Is education failing? Perhaps. If so, how?
We can all agree that a large share of what we learn in school is not useful or important. Does it really matter when Christopher Columbus discovered America? Or even if there was a Christopher Columbus? Education cannot be failing because it is unable to teach almost trivial facts.
How about problem solving skills? This aspect might matter, but children are good at picking up on what works and what does not. Formal problem solving may be a little deficient, but most adults can get along.
Maybe it is critical thinking. The ability to assess and grade evidence in support of an opinion. The ability to synthesize things. The ability to see the irrelevant part of information. Skepticism is important. Not much of this is taught, but some seem to acquire it anyway.
Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, and political philosopher. He is presently a professor at Stanford University.
He did not grow up as an elite.
His personal history includes being born to an African-American family with four older children. His father died while he was an infant. Raised by his grandmother in Harlem, he dropped out of high school for financial reasons. He worked at odd jobs and eventually entered the Marine Corps. Somehow he managed to both survive and thrive.
He is a classical liberal in his thinking. A condition that was the basis for the early greatness in the United States and elsewhere. A condition that seems somehow odd today.
His view of education is worthy of discussion.
“The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.”
The inability to distinguish between two distinctly different processes guarantees confusion. One manifestation is that we elect people based on charisma and style instead of ability to govern. Politics becomes a partisan game with enthusiastic fans who do not understand that it should not be a game. Chaos eventually ensues.
In our personal lives, the inability to distinguish leads us to delusional solutions and to an abdication of personal responsibility. When you hear things like, “The government should fix that” or “It’s not my responsibility” you should worry. That is a person who wants to feel good at the expense of their responsibility to think and solve problems. Working the system is a failing methodology, but many don’t know that. Yet.
Feelings should not be dismissed. Emotions provide the power for our actions. They should be a guide and impetus to doing important things. They should not be a substitute for planning and doing.
Feelings by themselves do not accomplish much.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org