Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Epistemology / Reality /
The indoctrination section of my Knatz.com autobiographical files narrates how my Sunday School teacher had worried that I might go to college and that my faith might waver once there. That section begins with a brief word about the ideals of the liberal arts education. My FLEX Directory features my attempts, following social philosopher Ivan Illich, at deschooling society. (Deschooling doesn’t mean necessarily getting rid of all schools including colleges: it does oppose any sort of compulsion: and by the second half of the Twentieth Century, college had come to appear as necessary for certain pretensions as wearing gloves once had been for ladies. That’s a “class” compulsion. That sort of college has to go.)
This file will initiate a different distinction. My Sunday School teacher didn’t seem to worry that the minister had gone to college. Had divinity school tried the minister’s faith? Exactly no. Divinity school has never been that sort of college. Those who haven’t been to college or who attended any but the best examples of liberal arts colleges may well live through adulthood without ever focusing on the sorting I here address. Medical school, law school, business school, engineering school … they’re all trade schools. None of them are liberal arts. Some, law and medical schools, for example, like their matriculants first to have graduated from some liberal arts college, the law school itself is not a liberal arts school. Divinity school too is a trade school. Like the others, it accepts its position. It doesn’t review it, test it, reverse engineer it, falsify it.
Liberal arts colleges once upon a time were trade schools of a sort: they were trade schools for princes and courtiers. You’re going to run the country, son, you’d better learn a little bit more than local politics. That’s one reason Hamlet was off at Wittenberg while his father was being silently assassinated.
Same reason Laertes had been away.
Cultural homeostasis is a natural, an unlegislatable, state of affairs. No society, and absolutely no kleptocracy, wants to see itself reverse engineered or falsified. So leading edge learning will always be blunted, by education. It doesn’t matter what the laws or descriptions or brochures say. Real education (like science) has an active half-life. It will always degrade: drastically. Notice in the story of Jesus that he wowed the rabbis when he was twelve, but his knowledge got him killed as an adult. If he was recognized as so smart at twelve, why wasn’t he rising toward the top of the Sanhedrin by his thirties? See? They want you intelligent, educated; but not to the point where you can see past the homeostatic (or jingoist) limits of the culture. What would happen to the lawyer who questioned the (ideal) constitutionality of the Constitution? Same as what would happen if he started looking into our side’s record of honoring treaties. Same as what happened to the twelve 1850s judges who said that California owed John Sutter $350 million in damages. (They scattered as the mob burned their court house.) (Try and find that in your average American history book!)
So Hamlet and Laertes had been sent away from Elsinore. They come back with at least a smattering of German, French, maybe Polish and English as well, all on top of their native Danish. Modern kids have to go to school. Their “teachers” have all been to college. At Wittenberg? At Cambridge? Harvard, Princeton, Columbia? No: state colleges. What’s that? “State” and “College” are antithetical, incompatible. Oxymora. The college that Hamlet went to was descended from the universities that formed to study the other literature of Christendom, as I review in my History of Schools. Monks studied Latin; Humanists studied Greek. Sending Hamlet to college was a bit like sending a Catholic to a Zen master (or a Zen monk to a Amish community).
Alter the context.
To be liberal modern colleges shouldn’t assign Latin, German, or French half as often as they should encourage the study of alien languages: Eskimo, Crow, Vietnamese … “Martian” … If only we could. At least they’d know that there’s more than one way of looking at “snow” … or “the family.”
When the Zen monk returns from Pennsylvania, his former follows won’t want him organizing a barn raising. His experience, his new ideas, will isolate him. The solution is to form state colleges, to democratize education, make it universal … In other words, the solution to the problem of education is to pretend to honor and keep it but actually to subvert and destroy it. Funding is the tried and true method.
The original medieval universities (we’re talking Western education here) were not funded except by the odd and temporary fact that they had something they could sell: access to rare documents. You wanted to read Aristotle? You paid the guy who had a copy to aid you in making your own copy. That’s what the university was: a copy center, a publishing house of sorts. But what was copied at the dawn of the Renaissance happened to be what you couldn’t get from your local priest and his Bible. Had the Church funded the universities, they would have turned into churches: no need for them at all. State funding of education turns schools, colleges, universities into state churches. Nothing but orthodoxy taught here.
Now if only orthodoxy were ever true …
Spin off thought: OK, I agree: the 1927 Yankees were a great great baseball team. But they still needed Chicago or Boston to play against. If the Yankees were the only team, there could be no baseball. As Alan Watts said, societies should pay their enemies: they couldn’t define themselves without them.
But sometimes, on some issues, the enemy is right and orthodoxy is a withering disease.