Julian Wash, Contributor
Today I wish to return to consciousness a number of curious aspects associated with the institution that we call “higher learning.” In the process, I’ll call into review certain facets of its design and briefly describe some of the inner-workings of this construct, as I see it.
There are many systems, levels, layers and sub-layers within this organized behemoth, this hulking monstrosity we call formal education. For my part, I am neither an expert on the topic nor am I a passively-unaware observer. As a former participant in the program, I have (like you) invested a great number of hours being “enlightened” by this brand of orthodoxy. In the aftermath, I have walked away with a number of insights and antidotes and yet, paradoxically, have been besieged with more questions than answers. But most importantly, I have walked away with what I value most – an opinion. Today, I will attempt to express this opinion in the form of a report, or, if you’ll pardon the expression, a report card.
Making the Grade
It starts with kindergarten for most of us. From there, we advance through “grade” school to intermediate or “middle” school, then on to “high” school. The linear road map suggests that we are indeed moving upward (or forward) to some higher level with each passing semester. This sensation of forward momentum is further exemplified by the (very real) physical growing process, biological changes, psycho/social changes, and shifts in our perceptions, attitudes and beliefs.
As we move forward within this construct, we are assessed on a semester basis with regard to our “grades,” “citizenship,” “behavior,” “work ethic,” and so forth. By now we have been told repeatedly about the “golden rule” and the curiously ambiguous “3R’s.” So if the reader will indulge me, I would like to further extrapolate on the “rules,” and while I’m at it, the “rule makers.”
First Rule: Law and Order
During the early years of education, when the grey matter is still very suggestible and malleable, children are bombarded with an excessive amount of structure and discipline under the guise of education. Since previous generations were also subjected to similar inundations and “initiated” into this system, parents are generally cooperative to this process and do not see it as unusual. So long as “Johnny” or “Sally” acquiesce and “toe the hypothetical line,” there should be no major problems or concerns.
But then there are those that sometimes “cross the line.” The system, it would appear, is aptly designed to quickly root out such young rebels. Children, for instance, that do not respond to authority will be swiftly dealt with. Similarly, the “day dreamer,” the right brain child who finds solace in his or her alpha state, the sensitive, and the aware will be severely suppressed within this environment. The advantage clearly goes to the “left” brain candidate who is continually rewarded for his or her obedience, dutiful performance, attention and adherence to authority.
Left Brain, Right Brain Conundrum
I speak of “left brain” and “right brain” not so much in the literal sense but as a metaphor. I think that we all agree that people consistently use both halves of their brain. There are dominant hemispheres (and for that matter dominant portions within respective hemispheres) and so one side may take some precedence over the other. The left side is said to function as the analytical, logical, mathematical and “obedient” half, whereas the right side conjures heightened creativity, intuition, morality and imagination. Obviously, both sides are crucially important.
People of exceptional ability are thought to have both hemispheres working harmoniously together. It’s been suggested that this harmonious balance is actually “normal,” but that the strict rules, rote memorization and disciplines associated with institutional learning permanently changes this balance to consistently favor the left side.
Second Rule: Correction
In those so-called “good old days,” corporal punishment was the method of correction in the classroom. If Johnny got too out of line, the principal or teacher would sometimes utilize this method. It usually involved “swatting” various parts of anatomy to invoke pain, shame, fear and, yes, obedience. The level and severity was limited only by the hand and judgment (or lack thereof) of the administrator. Lingering marks and welts were not unusual. These episodes would sometimes outrage some parents, whereas others would fully support them, and in some cases –”finish” the job when Johnny got home.
In more recent times the “switch and paddle” has yielded to the more civilized (though still highly corrective) methods of detentions, parent-teacher conferences, community volunteer requirements, and a whole host of various discipline procedures.
But ever so often, school psychologists are sought because it’s presumed that Johnny likely has a mental disorder. When children recognize that a doctor is examining them for “the way they think”, this is often sufficiently effective to instill a change – and not often for the better. The child’s self-examination process and the personal embarrassment that comes from the mere suggestion that he or she has a “learning disability” can create huge setbacks in the child’s self-esteem. Rest assured that the school psychologist will do their best to redirect Johnny onto a more fruitful course of order and compliance. He will be broken down and built back up numerous times, if need be – and in time he will begin to assimilate. But what if all attempts fail?
Then there’s Adderall – that miracle chemical substance designed to bring that left brain out to front and center stage. Johnny had best keep those arms and legs tucked in the ride at all times and abide by the rules, or he just might find his brain soaking in a pharmaceutical stew. If he fails to conform, considerable pressure will be brought upon him (and his parents) to permanently change his brain chemistry by insisting on mind altering “medication.” One way or another, Johnny will soon blend in with the rest.
I wonder if this is what was actually meant by “no child left behind.”
Third Rule: Rewards and Recognition
Assuming one survives the disciplines and teachings, endures the breaking down and building up, then before too long they are ready to enter that “higher” institution known as college. The most cooperative, ambitious and desirable will have been awarded financial assistance, either in the form of a grant, scholarship or recommendation, that will enable the student to continue his or her education without interruption and help to mitigate monetary burdens. This desirable candidate will be further groomed by professors and administrators and will ultimately be placed in areas of influence and regard. All other candidates will be strapped with student loans that will likely follow them around for half of their lives, or more. These debts cannot be discharged through a bankruptcy, so the (less than ideal) college candidate will have to get on the ball straight away.
Preaching from the Pulpit
Some professors call it “lecturing” and some call it “teaching.” My awareness draws me toward the more specific phrase of “preaching.” The professor has the luxury of an audience that’s been thoroughly vetted and processed through the system. Our illustrious instructor addresses his or her congregation of mostly “compliant” minds with aplomb and vigor; and these students often regard themselves as “empty and willing vessels” waiting to be filled. Perched high behind their lofty pulpit, the preacher-teacher proceeds to define what is real and …what is not.
The Institution of Academic Religious Authority
Here, within the impressive halls and ivory towers, rules of law and physical matter are essentially worshiped. The campuses are large and magnificent, sprawling buildings designed to inspire and instill awe in the observer, with symbols and statues that connote a slew of esoteric and exoteric meaning.
You’ll also find the Darwinian mindset and the general consensus that Humans are merely mammals with “large brains.” A sense of “inadequacy” looms over these halls as if this particular state of mind is somehow essential in cultivating higher learning. “Eco-worship” takes precedence over the Human condition, and conversations revolving around the adverse impact of “overpopulation” are standard fare.
Here we find the almighty skeptics and cynics, the critics, and, worst of all, the pious. They preach from their lectern with a voice of authority, credulity, but to the sensitive ear, they speak in rigid and negative tones. There’s a dull cadence to their rhythm, and they’re indifferent to opinion. Only admirers will be welcomed into this church.
Then there’s the yearly pilgrimage where the square hats pay homage to the institution and give nod to the products of their labor. Luminaries don their Saturnian robes and mortar board caps and commence “the word” to their flock of followers in the mass baptism that they call “graduation.” A sight to behold indeed.
And as far as those rebels go – most simply fall off the radar. But then there are the others:
Richard Branson, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Frank Lloyd Wright, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Mark Zuckerberg, Abraham Lincoln, Steve Wozniak, Henry Ford…
How often have we heard of highly successful business leaders and thinkers, celebrated inventors and writers, brilliant musicians and directors, who never completed college and sometimes not even a high school education? These individuals never got their “papers” that “certified” them as proficient in a given trade or profession. It should give one pause to ponder – what did they see that the 4.0 student did not?
I alluded earlier to a “report card” and so here’s a brief breakdown:
So far as the teaching establishment functioning as a “mind-control institution,” they clearly earn straight A’s. Kudos go to their brilliantly designed “left-brain entrainment” system and conditioning procedure. In fact, it’s so well designed that it’s almost as if some malevolent, other-worldly entity of extraordinary intelligence was involved in its creation. But I’ve digressed.
In all other aspects the institution gets D’s and F’s. I do not sense that formal education is malleable enough, humble enough and benevolent enough to provide an adequate fit for all children. Sorry – but one size does not fit all. Not even close.
I have spoken in sweeping terms and have characterized, generalized and even trivialized this topic. For that I ask forgiveness. And to any professors that I might have offended, please note that was not my intention. This is simply my interpretation of the educational process and how we have all been ensnared in the same copious nets that define its outer boundaries.
It’s not that I’m fundamentally opposed to the concept of higher education, as I have enjoyed, embraced and have personally benefited from the experience to some extent. As such, I deeply appreciate the efforts of supporting staff and faculty who assist the student in the re-learning (or re-remembering) process (as some of you know, I take the position that we already know everything but have forgotten how to remember), and the many humble professors who understand the limitations of higher learning. But I’m also well aware that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the institutional aspect of this system.
Within the ivy walls of the institution of academic religious authority, all too often “right brain” individuals get thrown under the proverbial bus whereas the “left brain,” or the more obedient candidate, is rewarded. The division of the hemispheres serves somewhat as a microcosm representative of the “dualism” that’s prevalent all around us. I urge all Humans to remember the importance of establishing proper balance, the Yin and Yang, within the mind.
You have been programmed “institutionally” to favor your left side. This side represents obedience, or “doing what you are told regardless of what is right,” whereas the right side represents morality or “doing what is right regardless of what you are told.”
Somewhere in the balance, there is truth.
-Until Next Time.
About the Author
There is a certain obscurity that follows Julian Wash. After all, any writer that starts off with “Dear Humans” might be a little hard to nail down. We sense he’s benevolent, a little crazy and we think rather enjoyable to read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
**This article was originally published at The Rattle Report.**
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