January 26, 2013

"Schools train people to be ignorant, with style."



Frank Zappa, opining, years ago.

30 comments:

Shouting Thomas said...

It's always been the same from time immemorial:

The trick is to know who you are.

And there is always the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.

McTriumph said...

Brown shoes! don't make it, Brown shoes! why fake it.

Don't often agree with him, I like brown shoes, but I miss him.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Amen. Truer words never spoken. Just as true today, if not more so, than when he was speaking.

The public education system is a crime and the teachers are either unwitting useful idiots or deliberate criminals.

deborah said...

I think, in Sociology, I read a great article about how the purpose of Kindergarten is to socialize you to stand in lines, etc. As I recall it, this had insidious overtone from the author's viewpoint. But maybe not.

Also, in Sociology, I read a theory that the point of Welfare is to keep an ebb and flow of people at the ready for the workforce. Can anyone help me with the actual name of that theory?

DADvocate said...

College doesn't add anything to the mix either.

Chip S. said...

Yeah, yeah, every public school in the US should be a School of Athens for ages 6 and up.

In reality, the question is whether schooling consists of mediocrities teaching kids a bunch of boring shit like arithmetic and grammar, or those same mediocrities teaching kids How to Think.

Frankly, I'll take the first option. At least it gives people the building blocks for learning how to think on their own.

Bob_R said...

Zappa was an extremely intelligent person who found it easy to concentrate and learn very complicated things. There are, of course, a lot of teachers out there who find students like that a pain in the ass. I'm sorry that it happened to him, but his observations about what happens at the skinny end of the bell curve don't really apply to hat happens in the middle. Worry about tamping down the creativity of people with one sigma intelligence is misplaced.

edutcher said...

When he said it was when it was gearing up.

ganderson said...

"And in your dreams
you can see yourself as a prophet
saving the world
the words from your lips
I just can't believe
you are such a fool"

I sometimes think Frank wasn't as smart as he thought he was.

I miss him, though.

ganderson said...

Bob R- even though I might find a guy like Frank a pain in the ass- I think a lot of us love teaching kids like that- I also think that you are correct in your suggestion that most of our public schools don't have much to offer high IQ kids.

Chip S- we assume that everyone in public school is capable of high order thought- thus the "teaching kids to think" meme. And I might add- even high IQ kids have to have some facts to think about!

bagoh20 said...

Of course it's true, and it's important to notice that even when the "enlightened" take over, they don't change that part.

Chip Ahoy said...

When I first started college for reals where classes really applied following SAT and ACT and all that and high school was finished and I was physically grown, I sought out the smartest women to be near or next to so that I could leach of their super powers, as was my wont. And I recall saying to this woman, "It's awesome how you knew what is important. How do you do that?" I honestly had no means to discern which bits were central and which bits wet orbital. I asked her about that and her answer was previous education, she was returning to college not starting it. We agreed that is a handy skill to have. She was impressive. So I asked if we could study together and she said, "No."

"Why not?"

"Because I have a boyfriend. And I suppose I don't trust myself."

"So what. So do I." I lied. I did have a roommate.

"Really?"

I nodded. I lied again.

"That changes it. Okay then."

And so we became friends, got A's together, I sucked off her super power like a vampire and I got an A too because of her superior wisdom, and skied together and everything. She was a terrible skier, just like Toni, both terrible timid skiers. I go, "what are you doing with this woosh woosh woosh rhythmic wooshing with no regard to terrain?" And she goes, "It's the Jean-Claude Killy, which sounds like John Clod Keeley, method." And I'm all, "Damn, method with a name."

The bad thing about that was she told me told me every detail, and I mean every detail about her big hairy boyfriend. You would NOT believe the details and he's one stupid fucker too, and I had to sit there and listen to everything to keep up the whole basis of the thing. And the moral of the story is ... that does work sometimes, and Zappa makes a point that resonates.

Patrick said...

If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want to learn, go to the library.

Shouting Thomas said...

I learned my ability to checkmate women like Althouse at college, because I had to deal with them.

This is a useful skill that has served me well.

Althouses dominate middle management at corporations.

Howard said...

Zappa was a true libertarian, a tireless worker, a wealthy businessman and a decent artist.

In the clip, Frank explains the mind-set of 95% of Althouse commentators. Happy with their little boxes, told what to do and think, with resolute faith that submission in life is the key to heaven. While in full lockstep compliance with the establishment, these fools believe they are heroic rebels like John Galt.

Howard said...

Patrick: If you want to learn anything useful, you need to get out of the library and get your hands dirty.

Ann Althouse said...

"Zappa was an extremely intelligent person who found it easy to concentrate and learn very complicated things. There are, of course, a lot of teachers out there who find students like that a pain in the ass. I'm sorry that it happened to him, but his observations about what happens at the skinny end of the bell curve don't really apply to hat happens in the middle. Worry about tamping down the creativity of people with one sigma intelligence is misplaced."

Good point. If school is all about creativity, it might be better to leave them alone.

At least today it's possible to opt out and do some home-schooled/on-line thing to get your diploma.

I do think, though, that school should teach children how to think -- logic, reason, rhetoric, and so forth.

But I agree with Chip S. that the "mediocrities" won't do it right.

I think it's something law professors try to do and can barely do.

And most people don't appreciate what is being done, even when they are choosing law school and have decided on this particular form of education.

YoungHegelian said...

It's interesting that what Zappa was saying back then was coming from the Left side of the political spectrum & now one would generally hear such complaints (minus the 'military-industrial complex") from the Right.

Bob_R said...

"I think it's something law professors try to do and can barely do."

Don't know about the professors, but their students who go into politics make a lot of basic logic mistakes. I like to think that they are being dishonest when they incorrectly negate quantified statements, but unfortunately they are probably just stupid.

Ann Althouse said...

"It's interesting that what Zappa was saying back then was coming from the Left side of the political spectrum & now one would generally hear such complaints (minus the 'military-industrial complex") from the Right."

It's an attitude that doesn't square with the left/right politicos we're stuck with in the govt, but I find that kind of attitude compelling and have, going back to the days when he was around talking like that. Too bad the pop culture doesn't have people like that anymore.

SOJO said...

So how can you get this and not get Aaron Swartz? It is just the blinders that come with age?


Here's George Carlin saying the same thing right before he died in an older, crankier way:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dY4WlxO6i0

(starts around @4:15)

Here's a Marine vet (Afghanistan) who figured out too late what being employed to kill people actually means: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/i-killed-people-in-afghanistan-was-i-right-or-wrong/2013/01/25/c0b0d5a6-60ff-11e2-b05a-605528f6b712_story.html

Here's a partial and ridiculously simplistic recruitment test you have to pass to be a Marine: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2012/1109/Are-you-smarter-than-a-US-Marine-Take-the-recruitment-quiz/Word-Knowledge-1

YoungHegelian said...

@Prof. Althouse,

Too bad the pop culture doesn't have people like that anymore.

True, dat!

Chip S. said...

SOJO said...
So how can you get this and not get Aaron Swartz?

This comment is a good example of what happens when people erroneously believe they've been taught "critical thinking skills".

Here's a partial and ridiculously simplistic recruitment test you have to pass to be a Marine: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2012/1109/Are-you-smarter-than-a-US-Marine-Take-the-recruitment-quiz/Word-Knowledge-1

And here's a comprehensive and simple explanation of anchors in html.

mariner said...

Zappa supposedly said, "It's not getting any smarter out there, you have to come to grips with stupidity and make it work for you."

Politicians have certainly mastered that.

Synova said...

That's interesting.

US schools, very early on, were influenced and designed by, well, lets just say communists. Not necessarily in the political sense, but in the practical sense. These were the people who ideologically and philosophically objected to things like fences. Without *fences* neighborhoods would be continuous rolling parkland with nothing to keep us separated from each other. Society would be the same beautifully whole, rather than fractured, pattern.

And I think, possibly, if one of these founders of the US educational system explained this ideology and philosophy to Zappa, he wouldn't associate it at all with the "military industrial complex."

Educational theorists were saving children from the isolationist, old-fogy-ness, close-minded-ness, of their parents and communities.

It was very utopian.

Synova said...

"In the clip, Frank explains the mind-set of 95% of Althouse commentators. Happy with their little boxes, told what to do and think, with resolute faith that submission in life is the key to heaven. While in full lockstep compliance with the establishment, these fools believe they are heroic rebels like John Galt."

If only we'd give in to the public education system we'd learn to be true individuals!

I have seen the light!

Synova said...

The only way not to be in lock-step with little boxes is to be in lock-step with Howard.

And the government.

And most certainly with public education and the educational elite.

(This word "establishment"... I do not think it means what you think it means.)

Rusty said...


I do think, though, that school should teach children how to think -- logic, reason, rhetoric, and so forth.

Then they are failing.

Amartel said...

Yeah! Government schools breed government tools. Same as it ever was.

Eustace Chilke said...

We miss you Frank.

Of course, talking to Frank as if he was there to hear was never Frank's thing. I guess I'm talking to the Frank in my head. I'm glad he's in there.