Our Overrated Collegiate System

A friend asked for my thoughts on a video. As usual, I spent considerably longer in my response than I intended. Here is the video:

And here are my thoughts on the video:
He mentions several people who went to school for huge chunks of their life as though they didn’t: (Jesus for instance spent much of his life at school, as every Jewish man is required). Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc, all spent their entire lives either teaching at schools or being taught at schools (though the schools weren’t of the variety we think today). And virtually every wealthy person today or well-known person in the past spent massive amounts of time at universities.

He slams Bush for being “a fool”, which I think is mostly just politically charged. Bush is not a fool in most senses, even if one disagrees with his policies.

His claim that “either build your dream or help someone else build theirs” would imply anyone who doesn’t start a business is wasting their lives, but I don’t think most “dreams” revolve around starting or managing businesses. He uses a sports situation as though it requires “education” in the classical sense to understand, which isn’t true.

I think his criticism of the “need for School to be successful” is valid. I don’t think people need to attend a college in order to have financial, familial, religious, or any other kind of success. It isn’t a prerequisite. But if I were him my argument would be a bit different.

Schools today primarily exist for a few key reasons:
1. To earn money (primarily through sports)
2. To give out diplomas
3. To fund research

The problem with (1) is that college/university sports do not aid in education in the classical sense. The word “University” implies “universal” knowledge. Universities were established to take the best and brightest and ONLY the best and brightest and instill in them everything good and noble and true. They would have been rigorously trained in theology, western philosophy, history, mathematics, grammar, and classic literature. They would have been Polymaths after graduation. If they played sports, it would have been for fun, not to earn money for the school. Today, schools overlook people with no intellectual talent simply because they want good players. They overlook spending money on new libraries to build new fields. Not good in the classical sense of a University. Oddly enough, George W Bush had a classical education and would likely blow most people away in a conversation about a number of topics, despite his economic or political views.

The next item (2) is due to businesses demanding degrees. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but they are looking for the wrong thing. What the guy in the video seems to want is people who learn practical skills like engineering or designing or marketing or entertaining or fixing things or building things. All well and good. But that used to be the role of apprenticeships or trade schools. They didn’t claim to be “universities” because that isn’t what they taught. When people say things like “why do I need to learn all this extra crap if all I want to do is [insert job details here]”, what they want is a trade school. This is perfectly fine. Historically, most people would end up here, because most people simply weren’t cut out to be Polymaths. That isn’t even what most people wanted. They wanted to be normal, regular family men. I think, even though the video doesn’t explicitly demand it, we should bring back trade schools and get rid of worthless degrees (Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, Minority Studies, [Insert something here] Studies come to mind) that are created just so people who can’t actually earn a real degree in a real field of knowledge (math, physics, philosophy, theology, etc) can still feel good about themselves.

The final point (3) is all well and good except that (2) has the net result of lots of credentialed buffoons releasing papers like “Christians are more likely than atheists to want revenge. But atheists are also more likely than Christians to want revenge” (not kidding, this was the abstract of a paper in “experimental psychology”). Overall it means “peer review” means “reviewed by fellow people who have no idea what they are talking about but believe themselves to be the smartest people in the room wherever they go”. Not good. Fields that can be applied, like computer science or physics, don’t often have this kind of stupidity, because their theories are often rigorously tested in the real world.

I think the video points out what everyone should be taught: That you don’t need a school to learn anything. School, when done correctly, is the fastest and most effective way to learn something, though certainly not the only way (nor most cost-effective). And despite some of the very bad factual errors in the video, I think he brings up a good point that school is overrated (which I agree with since I agree, in its present form, it is).

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