Monday, June 13, 2005

Learning vs. Schooling

That's not precisely the dichotomy, but the comments to the post below about pastry school were really interesting--and covered a surprisingly wide array of responses. Some people (e.g., Ann and kStyle) think that it's perfectly fine to keep educating oneself, even in subjects that don't appear to be "practical," i.e., of immediate or, especially, economic use. Others like That Girl) point to the real cost--in time as well as in money--of doing that, and that's not a trivial point for anyone whose resources are limited in any way. (I look at my pastry chef schooling and figure that, while not cheap, it's not exorbitantly expensive, either, in time or money, and that it may open a wide variety of options, not just the go-work-in-a-restaurant option, given my other experience.) A third point, made most notably by portia, is that there's a distinction to be made between going to school of some kind and actually being able to make a living with the knowledge that one is then certified as having or doing the actual work suggested by the schooling. ThatGirl also points out that she hated school, and I thank her for the reminder that that's true for a lot of people--I always liked school, and I've pretty much always been good at it (even if I've sucked at this subject or that), so it's easy to forget that not everyone feels that way. Ann wonders, as do I, why people hate school, and I also wonder what we can do about that.

Because here's the thing: I think that most people do enjoy learning new stuff and putting it into practice, even as I think most of the economy (and most of politics, for that matter) is geared toward getting people to know as little as possible. I'm (finally) reading the McCullough biography of John Adams (I have a secret crush on Adams), and what's always so striking to me is how much those guys knew. I was also browsing through Sheri Tepper's "The Gate to Women's Country," which is one of the best books ever, and I was struck how the society required that everyone practice an art, a craft, and a science--too much knowledge had been lost by the "convulsions," so everyone was expected to learn and teach and practice their knowledges throughout their lives. Which, really, isn't quite the same as the notion that one goes to college, gets a degree in somesuchthing, then goes off and finds a job more or less related to that thing, and meanwhile has only a passing acquaintance, if that, with subjects outside their vocationally focused majors. Then again, I was a philosophy major, so go figure.

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