The Decline of the Epic?

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The Decline of the Epic?

Written when Jason was 23

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Mackay

So I’ve decided that instead of buying Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds in full (since everyone who reads my blog wants all their content for free and thinks I shouldn’t be paid for what I do best), I’ll go to the Pierce College library to read it–for whatever reason in the last five years since I left they have built this wonderful library, while simultaneously complaining of a budget crisis and cutting classes.  This is yet more particularly sharp and honest behavior from our college system, but at least this is a two-year kooledge so they can simply claim they don’t know any better.  I might ask the question of why this collection of knowledge would be at all useful at a junior kolygye, but at least it’s something, and if my complaint is that coliiiigiis aren’t teaching anything then it would be hypocritical to complain here.  It might take me a while to get through it, since the version there is 700+ pages, so I’ll use the time to scour some eye candy as well haha.  (I apologyze for any spilling errours here, I due knot theenk it is yo playce to coment on them as I am mycelf a colidge gradduate.)

Now I’ve had a chance to think pretty deeply about this subject and, as I see it, we think we are so much better, that we have escaped so much from the follies of the past that we need not study it.  The vast bulk of our population does not see any value in history.  They believe technology has made history irrelevant.  I think you figured out I disagree, that I think that if anything technology will exacerbate the fundamental problems of human nature but at the same time it makes the study of history so much easier.  I can only do the online Great Books program because of technology, and you can only get most of the books for free for the same reason.

But the reality is that the university system itself–all these caulejes that teach our students so much (ahem, ahem, maybe I meant so little)–is the newest manifestation of the trend Mackay describes.  This is something I described in The Bubble Boys so it is not a new idea, and you really should look there rather than here for a full explanation.  In any event Mackay’s purpose is to examine what drives men to consume their lives and fortunes on things of no or next to no value.  He describes the Mississippi scheme of John Law, the South Sea bubble (in which Edward Gibbon’s grandfather was a major player), Tulipomania, the pursuit of alchemy, the Crusades, and a number of other historical events that have cost hundreds and thousands of people their lives, their money, and/or their freedom.  What in essence happens is these people are fooled into thinking they gain something from acting in a certain way, and the gain will be quick and automatic, when there is little or no evidence to support their belief, and in many cases there is strong evidence to the contrary that they choose to overlook.

The university system at present CLEARLY falls into the same line.  We send kids there, millions of them, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a piece of paper.  They claim they will provide our kids with the highest quality education, and yet I have met thousands of university graduates and come to the distinct conclusion that the quality of education a man has is almost entirely independent and where it is not it is often negatively correlated with the amount of years he has spent in skool.  Then we are told we must spend another hundred thousand dollars or so for another piece of paper because the first one is not good enough. usually because they have not taught our kids anything.  When we are finally released from the obligation to spend more hundreds of thousands of dollars on useless pieces of paper, we start telling the kids that there aren’t any jobs available, so they should work for free or for a cut-rate wage where they will learn the skills they were promised they would learn in the university.  Instead the most fundamental skills, writing, critical thinking, mental processing–they never get them.

Of course you will laugh in my face and not think twice about what I am saying.  At best you will read this, say “huh, he’s right,” then continue asking everyone what degree they have and from where, and telling them what a great school they went to, while silently judging them to be of inferior quality to that Harvard graduate you met a few years back.  But think this one through: how many of the places whose degrees you are judging have you actually been to?  Through how many of their doors have you passed?  Any judgment you are making is one made without knowledge and on blind faith in what someone else has told you.  It is therefore a weak judgment and not a strong one.  It’s a judgment made with only second-hand information.

QED.  Sign up for my essays and my program.  They’re better educational options, and cheaper.

Essays Coming Along!

Just finished my essay for the week. This is going to turn out to be an amazing book, when I put them together–I’m getting 10 copies and signing 9 of them for free. I think everyone can figure out that every 6 weeks I’m going to publish them (and each one will be $18.99 because the incentive needs to be to subscribe). Already in 4 weeks it’s at 55 pages in a 6×9, which makes me very happy.

Trigonometry at Cal State Northridge

So I have a student in trigonometry at my favorite fine university (ugh), the one I graduated from, California State University, Northridge.  And not only does he have a teacher who is straight off the boat from China, but they sold him a book that was “custom made” for CSUN students.

Now let’s take a second to think this through: trigonometry is no subjective subject, only to be processed one way by students from one school and a different way by students at another one.  It is a common knowledge subject–you either have the common knowledge, or you don’t.  So basically what CSUN is doing is offering a book at a higher price, claiming it is more effective for their students than some other book which is more effective for every other school’s students, a claim that can be assumed to be dubious at best.  It’s just plainly stupid salesmanship.

With this book they’ve sold him a special CSUN-trig workbook and a computer program for another $100.

Now here’s the thing: if this book is so special, don’t you think it would teach the unit circle in chapter 1?  Because really, the problem most students have with trig is that they aren’t taught the unit circle properly, and trying to go through trig without completely mastering the unit circle is like trying to go through American History without knowing about Federalism and who George Washington was.  It’s simply not feasible.

Well, well, of course!  High prices for a subpar product–typical university behavior.  This book does not get to the unit circle until chapter THREE.  And in the mean time they ask all sorts of questions about 60 and 135 and 210 degree angles, all of which are right on the unit circle–so they ask students to do something without giving them the tools with which to do it.  (Nor, for that matter, have they taught the students to convert degrees into radians.)

Basically the student has stopped showing up for class–he’s not getting anything out of it–and is using me as his teacher.  Which is the right thing to do because of how the class is being run.

If you still do not get that the universities way overcharge you and leave you less than prepared, and that I am the only real alternative out there right now, I don’t know what to tell you.  Ditto (minus the overcharge for public schools) for high schools.  We are in the midst of an educational crisis that will bring this country to its knees within a generation if not corrected for immediately.  So I once again ask that you place a phone call to me, (310) 592-5681.  It is for your own good as much as mine.

Subscriber Testimonial

One of the subscribers to my essays said the following: “I very much enjoyed your essay this week. you are an excellent writer…I know that because you piqued my interest in something for which I had little interest previously.”

The same is often said to me of my teaching, so it is worth keeping in mind–if you are going to discard my program as uninteresting to you and everyone you know, as so many have done–that you may not be seeing things from the most ideal perspective.  This also comes from someone who tends to be very conservative and cautious in issuing praise, to put it lightly.

As always I am looking for more subscribers and more students (and more readers for my books), and the sooner, the better–so please contact me ASAP, either by phone–(310) 592-5681–or through the box below.

Los Angeles Public Library–Studio City Branch

I think everyone knows I am from the backwoods location of Los Angeles, which means I lack any form of urban sophistication and what not and thus can’t understand the parts of the Great Books, both fiction and nonfiction, that deal with great cities such as London, Rome, Paris, and Athens.  City life is foreign to me because of where I live and some other Great Books scholar living somewhere else would be a better educator on those things.  Okay, okay, I am of course kidding.  I’m a die-hard Dodgers and Lakers fan, tutor actors and actresses, and am connected with judges and lawyers of various kinds as well as filmmakers (I come from a fairly big Hollywood family, grandfather’s uncle was President of MGM and Universal and married to Louis B Mayer’s daughter, aunt was Dana Hill whose filmography would fill a full book despite passing at 33, cousins and uncles have been directors and producers, etc.).  In essence one reason I am so gifted is because I am connected with so many of the most established institutions in a city that ranks as one of the ten largest in the world.  I’m an incredibly unique man in that regard if not in any others.

One thing in LA that I am not a fan of, though, is the public libraries.  And here’s an example of why:

I walk into the Studio City branch this morning to pick up a book containing the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut.  I had read this when I was at Pierce College and loved it, and one of the guys I play basketball with contacted me asking for help with an essay about it (I have lost my own essay, though, sadly).  As I walk in I see a survey on the table asking what kinds of movies the patrons of the library like to watch: books converted into movies, movies about American politics, movies about the American Jewish experience, and so on and so forth.  I fill it out and write at the bottom of it “I tutor actors and teach Great Books classes–Jason Goetz, [phone number]”

I go and find the book and go to check it out, and once I check it out I hand the librarian the sheet.  She tells me to take it to the lady at the information desk–she doesn’t know what to do with it.  So I take it over there.  The lady is busy with someone else so I drop it on her keyboard and walk off.  As I’m at the door she chirps up: “What do you want me to do with this?”

I threw up my hands.  “I don’t know, figure it out–it’s your survey.”

The public library system in LA has long struck me as abysmal.  They don’t have a single working copy, over all the various branches throughout the county, of Statius’ Thebaid, for instance, which is an epic I know I need to read.  And when I approached them about posting my flier for my program, since that would be the exact right place for it, they insisted that they would only do that if I did my program for free.  I have neither the power to compel others to yield there income through taxation nor the desire to simply volunteer it, so this was not in my plans; the bigger issue is that a governmental institution is now putting themselves directly at odds with private business, rather than supporting it, which does not have to be the case and is only the case because the people running it are complete morons.

But this struck me as particularly bizarre, because basically what it means is that they’re putting this survey out with the intent to make themselves look like they’re responsive to LA citizens and patrons of their branch, when in reality they don’t give a rat’s ass.  And not only do they not give one iota of shit for what patrons want, they have to deceptively try and make it look like they actually DO care.

Does anyone wonder why LA is such a poorly educated city and one which has such little interest in books, given this as our library system and what I’ve already described with our school system (much of which I have not addressed but which is generally horrible to the degree that it makes me sick to my stomach)??????