Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Problem with School Today

The problem with school these days is that it over-values success, at the expense of process (which always involves failure, especially if one is ever going to succeed in doing anything really, practically useful--as opposed to aesthetically pleasing). School wants us all to look like winners without actually doing the work required to win (i.e. losing over and over). 
I like grappling, so I imagine wrestlers. School wants you to have the achievement record of Alexander Karelin without his medical record (lots of injuries on the road to that much Olympic gold).

School today inverts the old Latin dictum esse quam videri (briefly translated "be rather than seem," i.e. it is better to have real experience than to look experienced). People are afraid to study things they aren't good at, because it will show up on their record, and people reading that record will say, "Loser!" and give whatever prize they have to somebody else. What gets lost in the shuffle is the reality that we are not all going to get the same prizes no matter what happens (life exists by creating winners and losers, always)--and depriving oneself of loss just makes the inevitable that much more painful when it comes. When you talk to guys like Karelin in the locker room, most of them aren't stuck-up assholes (who think they are where they are because they are somehow superior in every fashion to every other human out there). They see the costs of their success. They see its precariousness (a few points ground out on the mat after hours of sweat in the gym, getting pummelled by team-mates and berated by coaches).

Many people whose success is not the result of actual physical hardship have a much less humble view of themselves (and a much more arrogant attitude toward their fellowman, especially when he loses). Worst of all is the academic, politician, or economist who never lost a debate (or an election or a buttload of money). These types are insufferable--convinced that they have figured life out and that the rest of mankind are just worms who somehow fail to appreciate their excellent example and stop failing. "Why should you flunk calculus, Billy Stupid? I never did. Just try harder next time! (And no, I will not hire you to take out my trash: only A-level garbage men on my team. I cannot have your loser-ness bringing down our morale and/or killing our phenomenal performance, which is entirely the result of our own excellent moral qualities.)"

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