Two articles in today's NYT email summary
Iowa’s status as a swing state in presidential elections may be in doubt. One key reason: Its economy cannot support enough college graduates. That’s bad news for Democrats.
After reading this teaser in the email summary, my immediate thoughts went to oppressive regimes in the Middle East, which strive to keep women subservient and uneducated, and the rest of the population likewise via religious zeal and demogogery. In this way progressive policies are kept in check, new thinking is suppressed, and the status quo is maintained, much to the delight and benefit of the oligarchic few in power.
Next thought: pondering Iowa (and the rest of the US), and the dumbing down of the population via the vast wasteland that is pop culture-driven reality TV, leaving what's left of educated folk bereft of any sense of taste or ability to think critically about matters that affect the society in which they live.
And finally, to Germany and its "socialist" neighbors in the EU, which somehow have evolved a more compassionate social structure that aims to take care of its people, including the poor, the elderly and the sick, in a way that continues to elude the US, despite our vast resources.
Is this because over there the notion of an education is not so focused on getting a university degree and going out to make one's fortune, but rather, to learn a trade or a develop the skills one needs to become a contributing member of society, with an implicit understanding that there is an underlying social compact that will ensure a safety net and a fair slice of the pie, regardless of one's station in the pecking order? Is that why it works so differently over there?
Maybe because the progressive social agenda is already in place and taken as a given regardless of whatever other populist winds may be blowing it frees people up to focus more on how they can most fully realize their individual potential as human beings, and thus pursue whichever line of education or vocation makes the most sense.
Mainly the end result should be a well-educated society that makes good decisions about matters that affect the whole; and also immunizes itself, to some degree, against being co-opted by political chicanery or falling for the phoney promises of a dictator.
And then a few articles down I read this one:
From a tiny village in the country’s rural east, a leading nationalist intellectual builds a vision for the future of his movement across Europe.
Wherein my archetype for all things socially progressive is suffering from the same tide of populism that has the US, the UK, and increasingly several other nations in it's grasp, driving a nationalistic sense of entitled closing of the doors to foreigners, hoping to resurrect the glory years of ethnic monoculture, jobs for all, and safety and security all but ensured by a mostly benevolent, if not paternalistic, government.
Articles like these continue to reinforce the validity of what former-Monsanto exec, Howard Schneiderman, said about what one of the primary purposes of a college education should be:
Finally, a college is a great place to develop taste – taste of all sorts. Why are Beethoven’s symphonies and paintings by Holbein great? What is a significant question? What is a significant experiment? Why is a particular chemical synthesis considered elegant? Why are recombinant DNA synthesis and Adam Smith’s basic argument for a rational economy considered powerful? Why are Goldbach’s conjecture about prime numbers and Godel’s completeness theorem in mathematical logic considered profound? By analyzing the great, the significant, the elegant, the powerful, and the profound, one learns to recognize them. At first slowly, through painstaking analysis, and then after much analysis, rapidly, almost by instinct, one learns to ask meaningful questions, to distinguish the enduring from the ephemeral. And that is what developing taste is all about. Good taste in the broadest sense enables a person to distinguish fraud from fact, enables a person to recognize who is not worth following and who is worth following.
(Howard Schneiderman, Monsanto’s senior vice president for research, made these comments at a college commencement. This is reprinted from the June 21, 1982 issue of the College of Engineering newsletter at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Full text here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1o4i14Mjiq9RS9sjArCUl6QhdbzqUb1ZzGpNZaLaDmzk)
Seems to me we are in a crisis caused at least in part by the decline of taste. As he says, who is worth following and who is a fraud? Without a developed sense of taste, discerning these types of things becomes all but impossible. Keeping people uneducated seems like a good way to ensure that for those who would like to oppress the masses and enrich themselves.