Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
This blog, which nobody actually reads anyway, has from day one had a burr up it’s butt about the way people, as a whole, go about doing things. Our wish is not that everybody do things the same way; quite to the contrary, we fear this is what has already taken place. You might say we’re “pro-diversity” in this matter. We’ve been looking around, seeing that people tend to do everything the same way — more importantly, those who decide how things will be done, are more concerned that everything be done a certain way than that it be done at all — and we’re displeased.
There is irony in this. In opining about the problem for the last three years, we’ve found we’re not alone. And this is curious. The world wants to be consistent in how things are thought through, and how things are done; we say “this is not right, this is not good”; and everyone with an opinion worth expressing, minus a few disaffected individuals who’ve proven themselves inept at arguing their dissenting viewpoints, agrees with us.
Our gripe can be defined quite easily if one takes some time to watch young children working things through together. In school, at recess, it makes no never-mind. Adults have a tendency to do things the same way — this is the problem. We aren’t growing up. I expect everyone who’s learned a new computer application inside & out, and then had to teach it to someone else, will see where I’m going with this…the “nevermind how it works, just tell me what keys to press” thing. It’s become far too prevalent, and it has begun to interfere with the continuation of our society.
Grown-ups are encouraged to defer a self-education about how things work, until sometime later. Placed in a position where they must receive instructions in order to do a job, they insist on the bare minimum. What they end up demanding is instructions for children. Do this; don’t do that. Step one, step two, step three.
There is economic logic in this. It is far less expensive to train someone that X is good, Y is bad, step 1, step 2, step 3, than to provide instruction about how all the parts fit together — and how to straighten it all out when there’s gum in the gears. This should make complete sense to anyone who’s seen their order at MacDonald’s hopelessly screwed up.
This is our gripe. You go shopping, and over an extremely busy and expensive weekend you pass by ten cash registers. How many times would you expect to see a cashier ask her supervisor over to straighten something out? It should happen just once or twice. Nowadays, it happens more than half the time.
This is emblematic of what is happening everywhere, not just in retail.
We’re seeing ourselves. We know what keys to press. We don’t know why. Once something goes wrong, help must be summoned from somewhere else. This is considered normal…but it doesn’t take a cataclysmic event to put a hitch in the giddy-up. Handing over a five-spot and three pennies when your bill is $3.88, will do the trick just fine.
I’ve often been under the impression you can see this in your fellow motorists. My favorite maneuver to watch is a start from a dead stop; when people don’t understand how a car works and don’t care to learn, even though they depend on that twice a day through half their lives, you can see it. Pistons, gears, suspension — they don’t care about any of it, and you can tell they don’t. They want to go sixty miles an hour, they’re currently going zero, all they know is go and stop. Off they go.
Their cars are always newer, of course. If they have no respect for the laws of physics they’re just going through the motions of servicing the car properly, if indeed they’re doing that at all. Like any well-designed machine, the car will treat them the way they’ve treated it.
Fellow Webloggin contributor Bookworm has been noticing something like this, and she came up with a quote from Dennis Prager, who I guess says this on his radio program frequently. I hadn’t heard it before: I prefer clarity to agreement.
Wait’ll you see what leads up to that:
I attended a meeting at the school today for one of the management committees that sees parents and teachers working together to come up with specific details to implement long term strategic plans. All of the long term goals and the details are memorialized in a document that was remarkable for its generous use of passive voice and all education jargon. There is, of course, no reason why I should understand education jargon, because I’m not an educator. Nevertheless, to the extent I was supposed to vote on the document, it seemed to me that I had an obligation to try to understand what it was talking about.
So, I zeroed in on one phrase and asked “What does this mean?” There was a moment of complete silence. Then, one of the teachers said, “I’ve always understood it to mean…” and embarked on a laborious explanation that didn’t mean anything. Another teacher jumped to her aid with more words, less meaning. I thanked them.
Another phrase, another question: “What does this mean?” More silence. One of the teachers said, “Well, that’s something we learned when we got our degrees.” Oh. “Thank you,” I said, completely unelucidated.
And this gets back to what I was complaining about in Paragraph One. What we’re looking for is a little diversity — say, half of us have taken the time to understand how a thing works and therefore comprehend cause-and-effect, the other half of us follow processes and summon help when a gizmo doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.
Back in what was once called the “olden days,” that’s how things worked. And a “degree” was a thing you got when you’d taken the time to understand how things work, and wanted to get credit for it and therefore a higher standard of living. It worked well, because it gave people the freedom to engage life on the terms they chose. Followers of process are vital in their own way; we need them. We also need people who not only understand what’s going on in the car engine or the DVD player, but have nurtured a lifelong passion for figuring it out. So in our yesteryears “diversity” program, we gave both these halves the ability to function, and therefore to work together.
No more. In the twenty-first century, we’ve started passing out degrees to people who follow processes. People who think like children. This is a way of insisting everybody should think that way — no exceptions.
The ultimate consequence is that people who understand how things work, or want to figure it out, have to be treated like freaks. Which, with a personal bias I’m ready to confess freely, it seems to me that we are. Also, it takes very little to foul up a relatively simple transaction or task, and an unnaturally high level of effort to fix it.
Update 11/17/07: Via the sidebar crawl on Van der Leun’s page, I stumble into this reminder that I’m not the first one to be complaining about this. Albert Jay Nock, delivering one of his lectures during a tumultuous time in American politics, academia, and intellectual achievement, 1931 at the University of Virginia:
As we have observed, very few people are educable. The great majority remain, we may say, in respect of mind and spirit, structurally immature; therefore no amount of exposure to the force of any kind of instruction or example can ever determine in them the views of life or establish in them the demands on life that are characteristic of maturity. You may recall the findings of the army tests; they created considerable comment when they were published. I dare say these tests are rough and superficial, but under any discount you think proper, the results in this case are significant. I do not remember the exact figures, but they are unimportant; the tests showed that an enormous number of persons of military age had no hope of ever getting beyond the average fourteen-year-old stage of development. When we consider what that average is, we are quite free to say that the vast majority of mankind cannot possibly be educated. They can, however, be trained; anybody can be trained. Practically any kind of mentality is capable of making some kind of response to some kind of training; and here was the salvation of our system’s theory. If all hands would simply agree to call training education, to regard a trained person as an educated person and a training school as an educational institution, we need not trouble ourselves about our theory; it was safe. …What we did, then, actually, was to make just this identification of training with education… [emphasis mine]
He then goes on to expound on this. At great length. The core subject of this lecture is the intermingling, and then the substitution, of training for education.
Could’ve easily been written today. I can listen to someone bloviate at length about how incredibly, breath-takingly, heart-stoppingly important it is that a certain person doing a certain thing must must must have such-and-such a degree. And not once will anybody think to stick in a remark about what such a person is able to DO, or what he would know, that he would not be able to do or would not know without that background.
All too often, it simply isn’t part of the agenda. The letters after the name have to do with conformity and compliance, not knowledge or capacity for absorbing same.
This breezy, casual replacement on the sly, presents us with a grave danger. The danger is that one is a study in excellence and the other is a study in mediocrity, which is the opposite of excellence. Left to our own sensibilities, most of us would probably probably think of such a replacement worthy of greater fanfare.
I mean, do you want your brain surgeon to achieve, or conform?
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