Education, Grading and Obedience

In formal education the student is taught that truth is a function of authority. There is a teacher who knows more than him and to whom the student goes to get a grade.

The problem with grading is that essentially what it is doing is converting an essay, a series of propositions organized into paragraphs into a letter or a number.

In order to do this fairly the standard must be universal. That is to say that the grade doesn’t take into account the uniqueness or truth of the piece that is being graded.

For example one of the means of grading is to number the points that are made and backed up with evidence and that offer an explanation of how the evidence confirms the point. So the teacher would go through the text, number the instances of this and use the result as part of the grade.

Another example would be grammar; a point deducted for each breach of grammar.

The problem here is that the content, the understanding of the individual isn’t really addressed or treated as important. All that is important is the grade which is made up of universals.

When I was in college I studied English language and literature. The highest score I got in any exam was for a paper on Joyce’s “Dubliners”. This was shocking because the night before I had taken a stupid amount of LSD and didn’t feel at all with it.

I knew that in the test I didn’t write well – I wrote grammatically correct English but there was no passion in it, no me in it.

I sat before the paper and just thought “Point, example, explain”. Just throw together any argument and P.E.E, P.E.E, P.E.E. I can’t even remember the argument but I knew it was spurious nonsense yet I scored the 2nd highest score for it in my college!

The reason I quit college was because I can’t maintain that kind of coldness and distance from what I write. I write with passion about whatever is gripping me at the time and I believe this way of writing is “right”. So my experience of formal education was that it filters out those who are truly passionate about subjects; instead it allows through those who can jump through the hoops.

As Noam Chomsky said Go to any elite university and you are usually speaking to very disciplined people, people who have been selected for obedience.”


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