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Edumudgeon Alert

May 11, 2007

What’s the point of this? You’re not rewarded for it in higher education. You’re not even really rewarded for it in the corporate world, white collar or otherwise. Am I just being an education curmudgeon: an edumudgeon? – TL

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5 Comments
  1. Alexis permalink

    School isn't only intended to crank out lawyers and professors. So, no, you're not rewarded for it in the white or ivory collared worlds, but you're punished severely for lacking it in the blue collar world.

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  2. Alexis: I don't mean to imply that punctuality and attendance are not virtues. I generally value those traits. I'm only criticizing the notion that our schools – the culture disseminators – reward PERFECT attendance. Perhaps we'd be more lenient as a society on this subject if our schools weren't making a vice out of the virtue. And this doesn't touch the question of what our schools ought to be prominently rewarding folks for instead: creative thinking, fine art productions, logic, math skills, critical reading, etc. Finally, I'm also implicitly critiquing the Chicago Tribune for making this one of its few stories on education. That rage cut its education section about a year ago, and these useless scraps are all that's really given now. – TL

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  3. Alexis permalink

    Actually, this is probably much beyond what the silly article was worth, but I read an interesting way of looking at members of a working organization a while back. Basically, it states there are four sorts of employees, with one of each of the following dichotomies: Smart/Stupid & Industrious/Lazy.
    Here's how they are best used:

    Smart, Lazy:
    Highest echelons of organization. Brilliant enough to see the big picture and get things done, but lazy enough to delegate effectively and not, impossibly, attempt to do it all themselves.

    Smart, Industrious:
    Just below previous. Good “right hand men.” Able to take vision and make sure it gets translated into reality as intended. Also, good general worker.

    Stupid, Lazy:
    Able to take simple tasks and do them effectively. At the very least, does not screw things up terribly. Therefore useful.

    Stupid, Industrious:
    Anathema. Touches, and breaks, everything in sight.

    It's certainly too simple a model to describe every case, but I find it a useful way to think about life in general. For starters, it's extremely unlike how I would normally frame the situation, so it gets me thinking about people and their worth differently than I would normally. Mainly, though, it allows me to be more creative and permissive with how I view what people “should” be doing, and which skills are valuable, and why. It reminds me that not everyone has to be a super genius to have a place, and that our vices (laziness) can be virtues while our virtues (industriousness) can be handicaps given the right situation.

    Given that, I must also question my gut reaction that the only thing worthwhile that schools do is teach academics. Perhaps I am simply projecting when I read this in your own post, for it's something I find myself fighting with quite a bit – and if so, I apologize – but it seems in the past you have mentioned that schools aren't doing enough meaty academic stuff, with the implication that the other things they do are lesser or frivolous. But, really, there are many, many useful skills that help people get by or even become great, contributing members of society. Some of those are academic, but just as many are not. This requires me to put aside my own personal values and passion for creativity, problem-solving, logic, reading, and quickness of mind as being somehow “higher” than honesty, punctuality, or hand tool skillz.

    As you point out, schools are supposed to be cultural disseminators, and, by extension, socializers. So though I wish very much wish there were more academics going on in school, I don't think that should be done at the expense of the other, non-academic lessons students should be learning, which contribute as much to society as any other ability.

    (PS – If you're intrigued by the reference, ask. But I'm almost embarrassed to admit where it comes from.)

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  4. Embarassed though you may be, I'm intrigued by the citation! – TL

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  5. Alexis permalink

    Well, of course – I should have known! (Everything becomes more intriguing if there's an air of mystery.)

    Jeffrey C. Benton. Air Force Officer's Guide, 32nd Ed. Stackpole Books, 1999.

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