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.