What is education for?

The following is from E.F. Schumacher's quixotic classic, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. Specifically, from the essay, "The Problem of Unemployment in India."

Posting this here so that I can link to it in the future.

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If there are millions of people who want to better themselves but do not know how to do it, who is going to show them? Consider the size of the problem in India. We are not talking about a few thousands or a few millions, but rather about a few hundred millions of people. The size of the problem puts it beyond any kind of little amelioration, any little reform, improvement or inducement, and makes it a matter of basic political philosophy.

The whole matter can be summed up in the question: What is education for? …

These questions lead us to the parting of the ways: Is education to be a "passport to privilege" or is it a monastic vow, a sacred obligation to serve the people?

The first road takes the educated young person into a fashionable district of Bombay, where a lot of other highly educated people have already gone and where he can join a mutual admiration society, a "trade union of the privileged," to see to it that his privileges are not eroded by the great masses of his contemporaries who have not been educated. This is one way.

The other way would be embarked upon in a different spirit and would lead to a different destination. It would take him back to the people …

So this is the first question I suggest we have to face. Can we establish an ideology, or whatever you like to call it, which insists that the educated have taken upon themselves an obligation and have not simply acquired a "passport to privilege"? This ideology is of course well supported by all the higher teachings of mankind. As a Christian, I may be permitted to quote from St. Luke: "Much will be asked of him because he was entrusted with more." It is, you might well say, an elementary matter of justice.

If this ideology does not prevail, if it is taken for granted that education is a passport to privilege, then the content of education will not primarily be something to serve the people, but something to serve ourselves, the educated. The privileged minority will wish to be educated in a manner that sets them apart and will inevitably learn and teach the wrong things, that is to say, things that do set them apart …

  • Bugmaster

    Is education to be a “passport to privilege” or is it a monastic vow, a sacred obligation to serve the people?
    Does it absolutely have to be one or the other ? It seems like “neither” is the answer here in the U.S.

  • the opoponax

    historically, there’s a lot of evidence for the latter — i can’t think of a single high status group in history, outside of the last 50 odd years in the US, that hasn’t had the responsibility of ensuring that everyone else is doing at least bare minimum OK. as much as i hate the doctrine of the “white man’s burden”, at least the british upper classes had a vague interest in the basic well-being of the people they were oppressing.

  • the opoponax

    also the amazing thing is that with the erosion of the “sacred vow” approach, education has become less and less a “passport to privelege” as more people have gained access to education. a college education doesn’t get you crap nowadays, let alone the ability to change things for those less fortunate.

  • forestwalker

    Bugmaster,
    Our universities may pay lip service to Plato; but they clearly see their mission as primarily the former. But that mission is just a manifestation of what Schumacher here calls our culture’s “ideology”. Our libertarian-minded culture is one which denies obligation in favor of unmitigated self-interest. The goals and policies of our educational institutions reflect this.

  • forestwalker

    “a college education doesn’t get you crap nowadays”
    That depends on how you define both “crap” and “privelege”.

  • the opoponax

    my point is that having a college degree doesn’t necessarily grant privelege anymore, not that everyone in the US has access to college.
    more than half of my college friends still wait tables almost two years after graduation. quite a few are on food stamps. if that’s privelege, i really don’t want to know what a lack of privelege is like.

  • the opoponax

    also, look at the disparity between people with bachelors and associates and “some college”, compared with high school diplomas, and the disparity actually isn’t much. woohoo, my 4 year degree gets me an AVERAGE salary of $35,000 as opposed to $30,000… (not to mention that this factors in people who went to college decades ago when a degree did really mean something and who have already been in the workforce for a long time getting raises and promotions and such). the graphs in that report clearly show that it’s graduate degrees that really make the difference.

  • hapax

    opoponax “graduate degrees that really make the difference.”
    Well, that sucks. I have two graduate degrees, and I’m still making less than the average for high school diplomas. Obviously all the accumulated knowledge, instruction in the process of thinking, exposure to great minds of the present and past, and the leisure to pursue nothing but the above for over a decade counts as “crap”, since it doesn’t show up in my bank balance. :-(

  • toxicfur

    I waited tables and tended bar for three years with a master’s degree. It bugged me, not that I wasn’t using my education, but that I could make more money waiting tables than I could teaching at the local community college. I would rather have been teaching, but I also wanted a place to live with a roof and walls and central heat.
    When I was in school, my mom asked me when I was going to start taking education classes toward a teaching certificate. With the snobbery that only a 19-year-old know-it-all (and asshole) can have, I told her that I’d rather scrub toilets than teach high school. Now, I’ve scrubbed toilets as a part of my employment, and I still think I would have made a mediocre at best high school teacher. My point then (and one I still believe) is that education shouldn’t necessarily be a means to an end. It’s nice when it works out that way, but I didn’t get a master’s degree in sociolinguistics to make millions of dollars. I got it because I liked learning about it. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a job in which I use my training (albeit indirectly), and I make a reasonably good living.
    I don’t expect everyone to have my values toward education, though, and for the vast majority of people, education is the passkey that opens up economic opportunities. It was fun, though, when I did teach at community colleges, to try to slip some completely unnecessary information and skills to my students.

  • Amanda

    The likelihood of success (as regarding getting an education to attain that success) really depends more on the planned career than on the level of education. There are a hell of a lot of jobs for accounting or nursing majors here in the Pittsburgh area, and of course there are always jobs available for someone with an aptitude in/affinity for sales (something neither my fiance nor I possess), but my fiance’s history major has landed him… a job in the restaurant business. He’s working on getting a MA and PhD so that he’ll have a slight-to-moderate chance at getting a job as a college professor, which will allow us to make enough money to pay off all those loans he had to take out to get that education.
    And I, the two-time college dropout who managed to finish up a few art courses and who has a moderate amount of talent, am managing to land a few odd web design jobs per year, during my time off from my part-time job as a restaurant greeter.
    I really don’t buy the claim that a college education will get you a damn thing. Careful planning, and a passion that aligns with a field that’s already popular and has plenty of jobs available, sure. An education in and of itself — BS. Education, to me, is more a passion than it is a passport to privilege — although the latter attitude does seem to be abundant in the US, as I constantly see people selling education as the solution to poverty. Get yourself an education, kiddo, and you’ll be able to rise out of the ghetto. — Possibly — or you might just end up saddled with thousands of dollars (or tens of thousands, even hundreds) in student loans, and not much to show for “following your passion.”
    I’m not sure what my point is, or even what I think of the whole issue. I do think that a kid with at least a high school education, if not a college education or beyond, is far more likely to be successful than a kid in a comparable situation without that education. I do wish, however, that people would stop promising the world to all those who push forward.
    I also do think that it would be preferable if people would use their educations to serve the less fortunate, rather than only themselves — but using that education as a benefit for oneself does also help lift at least one more person out of potentially unfortunate circumstances, and I can’t fault any individual person for that.
    [/ramble.]

  • Bugmaster

    Personally, I think that there are two separate types of education: Type A and type B. Type A education gives you a set of skills that you need in order to secure a good job in your field. Type B education doesn’t teach you any specific skills, but it alters your mind so that you are able to think a). more critically, and b). faster. This allows you to drastically reduce the time it would normally take you to learn specific skills; it also allows you to apply any skills you already have in new and creative ways.
    For example, in my field, a person can focus on learning as many programming languages and techniques as possible; that’s Type A. Or, a person can learn Scheme, compiler theory, discrete math, and computer architecture; that’s type B.
    Currently, most people view only Type A education as being useful. Type A gives you immediate benefits, and you can also put it on a resume: “Proficient with X, Y, Z and W”. You can’t put Type B on a resume at all. Type A gives you an immediate advantage over other job-seekers, and increases your starting salary; the benefits of Type B, if any, would only become visible after you’ve acquired a job, which makes it kind of a catch-22. Of all the companies I know, only Google is making an effort (an AI-assisted effort, natch) to assess an employee’s quality based on their Type B education level.
    From what I’ve heard, the best Type B education you can get is Physics. Basically, once you’ve mastered Physics, everything else becomes easy, even though you never actually apply any specific physics facts.

  • Victor

    I guess for some education will probably always be a “passport to privilege” and it’s somewhat comforting to know that as a Christian you are giving your readers “Food for Thought”. Keep UP the Good Work.

  • Alexela

    Bugmaster: From what I’ve heard, the best Type B education you can get is Physics. Basically, once you’ve mastered Physics, everything else becomes easy, even though you never actually apply any specific physics facts.
    Except when it comes to social sciences. The number of physicists I’ve met (ok, I’ll rephrase, “the PROPORTION” of physicists I’ve met) who are completely clueless about applying basic probabilistic thinking to humans… staggering.

  • dr ngo

    I find it interesting that the British used to recruit the civil service and colonial service heavily from those who had studied “classics” (Greek and Latin), which presumably they used very little in their actual jobs. (Except, of course, for the British general who seized the Indian principality of Sindh in the 19th-century and sent a one-word cable: Peccavi [I have sinned].)
    And, of course, the Chinese empire for centuries was staffed by those who studied – indeed memorized – the “Confucian” classics of the first millennium BCE.
    These subjects supposedly, according to those who taught them, inculcated moral virtues by exposure to the wisdom of the ancients, though I have always found this unconvincing. To some extent, of course, the studies were screening devices for class, as none but the “right sort of people” would ever have the opportunity to study these subjects.
    But I’m sure they were also proving grounds for the ability (and willingness!) to discipline yourself to master something difficult and seemingly pointless – a useful quality in the Real World, I’m told.

  • Bugmaster

    @dr ngo:
    Well, as Paul Graham says in his meta-essay:
    How did things get this way? To answer that we have to go back almost a thousand years. Around 1100, Europe at last began to catch its breath after centuries of chaos, and once they had the luxury of curiosity they rediscovered what we call “the classics.” The effect was rather as if we were visited by beings from another solar system. These earlier civilizations were so much more sophisticated that for the next several centuries the main work of European scholars, in almost every field, was to assimilate what they knew.
    So, the amount of knowledge contained in the ancient texts was simply overwhelming; the perception at the time was that if the Ancient Greeks or the Romans or the Egyptians or someone haven’t discovered it, then it doesn’t exist. It’s no wonder that classics were such an important area of study. The first universities were established to allow people to study classics more efficiently, and traditions die hard, so now here we are…

  • Bugmaster

    The number of physicists I’ve met (ok, I’ll rephrase, “the PROPORTION” of physicists I’ve met) who are completely clueless about applying basic probabilistic thinking to humans… staggering.
    And what’s your chi-squared on that ?
    :-)

  • Alexela

    Bugmaster,
    LOL. P somewhere over .3. The only hypothesis that can definitely be refuted is the infallibility of the physics trained mind. That WAS your straw man, wasn’t it?

  • Bugmaster

    @Alexela:
    I’m just saying, your personal experience is no more valid than mine. It’s all anecdotal. For what it’s worth, all the physicists I’ve met have had a very keen understanding of statistics, which kind of makes sense, seeing as experimentation is all about statistics. But I’m not going to claim that my experience extends to all physicists in general, as you seem to be doing.

  • Francis

    These subjects supposedly, according to those who taught them, inculcated moral virtues by exposure to the wisdom of the ancients, though I have always found this unconvincing. To some extent, of course, the studies were screening devices for class, as none but the “right sort of people” would ever have the opportunity to study these subjects.
    Actually, I’ve always seen them as providing completely different advantages to those that are normally claimed. If you’ve been intensively taught Classics, you’ve been taught a mindset which means that you are likely to take the same approach to standard situations as others who have been taught the same way, meaning that your successor is likely to find what you have done more comprehensible if you can’t make a proper hand over. You also have a firm grounding in administration under … interesting circumstances, giving you a wide body of experience to draw on when running the empire. As for the Chinese system, you really need to be able to think on your feet and be eloquent to write poetry like that, you need to think the same way as others due to the constraints of the metre, and it wasn’t as elitist as the classical education.

  • cjmr

    I find that the physicists that I’ve known personally have a great grasp of math and statistics, but assume either that social sciences are not science, or that the experiments in social science settings are set up as cleanly and elegantly (and with as few confounds and distractors) as they use when setting up their own experiments. The latter group just didn’t ‘get’ things like longitudinal self-reporting studies. Admittedly, I have a very small sample size (7-10).

  • the opoponax

    hapax: Obviously all the accumulated knowledge, instruction in the process of thinking, exposure to great minds of the present and past, and the leisure to pursue nothing but the above for over a decade counts as “crap”, since it doesn’t show up in my bank balance. :-(
    well, unfortunately, we are living in a society where education is generally considered a “passport to privelege”, not the latter type. and i can’t think of what “privelege” is, in that context, besides, at the end of the day, one’s bank balance.
    i agree with you that education can be a great thing in and of itself. and i think that’s true regardless of what kind of diploma you get at the end of it — hell, most of my best learning has been done on my own, outside academia. however i think that sort of thing, the encounters with great minds, leisure to pursue knowledge, expansion of one’s thought processes, etc. have so little to do with why people really pursue formal education in the US nowadays.
    also, notice i said that a college degree (as in, a bachelor’s degree) means crap — seriously, here is a list of what i learned in college classes:
    my social security number.
    when to buy the textbook, and when not to.
    which drugs are worth doing, and which aren’t.
    if you’re a white girl taking classes on black feminism, keep your freakin’ mouth shut.
    of course, i learned tons and tons of other things, read amazing books, had my consciousness raised in a hundred ways, and all the things you listed too, of course. but almost none of that came from courses i was enrolled in. in 5 years at university, i took perhaps 5 courses that really changed my life, and in most of those cases i could have gained the exact same level of knowledge and experience outside the classroom. and none of any of it had a whit to do with the degree i ultimately earned. not to mention that the degree i ultimately earned did NOT grant me any sort of “passport to privelege”.

  • cjmr

    Something that I learned at college that was not part of the intended lesson is that in a laboratory with a professor and two teaching assistants who presumably had to have some sort of training in how to handle lab accidents, when another student cut herself on broken glassware having been a girl scout was more useful than their degrees and presumed training. A boy scout and I did all the first aid procedures (clean and elevate wound, apply direct pressure, treat for shock, etc.) while they stood around trying to figure out what paperwork had to be filled out to report the incident to the department. Mind you, the guys who came with the ambulance were pretty useless, too. They made her walk down three flights of stairs to the ambulance, despite the fact that there was an elevator, and despite the fact that she had already passed out from shock once.

  • Bugmaster

    Well, I can certainly empathize with people who are biased against social scientists. I took a couple psychology courses in college (it was that or more English Literature), and my initial impression of psychology was that people basically make things up, then make up some explanation that sounds good, then find this one patient who seems to fit their vague hypothesis, and claim that they’ve achieved a great discovery. I mean, psychologists actually seem to be proud of the fact that the Rorcharch thest is completely subjective ! WTF ?
    Now, I personally do understand that there’s a big difference between psychology and sociology (which is much, much closer to being a real science); I’m also willing to admit that psychology can be objective, especially if you insert that “neuro-” prefix in front of it. However, that was just luck of the draw for me. I could’ve easily walked away with the same massive bias against all social sciences that physicists have.

  • A. Kennedy

    a college education doesn’t get you crap nowadays”
    That depends on how you define both “crap” and “privelege”.
    This is interesting, as we actually studied this paper (and this concept in general) quite deeply in sociology of education. It’s very true that a higher level of education correlates with a much higher income. What this paper doesn’t point out (and there’s no reason it should) is that having parents with a higher income almost always results in a higher level of achieved education. In other words, your parents’ level of income (and socioeconomic class) correlates almost as strongly to your future earnings as anything having to do with your education.
    One idea I came out of university with, and which has not been changed by exposure to actual students, is that socioeconomic class provides students with a certain amount of “cultural capital,” and that cultural capital is a good predictor of how well those students will do in school — a much better predictor than innate intelligence. The worst part is that myself and sometimes other teachers are convinced that the student that doesn’t do well but has a strong mind must ipso facto be lazy. Of course, it ain’t necessarily so.

  • Jeff

    My education was a passport to privelege*, but mostly because I set out to make it so. I chose Cal Poly SLO over Berkeley because a degree from the former was likely to lead to a better job and better pay than the latter. I concentrated in the sciences, and specialized in Computer Science. This was back in the day, so there was a LOT less competition.
    It helps that I love playing with computers, and that my current job fits with my mild ADD — I tend to deal with about 5 different topics each day.
    * “Privelege” is a relative term. I do OK, but not as well as if I had been more aggressive, less lazy or more cut-throat. I wouldn’t mind having more privelege, but I’m happy with what I have.

  • none

    granted i don’t know how the hard sciences or engineering come into this, but isn’t Berkeley one of the most prestigious universities in the US?

  • none

    A. Kennedy, i FULLY agree and really wanted the conversation to get around to that. thanks for bringing it up.

  • J. Dunn

    a college education doesn’t get you crap nowadays, let alone the ability to change things for those less fortunate.
    This depends a whole lot on context. In India, for example, if you are one of the roughly 50 million college graduates out of a billion-plus people(and this number and possibly even the proportion was probably way lower when Schumacher wrote) then it certainly does confer power, privilege, and hopefully responsiblity. If you come from a subsistence-farming village and get a college degree, your power and privilege have just increased exponentially, and if such people could be convinced that they were responsible to go back and use their gift to help, rather than to escape the great mass of people from which they were fortunately plucked, it would be a dramatic paradigm-shift.
    Even in America, what if someone like myself had thought of my college education as a training to help me improve the small, flagging town I grew up in, instead of as my ticket out? I never gave that a thought growing up, but as an adult I’m starting more and more to mull over what my responsibilities might be to the people and place who made me and gave me so many wonderful opportunities, under the influence of people like Schumacher and Wendell Berry. Basic assumptions like this are rarely questioned, and they can have a profound impact on the shape and character of the society we build through our choices.

  • Bugmaster

    Well, under the strictly libertopian view of the world, your primary and only responsibility is to act in your own self-interest, because this is the strategy that is guaranteed to maximize the total wealth of the society. I’m sure Scott would be able to describe this idea better than I could, but he’s not here…

  • Alexela

    Bugmaster: For what it’s worth, all the physicists I’ve met have had a very keen understanding of statistics… But I’m not going to claim that my experience extends to all physicists in general, as you seem to be doing.
    It’s ok, I was joking. The strawman line needed a wink after it.
    semi-semi-SEMI seriously: Physicists are undoubtedly great at stats, I’ve just had a bunch of annoying conversations with them where they try to trash on social sciences because they can’t understand how the research has any merit. Which is a charge you could probably make well, but they didn’t.
    Of course, those were physics students (grad or otherwise), so maybe they just hadn’t taken ENOUGH physics to reach proper enlightenment ;)
    (yes, it’s a great field, don’t mind my grumbling)

  • Alexela

    CJMR: I find that the physicists that I’ve known personally have a great grasp of math and statistics, but assume either that social sciences are not science, or that the experiments in social science settings are set up as cleanly and elegantly (and with as few confounds and distractors) as they use when setting up their own experiments. The latter group just didn’t ‘get’ things like longitudinal self-reporting studies. Admittedly, I have a very small sample size (7-10).
    Ah! You said it so much better than I! They not only assume social science are non-rigorous, but they shamelessly pronounce on it.
    you can sort of understand why too, we’re NOT as precise. They can launch something from Earth, have it loop around a rock thousands of miles away, and know within a few meters where it’ll hit when it comes back. We’re stuck dealing with people, and you can’t launch a person an inch and have more than a fuzzy idea where they’re going to land. This is why, IM(very)HO, social sciences are ‘harder’…

  • Alexela

    Bugmaster: Well, I can certainly empathize with people who are biased against social scientists. I took a couple psychology courses in college (it was that or more English Literature), and my initial impression of psychology was that people basically make things up, then make up some explanation that sounds good,
    Oh no you did-nnt! Someone is SO cruising for a bruis… er… a stiffly worded… er… a small written critique.
    On second thoughts, if you were allowed to get through even 1 psych class with this impression intact, that probably doesn’t speak well of your teachers.
    so Yes, psychology, as practiced at many points in history (and in some places now) was little better than smart people (and some not-so-smart) pulling their chins. BUT there are huge bodies, HUGE, of empirical, peer reviewed, scientifically literate research out there. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is one of the top 5 most widely cited journals in the world (shortly after Science and Nature), and doesn’t have “neuro” anything in its name (or much of its research). And good luck getting anything into it without at least one set of very compelling data, and more commonly 3-5 experiments that all traingulate on sme solid conclusion.
    /rant
    A. Kennedy: cultural capital is a good predictor of how well those students will do in school — a much better predictor than innate intelligence.
    Interesting assertion that you just made up… But never fear, research psychologist to the rescue! ta DA daaaaaa! … If you take people’s ACT or IQ type tests and compare it to GPA, they actually correlate somewhere like .4 or .5, which is big for humans (as I say, we’re messy creatures… get a correlation much higher than it starts to look like you just measured the same thing twice). Intelligence has just a whole heckuva lot to do with success at school (and little else).
    But then you go “oh, but that intelligence just came from cultural capital, not genes”… Well you can work on separating that out too, if you compare, say identical twins who have been raised separately to adoptive siblings (0 genetic overlap, much social overlap)… And if you start doing that math, you find that genes contribute something in the neighbourhood of 20-40% of the variance, parents contribute not so much, and peers a whole bunch. And that’s not even starting to get into gene- environment interactions and lord knows.
    It’s really more complicated than that, of course, but my point is that if psychologists hadn’t gone out and gathered hard data, crunched it, and seen what the truth really was, then we’d be left with nothing but the kind of random observations bugmaster was formerly being so rude about.

  • Bugmaster

    then we’d be left with nothing but the kind of random observations bugmaster was formerly being so rude about
    Oh, I’m still being rude about it. Yeah ! That’s right ! You heard me ! Carl Jung smelt of eldeberries !
    Anyway, I’ve always thought that once you start analyzing the actions of large groups of people, you veer away from psychology and into sociology. That’s the only way to obtain “hard data” about humans, without delving into that “neuro-” part that you seem to dislike for some reason. I will grant you (again) that sociology is more rigorous than psychology, but I don’t think that it’s as rigorous as physics; nor do I think that “humans are complicated” is a good excuse. Elementary particles are complicated too, arguably more so, because you usually can’t even measure them directly. You don’t need billion-dollar supercolliders to smash humans together in order to advance your understanding of sociology (though I admit it would be fun). And don’t even get me started on organic chemistry…
    My personal, completely unsubstantiated opinion is that sociology is less rigorous than physics because people automatically assume that there’s something mysterious about humans that makes them unique, and different from all other avenues of study. Well, with an attitude like that, of course there’s going to be some hand-waving involved.
    Finally, if most psychology classes were like mine — with a heavy emphasis on Freud, Jung, and staring at blobs for no reason, and an active disdain for statistical analysis — then it’s no wonder that physics students form a negative opinion of it. And my class was part of the standard state-endorsed curriculum, too…

  • Alexela

    Bugmaster:
    ahh… it becomes more clear. Your critique of Freud, Jung et al is reasonably well placed. Most of modern psychology views them as important for historical reasons, and the source of some interesting ideas, but not at all as fonts of truth.
    FYI, you have psychology and sociology wrong. Psychology is the study of mind and behaviour. In order to do that, we study a lot of aggregate groups. Sociologists study how groups and societies work as entities unto themselves.
    Example: both groups are interested in violence. A sociologist might look at the types of social groups that give rise to violence, how they are organized, how they regulate individual members, etc. A psychologist might say ask what pushes AN person to violence. A whole raft of studies now show, for example, that watching violent tv and playing violent video games really are associated with an increased trend to violence. If ask people what tv they watched, violent people have watched more violent stuff. If you look at what tv people watch now, then wait a few years, the people who watched more violent stuff became more violent. If you bring people into the lab and show them a violent show, they are more likely to engage in small acts of aggression, if given a suitable opportunity to do so. All of which is NOT to say that if you watch Cops you are definitely going to go and beat someone. That’s stupid. But you’re slightly more likely to do so than someone who didn’t.
    BTW, one of the things that makes psychology so hard is that the things it tries to measure are unobservable. You can spend billions of dollars for a nice particle accelerator to smash protons together on cue, but we don’t have an aggresson thermometer that we can stick up your butt and say “woha, 32 degrees of aggression, don’t push him too far”. All we can do is infer it from people’s behaviour, and people behave messily. The most violent guy in the world is not ALWAYS violent, the quietest guy in the world is going to scream some day when he stubs his toe hard enough… Protons, however squirly and complicated they may be, are at least completely reliable.
    BTW, i don’t have anything against neuro per se… I just saw a high powered neuro presentation this afternoon. We just tend to be bitter because in the public’s eyes they get all the glory.

  • malpollyon

    “A whole raft of studies now show, for example, that watching violent tv and playing violent video games really are associated with an increased trend to violence.”
    What studies, link or cite please? I’ve never seen ANY study that suggested a serious link between the games and violent behavior, so please enlighten me.

  • hapax

    Okey dokey, forgive anal editorial intrusion here, people…
    It’s privilege. Priv – I -lege. Not “privelege.”
    Thank you. You may now return to a more interesting conversation.

  • cjmr

    Thank you, hapax, for saying that so I didn’t have to. (I didn’t dare to, actually, ’cause that’s one of the words I consistently can’t spell.)

  • Steve

    I tried out for graduation speaker when I graduated from Fred’s alma mater, Eastern U…and my five minute speech featured this passage…but I didn’t get the gig.

  • dr ngo

    Francis: It [the Chinese examination system] wasn’t as elitist as the classical education.
    In the presence of all these psychologists and sociologists who actually go around measuring (!?!) things I’m hesitant to respond. But my impression is that the Chinese system was in fact just about as elitist as the British system of “classical” education.
    In neither system could a young man — women, of course, were excluded — possibly qualify unless he spent literally years studying this useless knowledge to the exclusion of any kind of productive activity. He couldn’t even support himself, much less help provide for his family, as any adolescent from the working class would be expected to. Ergo, only someone from the “gentry” – and we use the term for both societies, as it happens – was in the running. No Peasants Need Apply.
    There were in both systems very rare instances of village boys whose intellectual potential had been spotted by some wealthy patron, who then sponsored (or even adopted) them through the learning years and on to graduate glory. But these exceptions do not invalidate the general rule, which was that the educational system worked effectively to keep the lower orders out.
    As for your observations on the intellectual content of what was learned – you may well be right. As originally indicated, I’m dubious about the inculcation of civic “virtue” from these studies, but producing a certain uniformity of outlook among graduates may well have been an intentional by-product of the system.

  • the opoponax

    If you take people’s ACT or IQ type tests and compare it to GPA, they actually correlate somewhere like .4 or .5, which is big for humans
    how does socio-economic class factor into that?
    your snippet of data also doesn’t explain the disconnect between intelligent students who do well in high school (which is free, compulsory, and close to home) and whether said students go on to college and ultimately earn degrees.
    the system is actually not unlike how dr. ngo described the english and chinese systems in a certain way. it’s very difficult to completely support oneself through college (becoming more difficult the more prestigious the university is), and nigh impossible to pursue a bachelor’s degree while also supporting one’s family. which means that you could be the smartest kid in your high school class, with an IQ off the charts and a perfect standardized test score, but if your family isn’t terribly financially secure, you still may not get to go to college or finish your degree. let alone moving on to a graduate degree, which is where the real status lies. so it’s not entirely a meritocracy.

  • A. Kennedy

    Interesting assertion that you just made up… But never fear, research psychologist to the rescue! ta DA daaaaaa! … If you take people’s ACT or IQ type tests and compare it to GPA, they actually correlate somewhere like .4 or .5
    (Bolding mine)
    Honestly, what the hell? Does the internet just naturally have the affect on even intelligent people of making them mean? What is your deal, Alexela.
    To be perfectly honest, if we’re playing the “reference, please” game, then I could just as easily claim that you’d made up your correlations. I didn’t make mine up, they are from primary data, but unfortunately it is primary data that I studied years ago and don’t have in front of me. Aside from the fact that your assertion contains numbers (numbers which, as you yourself admit, are very suspiciously high), how is your assertion so much better than mine?

  • A. Kennedy

    we don’t have an aggresson thermometer that we can stick up your butt and say “woha, 32 degrees of aggression, don’t push him too far”.
    Wouldn’t the very act of measurement affect the result, in that case?

  • wintermute

    > A whole raft of studies now show, for example, that watching violent tv and playing violent video games really are associated with an increased trend to violence. If ask people what tv they watched, violent people have watched more violent stuff. If you look at what tv people watch now, then wait a few years, the people who watched more violent stuff became more violent. If you bring people into the lab and show them a violent show, they are more likely to engage in small acts of aggression, if given a suitable opportunity to do so. All of which is NOT to say that if you watch Cops you are definitely going to go and beat someone. That’s stupid. But you’re slightly more likely to do so than someone who didn’t.
    Do these studies comment on whether it’s correlation or causation? Is it possible from these studies that violent people are simply more likely to watch violent television?

  • cjmr

    From reading these years ago for a paper I seem to remember TV/video game/violence studies fell into a few groups:
    Some of those studies did things like having Group A play Tetris for 30 minutes and Group B play Doom for 30 minutes and then showing them a clip of a tense situation and asking how they would deal with it–Group B members were more likely to say they’d use violence to resolve the situation.
    A similar type of study had Group A watch non-violent TV and Group B watch violent TV, then showed both groups a graphic violent news story–Group A members were more likely to be horrified by the story, Group B members excited.
    Then there were longitudinal studies where they went into homes and catalogued what TV and video games the pre-teen children were being exposed to, then went looked at the same kids in their teen and young adult years to see how many had gotten into trouble for violent behavior.
    My own personal experience is that my kids play cooperatively better when they’ve been watching non-violent TV and video games. When they’ve been watching a lot of LEGO Star Wars, they spend a lot of time hitting each other with ‘lightsabers’.

  • Bugmasrer

    But we do have an aggression thermometer — that would be all the “neuro-” stuff. As it turns out, it’s possible to look at a human’s neural activity, and figure out how angry he is.
    I don’t understand this separation between traditional psychology, which involves asking people questions, and neuro-psychology, which involves looking at their brains. Surely, subjective questions aren’t as accurate as brain activity measurements ? But also, if human minds are indeed somehow related to human brains (I’m being generous to the religious population here), it would make sense to evaluate both ?

  • wintermute

    > Protons, however squirly and complicated they may be, are at least completely reliable.
    Yep, you can always relay on them to be indeterminate, and for it to be impossible to know exactly what state they’re in. Or even exactly where they are.

  • cjmr

    Yes, but protons always behave in a ‘mathematically elegant’ way. Or so was told by a particle physicist.

  • Jeff

    cjmr:
    My home browser has built-in spell-checking; my work one does not. I’m going to claim that any spelling mistakes were done at work. (Yes, I was at work at 2 am last Saturday, why do you ask? [whistles])
    Some of those studies did things like having Group A play Tetris for 30 minutes and Group B play Doom for 30 minutes and then showing them a clip of a tense situation and asking how they would deal with it–Group B members were more likely to say they’d use violence to resolve the situation.
    A similar type of study had Group A watch non-violent TV and Group B watch violent TV, then showed both groups a graphic violent news story–Group A members were more likely to be horrified by the story, Group B members excited.
    I hope that the researchers waited a few hours and then swapped the groups. That would eliminate the “causation vs correlation” argument. This study also shows the difference between psychology and sociology that Alexela was making.
    re quantum mechanics vs. psychology: with qm, you can make equations (horribly complex though they might be) to make predictions (have to go back to my Feynman to remember exactly what you can predict). Currently, I see no sets of equations to predict much of anything about minds (vs brains).


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