Saturday, August 11, 2018

Sparky Abraham & Nathan J. Robinson — What Is Education For?


This article looks at Bryan Caplan's The Case Against Education criticallyCaplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University. The economic school of thought with which he identifies is public choice, e.g, James Buchanan.

While I regard Caplan's solutions as questionable if not ridiculous, as does the author of the review, he does make a point. What is contemporary education really for? That does not seem to be clear as Caplan points out. He concludes therefore that education is worthless as it stands and needs revisiting. I agree with that. However, I regard Caplan's error as looking in the wrong direction owing to his ideological presumptions that operate as cognitive-affective bias.

The fact that the purpose of education is not clear from examining the current educational process in the US ( strongly suggests that it needs an overhaul. This is not surprising since the Western classroom model and curriculum now longer seems to fit. I agree with that.

This requires stepping back and revising the question of the purpose of education and the means for realizing that purpose optimally in the lives of learners.

That question is a foundational question in the philosophy of education, as subject that apparently the author of the article is unfamiliar with.

There are basically two types of educational philosophy — traditional and liberal.

The goal of the first is to inculcate a tradition. This type of education ends to be one-sided, as in religious education, or military school, or vocational education.

The goal of liberal education is to develop a well-rounded person capable of both creative and critical thinking, and of citizenship in a liberal society. The goal of liberal education is developing full potential as an individual and a human being in a society in which the fundamental question is what it means to live a good life in a good society, and how to implement this in one's life and one's society. There are many possible answers and liberal education explores them.

Philosophy is the basis of liberal education, in that philosophy is concerned chiefly with critical thinking. The method is understanding of logic and the principles of critical thinking by applying them to the great thinkers of the past that were foundation in shaping history and culture.

Liberalism has now become a tradition in the West, where it emerged in ancient Greece, and over time in some other parts of the world. The challenge, therefore, is to present liberal education as open, innovative, synergetic and adaptable instead of a one-sided tradition.

The author of the article confused education with the subjects taught and their practical application. The etymology, of the term "education, which means to lead from" in Latin, shows that education is about learning and not teaching. A major aspect of this learning is self-discovery, self-creation, and self-actualization. This cannot be put in but must be drawn out.

The criticism offered of the author's analysis and proposals is also off target in presuming that education is about doing and learning to do.

The solution offered at the close, which is not explained or elaborated is, "What is education for? It’s for becoming a person, not a worker." That is correct in my view but it needs explanation.

Education should be chiefly about being, then doing as a result and finally having based on what one has accomplished. However, the end it view is not chiefly about career success or material accumulation. It is about being a person of excellence" as Aristotle observed in Nichomachean Ethics.

First comes personhood. Second comes expression of that personhood in an individually unique way. Third comes receiving the feedback of this expression from the objectification of one's action in world, which concretizes the abstract.

Aristotle argued that all agents act for some end that that end is regarded as some good, a good being that which increases happiness. He then looks at the various proposals based different assumptions and finds them wanting. He argues that happiness is a by-product of living a good life in accordance with excellence (Greek arete).

This requires education based chiefly on being rather than doing or having. That is the goal of liberal education as conceived classically and which has been largely forgotten in the stampede for fame, fortune, power and pleasure.

While may seem non-specific, it is for an important reason. Each individual is unique and should be approached as such. Specificity need to be designed for individuals instead of a one-size-fits-all approach being applied indiscriminately.

There is no problem in combining liberal and traditional in the liberal paradigm in that liberalism is central to the Western intellectual tradition, having been initially explored in ancient Athens, which was a direct democracy of male citizens, at least of sorts. Western liberalism was eclipsed for a long while by traditionalism when the West was dominated by Christendom, although it began to reemerge with the Protestant Revolution.

Liberalism did not really comes of age until the 18th century Enlightenment, however. Eventually,  in "modern times" liberalism came to embrace tolerance of different views and different traditions, while becoming a tradition itself, opposed to anything it viewed as single-side traditionalism. This led the paradox of liberalism as a single-sided tradition itself opposing other single-sided traditions.

In spite of some rigidity setting in to liberalism as a tradition, liberal education requires learning about different traditions objectively, which is a necessity in a liberal society, especially a global one, since a key purpose of liberal education is developing a culture in which "we can all get along" despite differences in views and culture.

Current Affairs
What Is Education For?
Sparky Abraham & Nathan J. Robinson

32 comments:

GLH said...

I aways though that an education was about learning to learn. Unfortunately the educated I meet seem to think that they learned it all in school. I wonder how many of them ever pick up a book. I suspect that it is not just Sarah Palin that doesn't read.

Matt Franko said...

“the educated I meet seem to think that they learned it all in school.”

If you are trained under the liberal art methodology then this is how you come out of it as that method starts with the Theory FIRST... so (to them) they do know it all..

There is a famous quote from one of these people where the guy says “if the facts do not support the Theory then so much worse for the facts”...

They are not Science trained...

.

Matt Franko said...

“What is contemporary education really for?”

Consider it may be to denonstrate the differences in outcomes via the different methodologies used...

To say something like “to live a good life” or something seems a bit materialistic don’t you think?

Maybe just follow the “10 commandments!” instead? Or like AA spew the “Proverbs!” 24/7? Keep it simple...

People are going to have different opinions on what constitutes “a good life”... so logically this can’t be the purpose of Education...

Matt Franko said...

“This requires education based chiefly on being rather than doing”

“Doing” is Active or Kinaesthetic Learning... “learn by doing”... it works.... in fact its the only way that works for human mechanics.. try learning to play golf without hitting golf balls and just have somebody tell you via rote what to do...

Matt Franko said...

“He concludes therefore that education is worthless as it stands”

Maybe on the Art Degree side but not over here on the Science Degree side... how do you think we get all of this whiz-bang stuff?...

Bob said...

Few people bothered to get a university degree in the 1950s 60s. Why would you when you could finish high school (or not) and land a job easily?

You need to have a culture of learning, of exploration. Then you can build the institutions to enhance your culture. America's culture is one of ambition or navel-gazing.

Tom Hickey said...

I aways though that an education was about learning to learn.

"Learning to learn" is the definition of education. Learning, and therefore education, constitute a life-long process. (This also fits evolutionary theory.)

Purpose is different from definition. The purpose of learning is progressive unfolding of inherent potential as an individual and a human being, as well as the unfolding of the potential of a society based on its members and the conditions that are given, such as history, geography and culture. including tradition.

Achieving this purpose requires learning how to learn as a foundation process of living as a human being in human society with other life-long leaners.

Tom Hickey said...

At Matt, the real question is that if one studies only STEM, what kind of a human being does one turn out to be?

Dr. Strangelove?

Tom Hickey said...

In the view of Plato (and presumably Socrates), as well as the Eastern traditions, if the ruler of a society are not enlightened human being, then the society will be dysfunctional to the degree they are not.

The ideal society is one is in which one is enlightened by the time one reaches majority. That is ideal education.

This is the real foundation of eduction. It also explains why liberal education is the basis for this, since this is the purpose of it. It is also the basis for some traditional approaches to education that are based on perennial wisdom.

Tom Hickey said...

According to perennial wisdom, the scope and scale of education is vertical and horizontal.

Education is leaning how to learn about the gross world at the horizontal level, which is potentially infinite, since according to perennial wisdom, the gross world is comprised of infinite universes that are constantly manifesting and returning to the unmanifest.

The vertical level comprises the three worlds, gross, subtle and causal as the manifestation in time of the absolute, which is eternal and unmanifest.

These are not actually separate "worlds," but how the absolute appears in different levels of consciousness. The three world appear at the gross, subtle, mental levels and the totality is realized as the complete unfolding of human potential for learning.

Andrew Anderson said...

The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. Ecclesiastes 12:11-12

Tom Hickey said...

According to perennial wisdom, the scope of knowledge/learning is the same in all states of awareness, that is, infinite, because all the "worlds" are infinite, all being manifestations of the unbounded but at different levels (scales).

While the scope is the same in the sense of being unlimited, the scales are different and they are limited. In science, which studies the gross world from using gross awareness, there are the micro, meso and macro scales, e.g., quantum, classical and cosmological. Because gross consciousness is grounded in experience conditioned by sense experience, the scale is limited to the gross.

Knowledge is structured in consciousness, a view that is found in Rig Veda, for example. Knowledge is different at different levels of consciousness; and reality appears differently in these different levels.

Each level has its criterion of truth based on knowledge at that level.

At the gross level, at which the physical universe appears, the criterion is empirical since experience is conditioned by sense perception of sense date.

Subtle consciousness and the subtle world are the level of life energy, and experience and its criterion are conditioned by that.

Mental consciousness and the causal world are the level of mind, and experience and its criterion are conditioned by that.

At these levels, duality of subject and objective is a foundational condition.

Non-dual consciousness is the unconditioned ground of being.

Tom Hickey said...

From the vantage of perennial wisdom, gross consciousness and its limitation to sense experience, hence taking sense perception to be the criterion of truth can be compared to a caravan traveling on pilgrimage, where those in gross consciousness are the little children that are just along for the ride and have no idea yet about pilgrimage let alone what it symbolizes, that is, the journey through the three worlds to realization of the absolute as the goal of the pilgrimage.

But this pilgrimage is very long and as the little children grow that learn about the concept of pilgrimage first, and later what it symbolizes. But even the "slow learners" reach the goal anyway, since they are carried along by the rest.

The pilgrimage has various guides and a leaders. The guides know the way partially. They are the one on the higher places but not yet realized. The leader knows the full way as wells the shortest and safest route to take for all. The leader is the realized one.

Matt Franko said...

“that if one studies only STEM, what kind of a human being does one turn out to be?”

That’s why the Science Degree programs in STEM disciplines requires students to earn dozens of credit hours in Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, etc....

But the complement is NOT TRUE for the Art Degree students they are never cross trained in the Science method...

I to get my BSEE degree (138 credit hours) had to take probably 24 credits of Arts/Humanities/Social Sciences.... how many credits in Engineering does the typical BA degree candidate in say Theater or BA in Fine Arts have to earn? Or BA in Economics?

ZEEEEERROOOOOOO...

They are not qualified and this is why you see these people constantly saying stupid shit all the time.....

Matt Franko said...

They’re unqualified never been trained correctly and then you guys have to dream up this fantasy “neoliberal conspiracy!” like the Alex Jones lizard people to explain what is going on...

ALWAYS look at the training... what have these people been trained to do?????

Andrew Anderson said...

But the complement is NOT TRUE for the Art Degree students they are never cross trained in the Science method... Franko

Basic Accounting (Equity = Assets - Liabilities) is crucial to understanding banking and economics in general. Yet how many economists, at least until the GFC, have been ignorant of Basic accounting or dismissed its importance?

So both Arts and Science educations should require a course(s) in Basic Accounting and, for matter, given that banks are, at least for the present, a perennial source of trouble, a course(s) in banking and money too.

Matt Franko said...

AA, better Accounting degrees are awarded as a Science Degree program....

Matt Franko said...

“Basic Accounting (Equity = Assets - Liabilities) is crucial to understanding banking and economics in general. ”

There is no evidence that even the elite MMT people understand the regulatory use or regulatory import of the components of that Accounting identity... never been trained...

Matt Franko said...

Here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reification_(fallacy)

So for instance when these morons are going all around saying “banks lend out the reserves!” or “we’re out of money!”

This is what they are doing:

“Reification (also known as concretism, hypostatization, or the fallacy of misplaced concreteness) is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete real event or physical entity.[1][2] In other words, it is the error of treating something that is not concrete, such as an idea, as a concrete thing. A common case of reification is the confusion of a model with reality: "the map is not the territory".

Reification is part of normal usage of natural language (just like metonymy for instance), as well as of literature, where a reified abstraction is intended as a figure of speech, and actually understood as such. But the use of reification in logical reasoning or rhetoric is misleading and usually regarded as a fallacy.[”

They are incompetent in use of Abstraction because they were never adequately TRAINED in this skill....

This is how this situation should be addressed not the MMT elite way where they just say “banks don’t lend out the reserves!” as a simplistic anti-thesis or contrary statement that gets them NOWHERE...

Tom Hickey said...

24 credits of Arts/Humanities/Social Sciences

Uh huh.

Andrew Anderson said...

... not the MMT elite way where they just say “banks don’t lend out the reserves!” as a simplistic anti-thesis or contrary statement that gets them NOWHERE... Franko

Actually, a bank MAY lend our its reserves - IF it uses its vault cash.

Otherwise, the ONLY reason banks CAN NOT lend out their reserves is the non-bank private sector is not permitted to have "reserve" accounts of their own at the Central Bank, i.e. the general population is not permitted to safely and conveniently use their Nation's fiat as the banks, credit unions, etc. do.

Matt Franko said...

AA, you’re as stupid as they are.....

Matt Franko said...

It’s like a semester and a half of an 8 semester degree program...

It’s infinitely more than what they have to do in comparison as they would have to divide by ZERO....

Andrew Anderson said...

If you see a flaw in my analysis there, Franko, then point it out that I may learn thereby.

jrbarch said...

Focusing on the tiny little area (25,500 days – 70 laps around the sun) that does have a little light shining on it: -

Two walls: - one you come through when you are born; the other you depart through when you die. What happens in between is the only part you have some say over.

So, what happens? Right from the start, the cranium is opened up, and everything poured in. Everything is learnt by rote, and in comparison, hardly anything learnt by experience. What you do learn by experience is ‘never trust a human being’. It’s a dog fight and everyone is selfish. Everyone blows their ego up so they can look like they are more important than the rest. Then the gravity of that final wall begins to kick in and you wonder. Rote is no good for you anymore ....

Someone who comes along and says there is peace inside of you - must be crazy. Right? Because there is no experience .....

But no one fills you with the knowledge of how to access an experience like that. What they do, is fill the mind with concepts, ideologies, - imagination. Noise! All along the road you think think think. It doesn’t matter what you think. The reality is those two walls, the road in between, and you. And what is within you.

And yet we have learnt everything by rote. And the experience is watch out! This world is a dangerous place.

And yet, a human being has a heart. And peace is our essential nature. If you do not know that, then you have never dived deep enough into your own nature. People that have – they will tell you it is there. Like blue sky and green earth, like water is wet – it is there. But you have to know for yourself. How to get in touch with it? That is a very simple wisdom. Listen to the heart. Turn down the noise and the imagination, and listen – what you have left when they all have quietened down, is reality – peace. A presence! The self – the one who you really are. But you have to dive deep, inside .... it is a secret; but a secret any human being can uncover. It is not complicated ....

We think everything else is reality; everything we encounter along that road is reality. The more complex things are the more reality they must hide. We never ask: - what is my reality? The heart is simple, and the further you go inside, the simpler things get. That’s different!

So when you pass through that final wall, the heart is full; there is gratitude, appreciation, love, knowledge, experience - and complete acceptance. Joy. Clarity. That’s different too. The rest doesn’t matter and never did matter. Although it would be better if we fixed it up to make the journey less dangerous and inhuman.

Tom Hickey said...

It’s like a semester and a half of an 8 semester degree program...

It’s infinitely more than what they have to do in comparison as they would have to divide by ZERO....


The issue is the purpose of education and how to meet it.

It's not a matter of adjusting the curriculum or getting more people into STEM.

It's about education for life and unfolding full potential in life.

That cannot be taught. But one can be enculturated into a tradition that values it and promotes it through the educational process that extends from cradle to grave.

IN fact, in some societies, now considered "primitive," education begins right with pregnancy and before with what the parents are exposed to and what the mother-to-be thinks during pregnancy. The first thing an infant hears on birth is sacred sounds as initiation into the sacred view of life rather than the profane.

Now it is just the traditional peoples that do this, along with the "New Age loonies."

GLH said...

I guess that I am just a "New Age loony."

jrbarch said...

(... continuing my previous comment)

So, being educated to be an engineer is fine. But engineering is just something you do – it is not who you are.

There is the story of the two parrots who were educated by a Professor – they knew all of the STEM and ARTS, you name it; and could recite it back to front, in seven different languages. But their wings were clipped and they couldn’t fly. So, one day, a boatman was taking them across a huge, fast flowing, turbulent river; and the boat began to sink. The boatman asked the parrots if they knew how to swim? “Oh sure”, said the parrots. And began reciting what they had learnt about swimming. “Well, Yes”, said the boatman, “but can you swim – because this boat is going down in a few minutes”?

So, one shore is one wall and the other shore is the other wall. And if we learnt by rote we don’t know how to swim; and the Professor of this world has clipped our wings. And if we have been educated in every discipline on the planet but not been educated as to who we are and why we are alive, there is a huge piece missing. Even though the door is always open, most of our life has been spent in a cage .....

So, the issue is definitely “the purpose of education and how to meet it”. You probably didn’t mean that as a joke Tom, but it made me laugh .... ! It’s definitely about ” ...education for life and unfolding full potential in life”.

Notice how this world gets crazier, the further away we get from that. Like moving out towards the periphery from the centre of a cyclone. And these billionaire parrots reckoning, just because they have more crackers, they are in control. Relax! We’ve got this! I figured out at 1$/sec it would take 31.7 years in the US to count out a billion dollars; 31709.8 years in Aus. or the UK. It’s ridiculous – who has time?

To all the other educations that go on, on this planet, we have to add the education of self-knowledge – the understanding of the heart.

jrbarch said...

One source of this education of the self: - "Peace is Possible"

Bob said...

Education = Career
This has been the equation since I was in kindergarten.

Tom Hickey said...

Education = Career

There is more to this than meets the eye.

It's not only learning that counts but also credentialing (one of Bryan Caplan's points).

Beyond that is the networking that is so influential in a class-based society.

In the UK, this is obvious to all but in the US less so but still pervasive.

Doors open or close and opportunities arise or don't to a great degree on what schools one attended and the networks that are involved.

This has nothing to do with the purpose of education as I have explained it above.

Bob said...

Networking used to be done by the employer.

Nowadays we have too many hamsters with doctorates trying to network their way out of unemployment.

As stated, few people attended higher centers of learning when education had the purpose you describe. It wasn't a part of our culture then and it sure as hell isn't there now. Obviously, this is not a good thing.