Why write about education? Well, I’ve ingested more than my fair share of the product, and it has until quite recently been the focal point of my entire life. I spent until the age of 18 in the Florida public schools, and my experiences there were formative. From 2004 to 2010 I attended a university in Florida for my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in chemical engineering. Not content with having taken those hills, I left Florida to attend a doctoral program in the Midwest from 2010 to 2015. I graduated in the May of this year, a scant 3 months ago. That amounts to 24 years in school; 13 in public school, 11 in college.
It is difficult to write on the subject of education without being interminably boring, and I readily admit I have not read much academic literature on the subject. I candidly lack motivation to read such tripe; if my own public education is the fruits of such nonsense, then I see little point in wasting that time. Indeed, as conservative commentator John Derbyshire has said, “Education is a vast sea of lies, waste, corruption, crackpot theorizing, and careerist logrolling.” Most policy papers on the subject will put anyone to sleep. Those that remain awake will likely be angered (or rolling their eyes) at the endless grumbling over the black-white achievement gap, and how the education system is in the dastardly grip of systematized discrimination, white racism, and institutionalized privilege. The reading is dense with opaque jargon, which is mainly a cover for lack of good ideas. Indeed, some ideas already known to science are consistently “re-discovered” from generation to generation within the academic education establishment. First, the education methods had to be “research-based” or “evidence-based.” Now they have to be “data-driven.” All of this is dressed up language to describe the act of using information to make a logical decision – something Francis Bacon recommended in the 16th-century.
I think the best starting point is the most basic one: “What is the purpose of an education?” Such a question one would expect to have a simple answer, but unfortunately, many enterprising individuals have built careers off getting it all wrong. I doubt many people will enjoy reading this paragraph, for it contains many harsh truths – and modern Americans typically can’t handle truth beyond standardized dosages. What do I think the motivation behind education is? Well, I think the answer is actually pretty simple:
The purpose of education is to prepare a defensive vanguard for the next generation against the depredations of the lower orders.
Civilization has only come about and been perfected due to the labors of brilliant men, not from contributions by the great mass. The vast majority of men are throwbacks to pre-civilized times; a fierce, primordial age. They are not guided by high-minded, abstract ideals, but are instead driven by their stomachs and genitals. Civilization can only flourish when such men have their impulses (if not their very bodies) shackled. Otherwise, humanity is plunged into an age of barbarism, where roving bands of marauders make a living raiding and plundering the nascent outgrowths of civilized life. Even primitive civilizations walk a knife edge between continued progress and plunging back into the morass of barbarism. It is only by the successful transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next that civilization can make forward steps. In a well-run, orderly society, men of brilliance and reason are elevated to authoritative positions, enabling them to keep the lower orders chained to a tight leash and cowed by a firm hand. Under the conditions of stern education for the brilliant and workhouses and jail for the incapable, a natural “aristocracy of talent” forms to govern the great mass and lead them to where they are incapable of leading themselves.
The situation is even more dire today in our advanced, industrialized, computerized society. The modern high-tech industrial state has many highly specialized jobs that need to be filled in order to run efficiently (we shan’t delve into what constitutes “efficiency” in this regard; perhaps in another essay). The technological society needs lawyers, judges, policemen, bankers, scientists, engineers, and doctors to keep the whole complicated machine humming along nicely. In order to qualify people for a position, they have to be able to pass tests and follow rules. Such behavior is inimical to the lower orders; studying to pass tests, obeying rules, and obeying laws isn’t fun. To the lower orders, the entire purpose of life is to feel good at all times, whether it’s through sex, drugs, alcohol, or taking the property of others.
The educational barriers in place to keep uncivilized men in check are there for good reason; the stakes are high, and civilization is a zero-or-one proposition. I often think of my own job as an engineer. Every day, I deal with highly technical mathematics that would be totally over the heads of the underclass. The company entrusts me to make correct technical decisions from which multi-million dollar deals will be negotiated. Of course, the company didn’t just hire and schlemiel off the street; I had to pass through an incredibly fine sieve to get this job. Let’s take a look at just how fine this sieve is:
- I had to graduate from high school. 81% of people do that.
- I had to score highly on the SAT. I was in the top 2%.
- I had to get admitted to a university. 65.9% of people do that.
- I had to graduate with a 4-year degree in chemical engineering. Only about 5% of people do that.
- I had to score highly on the GRE. Again, I scored in the top 2%.
- I had to get admitted to a doctoral program. As an upper bound, only about 26% of people do that.
- I had to graduate from the doctoral program. Washout rates here are about 50%.
- I have no criminal record. 80% of people don’t have one.
- I passed a drug test. 94% of the country doesn’t habitually use drugs.
Taking the product of the appropriate probabilities, leads to a final probability of about 1 in 958,000 – which seems about right. And I am merely one example. Think of your own job; what barriers were in place to ensure that someone with qualifications similar to yours got the job, and others were rejected?
Let’s think in the reverse direction for a moment. What if hypothetically, the educational barriers that existed to make society function were to suddenly break down? What if, instead of hiring someone qualified to do the job, they instead hired some hoodrat? What would a typical day for him be like?:
- He would show up to work (late in the afternoon) high and drunk, with his pants sagging around his knees.
- He would twiddle his thumbs.
- He would look at pornography on the computer at work.
- He would take a break to smoke a joint.
- This pattern would continue until he discovered (or had it explained to him) that he was a salaried employee and could “work from home.” After that, no one would ever see him again and he would just chill on the block all day while collecting bi-weekly paychecks.
But forget about my job; what about a position of real authority and power, like a ranking officer in the military, the CEO of a major corporation, a bridge engineer, or a medical doctor? In those jobs, lives are on the line. To put the unqualified into such positions is to waste vast sums of money and lead to many needless deaths. Such barriers are in place all over our society to ensure that only qualified people are able to get access to positions of power and influence. As cruel as it sounds, education is the supreme judge in a technologically advanced society; it decides who is worth a damn, and who isn’t. That is its purpose, like it or not.