Leads To: Knowledge Monopolies: The University
I got pretty good grades in school. Homework was easier for me than for most kids. Yet as an adult it’s easy to look back and realize that none of that was important. Once one gets into college it doesn’t matter. Once one decides not to go to college it doesn’t matter. We were told grades were important by all the authority figures, but it was a lie just to try keep us all in line for another day and to justify the system in which every one of us was trapped.
I look back on twelve years of schooling and can’t think of much beyond basic literacy that was truly important in the long run. Even with literacy, my first reading lessons took place at home, not in school. Classes at school did teach me useful things. A lot of the classwork that was boring for other kids was pure fun for me. Yet did it really need to consume 12 years of my life? By the time we’re 18, the better part of our youth is irremediably spent on years of school. Yes, humans have higher life expectancies now but the fact is we start our slide into aging soon after we hit biological adulthood. With schooling, we get barely a decade to be active in the world at our peak. People in past generations generally had begun adult-level activities by their early teens or even younger. Now a college graduate at age 21 is only beginning to be functional in the adult world. Is our increased life expectancy nearly as great when we have nearly a decade less in which to do things?
What is it all for? One obvious purpose is the simple containment of youth who would otherwise be roaming around the streets all day. With child labor laws, there’s nothing better to do than lock them up. The result is a strange combination of minimum security prison and daycare. It just doesn’t make much sense to the Subtle understanding. To really ‘get’ the spirit of school it is most illuminating to examine the extroverted view and justification.
Every well-adjusted person I’ve talked to gives me the same message when I dare criticize compulsory education and public schooling. “But it’s for socialization!” Having tipped my ideological hand more than was wise, I end up with an earful of reminiscences about fun extra-curricular activities. This always confounds me. Whatever happened to the 7 hours a day sitting at a desk doing nothing? That wasn’t fun! It wasn’t particularly social either.
When I express desire for there to be some alternative from regular schooling, I get a blank stare for a second or two followed by “Your kid wouldn’t be able to develop properly. He/she would be lonely and cut off.” Every time I hear this ubiquitous answer, I pause for a few seconds before finding a way to just change the subject.
As an introvert in the system, I felt lonely and cut off. I didn’t fit into the school society at all. I was non-socialized in school. I can pass as mostly normal now, but when I first graduated high school, I still had the social skills of a small child. I’ve spent the last several years learning everything from scratch and I’m finally feeling as though I’m somewhat caught up. I’ve been through several halfway houses, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m establishing a life for the first time after a long prison sentence. I spent a good portion of that time, especially the later years in something akin to solitary confinement.
It took me a long time to figure out why extroverts assign such importance to collective schooling. Every well-adjusted person seems to understand the reasons on some intuitive level but lack the ability to analyze their beliefs and articulate them. I will do my best to translate the idea of ‘Socialization’ into Subtle-ese.
I gather that extroverts value schooling primarily for its ability to imbue millions of children with a common formative experience so that they may smoothly interrelate as adults.
This ability to relate to others is like being able to speak the same language. It is one of the most critical things we’re supposed to learn. It’s the base of belonging we need to be able to establish romantic relationships and find careers. In Subtle terms, I suppose we could consider compulsory schools as a massive network of commonality factories. In the Surface world, these factories are not idle or pointless, they are busily producing vitally important social commodities.
I think the idea of social adjustment helps explain why nerds are portrayed in popular culture as morally stunted, silly, contemptible, short-sighted, petty people who have missed everything that is really important in life. The nerds were focusing on all the wrong things in school and they serve as symbols of everything one should not become. They are representative of defective units that were never properly calibrated despite the best efforts of the factory workers. In the movies, nerds are rather unsympathetic characters because they usually rudely reject the efforts of well-adjusted people to save them. The overall thesis: social adjustment is open to everyone, but there will always be a few who insist on being self-destructive.
The truth that they never realize is that most people don’t ask for a clash with the system. Some people are going to have the wrong configuration as they roll down the assembly line. The standardized parts that seem to fit with most other people just don’t apply. The true introvert frame reaches the end of the assembly line not only bare of all the necessary components, but dented and bent from going through a long series of incompatible processes.
When I tell a regular person that “School was awful.” I am often met with agreement. If the conversation goes on, it becomes clear that most of the perceived awfulness for the Surface person stemmed from completely different problems. They don’t complain about homework or classes usually. They talk about all their human relationships and ultimately how it was a time for social learning and tough lessons in human interaction. From the way they talk about it, it doesn’t sound like it was awful at all. Most of the time it seems they were having fun, but it got bad for awhile whenever some conflict arose. When I realized that this is their definition of ‘awful’ it was clear there could be no bridging the gap. In moments like that, it becomes clear we don’t even speak mutually intelligible languages and that we’ve lived our lives in separate universes. I have difficulty explaining my experience precisely because I was never properly adjusted.