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As a reluctant educator, I have a rather jaundiced opinion of the purpose and feasibility of education.

School learning is a poor fit for a variable portion of the population.  A lot of kids don't want to be in school, they don't want to listen in class, and they don't want to do homework.  I didn't want to be in school, listen in class, or do homework when I was young, so I understand entirely.  I think the proportion of kids who don't want to be in school and who resist the whole process has also been rising in recent generations, as it's become less of a route upwards and more of a meaningless series of hoops that guarantee nothing.  Why work hard towards a pointless goal?

It's also pretty useless for much other than professions whose basic skills are dependent on school learning - historian, for example.

The whole system should be scrapped.  Elementary-age kids should have various fun organized activities with other people their age, some of which might be educational.  They are pretty easy to manage, and don't resent adult guidance, and need to learn how to be social.

People from 12-15 are pretty much useless from an educational standpoint.  Too much important physical and social development stuff is going on.  Sure, a tiny braniac minority can learn a lot during this age, but even for them it's not necessarily the best way to use their time.  Put them into a supervised work service program.  Go dig ditches in the forest and live in barracks, and be stupid teenagers for a few years.

Then give people a choice.  Some can go to school and learn stuff, others can live as adults and build work skills.  If something needs to be learned later on, learn it later on, once the need is clear and the motivation is present.  Really, we don't need all that many people with serious professional skills and abilities anyway - the idea that everyone will have an academic or professional job is just silly, and lots of jobs can be learned to a very high level by on-the-job learning.

Obviously, this will never work so long as going to the right school and studying the right thing is a clear class marker.  An educational system better matched to human development and ability will only really be possible once education is no longer tied to class status and achievement, and that will really only be possible in a classless society.  So good luck with that.

by Zwackus on Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 08:15:13 AM EST
Zwackus:
School learning is a poor fit for a variable portion of the population.  A lot of kids don't want to be in school, they don't want to listen in class, and they don't want to do homework.  I didn't want to be in school, listen in class, or do homework when I was young, so I understand entirely.  I think the proportion of kids who don't want to be in school and who resist the whole process has also been rising in recent generations, as it's become less of a route upwards and more of a meaningless series of hoops that guarantee nothing.  Why work hard towards a pointless goal?

totally agree... with the internet one can pursue self-education like never before, once one is alphabetic and numerate it's a feast for the curious.

school -as is- is redundant, a form of lobotomy. it can take years to heal the psychic lesions from bad schooling and rediscover the joy of using one's intellect for the sheer deliciousness of it.

Zwackus:

Go dig ditches in the forest

better plant trees!

when it comes to american ed, it's a big problem that to be incurious is seen as cool.

asia will eat our lunch because the idea of family obedience and economic progress through education is more real to them than it is in the 'west'. it's cardinal, it's religion to them. a means to an end... money, social climbing.

we tend to have a more idealised form of educational philosophy, enlightenment through developing the 'higher faculties' bla bla. nice idea but it doesn't pay the bills in today's world for all but a few.

being able to work electrical circuits, basic plumbing, building skills (taught in HS in morocco), these are worth something in the real world.

in india i read they teach old grannies to become economically independent through maintaining solar arrays, yet there's no equivalent chez nous.

it wouldn't surprise me if in 50 years we are back to 90% working the land, as before the industrial revolution. just add high speed broadband, renewables and cheap public transport and parochialism is over.

learning the skills needed to farm, to preserve, to use natural modes of healing, these will be more useful than any number of MBA degrees.

and justly so... it's community that sustains and grounds people, and industrial capitalism shreds that social fabric as surely as it rapes and pollutes the commons that sustained those of the community who weren't whizzkids of some form.

of course if we paid teachers a lot more, and created more playful curricula, we might see big changes.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 08:45:47 AM EST
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with the internet one can pursue self-education like never before, once one is alphabetic and numerate it's a feast for the curious.
Is school even delivering literacy and numeracy?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 08:49:24 AM EST
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i think it's doing the basics, yes.

of course your value of basics will differ!

as zwackus says, if a student has no will to learn there's nothing to be done, but basic alfabetism and numeracy can be taught before the hormonal desire to differentiate and rebel kick in.

if they haven't learnt those basics by adolescence, something's badly wrong not even covered by this diary.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 09:27:57 AM EST
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It's funny about Asia.  I teach in Japan, and see the same lack of motivation here as elsewhere.  Since the bubble burst and Japan has been on a more level economic trajectory, the payoff for hard-core grinding has simply disappeared, and it's reflected in the younger generations.  A distinct majority simply doesn't want to go through the miserable and soul-destroying level of study necessary in the "traditional" educational track, so they don't.  The life you get in return isn't that much better than the life you'd get otherwise, and the traditional educational track more or less demands that one skip out on being a teenager and doing all the age-typical fun teenage stuff - all for the promise of working in a miserable office job in the future.
by Zwackus on Sun Jan 26th, 2014 at 07:40:03 PM EST
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yeah the whole point of deferred gratification was to get greater gratification... remove that and all that's left is just another con.

japan is a special asian case compared to the other tiger economies as they embraced modernism with such scary gusto it has even taken their sex drive away.

... or channeled it into geisha blowup anime dollette worship

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 04:30:03 AM EST
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japan is a special asian case compared to the other tiger economies
Compared with South Korea and Taiwan it was pretty much the same regarding the brutal grind of preparatory schools.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 04:31:57 AM EST
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certainly, my point was it was the first asian economy to go taylorist with a vengeance, and as such is a bellwether of sorts.

or canary?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 05:42:27 AM EST
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There is just no gas for modernism anymore. Japan is getting grip of this reality first. Back to feudal lordship, with a turbo help from financial judgement days (whether 1991 or 2008). If you are not among the alpha circle, there is not much point in sex.
by das monde on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 06:09:26 AM EST
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das monde:
If you are not among the alpha circle, there is not much point in sex.

that worked out well for the Hapsburgs...

i guess Japan shows us where uber-modernism crashes into its gaudy limits. the once-rutting plebs self-geld with internet addiction while the power to light up tokyo so it's visible from mars plumes its untreatable waste into the biosphere non-stop.

but no fear that Cameron would be so imbecilic as to... oh wait.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 07:50:37 AM EST
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Some alphas are not like others.

Peak growth shows a lot of entropy waste indeed. But is Japanese modernism still that relatively gaudy? Just remains of the legend, I tell. The market for technological awe is shrinking, the supply as well. Internet addiction is as special as their financial bubble, and even radioactive waste is repeatable anywhere.

by das monde on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 09:18:58 AM EST
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a proper modernism is needed, but the hyper version japan demonstrates is actually entropy on steroids.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 07:52:44 AM EST
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There is just no gas for modernism anymore.

Modernism that so disproportionately benefits the elites does seem to be increasingly discredited. The currently dominant 'globalization' the reducto ad absurdum of the Enlightenment value of 'univerasalism, is only being advanced by elites renting or hiring the politicians and has very little popular support. Unfortunately the only ready alternative is 'traditionalism', which throws us all back on the whims of the elite. We are left with a fruitless dichotomy which must be transcended if we are to survive. That is the test that matters.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 10:18:24 AM EST
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I mean literally: there is not enough gas, oil, other dirty stuff to pump up the modernism with contemporary means. Big choices do depend on available resources. In the recent modernism, the elites were fluid and did not drastically differentiate themselves. Now we are probably heading back to more primate-lite societies. Do we know how else we can order more limited benefits?
by das monde on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 10:57:56 AM EST
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ARGeezer:
We are left with a fruitless dichotomy which must be transcended if we are to survive.

transcending it is so 60's, it worked as an escape valve, but ultimately just that...

turn on, tune in, drop out was an open invitation too political passivity, enabling the rummies and boltons and negropontes to make ground over the next three decades.

transcendence's only real function is to prepare for death, helping us to stay sane in a crazy era.

it doesn't get the legwork done.

i wish i knew what did... the closest i have seen is the 5*ers, who are writing a new book on participatory democracy.

as for the comments about japan and the rest of asia, japan was the first to take on western consumerism and then asianise it, taking it global so toyota and sony became the new coke and pepsi.

then followed malaysia, singapore, s. korea and china all racing to do to japan what japan had done to us!

so it goes... give man a brain, he'll figure out how to use it to poke himself in the eye.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 10:23:52 PM EST
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In this context I use 'transcend' to refer to finding a path through the dilemma so as to avoid being gored by one, the other or both of the horns. The question is not whether some individuals can do this. Some can. The question is can entire societies do this facing the current problems. I believe we can, but wonder if we will.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 10:49:46 PM EST
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No, Japan is not all that special when it comes to educational insanity.  As mentioned, China and Korea and Taiwan all have more or less the same educational system, and the same grind-for-success mentality.  It's worse in South Korea now than it ever was at the height of Japan's bubble economy.
by Zwackus on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 07:06:47 PM EST
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And in response to the whole "giving up on sex" thing, that's a ridiculously overblown phenomenon of the Tokyo middle and upper-middle classes and their struggling spawn.  The same fools who cram their life away to get into Tokyo University are the same ones who end up as broken individuals in all kinds of ways, including in their sexual health and personal life. It's commonly said that people who get into Tokyo University are strange, and it's because they are broken by the process.

There's a vibrant working class culture, especially in the areas of greater Tokyo outside the metropolis, of people connected in one way or another to the industrial economy and its associated service professions.  They are not broken and lame as are too many Tokyo strivers, they have active personal lives, get married at a variety of ages, and have a good number of kids.  It is from this class that Japan's small-business owners and entrepreneurs often come as well, as they've not been broken by the system.

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 07:12:59 PM EST
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Zwackus:
 The same fools who cram their life away to get into Tokyo University are the same ones who end up as broken individuals in all kinds of ways, including in their sexual health and personal life. It's commonly said that people who get into Tokyo University are strange, and it's because they are broken by the process.

residual dna from too-recent emperor-worship, a certain national superiority complex rooted in suicidal fanaticism, medieval honour codes institutionalised, all leading to blinkered thinking.

fascinating... how much of that is true also of england, that other rainy little island that morphed to a surprisingly disproportionate degree of global influence.

not that it's exclusive to islands or anything...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 27th, 2014 at 10:31:20 PM EST
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Foreign media misrepresenting japan as a theme park of the strange? Say it isn't so!
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 28th, 2014 at 03:00:13 AM EST
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