by Ray Jason
One of the great joys of my sea gypsy life is the wonderful sense of camaraderie that exists amongst the ocean sailing community. Because we have voluntarily embraced dangers that land-dwellers vigorously avoid, we have a deep sense of kinship. And when we gather together in foreign ports, we are extremely helpful to each other because we are essentially a wandering, water-winged tribe. This is a far cry from the isolation and suffocation of the modern suburbs.
A common fixture of our little sub-culture is something called “The Morning Net.” It is a radio broadcast in which the sailors can share valuable information. If you need to borrow a torque wrench or check on the surf report or sell an item that you no longer need, the Net will assist you. And if there is a genuine emergency such as a snake bite, the sailors’ radios will light up with help from our many Sea Samaritans.
About a week ago, the Morning Net also bequeathed me the subject for this essay. I noticed that cruisers were requesting help from the various tradesmen scattered amongst our fleet. People were seeking a diesel mechanic and a refrigeration specialist and a welder and fiberglass worker and an electrician. But more importantly, I noticed that nobody was seeking help from a hedge fund manager or a “political scientist” or an expert in gender studies. (Actually, the cruising community has gender issues fairly well figured out. The common joke is that the husbands may be the Captains, but the wives are the ADMIRALS!)
This set my analytical/intuitive mind awhirl with a meditation on whether the merits of Higher Education are over-rated. My conclusion is – YES! And I am not saying this because I did not go to college and therefore have an axe to grind. In fact, I have a bachelor’s degree with honors in Poly Sci. The usefulness of this achievement is best summed up in one of my favorite bumper stickers: “Hey, I’m proud of my Political Science degree – do you want fries with your burger?”
My contention is that we have too many “experts” and “professionals” who actually contribute very little to our society. Indeed, there is almost an inverse ratio between how much value a person adds and how much they are paid. A lobbyist for a tobacco company, whose work smears misery and addiction and death across multiple cultures, reaps an obscene income. But a plumber, who actually helps somebody, makes a pittance in comparison to a
But before I argue against our society’s excessive glorification of Higher Education, let me clarify what I mean by Lower Education. My belief is that a genuinely beneficial system would include these elements. Learning to read and to write and to do useful arithmetic is obviously essential. After that, the next thing that should be mastered is CRITICAL THINKING. Currently, this aptitude is not just ignored in our educational model it actually seems to be deliberately discouraged. Instead of learning how to question things, these young minds are filled with meaningless names and dates. The kids who are best at memorizing these unimportant factoids get the highest test scores and are considered the best students.
There is also far too much emphasis on “indoctrination” in our educational matrix. Historical events are always slanted so that the student’s particular society is portrayed as the “good guy.” Such conditioning without questioning, leads to young minds that are inert instead of alert. Rather than reinforcing patriotic dogma, I believe that there should be far more emphasis on understanding the world around us. There is too much focus on the misnamed Social Sciences and not enough on the Physical Sciences.
As big-brained creatures, we should study the basic aquatic and terrestrial and celestial processes that surround us. We should know so much more than we do about the plants and animals that coexist around us. If we expanded our knowledge of their life pathways, we would increase our appreciation of them and decrease our foolish propensity to dominate them.
I am convinced that kids are capable of learning so much more than we give them credit for. Basic scientific principles are well within their grasp. Curious young minds can definitely understand the principles of huge ocean currents like the Gulf Stream. And they can comprehend how hot air rising and then cooling leads to rain. We underestimate them and deprive them. Even the heavens are within their grasp. They do not need to understand the physics behind the dance of the spheres, in order to appreciate it.
Once the young student has learned the basics and gained an understanding of the life systems that enmesh us, I believe that the next stage should be learning a skill that is USEFUL. And by that I mean both useful as a means of making a living and useful in terms of doing something beneficial for one’s community.
Clearly, in the grand scheme of things, this will necessitate a retooling of our basic societal values. As long as an obnoxious “celebrity chef” is more respected than a skilled welder, then we will remain a dysfunctional Un-culture. But just because the world around oneself is a confederacy of fools, does not prevent a person with integrity from living a valuable and meaningful life.
And this is a great segue into my discussion of the significant downside of Higher Education. The remainder of this essay is directed towards the millions of young people out there who must soon make the choice between college and … something else. I’ll lay it out in a series of bullet points that will hopefully clarify just how over-rated Higher Education is.
· DEBT SLAVERY – We have all seen the graphs that chart the grotesque increase in the costs of a university education in recent years. It is obscene that a society would so heavily burden its own children! But those who make the Big Decisions – those who I refer to as The Malignant Overlords – don’t just overwhelm these kids with debt, they ensnare them by making bankruptcy protection unavailable on college loans. And since many of these are financed by the government, it means that these impoverished students are far less likely to rebel against their Rulers. It is a 21st Century smiley-face version of indentured servitude. Thus an entire generation of young people is forced to live with their parents as Smart Phone serfs. What makes this even more sickening is the fact that these loan shark level price increases do not affect the children of the Elites. That’s because they are so financially obese that these costs are inconsequential. Their kids can still go to Harvard and Yale and then slither into their positions as the new Masters of the Universe.
· PATHETIC CAREER PROSPECTS – The financial and wasted time ordeal of Higher Education does not even guarantee well-paying employment these days. The most likely outcome is a miserable, meaningless job in a tiny cubicle as a faceless cog in a Multi-national Leviathan. Or, if one is lucky, they might snare a position as one of the millions of over-educated bartenders. So which approach makes sense – four years in college and forty years of debt to land a bartender job - or four weekends at a professional bartender school? Hmm, there must be an App to help me figure that out…
· THE UNLEARNING BURDEN – One of the other significant downsides of Higher Education is that it deepens the layers of false indoctrination that a person has to overcome. Graduates who emerge with Social Sciences degrees are relentlessly bludgeoned with lies that glorify The Malignant Overlords. The Anthropology curriculum for nearly a century taught students that indigenous peoples were ignorant savages that needed to be “civilized.” These courses forgot to mention how these civilizers were stealing their natural resources and enslaving their people. Economics conned undergrads with the myth that the IMF and the World Bank were institutions established to assist developing nations. In fact, they are mechanisms that allow bankers and corporations to LOOT those countries. History teaches students that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary to end the war. But, in actuality the Japanese had already been attempting to surrender.
With the availability of the Internet, the value of Higher Education is significantly decreased. I graduated Cum Laude and knew almost nothing about how the political world really works because that information is deliberately hidden. Here is a great example. This is a Henry Ford quotation that I was never exposed to even though I took about a dozen Political Science courses: “It is well enough that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” On the Internet you can discover substantial debate about any significant topic and then you can reach your own decision. But in the halls of Academia you have to struggle to keep from drowning in a flood of propaganda.
· THE ROAD TO THE FUTURE LEADS TO THE PAST – Here is one final argument in support of Lower Education. There are many serious thinkers who believe that the current global economy, which is so insanely dependent on petroleum and un-payable debt and high speed communication, could crash. In such a situation which skill would be more valuable – a high-frequency stock trader or a welder? My advice to all of my honorary children who are reading this is to think low-tech. Learn an actual skill that is useful and that does not depend on our fragile electrical grid. Perma-culture or bicycle repair or basic construction are a few good options. Do something that you enjoy and that gives you a real sense of satisfaction and that is of genuine value to your neighbors.
And one more thing … WORK LESS AND PLAY MORE … and particularly outdoors in Nature!