Whoa! Paradigm Shift
Long ago I saw a cartoon showing a bug-eyed, long necked chick standing beside a large eggshell and the chick shouting “Whoa! Paradigm Shift”.
Our high schools and colleges have prepared young people to become good producers and consumers. The college graduate has a large specialized database that allows that individual to quickly enter the corporate world as a useful cog in the machine. The results display themselves in our thriving high standard of living, high technology corporate driven life styles.
We are excellent at instrumental rationality and deficient at developing the rationality and understanding required for avoiding self-destruction. It seems to me that our societies are not prepared intellectually for the demanding task ahead. The only solution seems to be a change that will significantly increase the intellectual sophistication of the society as a whole. We need a rising tide of intellectual sophistication.
I propose a paradigm shift in our attitude toward education. We must start thinking of the graduation from high school or college as the end of schooling but the beginning of self-actualizing learning.
I would like to introduce a concept that perhaps many have not given consideration. I would like to introduce post-schooling scholarship. I do not use the word ‘scholarship’ to mean some form of education stipend. I mean ‘scholarship’ as tailor-made learning. The individual creates her or his own learning in a process of developing a Self-Actualizing person based upon individual intellectual interests.
I think we have placed scholarship on a too lofty pedestal and in doing so we have placed it beyond reach or consideration. I want to suggest that middle class scholarship is something that we all should consider as a friend to be embraced as our own.
It appears to me that we give this description, scholar, to the young student in an aristocratic English Academy and to the pipe smoking, dressed in tweeds, English professor or American equivalent.
The development of an economic middle class is the hallmark of success in any mature nation. I think it is possible that the development of a scholarly middle class could represent a similar development in the life of democracy of a nation. We might express the concept as middle class scholarship or post-schooling scholarship.
I think that schooling in America has been given the assignment to prepare our young people to enter the work place. Our schools and colleges are required by society to prepare young people as efficiently as possibly to become troopers in the drive to maximize production and consumption. This assignment gives our teachers and professors little time to prepare individuals to become critical thinking mature intellects prepared to understand a rapidly developing reality driven by the technology these graduates are capable of producing.
I label myself as a September Scholar because I began the process at mid-life and because my quest is disinterested knowledge. While I mark the beginning of my process to be mid-life I had begun immediately after graduation to feel the need to develop a ‘real’ understanding of the world around me. I think of myself as a middle class or post-schooling scholar.
Disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic value. Disinterested knowledge is not a means but an end. It is knowledge I seek because I desire to know it. I mean the term ‘disinterested knowledge’ as similar to ‘pure research’, as compared to ‘applied research’. Pure research seeks to know truth unconnected to any specific application.
I think of the self-actualized learner of disinterested knowledge as driven by curiosity and imagination to understand. The September Scholar seeks to ‘see’ and then to ‘grasp’ through intellection directed at understanding the self as well as the world. The knowledge and understanding that is sought by the middle class scholar are determined only by personal motivations. It is noteworthy that disinterested knowledge is knowledge I am driven to acquire because it is of dominating interest to me. Because I have such an interest in this disinterested knowledge my adrenaline level rises in anticipation of my voyage of discovery.
I suspect that the source of many of the problems we find in our society result from the fact that our educational system is designed to teach us what to think and not how to think. If our middle class citizens are to learn how to think they must learn that on their own time.
I think that when Socrates extolled his listeners that the “unexamined life is not worth living” he was telling us that self-actualized learning is a necessary condition for an enlightened understanding of reality. Schooling may make us employable; it will seldom make us an enlightened citizen.
Post-schooling scholarship is a meme that I think we would all profit from if it becomes an intellectual virus infecting our total population.