Tuesday, December 06, 2016

how to think

It is a long, complicated thought and I'm not sure I've got all of it but here goes.  It started with overhearing the sentence:  "That's the way to take care of his education."  And I wondered what they thought of as his "education".  Most likely, a couple years of college.  Do you know what you learn in the first two years of college?  Well, it can be a great deal, or it can be nothing at all, and the grades could still be the same.  It's English and hopefully Literature and Math and hopefully Biology and hopefully some Art History and maybe some History where you actually consider multiple perspectives but more likely than any of those "hopefullies" it is just high school with no curfew.  Do kids still have curfews? I don't actually know.

I remember talks when I was a kid about what a real Liberal Arts Education was all about, and why it was so valuable, even tho they weren't suggesting anyone actually go get one, not without planning on law school afterward anyway. Because jobs had become the real Messiah, to the real God named Money.  Not knowledge, not skills, not usefulness, not even wealth if measured by anything other than money.  And if you were gonna be a lawyer anyway, you were gonna turn out to be a miserable bastard and so even then a Liberal Arts education wouldn't really serve you.

People may lament "the kids these days" but I don't find a lot of people older or younger actually much able to think.  They are bright enough but there is no reality in which they live.  Fake news?  Real news?  How do you tell the difference?  Dang people, Jade Helm didn't SMELL to you?  You really bought that Obama was going to declare martial law and cancel the election?  You think you can put up a roof but don't know what a purlin is, or how to think about weight load?  You believe raw chocolate is a thing?

I have a college education and I got it when I wasn't 18 and so in a lot of ways I think I paid more attention to it.  I loved comp and lit.  I took way upper level electives, like Old Testament Criticism, because I was interested in it.  Just stuff.  After college, after job and marriage, husband and I decided to build our own house, and figuring that out (sometimes through years of delays because, well, because we hadn't figured it out yet) led us to thinking on an entirely different level.  Things within that too, like plumbing.  Plumbing is not difficult, and unlike electricity, it ain't gonna kill you.  We'd planned the house so all the water ran on the berm side of the basement, but actually putting it up, staring at it, thinking it through, was a whole different ballgame.  We actually put it all up once, and doing that allowed us to re-visualize it and come up with a much more simple plan so we took it down and did it again.

That's critical thinking and flexible thinking.  And those are skills.  And nothing taught in schools can actually teach skills.

But growing potatoes can.  Cooking (actual real cooking, not opening and reheating, and not delivered with instructions but what is in the house and what can I make from it cooking) can.

You put corn seed in the ground and when it sprouts, the crows come and eat it all.  The turkeys scratch it up.  The deer come and graze.  The wind comes and blows it down.  The crows come again for milk stage corn.  And the raccoons show up the day it is ripe.  That is, if the bears didn't come the night before.  And here is the kicker, if you don't solve every one of these problems in one way or another (like figuring an alternative food source), you are hungry.  Nobody is hungry anymore.  I mean, not really.  Thankfully.  But figuring all those puzzles and problems out, and anticipating what else and preventing, that's critical and flexible thinking.

What happens these days, without threat of real hunger, is anxiety.  It is like, when there is nothing real to be afraid of, you are afraid of everything in the nothingness.

So I was thinking of education, and how Voltaire really is important, how I love Shakespeare plays, how I love that my kids have studied languages.  But I was also thinking about how, without knowing how to grow potatoes or fix the brakes on the car, people don't actually know how to think.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

"What happens these days, without threat of real hunger, is anxiety. It is like, when there is nothing real to be afraid of, you are afraid of everything in the nothingness."

Exactly. Here in the US, for the most part, we're safe, comfortable, and well-fed - and, yet, we are all afraid ... all of the time.