We have become ignorant. We are skilled but uneducated …


"A liberal education is a system or course of education suitable for the cultivation of a free (Latin: liber) human being. It is based on the medieval concept of the liberal arts or, more commonly now, the liberalism of the Age of Enlightenment.[1] It has been described as "a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a stronger sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement … characterised by challenging encounters with important issues, and more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study" by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.[2] Usually global and pluralistic in scope, it can include a general education curriculum which provides broad exposure to multiple disciplines and learning strategies in addition to in-depth study in at least one academic area.

Liberal education was advocated in the 19th century by thinkers such as John Henry Newman, Thomas Huxley, and F. D. Maurice. Sir Wilfred Griffin Eady defined liberal education as being education for its own sake and personal enrichment, with the teaching of values."  wiki


Churchill and George Marshall.  We don't have leaders like them anymore.

Churchill did not attend a university.  He said that his greatest teacher at "public" school was a man who taught him how to write an English sentence, "subject, verb, object adorned with modifiers as needed" and then to group sentences together in paragraphs with coherent meaning.  Yet Churchill wrote massive works of history, "The Second World War," "A History of the English Speaking Peoples," etc.  I read them when they were published.  I was a boy but the books were so beautifully, and clearly written that I could easily handle them.

George Marshall never wrote anything unofficial that I know of.  Perhaps there is a magazine article somewhere?  In retirement he lived at Dodona Manor, a modest house in Leesburg, Virginia and steadfastly refused all offers of book contracts.  His many papers are stored at the Marshall Library in Lexington, Virginia.  He donated them.  Eisenhower became wealthy from the earnings derived from "Crusade in Europe."

Neither man had anything like a STEM degree.  Neither attended a university like Stanford or Oxford.  But somehow they presided over the triumph of Western Civilization, a triumph of values over mere brute force.

How did they manage that?  They both had open minds that relentlessly sought the truth and then applied what they learned in all the situations they encountered.  Are we still capable of that?  I doubt it.  pl


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45 Responses to We have become ignorant. We are skilled but uneducated …

  1. Glorious Bach says:

    ” They both had open minds that relentlessly sought the truth and then applied what they learned in all the situations they encountered.”
    Beautifully put.

  2. Jose says:

    Respectfully, a liberal arts education today is nothing more than indoctrination. STEM is actually one of the few educations where you have to figure out what is right and wrong. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. Liberal arts are where you arrive that the conclusion favored by your professor. OR YOU WILL PAY THE CONSEQUENCES.
    Liberals have ruined education, they call it PROGRESS.

  3. walrus says:

    From my own university experience the “soft” disciplines are not liberal in the sense of empowering people by developing their critical thinking abilities in a way that allows them to apply these acquired tools to general issues. Rather, the Professors offer only a very limited set of tools strictly focussed on applying them to the politically correct “narrative “ they wish to push.
    The result: “graduates” who are intellectual cripples. One can usually trip them up in the first two minutes by casually asking them to apply the golden rule.

  4. akaPatience says:

    This is a very thought-provoking essay. I also wonder about the state of education and its effects on students these days. Like your Churchill example, in my youth and of course much longer ago, we were taught liberal arts curricula in primary K-12 education that seems to be as good if not better than that obtained by many undergraduate college students today. And while the usefulness of writing skills along with good reading comprehension is beyond question, I have anecdotes to offer that make me wonder about liberal arts education offered today: some good friends have spent a lot of money for their children’s college educations. One boy received a degree in English. A girl received a degree in psychology. Both now have low-paying service jobs in the food/restaurant sector. And both have declared themselves to be either socialist or communist. Now, it may very well be the case that these two are spoiled, lazy kids who lack motivation to pursue better employment. But it also seems to me they haven’t learned HOW to capitalize on skills they’ve learned over the years.
    Could this be a downside of obtaining a liberal arts degree in non-natural science subjects? Or is the problem more cultural than educational — maybe a failure of parents to nurture a sufficient work ethic and personal discipline? With both parents often working outside of the home these days children are freer to engage in worthless distractions like spending too much time and attention on video games and social media.
    On the other hand, the English major has a sister who obtained a STEM degree and is now a well-paid oral surgeon. A question therefore comes to mind of whether or not enough employers value those with non-natural science liberal arts degrees?
    One final thought: the men in your examples rose to the occasion of what is one of THE most consequential events in history. Maybe it takes motivation of that extreme sort to bring out the best in leaders.

  5. turcopolier says:

    All – “a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a stronger sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement … characterised by challenging encounters with important issues, and more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study” by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.” Unfortunately today’s “Liberal Arts” curriculum seem to have abandoned the goals described above in favor of identity politics driven propaganda and indoctrination. When I was “educated” at a place that many of you must think was incapable of liberal thought the educational process had nothing or at least little to do with political liberalism. No, it had to do with a curriculum of; literature in the form of the thought of great minds, history, philosophy, economics, a foreign language, required core courses in chemistry or the like, basic math like college algebra or spherical trigonometry on top of a rigorous physical training regimen designed to produce a sound mind in a sound body. STEM education is necessary to the functioning of the world but a STEM education devoid of humanity’s experience may make you rich but what kind of a person will you be? I taught at an institution (USMA) then rigidly devoted to inculcating problem solving as the essence of education. The ability to think broadly and openly was seen as a weakness in life, evidence of a lack of “focus.”. Well, pilgrims, I have watched many graduates of USMA strive mightily to understand open ended questions like the nature of Iraqi society and the resistance of that people to occupation and fail in the process that I have come to see people indoctrinated with anything like the Thayer Method of learning as essentially handicapped.

  6. The modern day abolitionist has no concept of Liberalism. All I see is hate against anybody who disagrees with them. They are at the forefront of censorship and would love everybody to disarm themselves into a Utopia. It’s impossible for me to understand them. It seems that cognitive dissonance takes over their mind and they can’t deal with reality which is the world is a dangerous place and not all flowers and rainbows. So they create a world of “if only” which makes them feel safe though it’s a delusion.

  7. adrian pols says:

    I attended St. Johns’s College in Annapolis, class of 1970. The curriculum which was totally standardized with all courses required and no electives, was designed as an historical overview of western culture and technology. My life’s trajectory hasn’t involved the direct application of what I studied there, but the training in critical thinking was a priceless bequest for which I am forever grateful, even though, at the time, I didn’t appreciate fully what I was experiencing. Your post is resonant with me.

  8. Maybe the problems are just that much larger. For one thing, after ‘going forth and multiplying’ for the last hundred thousand years, we are reaching the edge of the global petri dish and it really is time to take stock.
    We have a culture that is ideals based, but nature tends to be cyclical and reciprocal, so in our singular march towards a better future, at least for those running the show, there seems to be quite a bit of blowback building. Maybe more isn’t always better.
    Galaxies are energy radiating out, as mass coalesces in. Thermodynamics rules.
    We are not collectively getting off this planet, so we will have to be more reciprocal in our relationships.
    The Golden Rule.

  9. Barbara Ann says:

    There is surely a causal link between the two: our increased ignorance is a direct result of our increased skill (technology). The powers of reductive reasoning that have provided us will so many useful means of prolonging and making our lives more comfortable have led to the direct opposite of our enlightenment, many of us have become more ignorant of ourselves, of our essential nature.
    The brain’s capacity for self-awareness seems to be accompanied by an innate need to transcend the imperfect state which it perceives. The Enlightenment simply led to this incessant drive for self-improvement largely moving from spiritual means towards secular, educational means. But as our technology increases in complexity, so our education system gears itself towards churning out ever more specialized widget-makers, focus, as you say. The curriculum is finite, so contemplation of the eternal paradoxes of what it is to be homo sapiens – the humanities – is relegated and no longer fashionable.
    Leadership, has little to do with widgets and everything to do with conviction, certainty in one’s own mind. This requires a mastery of the tricks the mind plays when dealing with life – recognizing triumph and disaster as equivalent impostors, as Kipling said. Great leaders like Churchill are so often rebellious, independent thinkers who plough their own furrow (in his case greatly assisted by his mother) and ruthlessly pursue their education in the school of life, not (just) the classroom.

  10. blue peacock says:

    Col. Lang
    I don’t believe the kind of education you received is available any longer. For example “…more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study” is no longer the focus. Professors spend their time on publishing more & more “peer-reviewed” papers than educating because that’s how they move up the ranks. I believe most colleges have been transformed from the education focus of the 19th & early 20th century to now training SJWs and technocrats. Professors and departments of course also have to spend much time writing grant proposals and of course there is far more money for engineering & computer science.
    My young nephew just graduated with a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Berkeley. He has been hired by Apple with a starting salary of $350,000. The competition to hire these kids is insane.

  11. Lars says:

    Higher education today is largely vocational, largely driven by the cost of it.

  12. rho says:

    The best recent illustration of how far the intellectual degeneration of “liberal education” has progressed is the “Sokal squared” hoax. The NYT was quite salty when it had to report about it:
    It turns out that you can have complete nonsense published in progressive academic journals as long as you include the right buzzwords and the proper ideology.
    My favourite hoax paper from the batch is clearly “Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon”, which discusses absolutely amazing questions like: “Do dogs suffer oppression based upon (perceived) gender?”

  13. Cortes says:

    One of my favourite books by US authors is the delicious “The Pooh Perplex” which parodies the schools of literary criticism dominant in the early 1960s. It’s author
    had a background with almost classic testament to the importance of a liberal education and it seems to me that his definition of “general rationality” quoted under the “Career” heading in said article coheres well with your post. I’m not sure that that spirit has been extinguished completely. Of late I’ve seen not a few young people on public transport immersed in books. Real, paper books.

  14. aka patience, I concur with your observation that our well rounded liberal education was in K-12 in the past. I recited Kipling’s “If” in front of my 5th grade classmates. We then discussed the meaning of that poem for an afternoon. We did this with each poem recited by my classmates that year. Although I was envious of my friends in 7th and 8th grades who were able to take shop classes, those friends also had to take the same English courses I did. We started with Cotton Mather in 6th grade and proceeded from there. We all learned American history from 6th through 8th grades. Most of all, we learned citizenship.
    I went to a Jesuit high school so there was no shop, but I did take a month long course in piloting and seamanship with Brother Queegan. We carried our charts of Long Island Sound as we sailed and rowed our old wooden skiffs. They weren’t rowing shells, but it was kind of preppy in a rough, wharf rat kind of way. Our curriculum included four years each of English, theology, math, a modern language and an ancient language (Latin or Greek) along with a year each of biology, chemistry, Western civilization and American history. I checked the current curriculum at Fairfield Prep. It hasn’t changed that much, but the requirement for both a modern AND an ancient language has relaxed. The students still wear ties every day, but it doesn’t appear jackets are now mandatory attire.
    The public high schools were not that rigorous, but my father’s public high school curriculum included Latin. Even though he joined the Marines before graduating, he could still quote Caesar. He thought it was quite a hoot when Pratt & Whitney sent him to Yale for engineering courses years later. He became a tool & die maker through an apprenticeship just like one of my brothers.
    I believe one way, perhaps the best way, to save this country is to bring our K-12 system back to its former glory. That’s going to take a massive investment. We should pay teachers the kind of salary that would attract the best and the brightest. And educational administrators should grow out of the best and brightest of those teachers. Unfortunately, the education of our children is not a priority. Somewhere along the line, that glorious education system of old has failed us.

  15. Jose Lopez says:

    Thanks for the post, my nephew is debating the merits of getting a PhD in Electrical Engineering form a good engineering school in Georgia.
    Shit, maybe he should go west to avoid the current debate on states rights versus the progressive collective. lol
    If anybody likes Star Trek, watch the current Discovery on CBS Streaming no plots, great CGI just SJWs and Technocrats.
    We are doomed.

  16. turcopolier says:

    The disappearance of this kind of education whether in K-12 or college is part of the general disintegration of US society. Try asking young people general education questions.

  17. catherine says:

    I had a Liberal Arts education …back in the day when it had nothing to do with “politically liberal’ and wasn’t ruined by extreme leftism.
    Wouldn’t trade it…it taught me critical reading,to think, to question, to compare and to be curious.
    Without curiosity you only know what someone else tells you.

  18. Curtis Fromke says:

    Our education system may be described as triage.

  19. Curtis Fromke says:

    For some brain exercises, try DieOff.com. There are some articles to encourage thinking.

  20. Factotum says:

    Teachers unions and unfunded pension promises drive the costs of college today. In the “good old days” professors were thread bare and genteel and living in spartan campus flats. Now they are rapacious collective bargainers, living high and well, ready to strike if demands are not met. A lot has changed in the ivory towers since the 1960s besides the curriculum.

  21. Factotum says:

    In every decade of my life, I praised the disciplined liberal arts education I got at Berkeley in the early 1960s. Every course I was required to take to meet breadth requirements had later relevance later, even though I did not see its value at the time. How did I know those mandated courses would serve my future, as well as the requirements for graduation. These disciplined breadth requirements were eliminated after the social revolution at Berkeley in the mid 1960’s. This means the Berkeley degree is now worth a lot less as a future investment. .

  22. AK says:

    Unfortunately, TTG, your hope for the future of public K-12 education in this country is ill founded, I’m afraid. The same ideological cancer that is wreaking havoc in the universities is now filtering down into the K-12 curricula. Schools of education are the most academically and intellectually corrupt departments in most institutions these days (I don’t include the “grievance studies” departments, because they never served a valid purpose in the first place). The postmodern identity politics approach to education is now the norm. The linked article from a student at one of the most reputable graduate-level education programs in the country (U of W-Seattle) speaks volumes.
    You have to hand it to these people. They knew it would take two generations or more to destroy the fabric of the culture, but they also knew exactly where to focus their efforts. Destroy Enlightenment-based education, destroy the culture. They’re well on their way. As I see it, the only way to fix this problem is either a full-on purge of these departments (which will never happen) or the cessation of allocation of all public funds to university Education departments (which is only slightly more likely a possibility than the former option). As it stands, our tax dollars are funding our own cultural demise through these programs. In short, we are screwed for at least two more generations, and God only knows if we’ll make it through.
    I for one went to public school K-8 then to an all-boys Catholic high school run by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. It was easily the best, most rigorous education of my life, more useful than my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees by a long shot.

  23. confusedponderer says:

    I did normal gymnasium in germany, with the languages latin, english and french and a focus on chemistry and history.
    I studied law. In university I was tasked in a seminar on international and european law to write a some 20+ pages analysis and report on a river Rhine shipping treaty between the neighbour countries and germany.
    I read and read and wrote and wrote – and two days before the finishing date I noticed in the afternoon that had gotten the whole thing wrong. I needed a glass of scotch then. And I completely rewrote it, deleted a lot and had a very long night with a lot of coffee. That was as hard physically as emotionally.
    I passed with 13 points (an A) – one of the best notes I had in my studies, and in law a rare note generally. In normal tests the number of such notes in a 2200+ student semester was and likely still is a single digit.
    My point is that the willingness to change your mind when ou see you’re on the wrong track is what education should generate. I daresay that in a democracy it is a banal but essential neccessity, probably also in business and military. It is also a hard thing to learn.
    I contrast that to the performance of the former EPA clown Scott Pruitt. He said when at the EPA that CO2 is not a problem since American coal is different from the coal of the rest of the world since buring it doesn’t cause CO2. That was not an educator but a whore at work. Fortunately that person is no longer in office and for that “education” we’d likely have laughed him politely out of the 6th class.
    That written, if late, happy birthday Mr. Lang.

  24. Linda says:

    I think many of you are confusing liberalism with liberal arts study in universities. The term covers history, languages, political science, sociology and psychology. If you don’t see the need for most of these disciplines universities today agree with you. They are slowly dropping most of them from their curriculum. As a product of the liberal arts (history major thru my PhD) I like to think that I am capable of creative thinking, rigor in my analysis. The fact that the military valued me for these qualities seems to confirm this opinion. Perhaps Col Lang can confirm this. As for money, studies confirm that over the course of their careers history majors make more then STEM graduates. As an alumna of the history dept I often talk with current history majors at my alma mater and I ask them what they are going to do when they graduate. They show a great understanding of the possibilities available to them. They are bright, ambitious young people who offer all sorts of skills to future employers. They can read and write for example which is not a small thing. I challenge any STEM students to pass the historiography course which revolved around critical thinking as its base. I urge you all to investigate my analysis.

  25. ISL says:

    Not compared to how high the deans are. Meanwhile adjunct faculty are modern serfs paid sub-minimum wage with no benefits and are an increasingly profitable part of the University business model. My wife was one for many years – she lovved teaching and hated the bureaucracy. Today’s universities are all about the $$ of which there are lots. It just doesn’t flow into the purpose of education. I cant blame the profs for wanting a cut, I can blame them for not demanding that more $$ flow into the actual education process.

  26. turcopolier says:

    linda confirmed. You were among the best of DIA’s analysts on the ME when I was there.

  27. divadab says:

    Very interesting discussion. My own education was at a boys’ prep school where I had two years of latin, French from third grade til graduation, college prep history , geography, chemistry, physics, plus civics, and english literature. SOmething that has helped me much in my career is having to stand up and make a several speeches every year from sixth grade. No shop class, unfortunately, but phys ed every day and ball hockey or running bases after lunch.
    Really an elite education – I consider myself privileged to have had it. My kids went to public high school in rural California and you know I was very impressed with the quality of education that was available – IF YOU STOOD UP and WORKED AT IT. The school had a student radio station, an ag tech rodeo every year where some of the boys made massive projects like a heavy equipment trailer, a super shop program, and simply wonderful music programs. SO i have to admit I don;t have such a dark view of the US public education system.
    One huge hole in US public education is Geography – this is a required subject in Canadian public schools but as far as I can see it is hardly offered in US schools. It would IMHO be a good replacement for some of the mythological “history” which is taught according to the views of the day.
    In any event the US public school system rewards maximum obedience and marginalizes the creative – this is a recipe for social disaster. WHat is needed and will be needed is not obedient indoctrinated followers but people who can figure out stuff and solve problems – for this you need to encourage creativity and lateral thinking – not fricking rote learning and fake history of the oppressed and their grievances.
    The traitorous ruling classes however would prefer a country of lumpen to a country of activated creative people and so they will continue to destroy the public school system, actively helping the forces of ignorance and fantasy to damage and destroy the polity. My mantra is “don’t buy their shit”; also “go local” – because when the shit hits the fan in one of the coming series of crises of our energy-feast society, you better have a local network of mutual benefit because the big global stuff just won;t be there.

  28. Unpleasant Person says:

    STEM degrees usually have a requirement for non-STEM course work. For intellectually rigorous students, this is an advantage, as one need not care too much for political pieties (of whichever stripe) when taking a humanities course; if passing requires bowing to the pieties (usually essay-based course work), one can get away with very big insults the pieties based on choice of phrasing (such instructors are usually none too bright) or reasoning in a fashion that destroys the pieties while pretending to support the pieties, while still getting a median score on the course.
    Unfortunately, STEM education is now being destroyed. North American (and increasingly, around the world) engineering colleges require “Outcomes Based Education” (OBE) to retain accreditation. The term is propaganda—which educational system, other than perhaps OBE, is not based on outcomes?
    Outcomes Based Education is a system of keeping instructors busy filling out silly report card (often weekly, requiring mini essays to justify decisions about students), while gutting the substance of a curriculum, a word that would cease to be used, and thus makes it impossible for students to get their qualifications via independent study. The time taken to fill out the paperwork takes from time needed to prepare lessons.
    Outcomes Based Education was developed in the US, and was then exported to western Australia and South Africa in the mid to late 1990s, where it ruined the educational systems in both, before coming to Canada in the 2000s, and had the same effect. Now all engineering colleges must follow this nonsense. For justificatory cant, see e.g. here.
    The South African press had at one point excellent critiques of OBE, but although it was dismantled by 2008, much of the previous curriculum was not restored. Also, the OBE crowd has being sweeping its tracks—newer OBE justificatory documentation tends to use the word “curriculum” while the older works avoided the term like the plague.

  29. “My point is that the willingness to change your mind when you see you’re on the wrong track is what education should generate.”
    I was 100% convinced there was a conspiracy to kill JFK. After watching the loons for two years raving about the “Russia Trump Collusion Conspiracy” I came to the horrifying conclusion that I too appeared as a “loon” to friends and family concerning the assassination of JFK.
    I went back and questioned everything I thought true and came to the conclusion within two hours that I’ve been wrong for the past twenty years.
    Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the theater with a pistol that matched the caliber that killed the cop Tippet. Also, the individual who picked him up in the morning stated he had a long brown bag which Oswald claim was curtains rods. But instead included the rifle that killed JFK. These two facts were all I needed to change my mind when it became open again to change.
    If he was willing to kill a cop then he was a murderer who had no regard for life. He was a malicious dwarf. He killed JFK.
    True Story

  30. Mark Logan says:

    Linda, well said.
    An anecdotal but nonetheless prime example would be Steve Jobs, a Reed College alum. Reed is a small bastion of LA as they should be..encouraging the teaching of the classics not by rote, but as a base for examining thinking itself.
    IMO a fundamental flaw with our K12 teachings of the last several decades is the inculcation of tremendous self-esteem without carefully differentiating that from self-importance. This conflation of those two very different things seems key in the ability to feel a right to believe whatever one wishes to believe and dismiss criticism with ad-hominem and charges of dishonest, hostile intent. If we are all entitled to our own facts we are in a lot of trouble.

  31. Fred says:

    I had the pleasure of moving from the D.C. suburbs to Key West in the early 1970s. I spent a year of middle school twiddling thumbs because the school system there was so far behind Fairfax County VA schools, only partly due to funding and partly due to the turmoil surrounding desegregation, immigration (from Cuba, the Carribean or South America). We avoided the problems of mandatory bussing since the only other public schools were 50 miles North on Marathon Key. Fun times. I finished the final two years of High School in Naples, Florida. Same state, different county, much more money, though like Key West a total student enrolment (at the time) of only 1,000 or so.

  32. Barbara Ann says:

    Geography, yes. It would be nice if more Americans knew where places were before seeing the schematic on CNN accompanying the latest troop deployment.

  33. Fred says:

    “that glorious education system of old ”
    Was segregated and suffered from rotten leadership as well as inspired teaching. It all depended upon where you lived. None of it was federally funded. It hasn’t gotten better since Carter started the Dept of Education.
    “That’s going to take a massive investment. We should pay teachers the kind of salary that would attract the best and the brightest. And educational administrators should grow out of the best and brightest of those teachers.”
    If there is one thing most of the school systems in the US need less of it is money. (DOE has a budget of almost $70 billion and almost twice that for loans, grants and other “assistance”.) Many school systems need to eliminate a significant number of administrators and follow up with eliminating much of the bureaucratic ‘mumbo jumbo’ that fills much of the school day. They should all collectively stop listening to people like Bill and Melinda Gates, who after experimenting on an entire generation admit their ideas didn’t work.

  34. turcopolier says:

    Fred – How many Blacks do you think there were in the Connecticut village where TTG went to school? I was in Columbus, Ohio once visiting corporate executives at Owens Corning. My host (the CEO) said to me that he did not understand why we had racial problems in Virginia Schools. I asked him what the % of minorities was in the public schools. The answer was 2%. His kids went to the public schools. Everyone’s children went to the public schools. I told him that many middle class Blacks sent their children to private schools where I lived. He look dumbfounded. The % of “project” and immigrant kids in the Alexandria schools is way over 60%. The city spends a vast amount of money on these schools (284 million last year on 15,000 kids) and money shows but there still is a problem in dealing with kids whose parents in many cases just don’t give a damn.

  35. turcopolier says:

    Unpleasant Person – You should be right at home on SST. VMI was the 3rd oldest undergraduate STEM college in the US when I was there. The engineers, mathies, science types etc. were all required to take LA courses, some designed just for them and they hated it. They still do, call it a waste of time. They say they can read books on their own, but do they? The present Superintendent at VMI is my classmate. He was a CE. Among his great works has been the replacement of the English Department with a department of rhetoric where you learn to give business presentations and write OPEDs.

  36. Barbara Ann says:

    John Merryman
    I used the global petri dish analogy myself in conversation just yesterday. It is a good one to illustrate the inevitability that our current concept of that “better future” will evolve and fast.
    Life is thermodynamic sleight-of-hand; temporary increased order in a discrete system, at the cost of higher environmental entropy, or waste. To date, ‘human progress’ has largely equated to us finding ever more efficient ways of generating waste of all kinds. This would be fine if we inhabited an unbounded system, but of course we do not. And the capacity of our climate to self-regulate is just one of many aspects of this environment that we are belatedly learning to appreciate as being finite.
    My hope is that we do find a way to seek out other cosmic petri dishes. But for those who remain I do wonder what ‘human progress’ will come to mean by the end of this century, when one forecast of the World’s most populous cities is topped by Lagos, yes Lagos, with a staggering 88 million souls.

  37. Fred says:

    Close to zero. I only recall one when I was in Woodlawn Elementary, before moving to Florida.
    “still is a problem in dealing with kids whose parents in many cases just don’t give a damn.” That’s what I experienced in Key West, though it was not quite as bad in Naples. Many of the educational bureaucrats have had long and lucrative careers all the while.

  38. Fred says:

    “usually have a requirement for non-STEM course work.”
    So all those Chinese nationals attending US colleges take African American studies, gender studies, political science, etc as electives to learn about ‘merica and freedom(!) while here?

  39. Fred, our whole town was lily white. My class of around 120 had one Jewish kid and one black kid. The divide was between the first and second generation immigrant families mostly from Eastern and Southern Europe, almost exclusively Roman Catholic and the old families who lived there since long before the Civil War. They were Congregationalists. The Catholic church began as a mission in the late 40s when the town fathers offered the grange hall as a temporary place of worship. The brass mills of Waterbury attracted the immigrants.
    Our school system only went to 8th grade. After that the “Prospect farmers” were bussed to Waterbury high schools which were integrated. My father learned Latin in one of those high schools. We had what was then called a special class where about 20 learning impaired students went. Those students were mainstreamed as often as possible. Mutual respect was not just expected, but mandatory. One day in 6th grade, Mrs. O’Brien sent Elliot, the one Jewish kid and Janice, a girl with mild Down’s Syndrome out of the class. She then lit into us with a fury that would have broken Cotton Mather himself. She apparently caught some slight aimed at the two. I had no idea what it was, but we definitely learned what was expected of young ladies and gentlemen. The only fights we had were one on one healthy fights. I fought a Canadian Indian several times for the normal reasons. Much later, that kid carried out the biggest mass murder in Connecticut until Sandy Hook… with a tire iron. So, the town wasn’t perfect.
    The teachers were held in high regard by the entire town as were the school principal and assistant principal. That was the extent of the administration besides a couple of secretaries and school nurses. Positions like guidance counselor were extra duties for teachers. The male/female ration was about even among the teachers. Most of the male teachers were WWII vets. They seemed to live well on their salaries. There didn’t seem to much of a need for second jobs or double income families. Even Mrs. Tibbits, the lunch lady, was well respected by all. We all learned to love baked Hubbard squash which I watched her and Mr. Tibbits grow in their garden all Summer.
    But all that was then. When we had our own kids, the first thing we did when learning of a new assignment was to research the schools. Where we lived was totally dependent on the quality of the schools in the area. For a large stretch of my sons’ education we were fortunate to be overseas. So, as you mentioned Fred, parental involvement can make or break a child’s education. The key is how to break or bypass the “I don’t give a shit” mindset of such a large segment of our adult population.
    The DoDDS school system was top notch. The teachers were of the highest quality and highly motivated. They were compensated well, receiving the same housing allowance in addition to their salaries that I did. Whatever the DoDDS system is doing, it is working. It was performing at the same level as my college prep school. I still believe K-12 is where we must concentrate our efforts to improve our educational system. The DoDDS should be looked at as a possible model.

  40. Unpleasant Person says:

    You refer to “speak and spell” (rhetoric) courses that were introduced in engineering colleges in the 1990s and 2000s. I completed my undergraduate (EE) at a Canadian Prairie university in the mid 2000s. At the time, we had such a course, a section of which was taught by the author of the textbook that we used. The textbook defined rhetoric as the art of getting an audience to accept and act upon a presentation, and laid emphasis on the relationship between the audience and the speaker as a key of obtaining such doing of bidding, albeit dressed up in occasional Greek terms. Where rhetoric ends and propaganda begins I am still not sure, though the latter term was not used during the course.
    As a rule, engineering students did not have extracurricular interests other than bar runs, organised by the engineering student body. Those who had other interests would often not work as engineers, but complete their degrees and pursue second degrees thereafter, e.g. film and medicine; they were usually the better engineering students.
    The intellectual watering down of education also included engineering course work. We had a course on microcontrollers, that was previously taught by an instructor who had a great deal of early experience on microcontrollers, but he had retired the year before I took the course. The new instructor, fresh from an Ivy League PhD and PostDoc, chose a new microcontroller that was not available in the labs, as the only example of a microcontroller to be taught, and read the textbook based on that microcontroller during class. He also took attendance, and would wake sleeping students. Once upon waking me, he asked me if I had any questions about the material he had been reading. To avoid embarrassment, I asked whether the microcontroller was little endian or big endian. (Afrikaans schools in South Africa had BBC microcomputers, with the consequence that we got to program in grade one/sub A, while the English schools got IBM PCs.) He did not know. A few weeks later, classmates asked me about my question about “big chief” and “little chief.” The instructor never did explain big versus little endian. That the humanities should also suffer is unsurprising.
    Then again, there is the Donald Best case, on the legal profession side, so the problem is not limited to engineers. Canadian law courts do not allow filming of proceedings, as an example. Apparently this does not lead to problems.
    Thank you for the invitation. As I do not have an intelligence background, I shall largely remain a lurker.

  41. walrus says:

    I can confirm the relevance of Liberal arts for STEM students. I graduated as an engineer believing in linear problem solving and measurement- non of this touchy-feely arts crap for me.
    Ten years later I am in management positions where nothing is linear, let alone measurable, dealing with difficult people trying to solve difficult if not impossible problems where nothing is what it seems – it is at that point you had better have the liberal arts skills and experience to make sense of your environment or you will either fail, go mad, or both.
    STEM training does not have answers to such problems as colleagues sleeping with your boss, Boards with impossible expectations, lying and cheating suppliers and customers, sexual harassment – including female on male, drug use, narcissism, corruption and a whole host of similar issues. None of these can even be comprehended and framed in a helpful manner without the sense of perspective a rounded education provides.
    Yes, sure you can make $350K as a gun engineer…….for a while. Then what happens? Did you use the money to fund lifestyle? Most do. The smartest tech wizzes I have seen are also cultured individuals who have gone out of their way to round out their lives through engagement with arts, letters and travel, etc. I went through a highly stressful Five year “education” in what STEM and an MBA doesn’t teach you about life and careers and I was lucky to get out alive with my sanity barely intact.

  42. Unpleasant Person says:

    Sociology, philosophy, languages and economics, though given the intellectual rigor of these courses at present, I am not sure whether that constitutes an improvement over your suggestions.

  43. turcopolier says:

    IMO – No social science subject should be considered for a role in a liberal arts curriculum. I was a an executive board member of a major foundation that handed out graduate and post-graduate fellowships like candy to people intent on propagating these pseudo sciences. The process of deliberation and award was a form of group masturbation between the foundation’s professional staff often compounded by what appeared to be long standing personal relationships. There are exceptions; physical anthropology, ethnology, political science when it is a thinly disguised form of history rather than vainglorious effort to “model” non-Western societies. The “scientific” social sciences are IMO things created in the 19th Century in an attempt to transform European acceptance of their own culture, something like the creation of the Baath Party in the ME.

  44. Fred says:

    ” I still believe K-12 is where we must concentrate our efforts to improve our educational system.”
    I agree. I’ll also note that money, and more money, are not methods for improvement. First off would be a return to the discipline expected in school, not only self discipline but discipline of students and of staff. The example of Broward County Florida, is a prime example.
    Buried in the Superintendent’s bio are some gems:
    ” Student-related arrests are down by 65% since Runcie’s arrival.”
    The Parkland shooter was a benefiarcy of the lack of discipline including failure to arrest students for criminal conduct. But the statistics, especially when catagorized by race, show great improvement! Sorry ’bout all them dead kids though. Further on:
    “With students from over 200 countries, speaking more than 130 different languages, Runcie values diversity. ”
    The only “common core” is teaching the tests not enculturing students for whom English is a second language and American culture is a secondary culture. Hyphenated part of hyphenated Americans has become the only important part of being American and “e pluribus unum” is just a slogan from Barack’s first campaign. Saying that in South Florida will get one branded racist, so things continue just like they have, mediocre even in decline.

  45. Fred says:

    You mean they aren’t in STEM classes and serving as adjucts and researchers? I don’t think that is correct. I do not suggest they take the classes I mentioned in the above comment, I do suggest we cut their numbers to essentially zero.

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