Most people do not use, and do not need to use, any form of mathematics higher than addition and subtraction, and in rarer cases in multiplying and dividing simple numbers.
It helps to have the idea that a billion is more than a million, but few can hold in their minds just exactly how much more this is. They almost never need to know, either.
We might push this and say it should be a requirement to say how much less is spent if the dress is twenty-percent off. But we should not push hard.
I have been a math teacher of students who were forced by our culture to attain a “degree”. A common lament of theirs, when struggling, many of them in vain, was “What do I need this for?” The answer “Because it will make you a better person”, or some similar variant, was always a hopeful lie. The truth was “They make you take it to ensure there’s enough students to fund the department’s FTEs.”
Some of the students did fine in the basic math requirement course foisted upon them, and some did poorly. Yet, of course, most of those who stuck it out to the “degree” will ever use the math they were taught.
But because they now have a “degree” a lot of them will think they know more than they do.
This over-estimate of self happens not only math, but every subject. Imagine thinking you know a lot about life after graduating with a Communications or Journalism “degree”.
Sure, you will have assimilated some basics in democratic propaganda, learned how to use a few tools, and “gain expertise applicable to a number of professional positions and advanced study.” That’s what Boston University boasts its “degree” confers.
I pick on Communications “degrees” because they are the most popular. They are the most popular at least because they are the easiest. People pick the easiest because they are after a “degree” and not an education.
It’s not only Communications “degrees”, it’s PhDs in mathematical statistics from top universities, such as Yours Truly possesses. Sure, if you gain one of these sheep skins you’ll learn lots of math and the like, but almost nothing else. I’ve complained many times that you can get this “advanced degree” without ever having to crack open a book of philosophy. Or history. Or theology. Or et cetera.
The same again holds true for PhDs in Physics, Chemistry, and—you get the idea.
The danger is not these people coming away not knowing their subjects. To the extent these areas of study haven’t yet (yet) been infested with the cancer of intersectionality, Equality, and Diversity, they convey genuine knowledge. But very, very specialized knowledge.
What is worrying is that graduates come away thinking they know everything, or enough.
It’s true that to be able to study hard subjects require robust minds. These people almost always can learn other subjects. It’s no that they can’t, but that they don’t. Even more than people without a basic “degree” they are likely to believe a little learning is a lot.
All this is by way of introduction to the longer and much superior piece “Spoiled by a False Education” by JM Smith. Only one quotation will suffice to prove its merit.
Mencken’s view is, therefore, precisely opposite to that of the liberal. Whereas the liberal believes we should do all we can to untie the tongues of shy and speechless Miltons, Mencken tells us that nature tied those tongues for a reason. Mankind can get by with very few Miltons, so there is no reason to artificially boost the supply by coddling and coaxing men and women who could have stifled the longings of their hearts, and who consequently could have pursued some useful career of drudgery and care.
This is the nub of the argument that a child can be “spoiled by education,” or what is more often called “over-education.” It is that education produces a surplus of marginal mediocrities for which there is very slight demand, and that these marginal mediocrities are unfitted by their education for useful employment. Thus, a rustic Milton can be coddled and coaxed until he uncorks and decants some lines of verse or criticism, but this verse and criticism was not needed, and the rustic Milton is now too affected and sissified to go back to the farm.
Go there to read all of it. And tell your children to get married and raise kids (if girls) or be carpenters and build houses (if boys).
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