The Miseducation of America

The last two years have been another reminder that education is not equivalent to competence, intelligence or experience, let alone wisdom, as an administration of people who have hardly held actual jobs outside of academia have proven that they are very good at assigning blame and conducting internal rivalries, and absolutely terrible at everything else. William F. Buckley famous opined that he would “sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University”. We have spent the last two years being governed by Harvard faculty members, and they have done such an excellent job of it that in the future the Boston telephone directory may well replace the ballot box. Point to a few names at random and call it a day.

sandcastleDefenders of the administration have taken to worrying in the op-ed pages about the spread of anti-intellectualism, but it isn’t anti-intellectualism that it’s in the wind, but pro-competence. Americans respect education, but have a limited tolerance for incompetence. Rather than demonstrating intelligence and competence, academia has ushered in intellectual cliques wedded to buzzwords who insist that the world should conform to their research papers, rather than the other way around. These cliques can rule the roost in faculty departments, using tenure to squash unpopular views. They can use bullying tactics to monopolize entire fields of study, as they have done with climate science. But they cannot rule the country for very long.

Americans are averse to tyranny and incompetence. Put the two together and you get an angry reaction. The academic pecking order is undemocratic, and when confronted with public dissent, reacts with snide superiority. A superiority based not on results, but on the degrees of its own closeted hierarchy. The problem with any educational system, is that it is a system. And systems are designed to replicate themselves. The true product of an educational system is not knowledge, but attitudes and perspectives toward that knowledge. What begins with the teaching of learning techniques, ends with the indoctrination of attitudes. The more academic the subject, the more its education is a transmission of attitudes, rather than techniques.

Countless presidential administrations have made education their focus. Clinton promised college degrees for everyone as a panacea for the departing jobs headed overseas. In an age when the oral transmission of ideas seems oddly archaic, the obsession with handing out government financed sheepskins to everyone at large makes less and less sense. Obama’s State of the Union address pushed the theme that we need more education in order to compete with China. But China isn’t beating us because they have more philosophy majors receiving their diplomas along with six figure student debts. They are underselling us with cheap labor.

Socialist countries embrace universal higher education as a sign of their progressiveness, but routing all the sheep through the university corral is not the same thing as having a knowledge based culture. Russia has one of the highest education rates in the world, and yet a third of the population believes that the sun revolves around the earth. That’s because handing out degrees is not the same as handing out the ability to think or the desire to learn.

Despite Russia’s more comprehensive educational system, its science was never a match for our own. And as numerous former Soviet scientists have attested, the difference lay in the freedom of inquiry. While American children grew up free to think for themselves, Russian children were subjected to a narrow party line. And so American science boomed, while Russian science marched along in rigid conformity.

The American boom was less the product of formal education, than of an open society. America’s greatest inventors were not the products of great academic institutions.

Thomas_EdisonThomas Edison was homeschooled. So was Benjamin Franklin. The Wright brothers never finished High School. George Eastman dropped out of High School to support his mother. Charles Goodyear never went beyond public school. Isaac Singer hardly attended school at all. Hiram Maxim was self-taught. Elisha Otis did not go past a basic education. The honor roll of American inventors who revolutionized the world is filled with men with minimal educations who were considered average or even stupid by the schools they attended. And even the present day computer revolution was built up by college dropouts like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

That isn’t to say that we don’t need a system of higher education that can turn out engineers and scientists, but rather that what we need more is an open society where people are free to follow their own passions and where innovation is rewarded, rather than punished. The American miracle was a confluence of industry and inventiveness– rather than of education. American education was never all that unique or particularly good– it was the frontier where necessity proved the mother of invention and the open expectations of a society where finding a new way to do something was admired rather than frowned upon, that made America so remarkable.

Today that society is on the brink of extinction, driven to the edge of the cliff by a stultifying power structure as oppressive as many of those that so many immigrants had originally fled from. What innovation we have left goes into designing Chinese manufactured products. The triumphs of American science have long ago ceased to be Made in America. Groupthink has set in outside of cutting edge fields. The only way to think for yourself is to break new ground. This has spurred on the unlimited development of the internet, at the expense of so many other fields.

George Eastman and Thomas Edison are dead. George Goodyear and Benjamin Franklin are long gone. And academics who have not achieved a fraction of their work, or possess even a spark of their genius, aspire to rule us. The same academic orthodoxy that proclaims that global warming is absolute fact and manipulates and suppresses all information to the contrary– is trying to run the country the same way.

How many times have we gotten news reports that the recovery is underway. This is news to the average American either collecting unemployment insurance or worriedly hanging on to his or her job. But the same reasoning that treats the worst January blizzard in ages as proof of Global Warming, can view negative economic statistics and still reinterpret them as proof of a recovery. When the academic orthodoxy establishes a fact, contradictory data are interpreted as further proof of that fact. As a self-contained intellectual structure, this works out all-right. Millions of people think that way every day. But any field dominated by men who reason this way is a dead field. And running a country that way is disastrous.

The problem with the educational system is that it is a system, and living systems strive to replicate themselves. Each system replication leads to a degradation of integrity and tighter parameters, until eventually you end up with idiots repeating ideas they no longer understand, with their primary goal being to prevent the dissemination of contradictory information and the modeling of obstructive behavior. Tyranny in short.

Education_AcademiaAcademia, like every hierarchy, fosters the illusion that rising through the hierarchy leads not only to internal superiority, but universal superiority. That the function of the inner group represents the core function of the outer group. It is natural to think that way. So many professions and practices are certain that the country would come to a crashing halt without them. But it is still an illusion.

The miseducation of America has been the belief that the university matters more than the man. That we can only win if, in the words of Harvard Law grad Barack Obama, we “out-educate” China. But we’ve been waving sheepskin in front of the sheep with few results. Many colleges now have to teach basic reading and arithmetic to new students. We have more education than ever, but it’s worth less and less. Like Russia, we are handing out degrees, not the freedom to think independently. And if we are going to beat China, it won’t be by manufacturing buzzwords, but by manufacturing products. And that takes freedom from repression by bureaucracy, academic and ecocracy.

The progressives fancied that science could make men as predictable and regular as clockwork, but academic heavy administrations have usually made a botch of it. The JFK administration with its roster of professors could hardly get meatloaf out of the oven. Woodrow Wilson, the only president with a PhD, was completely unsuited to running a real world country. And the Obama administration’s disastrous tenure is another reminder why.

Of the last five occupants of the Oval Office, four went to Yale or Harvard. The fifth was Ronald Reagan. Which of the five would you rather be governed by?

From NY to Jerusalem , Daniel Greenfield Covers the Stories Behind the News. Daniel Greenfield is a blogger, author and columnists covering international affairs, the rising threat of terrorism and the growing problems of socialism. His daily blog can be viewed at Sultan Knish.