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22 June 2012


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rjj du Nord

Failed to be clear (did not get that education in classics that I very much wanted). Wasn't claiming that the Doctrine of Shareholder Value was an eternal truth. Really only said that there is artistry (perhaps should have said beauty) in excellence.

Commerce is vital to civic life and civilization. Corporatism is a lamprey.

SAC Brat

I think I would be bitter too. You tell folks that there is hard work ahead of us and you get beat by a shallow opportunist who convinces everyone that it is ok to eat the sead corn and crap in the cabin. Then the poseur gets posthumously rehabilitated and his admirers pretend to be patriots and conservatives.

Keep poking around on that site. A lot of short well crafted rants. It reminds me of stuff I used to write for friends before I got my bell rung badly in an accident.


I live in the real world, where people are surprising and you don't know what someone will be good at until you expose them to it. Not everyone will succeed, but not everyone will fail either.

BTW, not everyone goers to college as it is. There are many reasons, some "self-unselect" because they're incapable or uninterested. But the main reason lately is because it's so expensive. This means we're wasting valuable human capital because of an accident of birth.

You seem to misunderstand the purpose of education. It's not to hone a part that can be plugged into a machine, but to make a better person. That enhances out society.

Buzz Meeks

It doesn't. Different applications of what you have quoted. Perhaps extrapolation is what you should have applied first or abstraction. Both will work, try it some time.

Buzz Meeks

Buzz Meeks

There are rare examples, the early Eastman Kodak Co comes to mind while George Eastman was alive. Rochester is still reaping the benefits of the Eastman/ Durand legacies. GE, based in Schenectady in the same time period-no. They certainly knew what was going to happen to the Hudson River when they started dumping PCBs into the river. Still trying to evade the clean up costs. One or two examples of a "good" business against the rest of a very sorry lot doesn't cut it.

As I thought more about hired education, the funding of the University of Chicago by J D Rockefeller and Standard Oil came to mind. Where else could a fascist-zionist like Leo Strauss get a job? Look at the damage his student stooges such as Paul Wolfowitz have done.


du Nord and NR

I was an undergraduate in what was really a great books program, but I have always romanticized the "classics." I suppose that is why Jake Devereux in my books was a classics scholar at U. Va. before "the war" and the cavalry regimental commander who refuses to help burn Chambersburg, Pa. was his teacher there. pl

Rob Waddell


You could ask Leonardo di Vinci about that..

Babak Makkinejad

Look, you can make education free and refuse to issue a diploma and see who will attend.

Very few; Learning is not the issue here, a meal ticket is.

Leave the 4% alone, they will get by.

Worry about the 96% who have been penned up for 4 years with nothing to show (excepting Engineering students and those who go on to professional schools.)

Babak Makkinejad

Those were the days Doug, those were the days...

Babak Makkinejad

Liberal Arts started with Plato's Academy.

There was a trivium: Rhetoric, Grammar, and Logic followed by a quadrivium consisting of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

If we take that definition, most of so-called BA holders do not pass muster with Plato.

You are absolutely correct that there are people who prefer not to think; there are entire countries that are so.

Babak Makkinejad

You tell the parents and their children to come to this or that college, cough up a good deal of money, make them go into debt, get a diploma and never be able to pay back their loans on the Rhode Island School of Design costs about $ 200,000 over 4 years.

Is it worth it?

I think not.

Babak Makkinejad

The primary purpose of education has to be - without any flexibility - earning one's living.

In a country of immigrants such as US, that is even more pertinent.

In China, before 1921, education was intended to produce a better class of individuals (as you suggest) who could run the state.

Likewise in Korea.

Both of them were crushed by those whose education was for another purpose than enhancing society.

Babak Makkinejad

Issue is not getting rich.

Issue is can this person be usefully employed above $ 9.00 and hour.


I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting that students who actually want to learn and are willing to do what it takes should be denied the opportunity to do so. (at least I'm not reading it that way)

What has been going on for some time is that students are going to universities not because they want to learn, but because they want to/need to get a BA/BS. There are too many students who are in universities who are crowding the classrooms without wanting to learn beyond whatever it takes to do get the grade they need. And these students are actively recruited b/c they provide the bodies that equal money for universities--for which, in turn, universities are desperate because they can't get money from elsewhere (and this trend has been far worse in some countries--say, like South Korea, whose failed education policy the Obama administration, sadly, wants to emulate badly).

Personally, I think this is a bad situation for everyone: students who would be both happier and better served by getting a more "technical" education are forced to go through the motions at a much greater monetary expense; students who would like to really "learn" cannot get the rigorous and challenging education they deserve because they are mixed in with the "jobbers," professors cannot teach to the students who really want to learn because of the "jobbers" who think demanding teachers are just being unreasonably mean and crust (most teaching in universities are done by people without tenure protection, and besides, even the people who have tenure don't want to fight both the students who don't want to learn in order to force them to learn and the university admins who don't want them making "too much demands" on the students).

We should really set up a system where people who just want to learn "trade skills" can learn them without getting in the way of those who want to learn "academics," and vice versa--they can still mix, but only if they want to and are willing to do all that it takes. Instead, we are mixing them both in the same pool to the detriment of all. At least, that's the impression I get.

Patrick D

"So what if a majority of BA graduates don't get rich?"

Wrong question. So what if a majority of BA graduates can't pay for their education or even their day-to-day living expenses?

Babak Makkinejad

South Korea is a good example of what not to do.

They have taken the Chinese Examination System ethos and put it on steroids.

THus, these credential-seeking students cram like hell to get into a distinguished university - say Seoul National University - and then proceed to party hard and study less.

And then as many as possible try to get advanced degrees for career reasons and not for scholarship purposes.

A net result has been that the Ph.D. degree holders push MS Degree holders out of their jobs, MS/MA graduates push BS/BA degrees out of their jobs, BA/BS degree holders do the same thing to high-school graduates, and so on.

The whole thing is a tremendous waste....


Liberal Arts and Humanities programs are living in another age.
When 20-30 percent of students went off to college, the weeding out process (SAT's, etc.) and cost assured a clientele for these studies.
When "college" became the end all/be all for EVERYBODY, the whole paradigm shifted.

On top of this, colleges further devalued themselves with non-serious "women's studies", environmental studies", etc., as well as rampant grade inflation, ultimately treating their students more like customers.

I recently asked a senior at a well known and supposedly highly competitive eastern liberal arts college if anyone ever flunked out?
She didn't know of anyone.

Neil Richardson

You should stop generalizing without digging deeper into Korea or China's history of education (during the Yi, Ming and Qing dynasties). The "great divergence" in China (and by extension the annexation of Chosun much later) and the end of Qing had more to do with geography than anything else.

Paul Bibeau

Thanks much for the good word. I gotta tell you, I used to be a diehard GOPer, and I got dragged kicking and screaming to the non-interventionist point of view. And one of the main reasons is that guys like Pat Lang were out there explaining our foreign policy mistakes. And that it didn't mean you were less of a patriot if you were a skeptic about war. It actually meant you were taking your duty as a citizen seriously. So... minds do change.

Medicine Man

I'd bet Carter was the last presidential hopeful to ever level with the American people.

SAC Brat

Good on you, mate. Everyone I have shown your site to personally has enjoyed it very much. Keep up the good work.

Having worked one summer in a stable, I find familiar sights and smells when I examine politics. My father being a RIF'ed veteran and my career standing on the shoulders of veterans gets me to a certain viewpoint too.

Keep up the good work. Like Patrick Lang and many other diamond minds, you are a gem.

Stephen Hoare

Patrick D

"I recently asked a senior at a well known and supposedly highly competitive eastern liberal arts college if anyone ever flunked out?
She didn't know of anyone."

No way. Having more than a rare flunky would call the highly competitive admissions process into question.

Patrick D

Thought-provoking thread. It made me reflect on my education, the changes taking place at the time (20-30 years ago) and developments since. I'm not sure the business types are killing Liberal Arts or just burying the corpse.

A few somewhat disjointed thoughts from someone with a BA in Middle Eastern Studies, an MA in Southeast Asian Studies and an MBA (none of which came from a Virginian university):

Liberal Arts and the Humanities have been ravaged badly over the last 30-40 years as a battlefield in the Culture Wars. No need to elaborate there.

Quite a few of the Liberal Arts share the blame for where we are today. In the last 20 years there has been a dangerous push in many Social “Sciences” away from actual knowledge toward abstract theories (that too often passes as "critical thinking") in an effort to portray them as real science. Accompanying that is the unfounded conceit that these theories are predictive; that statistical analyses can be applied to data (usually flimsy or irrelevant) to provide a reliable range of expectation of outcomes.

Political Science is an oxymoron. The colonel frequently highlights the damage "critical thinkers" from this discipline have done to U.S. military and foreign policy institutions. Nothing to add.

Economics is dismal but it is not a science. Most of it is untested/untestable theories resting on baseless assumptions. Fortunately, the relatively new field of Behavioral Economics seems to be producing knowledge of some value even if that value is only discrediting the bogus theories promoted by the rest of the field.

This pseudo-scientific approach seeped into business education programs, especially MBA programs. Note that despite the name, MBA programs are heavy on “administration" and light on "business". Most MBAs are clueless about business. They are bureaucrats. As much as these bureaucrats are ignorant of it and liberal arts types would hate to admit it, “administrative science” is applied Economics, Sociology, Psychology, etc. Even something as seemingly rigid and black-and-white as Accounting is built on a foundation of Philosophy. The best Accounting professor I had was also a PhD in Philosophy.

At the root of the banking crisis is an offshoot of this called “portfolio theory”; essentially Finance misapplying Statistics to bogus Economics theory. I highly suggest this video of Nassim Taleb and Daniel Kahneman. It is an hour, they are jet-lagged, and Taleb is not the most eloquent guy but it does a good job capturing how all this comes together to produce a pervasive, delusional blindness to reality and, therefore, exposure to significant risk.


Fans of the Classics who haven’t read Taleb’s books will be interested to know he thinks the ancient Greeks were more accepting of and better equipped to deal with uncertainty than we are today… which I find an interesting indictment of Judeo-Christian-Islamic culture and the Enlightenment.

Babak Makkinejad

The fact remains that the scholars of China and Korea, as well as their political leaders, had no answer to Western Modernity.

Their civilization shattered.

Like so many other peoples, they ceased to think centuries earlier.

Neil Richardson

First, you declare that 4% of the general population could analyze and synthesize. And then you claim that prior to 1921 the Sinic educational system was designed to produce a better class of people who could run the state. Now do you care to guess what the percentage of respective population might have passed gwaguh in Chosun or keju in Ming dynasty? I really never understood Quine, but I think I might be spotting something here.

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