Is true education meant only for an elite?

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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby existential_elevator » Tue Jul 08, 2008 11:11 pm UTC

Cannot help it: my granddad's a big union activist, and I come from a long line of factory workers, and have myself worked in a factory - out of interest, the kind that manufactures carpet cleaning products. I was sticking the labels on. It was as much a lip service, but you really can't understand how taxing and hard jobs like that are before you've worked one for a while. I was born socialist, I will die socialist, and heaven help me, some day I will move to a socialist country, lest I turn this country back into one.

A classical education, for clarity, is different than a standard one - or a least that's how I'm understanding it. Here's a trusty wiki link. I'm not sure if it will change my argument that much if it turns out this is not what the OP refers to.

Also: shortage or not; such manual labourers tend to carry a stigma, which is not fair at all, which is attached to their status as a manual labourer. Also, the exploitation.

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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Philwelch » Tue Jul 08, 2008 11:26 pm UTC

existential_elevator wrote:Cannot help it: my granddad's a big union activist, and I come from a long line of factory workers, and have myself worked in a factory - out of interest, the kind that manufactures carpet cleaning products. I was sticking the labels on. It was as much a lip service, but you really can't understand how taxing and hard jobs like that are before you've worked one for a while.


Can't you see why I'd rather spare human beings from doing that sort of work, then?
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby existential_elevator » Tue Jul 08, 2008 11:35 pm UTC

Philwelch wrote:
existential_elevator wrote:Cannot help it: my granddad's a big union activist, and I come from a long line of factory workers, and have myself worked in a factory - out of interest, the kind that manufactures carpet cleaning products. I was sticking the labels on. It was as much a lip service, but you really can't understand how taxing and hard jobs like that are before you've worked one for a while.


Can't you see why I'd rather spare human beings from doing that sort of work, then?


Okay - "spare" and replace with machines. A few problems with this:

1] taking away jobs from real people
2] not addressing the actual problems, such as improving conditions, both working conditions and protective rights [such as health benefits, or more standardised and monitored shift structures]
3] suggesting implementing machinery when we're in a recession, and likely to hit an energy crisis sometime soon. Electricity is likely to end up being a commodity unless that gets sorted, then humans are better than machines.
4] adding machines in does not take away the need for menial work. Like the Victorian weaving looms, there will still be dangerous maintenance jobs, which will be done by low-paid immigrants, most probably.
5] much like the Victorian era - hideous environmental repercussions.
6] taking away more labour options forces people into needing an education to get any hell kind of job. What do you expect the people who just don't like formalised education to do? Or the ones who drop out, or can't opt in, due to financial reasons?

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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Philwelch » Tue Jul 08, 2008 11:57 pm UTC

existential_elevator wrote:
Philwelch wrote:
existential_elevator wrote:Cannot help it: my granddad's a big union activist, and I come from a long line of factory workers, and have myself worked in a factory - out of interest, the kind that manufactures carpet cleaning products. I was sticking the labels on. It was as much a lip service, but you really can't understand how taxing and hard jobs like that are before you've worked one for a while.


Can't you see why I'd rather spare human beings from doing that sort of work, then?


Okay - "spare" and replace with machines. A few problems with this:

1] taking away jobs from real people


Some jobs just plain suck and shouldn't be done by human beings. Other jobs are done better by machines. I'm sure you'd rather have me dictate this message to a scribe, hire a messenger boy to ride a horse to wherever you are, and hand deliver it to you, so that your scribe and messenger boy could write down and ferry your reply but—well, we took those jobs away from real people and gave them to machines, and somehow the scribe and messenger boy were able to cope with it.

existential_elevator wrote:2] not addressing the actual problems, such as improving conditions, both working conditions and protective rights [such as health benefits, or more standardised and monitored shift structures]


The actual problem is that coal mining, factory labor, and so forth all suck. You're talking about ways to make the suffering easier to bear. I'm talking about ways to alleviate it entirely.

existential_elevator wrote:3] suggesting implementing machinery when we're in a recession, and likely to hit an energy crisis sometime soon. Electricity is likely to end up being a commodity unless that gets sorted, then humans are better than machines.


You think I'm concerned with short-term shit like that?

existential_elevator wrote:4] adding machines in does not take away the need for menial work. Like the Victorian weaving looms, there will still be dangerous maintenance jobs, which will be done by low-paid immigrants, most probably.


It certainly reduces the need for menial work. And I honestly believe that, in the long run, there is no menial work that cannot be done by machine.

existential_elevator wrote:5] much like the Victorian era - hideous environmental repercussions.


Not necessarily. Replacing horses with motor transport actually helped the environment. The solution to environmental problems isn't primitivism, it's innovation.

existential_elevator wrote:6] taking away more labour options forces people into needing an education to get any hell kind of job. What do you expect the people who just don't like formalised education to do? Or the ones who drop out, or can't opt in, due to financial reasons?


This may indeed be a problem. I'm not sure how intentionally choosing to live in a more primitive, less prosperous society is the best solution for it, though.

I'd rather have a little bit of difficulty trying to accommodate people who want to stay stupid and uneducated than send countless future generations down into the mines.
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby tantalum » Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:53 am UTC

another fault with the energy argument is that if you want to think of humans as energy-efficient labor, you're completely missing the fact that humans need to be fed. If you fed a human completely on corn, then you might get some work done. If you converted that corn into ethanol and ran a machine with the ethanol, you'd get a lot more work done.

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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Philwelch » Wed Jul 09, 2008 1:13 am UTC

tantalum wrote:another fault with the energy argument is that if you want to think of humans as energy-efficient labor, you're completely missing the fact that humans need to be fed. If you fed a human completely on corn, then you might get some work done. If you converted that corn into ethanol and ran a machine with the ethanol, you'd get a lot more work done.


Well...maybe not corn, but the basic idea still applies. (Fact: Corn is a fucking awful source of ethanol.)
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Cooley » Wed Jul 09, 2008 1:25 am UTC

technology creates jobs as it takes them away, don't worry about that. Change is, for the most part, positive, so people who are displaced from their factory jobs might go, get an education, and service the machinery or something, I don't know. I plan on designing the machinery, myself, no label-pressing for me!

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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Yakk » Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:07 am UTC

existential_elevator wrote:Okay - "spare" and replace with machines. A few problems with this:

1] taking away jobs from real people

Eliminate the need for people to do the jobs, you mean.

There isn't a fixed number of jobs to do. The wealth of a society is (amount of stuff each person produces)*(number of people). The average wealth of a society is (amount of stuff each person produces).

If you, say, make it so one person can do the work of 100 people, and you do this in every job, everyone becomes 100 times richer on average.

2] not addressing the actual problems, such as improving conditions, both working conditions and protective rights [such as health benefits, or more standardised and monitored shift structures]

Health benefits are a cost. In order to pay for that cost, you need resources.

Insisting on using inefficient means of production means you have fewer resources to attempt to solve these problems.

3] suggesting implementing machinery when we're in a recession, and likely to hit an energy crisis sometime soon. Electricity is likely to end up being a commodity unless that gets sorted, then humans are better than machines.

Electricity is produced by hydro, nuclear, coal and (to a lesser extent) natural gas. The oil shortage just hits transportation of the raw materials, not the direct unit costs of the electricity.

4] adding machines in does not take away the need for menial work. Like the Victorian weaving looms, there will still be dangerous maintenance jobs, which will be done by low-paid immigrants, most probably.

Yes, it does? Per unit labor, those looms produced way more than the previous solution. The result? More cloth. Cheaper. Fewer people spending their entire lives weaving.

And people did something else. The productivity in the next thing they did was increased, new things where found for labor. People got more education, and the underclass moved from the dirt poverty of serfs to the less-dirty poverty of factory workers. Time passed, and society as a whole got much much much much much much richer.

5] much like the Victorian era - hideous environmental repercussions.

And the economic power to deal with those environmental repercussions.

6] taking away more labour options forces people into needing an education to get any hell kind of job. What do you expect the people who just don't like formalised education to do? Or the ones who drop out, or can't opt in, due to financial reasons?

In nations where there isn't a poor labor underclass, the value of things like personal luxury service goes way up. Just as a status thing.

And worst comes to worst, you toss them on the dole. Because the raw wealth of a society that no longer needs manual labor will be rather crazy.

I mean, what does our society do with someone who doesn't like to work, doesn't like to learn, and just wants 100s of people to follow them around and cater to their every whim? :-)
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby existential_elevator » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:29 am UTC

Okay, let's have a look at this mess.

First, computers is a bad example because they've provided a massive booming industry. Dot com businesses, IT departments, programmers... and much more besides. That's a positive thing. As well as that there are still jobs related to the scribing industry, such as ink manufacture, and horse maintenance. Menial jobs do not always suck to do - when I have been in factory settings, worker relations and unity have been thousands of times better than when I have been in office settings. Maybe this isn't always true, but there's certainly a better general feeling in these places despite everything.
Also, someone cannot divide, since 100 divided by 100 is one. Those people who are now put out of jobs do not cease being people just because they aren't being paid. Given that that one magic person who can do all the work gets paid all their money, it will still average out the same but be distributed wrongly. In fairness though, this would not happen - the one person would get a small pay rise and the company would consume the excess "profit".

Just because you think these jobs suck doesn't mean everyone does. I don't think my grandfather disliked the time he spent as a coal miner, but he certainly could have done with better health benefits.
No - insisting on dodging tax payments and having excessive numbers of middle management staff and highly paid CEOs who do fuck all is what gives us fewer resources to deal with these problems.

...because there totally isn't a natural gas and coal shortage about to hit us, either. We simply can't provide the same quantity of energy as efficiently with HEP or wind farming just yet.
Newsflash: this is not a short term problem.

There is no menial work that cannot be done by machine... such as building machines, manufacturing and maintain machine parts? You're living in a sci-fi world, I'm afraid.
I'm not denying benefit in that instance, but what I am saying is that no move will ever eliminate menial labour. The industrial revolution was positive overall, perhaps, but we are certainly still paying for it, environmentally.

Since when has economic power been concerned with the environment? *looks at America*
I don't see how a few horses were worse than the masses upon masses of cars, motorbikes, trains, aeroplanes, and ferries of today.

So; basically - screw the poor and disadvantaged so that the rich can get richer and placate their own guilt with a meagre dole allowance which gives people in the underclass created by this little sense of personal achievement, or need? I hope you have a fucking great plan for a care in the community scheme, because most of these people will kill themselves, or breed incestuously for lack of anything else to do, due to your complete and utter devaluation of them.

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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Philwelch » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:53 am UTC

existential_elevator wrote:Okay, let's have a look at this mess.

First, computers is a bad example because they've provided a massive booming industry.


So has every other significant progress in technology. But did you know that, before we invented computers, people used to have full-time jobs doing calculations by hand? I believe the job title was, ironically, "computer". These were college-educated professionals, too. (Had to be—they had to do calculus and shit.) One of Feynman's first jobs was managing a team of human computers.

These electronic computers they invented a few decades back? DEY TOOK ERR JERBS!

existential_elevator wrote:Menial jobs do not always suck to do - when I have been in factory settings, worker relations and unity have been thousands of times better than when I have been in office settings.


You just told me two or three posts ago that it sucked.

existential_elevator wrote:Also, someone cannot divide, since 100 divided by 100 is one. Those people who are now put out of jobs do not cease being people just because they aren't being paid. Given that that one magic person who can do all the work gets paid all their money, it will still average out the same but be distributed wrongly. In fairness though, this would not happen - the one person would get a small pay rise and the company would consume the excess "profit".


Spoken like someone with no understanding of economics.

Hint: If someone invents a 100x productivity machine, you don't fire 99 people and keep one. You keep all 100 people on the job and increase production by 100x.

existential_elevator wrote:Just because you think these jobs suck doesn't mean everyone does. I don't think my grandfather disliked the time he spent as a coal miner, but he certainly could have done with better health benefits.


Yes—as a society, we should send human beings down into dark coal mines exposing them to countless carcinogens and the possibility of black lung, and then make it all up to them by promising to treat all these illnesses once they get it.

I'm pretty sure my dad enjoyed being in the Marines, but I don't have a hardon for starting wars just so we can keep plenty of Marines employed.

existential_elevator wrote:There is no menial work that cannot be done by machine... such as building machines, manufacturing and maintain machine parts? You're living in a sci-fi world, I'm afraid.


Designing machines isn't menial labor, it's intellectual labor. Assembling machines is menial labor.

I'm talking about the far future. I still think that in this far future a lot of menial work will be done by humans, simply because there will always be a cachet to the work of a human craftsman. But in principle, most physical work can be done by a machine. It's just a matter of whether it's cost-effective to design and build that machine.

existential_elevator wrote:I don't see how a few horses were worse than the masses upon masses of cars, motorbikes, trains, aeroplanes, and ferries of today.


Ever notice how the streets aren't covered in horse shit?

existential_elevator wrote:So; basically - screw the poor and disadvantaged so that the rich can get richer and placate their own guilt with a meagre dole allowance which gives people in the underclass created by this little sense of personal achievement, or need? I hope you have a fucking great plan for a care in the community scheme, because most of these people will kill themselves, or breed incestuously for lack of anything else to do, due to your complete and utter devaluation of them.


You know, we already live in a society where only a small fraction of people actually contribute to anyone's material necessities. Yet somehow, the economy has adjusted itself so that more and more non-essential goods are valued enough that people can use them to support themselves. We probably have more professional musicians, artists, academics, and so forth than any previous era. Definitely a higher proportion of accountants, doctors and lawyers. And for that matter—more engineers, too.
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Yakk » Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:51 pm UTC

but he certainly could have done with better health benefits.

So, do you think resources magically come from nowhere?

No - insisting on dodging tax payments and having excessive numbers of middle management staff and highly paid CEOs who do fuck all is what gives us fewer resources to deal with these problems.

So, do you think middle management is hired by the company at high rates because the company wants to throw money away? Or the CEO?

...because there totally isn't a natural gas and coal shortage about to hit us, either. We simply can't provide the same quantity of energy as efficiently with HEP or wind farming just yet.
Newsflash: this is not a short term problem.

There is no coal shortage, on a 50 to 100 year horizon. There might be excess CO2, but no coal shortage. Massive massive reserves exist that aren't being used.

And for electricity, we can easily build sufficient nuclear plants to provide cheap (well, not as cheap as coal is right now, but less than twice as expensive) nuclear power.

There is no menial work that cannot be done by machine... such as building machines, manufacturing and maintain machine parts?

No, eventually, there really isn't. Now, at any one time, doing it manually is cheaper and easier. In order to do it with automation, you need a reasonably large sink of effort in the initial design phase, that isn't often worth it.

I'm not denying benefit in that instance, but what I am saying is that no move will ever eliminate menial labour.

But it will be less and less useful over time. Until it becomes as useful as engineering and/or other educated endevors, as a short-term thing.

Since when has economic power been concerned with the environment? *looks at America*

Absolutely rich people care about the environment. Absolutely poor people usually care more about making more money.

I don't see how a few horses were worse than the masses upon masses of cars, motorbikes, trains, aeroplanes, and ferries of today.

Then you don't understand? First, it wasn't a few horses -- it was lots of horses. Entire cities where being buried by horse manure. Huge amounts of economic effort where put into feeding those horses (automobiles are more efficient than horses at moving stuff).

And all of it required an empoverished underclass living at near-starvation level in order to function.

So; basically - screw the poor and disadvantaged so that the rich can get richer and placate their own guilt with a meagre dole allowance which gives people in the underclass created by this little sense of personal achievement, or need?

Nearly eliminate the underclass. The only indentured labor in my nation consists of a handful of smuggled pseudo-slaves whose existence is illegal, and are hunted down by police forces. The standard of living is ridiculously high compared to even 100 years ago.

And yes - there will be skills that will be less useful in the future compared to today. All of those natural buggy-whip makers .. except, of course, the best ones .. have to do something else today. The best ones are still making the worlds best buggy whips out of much better material, because someone somewhere still wants a buggy whip.

And remember: we educated almost all of those manual laborers, and they are now engineers designing devices that replace thier old jobs, or doing things that we currently don't have the resources for. So almost all of them aren't employmentless!

Finally, you skipped over the "personal service". As manual/"unskilled" labor gets rarer, having something like a nanny/driver/etc becomes more and more expensive. While cars that drive themselves appear, the status value of personal service goes up (as it is rarer).

So while it isn't a manufacturing job, it is a job. And as labor gets more valueable, that kind of job gets paid more.

I hope you have a fucking great plan for a care in the community scheme, because most of these people will kill themselves, or breed incestuously for lack of anything else to do, due to your complete and utter devaluation of them.

There are devalued people in todays society. I'm claiming that doing this makes people more valueable on the whole.

...

Hint: If someone invents a 100x productivity machine, you don't fire 99 people and keep one. You keep all 100 people on the job and increase production by 100x.


Actually, more often you fire 75 people, keep 25, and increase production by 25x sometimes.

Sometimes you hire another 900 people, and increase production by 10,000x. Automobiles are an example of this -- if building a car takes 10 million dollars in effort, the car industry is tiny. If you make it 100 times cheaper, you build lots of cars.

Other times you fire 99 people and keep 1 -- but honestly, this last case is extremely extremely rare. There has to be no additional demand for your good, even at an extremely lower price, that is worth capturing.
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby aneeshm » Wed Jul 09, 2008 6:45 pm UTC

And when I say education, I DO NOT MEAN the vocational training it has today become, I mean the tradition of a Liberal, Classical, aristocratic education which derives from the Greek concept of Paideia. Getting educated like this is akin to a "second birth", corresponding to being "twice-born" if we consider the concept in an Indian context. It's a process whereby your instincts are reconstituted. In India, this idea became caught up in the conception of caste, became hereditary, and thereby ruined itself. But that does not negate the validity of the core concept.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is only a small minority of people who "take" to this sort of education. Let us call them, for reference, the "elite". I have no clue what causes one to become a member of this elite. It could be genes, it could be culture, it could be a combination of both. Let's leave that question aside for now.

Note that it is not necessary that you go through this process formally. No formal system exists today for anyone to go through, yet most people who belong to this elite manage to take apart and rebuild themselves on their own, with only minimal external help. Even when none of their regular peers are of this "type", exposure to ideas in books, the internet, and an encounter with even a single reconstituted member of this elite is enough to trigger a transition. Call it whatever you will.

Furthermore, it is not necessary to have an education in the humanities to be a member. In fact, a technical education may be a better path today, because of its insistence on both rationality and practicality.






It is with reference to THIS sort of "mental reconstructive education" that I say that only a small elite can ever actually make use of it, because only they will actually be reconstructed. The others, no matter how rigorous a system you may impose on them, will simply slither, amoeba-like, through it, and come out unchanged at the other end.

Membership in this elite also goes hand-in-hand with a certain type of success in the real world. And it's the most admired type of success. Which is probably why there is so much resistance to the idea that only a small subset of the general population can ever belong to this elite.

There is also a related idea I've been thinking about, which is that the internet acts first like a fractional distillation chamber, and then like an amplifier. I'll expand upon that in another thread.

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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Philwelch » Wed Jul 09, 2008 6:52 pm UTC

aneeshm wrote:And when I say education, I DO NOT MEAN the vocational training it has today become, I mean the tradition of a Liberal, Classical, aristocratic education which derives from the Greek concept of Paideia. Getting educated like this is akin to a "second birth", corresponding to being "twice-born" if we consider the concept in an Indian context. It's a process whereby your instincts are reconstituted. In India, this idea became caught up in the conception of caste, became hereditary, and thereby ruined itself. But that does not negate the validity of the core concept.


See, that's the problem. From an American perspective at least, it's pretty fucking silly to call yourself an elite just because you've educated yourself in things that have no practical application. Whereas if you educate yourself in things that do have a practical application, you've no longer got this "liberal, classical, aristocratic education" you keep going on about.

The small minority of people who "take" to this education aren't an "elite" either, they're just people with a tendency towards enjoying intellectualism for its own sake, rather than for some purpose.
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Yakk » Wed Jul 09, 2008 7:09 pm UTC

aneeshm wrote:And when I say education, I DO NOT MEAN the vocational training it has today become, I mean the tradition of a Liberal, Classical, aristocratic education which derives from the Greek concept of Paideia. Getting educated like this is akin to a "second birth", corresponding to being "twice-born" if we consider the concept in an Indian context. It's a process whereby your instincts are reconstituted. In India, this idea became caught up in the conception of caste, became hereditary, and thereby ruined itself. But that does not negate the validity of the core concept.

/shrug -- if you teach someone enough about the world, the shape of the world does change. This isn't that surprising, nor is it that limited to a small percentage of the population.

Some people will take to the new perspective of the world more than others. I see no reason to believe that the effect is at all binary, however.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is only a small minority of people who "take" to this sort of education. Let us call them, for reference, the "elite". I have no clue what causes one to become a member of this elite. It could be genes, it could be culture, it could be a combination of both. Let's leave that question aside for now.

So now you have designated an "elite", with no evidence that it is discontinuously distinct from the rest of the population. That's pretty damn sloppy thinking.

Note that it is not necessary that you go through this process formally. No formal system exists today for anyone to go through, yet most people who belong to this elite manage to take apart and rebuild themselves on their own, with only minimal external help. Even when none of their regular peers are of this "type", exposure to ideas in books, the internet, and an encounter with even a single reconstituted member of this elite is enough to trigger a transition. Call it whatever you will.

Continued here! Here we have a presumption that most of the "blessed ones" (the elite) will manage this "awakening" without the education that is supposed to awaken them. With no way to determine who the "elite" are (early sloppy thinking), this is a pretty horrible example of a non-statement. Most of the members of an undefinable class of people will self-generate a non-defined class of properties and behaviors, which (see below) justify their social and economic success retroactively -- and those who fail to do this and don't get the social and economic success are retroactively not members of the class of people who deserve this social and economic success, regardless of their situation that removed opportunities?

More sloppy thinking. Like really sloppy.

In short: if you are a member of that elite, then your elite sure doesn't produce clean thinking. :-)

It is with reference to THIS sort of "mental reconstructive education" that I say that only a small elite can ever actually make use of it, because only they will actually be reconstructed. The others, no matter how rigorous a system you may impose on them, will simply slither, amoeba-like, through it, and come out unchanged at the other end.

Argument by analogy? How ... prosaic. Look: if we are going to talk about something seriously, we shouldn't be shoveling rhetorical nonsense around.

With nearly any metric you can throw at it, you can generate positive results on a large portion of a population with education aimed at it. People do this all of the time. Getting it "perfect" is hard, but improvement? Easy! Your model, meanwhile, presumes that the majority "non-elite" will slither through any education system without benefit -- which doesn't line up with a little thing I like to call reality.

Unless, of course, your "awakened" "elite" have properties that are non-measurable by any metric... which places your entire argument into the terrain of religion and other fields dominated by snake oil salesmen.

Membership in this elite also goes hand-in-hand with a certain type of success in the real world. And it's the most admired type of success. Which is probably why there is so much resistance to the idea that only a small subset of the general population can ever belong to this elite.

So, the "elite" are those that succeed, and those that succeed are the "elite"? Heh -- this looks like the kind of theology that a religion trying to make the rich feel better about being rich, and feel no need to attempt lift the poor up, would profess. That isn't proof that this is such a system of beliefs, I'm just extremely skeptical.

Be very careful when you use lots of sloppy thinking and analogies to argue about poorly defined terms that justify your own preconceived notions or privileges or fortune. Man is a rationalizing animal, and is quite capable of making up bullshit in order to make their own positions seemingly more justified. (Note: Rationalizing and Rational are very different words).

...

And, in essence, India is almost certainly not anywhere near the point where education (at individual and cultural levels) generates serious diminishing marginal returns when applied broadly. Take a look at the wealthiest nations in the world -- they don't have a huge, massive, underclass like India does. At one point, they did have a huge, massive underclass. Populations who both value and can afford education seem to generate a huge amount of return on investment from this education, across the entire population spectrum -- while the poor masses of India lack both resources and opportunity, and don't get the benefits involved.

In short, your description of the "elite" reads like how I would expect a small over-class in a nation with a massive impoverished population would self-justify their own "elite" status as members of that over-class. It reads like racists screeds by members of the US south, classist literature from industrial age Britain, sexist justification of work-force inequality by educated rich white males, etc etc.

Maybe there is something more there than this -- I honestly doubt it -- but your lacking definitions and terms, and sloppy justification for your conclusions, hides it.
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Indon » Wed Jul 09, 2008 7:13 pm UTC

aneeshm wrote:And when I say education, I DO NOT MEAN the vocational training it has today become, I mean the tradition of a Liberal, Classical, aristocratic education which derives from the Greek concept of Paideia. Getting educated like this is akin to a "second birth", corresponding to being "twice-born" if we consider the concept in an Indian context. It's a process whereby your instincts are reconstituted. In India, this idea became caught up in the conception of caste, became hereditary, and thereby ruined itself. But that does not negate the validity of the core concept.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is only a small minority of people who "take" to this sort of education. Let us call them, for reference, the "elite". I have no clue what causes one to become a member of this elite. It could be genes, it could be culture, it could be a combination of both. Let's leave that question aside for now.


I don't think this concept even exists in the industrialized western world. Instead, the quality of an individual's decisions are considered to be based purely on how well-informed they are, rather than any innate or granted quality. An individual who is well-informed (i.e. educated) will make good decisions, while an individual who is poorly-informed (uneducated) will make poor decisions.

I'm probably biased because I subscribe to that model (being a citizen of an industrialized western nation), But I think it's superior (For instance, it explains individuals who can make good judgements about some things while making poor judgements about others). It's looking at the facts about a decision, rather than falsely attributing decisions to innate qualities of the individual making the decision, as human beings are prone to do.
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Cooley » Thu Jul 10, 2008 5:07 pm UTC

Somewhat incorrect! I know full well the advantages of waking up early and the disadvantages of sleeping in. However, I still sleep in, even with my job. A more motivated person would wake up on time. So, there are some innate qualities in people that can affect their decision processes.

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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Flying Betty » Fri Jul 11, 2008 2:32 am UTC

aneeshm wrote:And when I say education, I DO NOT MEAN the vocational training it has today become, I mean the tradition of a Liberal, Classical, aristocratic education ...

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is only a small minority of people who "take" to this sort of education. Let us call them, for reference, the "elite". I have no clue what causes one to become a member of this elite. It could be genes, it could be culture, it could be a combination of both. Let's leave that question aside for now..
...

Membership in this elite also goes hand-in-hand with a certain type of success in the real world. And it's the most admired type of success. Which is probably why there is so much resistance to the idea that only a small subset of the general population can ever belong to this elite.


I'm still trying to figure out exactly what is so "elite" about this certain type of education. I'm certainly all in favor of educating oneself, but I guess I just don't see the pedestal you're putting this particular type of educated person on and what makes them so much better than anyone else.

Is this supposed to be just some sort of idealized Renaissance faction where sitting around and thinking all day is the pinnacle of life and success?

How are you judging success? Money? Athletes, movie stars, CEOs, ancestors.

Fame/name living on? Politicians, CEOs, robber barons, mass murderers

Happiness? That's such an individual thing I can't even begin to generalize.

I'm just getting the feeling that you're calling this elite because you just want this sort of education to be judged as better, perhaps even wanting something to feel smug about. Like we're in a steampunk fantasy land where the useless sons of wealthy men sit around and talk philosophy all day because they're rich enough that they don't have to actually earn a living, while their servants (the labor class with a few engineers lumped in) drive them around in airships.
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Indon » Fri Jul 11, 2008 3:28 am UTC

Cooley wrote:Somewhat incorrect! I know full well the advantages of waking up early and the disadvantages of sleeping in. However, I still sleep in, even with my job. A more motivated person would wake up on time. So, there are some innate qualities in people that can affect their decision processes.


Is motivation considered innate in a society that hosts cheerleaders and mascots in their sporting events?

Though you certainly have a point, there are other factors to be considered.
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby DougP » Fri Jul 11, 2008 4:06 pm UTC

aneeshm wrote:
The question I've come up with is the one listed in the OP title: is true education - the solid, tough, rigorous education which makes you thoroughly hardass - meant only for an elite?

When I say "meant", I don't mean "deserved by". I mean "useful to". That is, it's possible that you may succeed in designing the best education system in the world, but because the input is people who are essentially garbage (from the point of view the system), it won't work. On the other hand, when the "elite" comes together, even without a formal system to guide them, education often just happens.

And by "elite", I mean those predisposed by nature to like and be capable of intellectual workouts, the same way some people are predisposed to like physical workouts.


So, if I understand properly, you are defining elite as "those predisposed by nature to like and be capable of intellectual workouts." And then saying education only useful to those people.

I guess thats just not a very radical statement at all. In fact its rather meaningless. Its like saying is pizza only useful to those who like pizza.

I think what I would add is that it isn't a binary system. There isn't just either 0) you don't like it or 1) you do. There are various levels of interest and capability, and thus there are different levels of usefullness. *shrugs*

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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby TheStranger » Sat Jul 12, 2008 12:16 pm UTC

I'm not sure we should consider those who excel at purely academic pursuits as 'The Elite', though they are elite. Much like professional athletes are the elite of their field, or professional scientists are the elite of theirs.

That does not mean that athletics are only useful to the pros, or that only scientists benefit from a scientific education. A well rounded education is important to EVERYONE.
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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby Mercurius » Sat Jul 12, 2008 3:39 pm UTC

I'm going to disagree with the OP.

I see his point, and, in theory I could agree with him. It seems to make sense.

However, as a beneficiary of a so-called elite education, I can safely say the education is pure nonsense, for the most part. I know I'm going to need to qualify that somewhat, so here is a little background.

I was always a good student. Across various subjects. I mainly excelled at history, english, science and religious education, but to be quite honest I also did just as well in geography, maths and various languages. I was fast-tracked by my school to complete some of my A-Levels earlier, and was placed into a program to try and make it possible for me to apply to Oxford or Cambridge University.

As it turned out, I wasn't really interested in Oxford or Cambridge, but instead another University, St Andrews. Oldest University in Scotland, Prince William went there, 5th best in the country (at the time). I originally went to do Philosophy and Psychology, but switched degrees to International Relations, the University's favoured and most promoted degree. As they like to point out, this course is only for people with exceptional grades, and is taught by world experts in various fields, including international security, finance, terrorism and political ethics.

And while that is true, while the classes are interesting and taught by people who are widely cited and highly paid for their opinion....anyone with a truly critical mind soon came to see how many of them rarely knew what they were talking about. No, maybe that is unfair. Almost all of them knew what they were talking about, the problem was that what they knew rarely correlated to reality.

For example, my subject was heavily influenced by a school of thought known as Realism. Yet, as a predictive model of how states interact, Realism is nothing less than pure nonsense. It was unable to even predict the possibility of a Soviet collapse, of the emergence of transnational criminal and terrorist organizations, of the growth of NGOs as a force within democratic politics. Many of the other schools of thought, such as Liberalism, were little better, failing to account for the growth of centre-left movements in South America, the failure of the World Bank and IMF to reconstruct the economies of Third World governments and so on. While it was less of a failure than Realism, it was still a failure. And yet these two schools of thought dominate most educational establishments within Europe and North America.

And its not just International Relations either. Other subjects, such as Economics, are equally full of people who latch onto ideas about the world which simply do not work. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the Wall Street dissident, has shown how a sort of naive empiricism has taken hold within economics that leads people to think they are geniuses when all they really are is lucky.

In short, the education that is given is abstract, and only partially reality based. Across various fields, especially those of the soft sciences, that seems to be the case. And especially in the UK, it seems subjects like Economics, International Relations, PPE and so on are the subjects that the social elite study. Along with the Classics, which brings me onto my next point.

Historically, in the UK, Classics was the subject of choice for the elite, and it continues to be up to the present day. I know, I had the misfortune of sharing my 4 Classics modules at University with various chinless wonders with too much money and too little genetic variation. Latin, Ancient Greek, the poems of Homer and Virgil, the history of the Peloponnesian War, the philosophy of Cicero and Marcus Aurelius. All of this is an education, but its very abstract knowledge, very...removed from actually learning about the world around you. Yet at the height of the British Empire, these continued to be the subjects taught to the elite.

The point was not to educate them. Not really. The point was to teach them a worldview that affirmed that of the ruling class or elite of the time. At the time of Empire, it was the glory of war, the history of the greatest power, in order to affirm the inherent rightness of territorial expansion and subjugation of other countries. In my subject, the idea isn't to create a predictive model of how states really work. That would be dangerous...at least in the wrong hands. No, the idea is to affirm the role of the status quo, which at the time of the Cold War was roughly analogous to the teachings of Realism (emphasis on military power, balance between offensive and defensive capabilities, alliance theory, the ends justify the means etc) and Liberalism (the spread of the free market is paramount, the victory of liberal democracy as the only legitimate system of governance, humanitarian intervention etc). In economics, its to play along and pretend that the market is a really hard science and that its all under control because Responsible People know what they are doing, not that reckless frat boys in their 30s with blank cheques are taking massive risks with your money and won't have a clue when they really fuck up, which is only a matter of time.

Academics, for all their vaunted and supposed intellectual freedom, are for the most part little more than paid apologists for the current system of governance, whatever that system may be. Of course, a few are not. A fair few, even. It should also be noted that in the sciences, I suspect much of my criticisms are not even valid, because of the necessary reliance of rigorous empirical knowledge and testing. But the majority of those I am talking about affirm the ruling class worldview, even when that worldview is empirically proven to be incorrect. Here's an example you might be able to get with: plenty of political theorists and scholars were behind the Iraq war. Most historians were not. That is because history is a more empirically rigorous subject, historians were more aware of the factors that would make an occupation difficult. Yet for political theorists, history is nothing more than a tool, a cookbook from where one can cherry pick "evidence" to support whatever policy is currently in fashion among the political elite of the moment. They draw ideas from history inductively, selecting particular facts and incorporating them into vast, all-embracing theories, instead of working from general trends.

Now, it could be I'm working from a different understanding of either elite or education than the OP. In which case, disregard my above comments. But I stand by my comments, that the people who are commonly referred to as an elite and who have a supposedly excellent education, usually are not especially knowledgeable or have exceptional knowledge of how the world is. They may be smart, in fact I am sure they are. They may even be brilliant. But I find the actual education, the application of knowledge to problems, to be exceptionally lacking.
You know, I'm not really sure what "socioeconomic class" I am. I'm richer than my parents, I don't have a real job, and my mannerisms tend to match up with whomever I'm talking to.

...is "con man" a social class?

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Re: Is true education meant only for an elite?

Postby jamingrit » Sat Jul 12, 2008 8:03 pm UTC

OP: What about home school, or forms of informal education? Do you really need to pay tuition and go to class, for it to be considered a classical education, in your definition? Also, is your definition of education dependent on employment in such fields afterward?


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