What is wrong with education today? Part 1

Creativity-vs_-Formal-SchoolingMy father always put a great store in my getting an education.  I am not sure if my mother could have cared less.  However, from an early age, it was my dad who always looked at my report cards and wanted to make sure that I was doing well in school.  Oddly enough, his interest in education did not seem to entail putting away any money for college. I remember quite well sometime before I finished high school when I told my dad “I would like to go to college.”  His reply was “Great, good luck.” No mention of money, no talk about how it could happen financially.  Realistically, it was rather a moot point. Most of my high school teachers disliked me; my grades were abysmal, my SAT scores below average and my desire to attend college was well below my desire to party and score with the “chicks.” (Please note this was a colloquialism of the times)

Thus, the future was clear.  The time was 1964.  The Vietnam War was looking for bodies and the military would take anyone who could still breathe.  I checked out the uniform options and decided (with limited knowledge) which uniforms might be the best “chick” magnets.  Based on this rather biased assessment, I decided to join the Air Force and enlisted for four years.  During this time, I partied, drank, read, exercised, partied, drank, read and did less and less exercise.  I honestly cannot say whether my uniform attracted the “chicks”, but I did not seem to want for drink or sex, the two most important things in my life at the time.  One thing not on my radar was “school.”

Often, other enlistees would ask me about attending classes or going nights to a local college.  “John, if we get enough guys interested, we can have Professor So and So come out to the base to deliver the class.”  My typical answer was “Professor So and So can shove his class, I am not interested.”  I managed to stay away from any education for my entire four years (One notable exception being my AFSC training school.  I will talk about his situation in a later blog.) When I married my first wife in 1967, I informed her I had no desire to attend college or ever set foot in a school again.  High School had been enough torture for me.  My favorite class in HS was detention where all the other goof-offs went and we could have a swell time finding creative ways to harass the detention monitor.

I should note a fact here.  I am the only member of my immediate family who ever went to college, not to mention obtaining a Ph.D.  Not my mother, father, brother or two sisters and hardly any of my first cousins, nor aunts, uncles and other relatives ever set foot in a college.  I have subsequently found a long lost and now deceased cousin who also received his Ph.D. but a college education was certainly not typical in my family.  It was rather like getting a winning lottery ticket. It was something that everyone espoused as a greater good, but few if any every obtained a degree or even thought about what it took to get a degree.

At this point, I am boring you with the history of my life and you are probably wondering why and where this story is going?  I want to show you that education was not something that was part of the woof and warp of my existence.  Unlike many people today, I did not have any chart memorized that showed how much a college degree versus no college or versus a high school diploma would be worth. In fact, I would venture to maintain that most of the people I knew in the sixties went to college simply because they wanted to get a liberal arts degree and sincerely believed that Higher Education would make them a better person.  The Democratic Liberal Arts Paradigm was still dominant in education at the time as opposed to what I call the Technocratic Function Paradigm that now dominates education. Today, students by a large margin, go to school to get jobs, make more money and have a planned career. This was not the case in the 60’s.  One is not better than the other as a motive, just different.

Ok, time for questions.  I will continue this blog next week.

What are your beliefs about the value of education?  Do you think older people are wiser than younger people? Does aging lead to wisdom? Does education lead to wisdom?  Can young people be wise and old people be fools?  How much is a Higher Education worth?  Do we have an education bubble in this country?  Should we have free Higher Education for all qualified students?  Should we allow students to leave High School to perform community service or join the military?

Life is just beginning.

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