that “…differential equations (of which, I might add, those who pontificate on climate issues routinely betray their ignorance).” Of whom do you speak? I’m sure that a working climatologist isn’t a hero on this site but there’s no question that he or she understands differential equations at a high level. Bloggers maybe not so much but learning science from politically oriented bloggers of any stripe pretty much guarantees frustration.

    You also state: “So should economics and at least enough physics to recognize as nonsense most of what the press writes about energy.” Examples? I agree with the statement but suspect that the way in which you and I assess the aspects in which they are nonsensical may be very different.

  25. Ye Olde Statistician

    May 10, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    School House Rock? How bouts statz 4 life?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLARMY_PvIg

  26. Rob Ryan:

    As to the nonsense the press writes about energy, you must noticed that about a third of the time the press is unable even to distinguish kilowatts from kilowatt-hours.

    As to differential equations, our host and his co-authors are a prime example. Equation 1 of the paper he announced at http://wmbriggs.com/post/15095/ sets forth the preposterous proposition that the response of a time-invariant memory-implementing system can be accurately computed by treating it as a time-variant memoryless system. They used that notion to compute the ways in which various stimuli would cause systems to respond whose step responses that paper’s Fig. 4 depicts. Among the results displayed in their Fig. 6 are those of the first three rows, which are off by more than a factor of 3.

    Even though computing a response by convolution is something routinely taught to undergraduate engineers, the three PhDs in that author group has still failed to acknowledge their error.

  27. “The purpose of studying economics is … to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.” Prof. Joan Robinson in “Contributions to Modern Economics”

  28. “Perhaps the high tuition is worth it if you are walking away with knowledge of Latin and Greek, and some fundamental illumination of what it means to be alive. But if you are just going to college to pick up some information that can be put to music on School House Rock, then maybe it isn’t for you.”

    The final cause is the cause of causes. What is the purpose of an education? Only when the community and/or nation answers this question can we judge the success of our educational situation in the country.

    Lucky for me, I accidentally took Latin at my public school, which of course is the best accident in my education 🙂

    Christi pax,

    Lucretius

  29. “I agree with Bob Kurland that they might consider something like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._John%27s_College_(Annapolis/Santa_Fe)
    They have a remarkable program.”

    That does sound like an excellent program. I wonder how much it costs though?

    Christi pax,

    Lucretius

  30. Do we really need so much money ($40,000) to give a student a classical education? To teach young people the great books? How many resources did it take to educate St. Thomas Aquinas, at a time without electricity and the internet?

    I get the feeling that the geniuses of the past would be appaled to how we waste such amazing (and cheap!) resources to stupidity like internet memes, and evils like pornography, when we literally can access more of Aristotle than St. Thomas could, with the click of a button.

    Christi pax,

    Lucretius

  31. Lucretius:

    Although my (post-secondary) education was largely vocational, I consider study of the liberal arts, properly defined, a worthy pursuit. Except in following the occasional Tridentine Mass, though, I’ve found little use for Latin. In fact, I find it an occasion of sin: it so often tempts me to make pedantic replies to the dog Latin people sometime inflict on me.

    Since you are a fan, perhaps you could give me a good reason why a youngster today should spend those hours mastering, say, the finer points of supine-particle use.

  32. JMJ: Having “the best” university system in the world is a meaningless statement (though I have noticed that some people are easily tricked by the use of superlatives.). If we compare two third world countries sanitation, the one with the fewer number of dysentery cases could be said to have “the best” sanitation. Two countries with massive murder cases—the one where fewer died is the “best”. Best means nothing about quality in an absolute sense. (I do congratulate you for winning your point and advising people to speak up. Paying for one’s children to be indoctrinated in political rhetoric is the height of parental irresponsibility, yet people do it all the time. “Anon” speaks to this. Also, this mess started in the government run schools from kindergarten on up. Colleges are not solely to blame.)

    Rob Ryan: Concerning the way the press reports on wind energy and solar, when was the last time you say NBC, CBS or any network except maybe FOX report on wind turbine syndrome, property devaluations, the cost of “renewable” electricity not taken from the advertisement brochure they got from the wind energy, the negative environmental impacts, anything but a glowing “flowers and unicorns” description of the product. And note, this IS a product and the media is selling it right and left without charging for advertising.

  33. At the core, college really provides one simple thing: close and personal access to numerous people and subjects that might prove interesting and helpful to one’s future endeavors. By the time one gets to college, he should have acquired the skills to teach himself — that is, how to read, reason, test, and conclude. Maybe the skills aren’t polished by age 18, but there should be a foundation. Failure to take advantage of this one simple thing is foolish.

  34. “that is, how to read, reason, test, and conclude.”

    The only one of those that is actually taught in K-12 education is how to read.

  35. “Since you are a fan, perhaps you could give me a good reason why a youngster today should spend those hours mastering, say, the finer points of supine-particle use.”

    Well, there is the joy of learning the language, and there are things, beautiful things, that Virgil and others do in Latin that are not even possible to do in English. Langauges like Latin and Greek have words with meanings that are hard to express in English: langauge is a human artifact, and can either facilitate the intellect’s seeing of an idea/concept, or it can make it more difficult. For example, Greek and Latin make it very easy to explain the soul, but in English, this has become more difficult (the Cartesian conception is too embedded). Latin itself is a very good language to explore legal philosophy too, due to all the distinctions, and the implicit understand of freedom being due to law, rather than freedom being limited by law. In other words, learning other langauges will open you mind.

    Since the two major langauges of Western Civilization throughout history have basically been Greek and Latin (with the notible exception of the Hebrew Old Testement), it might be better to ask why shouldn’t we learn Latin.

    Cicero, Tacitus, Marcus Aurelius, Virgil, St. Thomas, Bacon, Descartes all wrote their major works in Latin. From the medieval ages on to the 1800s Latin was the language of the intellectual, and basically everything else. Just look at this list: http://www.thelatinlibrary.com

    Yes, we can translate these works, but words have implicit meanings that don’t translate over to other languages, and important insights can be found by reading the original language. Translation only works so far. I’ve even come to the conclusion that poetry is basically impossible to translate with any satisfaction.

    And on a personal and practical note, since English education is abysmal, it was my Latin teacher who taught me grammar. Do young people even know what a supine, a participle, or the subjunctive mood is? She also showed me langauges are a kind of art, a beauty which is meant to be enjoyed, and to bring our eyes to glaze at higher truths.

    I can go on and on with this. There is also the tradition aspect, that you mentioned: Latin is a traditional and religious language, and I’m sure you can understand the value of tradition 🙂

    Christi pax,

    Lucretius

  36. Gary said, “By the time one gets to college, he should have acquired the skills to teach himself — that is, how to read, reason, test, and conclude.”

    MattS said, “The only one of those that is actually taught in K-12 education is how to read.”

    Wow, @Gary, I knew how to do that before I entered school (thank you grandparents). @MattS, my how we have fallen, for even my segregated, second class (per the leftists) elementary schools taught us “how to read, reason, test, and conclude”, if you hadn’t been taught those already by your family by the time you reached the 6th grade; and unless you were disabled in some manner (yes, we had a few like that, but only a very few 10 to 20 out of several hundred).

    Speaking of my maternal grandparents, they suffered under Jim Crow (not!), if you based your criteria on time warming a seat (6th grade was all they were allowed). They were easily as well educated as some university graduates today, if not better. [There is much to be said for the school of hard knocks, but we can’t have that now, can we ;P, for that’d bruise their sensitive self-esteem.]

  37. “At the core, college really provides one simple thing: close and personal access to numerous people and subjects that might prove interesting and helpful to one’s future endeavors. By the time one gets to college, he should have acquired the skills to teach himself — that is, how to read, reason, test, and conclude. Maybe the skills aren’t polished by age 18, but there should be a foundation. Failure to take advantage of this one simple thing is foolish.”

    Dear Gary:

    I agree with you. Education isn’t just the regurgitate of facts, but rather to bring out the mind’s natural ability to reason correctly and see true first principles, and to bring out the heart’s natural ability to practice virtue and understand the good: this is why education ought to be religious in nature, because the mind without faith can become lost, and virtue is impossible without Grace (also, secular people dont seem to understand that emotions are not inherently good, and need to be whipped into shape). Obvious to say, but education is also about watering a student’s natural desire to learn.

    Once this foundation is built, the student can be free to pursue a reasoned interest. I say reasoned interest because young people are not taught what things are truly valuable to learn, and because they don’t see the need (or even possiblity) to use reason to determine value, they use emotion: and emotions tell them to ignore important subjects, and to study relatively useless ones (like anything with a “study” at the end :rollseyes:).

    If we follow C. S. Lewis, the essence of our mindset for education is that it is propaganda: children are blank slates opened to whatever arbritrary philosophy gets to them first. But it’s not like that. The goal of the classical education is to bring out and grow the ideas and desires a person all ready has to reach the truth and the good.

    The wings of the bird aren’t blank slates, that convention has arbritrarily dictated ought to be used for flying: flying *is* the natural purpose of wings. The same occurs to the human intellect and will. The difference between ancient education, medieval education, and modern education is that the ancients were trying to bring young people to fulfill their natural purpose, the medievals were trying to do what the ancients did, but then to bring students beyond nature and fulfil their supernatural end, and the modern, not believing in intristic teleology, tries to external force his arbritrary beliefs and purposes onto the student before a rival reaches him first: to the first humans are natural things, to the second, humans are natural things with a supernatural end, to the third, humans are artifacts, pieces to a machine.

    Christi pax,

    Lucretius

  38. Send us students with good work ethics. We wish we could instill work ethics in your children, but evidence and experience show that it’s a really hard task, you know, if you have not succeeded in 18 years…. A great education system is only great if students can take advantage of the opportunities and various course offerings. Just to echo Gary’s point.

    College is not for everyone. Be an electrician or plumber or auto repair technician who is probably making more money than professors of climatology or education. Be a house husband or house wife. Life is much more than work or being smart or being interesting or being rich.

    I wonder if some conservatives stop the anti-scientist/science nonsense and overstating the challenge conservative professors face in higher education, , i.e., in a way, stop discouraging conservative students from considering careers in higher education and science, might there be more conservative professors in higher education? Perhaps, this is a chicken and egg situation.

  39. JH: It’s called “stacking the deck” and does not involve a chicken or an egg.

  40. Lucretius:

    Thanks for your insights. Me, I usually counsel teenagers against the Latin in favor of a language you can actually speak with someone, but each of us has his own mental equipment, and in some the reasons you give may resonate.

    Now, I will say that a couple of Sundays ago I did indeed consult the Greek version of John 21:15 to remind myself why the translation we hear in church inadequate, but the truth is that I haven’t retained enough Greek for that to have been more than just a little helpful; to me it didn’t justify the hours of adolescent study. Again, though, some kids may find the dead languages more enriching than I did.

    Incidentally, I appreciate your mentioning Marcus Aurelius’s writings in Latin, since the only work of his I have is Greek. Although I am unlikely to take the time to read his Latin letters, it’s a nice bit of trivia to know they exist.

  41. Ye Olde Statistician

    May 11, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Someone who knows only his own milk-tongue does not even know that. You cannot even read Newton in the original without knowing Latin, nor can you winkle out the meanings of many an English word without grasping its Latin [and, in science, Greek] roots. Without L&G a word like ‘television’ is simply a black box with an assigned meaning ‘der Fernsehapparat.’

    With four years of Latin, I am able to deduce the meanings of signage in Spanish and Italian, two dialects of Very Late Latin. I can also see that Thomas’ discussion of the soul is self-evident, while in English, it is confused. [It works the other way, too: Latin (and Greek) lack the progressive tenses of English, so the argument from ‘motion’ may be more easily grasped in English.] otoh, the supine makes both motion and telos clear: .
    Chiefly after verbs of motion, the accusative of the supine (without a preposition) is used to indicate MOTION or to express DESIGN (‘the accusative of the goal of motion’)
    http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/supine.html

    The supine in English is not distinguished in form from the simple infinitive:
    (To err) is human; (to forgive) is divine.

    And so it goes. Russian verbs have ‘aspect,’ German concatenates words into new words, Choctaw does not distinguish verbs from adjectives. English verbs its nouns. Etc. It’s the same reason engineering drawings have three perspectives.

  42. “Thanks for your insights. Me, I usually counsel teenagers against the Latin in favor of a language you can actually speak with someone, but each of us has his own mental equipment, and in some the reasons you give may resonate.”

    You’re welcome! Mr. Flynn also makes excellent points too. That one can’t even understand English without another langauge to compare it to is extremely insightful. I might even recommend to study Beowulf or some other old English work, just to better understand English by learning about its older forms.

    Personally, I would counsel teenagers to learn both Latin and Greek and many spoken langauges. I’m just the kind of person who would prefer to take everything rather than settle with one option or another 😉

    Christi pax,

    Lucretius

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