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April 27, 2003

Master Satirist?

Reading Philip Greenspun's blog is like reading "Alice In Wonderland" —you never know what's real and what isn't. I mentioned Greenspun a while back when he made the claim that public schools should not teach critical thinking. Of course, if you check out his biography, it becomes pretty clear that he was being facetious; he just does it so well that you constantly have to ask yourself, "Is he kidding?"

Greenspun followed that little piece a few days later with this polemic which argues that schools should be in session for 50 weeks each year, 12 hours each day, to allow students to get a B.A. in 2 or 2.5 years so they can get out into the working world. Hmm... The comments on this post are all over the place, but I think this one nailed Greenspun's intent:

What I think you're obliquely poking at with your mention of cubicle farms is that higher education (indeed, all of what passes for "education" in this country) is nothing more than boot camp for drones in the ranks of corporate feudalism. The mesne lords insist on that funny piece of pseudo-parchment not because of what a potential drone has learned during his or her sentence at the university, but because it's proof of qualification. What the paper means-- especially when combined with excellent grades-- is that the graduate has a proven ability to devote the requisite hours to grinding out arbitrary and capricious assignments of often dubious relevance as ordered by Authority Figures. That's exactly what's expected of corporate drones. So putting drones-in-training in cubicles for 12 hours a day, interrupted only by class meetings, is the ideal training for the drone-hood to which all students aspire.

Does this describe your experience with formal education? This attitude—that education must lead to drone-hood—has been the bane of my educational life as long as I can remember. Now I'm going to law school, which may take the exercise of "grinding out arbitrary and capricious assignments of often dubious relevance as orderd by Authority Figrues" to all new extremes. Again I wonder: Am I insane?

p.s.: Greenspun has since posted "Teaching them to become lawyers," which paints a far different picture of lawyers than I've been getting from lawyers themselves. In a story about the history of broadcast radio, Greenspun says:

The only people in the drama who made millions without taking tremendous risks, working very hard, and occasionally going bankrupt, were ... the lawyers in the patent and regulatory disputes.

I wonder if the lawyers involved would tell a different story.

Posted April 27, 2003 11:54 AM | general politics

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