Thursday, November 10, 2011

This is Not a Blog Post

Obama's latest in a series of panders is to those with worthless college degrees who are up to their ears in student loan debt

My post on the most worthless college degrees sparked some great back and forth on the relative merits and demerits of different degrees. As always, the conversation was lively.

My bottom line is that I don’t care what degree you get so long as you're not reaching into my pocket to pay for it.  Major in dwarf tossing or gerbil ranching for all I care, but do it on your own dime, and don’t take to the streets screaming in outrage when you can't find a job.

I am against the federal government handing out money to college students

All it ends up doing is inflating the cost of higher education many times greater than the overall rate of inflation. If government must hand out money, it should only subsidize that which we need more of and that which will benefit the nation. As it stands, we do not produce enough STEM graduates (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or medical doctors, so if we must hand out money for college, that is where it should go.

Countries that provide free or highly subsidized college are spilling over with pseudo-intellectual mental manipulators and professional troublemakers with advanced degrees.

Indeed, places like Italy and Paraguay enjoy a surfeit of tour guides and bartenders with PhDs who can quote great passages of Foucault and explain how Middle Ages scholasticism smuggled its way through The Renaissance to reemerge as the modern-day republican party shorn of all knowledge and possessing only the narrow-minded hatred of all that is non-white or female.

In those countries, ordinary people pay no attention to such fanciful pedantry, since it sprouts like weeds and serves no practical purpose to a society that cannot afford frivolities.  The incoherent and impenetrable psychobabble of these self-styled thinkers never makes it out of the corner wine shops, shabby union halls and dilapidated communist party storefronts.  It does, however make for lively intellectual conversation among the unemployed.

Extra-Spicy Political Thought

I’ve been there, I’ve seen it. I was in Quito, hanging out with a very leftwing crowd I'd gotten chummy with, great people. I did music sets every weekend at a little artsy combination folk museum, coffee shop, restaurant and bar overlooking the Cumbaya Valley.

I showed up one afternoon after work and it was an anthill of excited activity, with people smoking even more than usual. Rigoberta Menchu was coming! Yes, the discredited lying Nobel Prize winner, and she had at that time already been discredited, but not among the highly educated Latin American left! I wisely shut my mouth and went out drinking with an Army buddy.

Having a degree doesn't make you smart

Government subsidy of non-productive, easy-to-get degrees just produces entitled people who confuse having a degree with being smart. It encourages, resentment, sneering condescension, sloth and social agitation.

Conservative American scientist Razib Khan makes a compelling case for how liberalism has skewed the social sciences, and his anecdotes about the ignorance he encountered among the supposedly well-educated reminded me of a few of my own.

A year of so after the Iran Contra scandal, I thought I'd impress a pretty young Social Sciences major I met at a New Years Eve party by telling her I'd just gotten back from a tour in Central America.  She completely deflated me by responding, "Oh?  Oklahoma?"  That was almost as bad as the Political Science undergrad I engaged in conversation with on an airline flight who said she enjoyed reading Political Science books.  "Locke, Marx perhaps?"  No.  John Grisham.  

This is the equivalent of an Electrical Engineering major telling you he's recreating Frankenstein's science experiments using electricity to revive the dead.  People are entitled to their ignorance, but not on my dime.

So what is the meaning of your life? That should drive your degree choice. I was not smart enough to be a doctor, and I don’t possess the skill and daring of an entrepreneur.  My conscious choice put me on a path to wage slavery, and I will never be a millionaire, but I am happy.

Please see also:  Jack Camwell's blog post response

61 comments:

Ducky's here said...

Worthless? And that determination will be made because the degree does not lead to the immediate production of consumer goods and the requisite earning for their consumption. The von Mise model.
A pathetic view of life. Absolutely repugnant.

I started studying art history with the Chauvet cave paintings. They are considered the first markers of our species becoming human. Now just how did that come about? You come into contact with archeology, physiology, philosophy, history and more. But I'm sure this is a "useless" pursuit.
You explain it with Genesis and that's the end of it, right?

Read a little Rand and von Mise and that's all you need to augment the Old Testament (the Gospels get a little complicated), right?

Always On Watch said...

Duck,
What are you quacking about Genesis and Rand in your comment to this post about problems with our education system?

Always On Watch said...

All college education should not lead to the immediate production of consumer goods (Duck's terminology).

But if one contracts a huge student loan, he sure as hell had better have a plan as to how to off that loan. Some majors are more marketable than others -- fact.

Always On Watch said...

For every college major, there are usually several ridiculous and irrelevant courses to take. For example, to certify in teaching high school Spanish, I had to take a full year of American History as well as one semester of tennis and one semester of golf. Waste of time on all counts -- even though I very much enjoyed taking American History. BTW, Latin American History was not a required course for a Spanish major, but should have been.

Who makes the decisions about these requirements, anyway?

Ducky's here said...

Because, AOW, Silverfiddle starts this off with a statement about "worthless degrees". I am following the implications of what he feels is "worthwhile".

Ducky's here said...

As it stands, we do not produce enough STEM graduates (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or medical doctors

-----------------

Not exactly. We produce quite a few mathematicians. Where do they go to work? Wall St. - designing derivatives. Brilliant stuff and they make a bundle and we get a financial system that is a series of bets upon bets.

Doctors? We have a system which develops highly paid specialists and leads to a shortage of general practitioners.

The marvels of your precious free market, right?

Silverfiddle said...

Doctors? We have a system which develops highly paid specialists and leads to a shortage of general practitioners.

The marvels of your precious free market, right?


No. The marvels of the state enforcing a cartel's licensing practices that are designed to create false scarcity.

As I said Ducky (and you ignored), no degree is worthless to the person who possesses it, if that is what the person wants to do. There are many rewards in life, only one of which is money. If you go in hock for 100 grand pursuing a degree that does not pay well, don't bitch and ask the rest of us to pay for it.

This illustrates the very fallacy of having the government pick and choose. Get the degree you want, but pay for it yourself and don't ask the government to get involved.

Silverfiddle said...

@ Ducky: We produce quite a few mathematicians. Where do they go to work? Wall St. - designing derivatives. Brilliant stuff and they make a bundle and we get a financial system that is a series of bets upon bets.

And if the federal government did not incentivize such behavior with billions and trillions in backstop money, there would not be a market for them in the finance industry and they would take their considerable skills to more productive pursuits.

Thank you for pointing out how government interventions, subsidies and bailouts distorts the markets and channels human activity into otherwise unproductive pursuits, robbing us all by dragging down productivity.

conservativesonfire said...

Decisions and Consequences. People should do what ever they want in life as long as they are prepared to accept the consequences of their decisions. Unfortunately, many decisions are made without any thought given to the possible consequences. I had to pay for all the consequences of decisions I took in life and I expect others to do the same. But, government liberals want me to pay for the consequences of other peoples bad decisions because they some how see that as fair. Go figure!

Jack Camwell said...

I had a lot to say about this, Silver, so I made a post about it on my blog rather than clutter up your comment section.

http://christianfearinggodman.blogspot.com/2011/11/college-degree-is-only-worth-as-much-as.html

Z said...

I greatly respect the German model of having kids tested for whether they're college material or have aptitude for good trades.
They can't just hang a license up and become a car mechanic, it takes schooling then years of interning and then they can pass tests by which to get accredited. Nothing shameful about that. We've made it almost shameful for people not to attend college and have grossly under supported non-college training in our country. That should stop.

(yes you are smart enough to be a doctor, the testing was bad :-)

For anyone to deny that some majors don't "pay" in every sense of the word is so unthinking it's almost not worth a comment.

Proof said...

Okay then, this is not a comment.

(Nice graphic BTW! I believe the Dissident Frogman sported a similar one.)

Silverfiddle said...

Z: Excellent points! People make good money in the skilled trades (plumbing and HVAC being two I can think of off hand). Auto mechanics certified in certain areas or brands also bring in nice paychecks, and they are interesting and rewarding jobs for people who like to work with their hands as well as their brains.

Proof: Another Dissident Frogman fan (as well as a Guild owner, a double bonus)! Yes, I stole it from his "Give Che a Micky" campaign.

bunkerville said...

It was in college that I learned what being an adult and being responsible as well meant. I learned to appreciate History, religion, philosphy, other cultures of folks who attended college with me. For that I am grateful and believe my life richer for it. So, I didn't chose one of those high paying jobs, and I now work for the man. It was worth every penny.

Ducky's here said...

Couple things, Siverfiddle.

Few students go 100,000 in hock. It's more like 20-25,000 and that's consistent with what a lot of folks run up on credit cards or get themselves under water on their mortgage. A large portion of the population gets played and keeps shoveling the vigorish to the 1%.

But why do you call them the 10 most "worthless" degrees? I don't know if you have the same kind of disdain as Fredd the Cowardly Censor who has carried this meme to a nastier degree on his blog.

I don't know where your heart of hearts really stands here.

I'm thinking of that graduate student who witnessed one of the anal rapes at Penn. State and called daddy to ask what to do. My guess is he was in a "useful lucrative" discipline where money trumps character just as it is doing throughout the culture.

Take a look at Penn State. That's where we're going and the students who are outraged that the crap pile Paterno was canned are a more disturbing symptom than an OWS student who realizes we can't provide employment.
But the right has always been skittish about the "dirty hippies", no?

Silverfiddle said...

I have no idea what Penn State has to do with this, but I share your horror at what went on there.

Ya know, Ducky, you claim to be smart and literate and all artsy fartsy, so your little acts of feigned ignorance are transparent. I didn't call them the 10 most worthless degrees, the article I linked to did.

You should also be smart enough to detect that that was not the main subject of the article; the outrageous cost of college was.

Bastiatarian said...

>A large portion of the population gets played

Their choices. Their consequences.

98ZJUSMC said...

Having a degree doesn't make you smart

Proven time and time again. Sadly, more often than not.

Sure, I could be incredibly snarky, but I won't. Too easy.

98ZJUSMC said...

I started studying art history with the Chauvet cave paintings. They are considered the first markers of our species becoming human. Now just how did that come about? You come into contact with archeology, physiology, philosophy, history and more. But I'm sure this is a "useless" pursuit.

Had all that in Jr. High and High School along with two years of Architectural and Mechanical Drafting. Didn't cost me a dime.

98ZJUSMC said...

I'm thinking of that graduate student who witnessed one of the anal rapes at Penn. State and called daddy to ask what to do.

I take it your other occupation is "fly on the wall" or perhaps, Psychic Friend?

My guess is he was in a "useful lucrative" discipline where money trumps character just as it is doing throughout the culture

Heh....sure he was.

He was a graduate assistant working at the University, for the Athletic Department. He is now an assistant coach. I missed the part about his stint on Wall Street.

Paragon of culture and ethical behavior?

Heh.....for someone who holds religion in such disdain, you sure do love to slap leather with the holier-than-thou card.

Z said...

Gad, Ducky, and I went through school and learned nothing about the Chauvet cave paintings. Makes me wonder if life's worth living.
Good thing I had no college debts, but maybe I should ask for refund?

Anonymous said...

My bottom line is that I don’t care what degree you get so long as you're not reaching into my pocket to pay for it.  

That’s the crux of the matter. There’s no guaranteed “right” for everybody to get a college education -- nor is there a need.

I do think the intellectually gifted poor should be encouraged and aided to develop their potential to the fullest, but those too poor to pay on theor own should be subjected to a rigorous, color-blind, sex-blind, winnowing out process based solely on their potential to achieve worthwhile goals.

Who is to determine what's considered "worthwhile?"

The people who are in a position to hand out the money, of course, who else?

~ FreeThinke

PS: That's the best non-post I think I've ever read. ;-) - FT

98ZJUSMC said...

The cost of a college education is way beyond ridiculous. Equating the worth of that education to the value in holds, is the same as looking at that Concours-restored, number-matching 69 BOSS 429. Would I would love to have it? You bet. Is it worth it to me at $150-$250,00? No.

You would have to be insane to drive it to work.

I think parents need to take a step back and look at the realities of just what are the prospects for John and Jane.

Pushing them off to college does them no favors when the incidence of failure can be very high; resulting in a disgruntled, unemployed and unemployable child returning to #OCCUPYMOMSBASEMENT, for the next five or years years.

Unless they showed an unusual apptitude in the hard sciences, I would push a trade school or at the very least, attend a community college and test the waters. There are many excellent ones.

The military? Your choice, son or daughter. Here are the rules and here are the realities. Death or dismemberment is an option. You will learn adn see things you will never see in civilian life. It is an education that no university can provide.


...and yes, SF you are exactly right. Government, once again, has distorted the economics of college affordablity.

98ZJUSMC said...

...and yes, SF you are exactly right. Government, once again, has distorted the economics of college affordablity.

That should more concisely read:

the economics of product affordability.

Apologies.

Anonymous said...

Ducky, I'm in complete sympathy with your point of view on the value of the Arts and what they could mean to society if understood and appreciated with true knowledge and depth.

We probably disagree, however, on what constitutes "art." Your scope is a little too broad for my tastes, which are broad enough to span the accomplishments of millennia already, but we concur on more than you may realize. You may be a liberal, but one thing you're not is a Philistine.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

I am against the federal government handing out money to college students

All it ends up doing is inflating the cost of higher education many times greater than the overall rate of inflation.


Yes, and exactly the same thing should be said about the cost of medical care. The parallel is close to exact.

Whenever the government gets involved in finances of any kind shameless extravagance and wild inefficiency accompany the involvement. That the recipients of government "largesse" often receive a pathetically inadequate stipend only means too much of the money extracted by main force from taxpayers gets lost as it sluices through the gigantic wasteful, grasping, over-compensated bureaucracy.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

I was in Quito, hanging out with a very leftwing crowd I'd gotten chummy with, great people. I did music sets every weekend at a little artsy combination folk museum, coffee shop, restaurant and bar overlooking the Cumbaya Valley.

Cumbaya! No kidding? Incredibly close to the famous African buzzword that starts with K, isn’t it?

Mere coincidence do you suppose, or is there a link?

~ FreeThinke

Leticia said...

I have a friend who got a degree in art, and I absolutely love her and her work, she is very talented, but there aren't many people hiring artists.

It's all about perspective and guiding these young kids into finding suitable majors. They are not thinking about their future, but the now, and that has got to stop. Parents need to make a stand, or make the kids work their way through college.

I would never encourage my boys to take frivolous courses that will do nothing to secure their future. If they want to take music, art, philosophy, fine, but those would only be extra curricular, nothing more.

Silverfiddle said...

FT: No kidding. El Camino de los Conquistadores, a 500 year old cobblestone road winds its way down into the Valley from Quito.

Francisco Orellana went down that road and through the valley on his way to discovering the source of the Amazon river, which got its name from Spanish literature of the time featuring tall, dark female warriors that borrowed the term from the earlier Greek.

He engaged in fierce battles with Amazon warriors, included reportedly all-female brigades. One of them took one of his eyes out with a spear, hence his nickname, El Tuerto.

Quito's Cumbaya is most likely a Quechua word, not to be confused with the British-invented Kumbaya. According to a friend of mine from Zaire (nowadays Congo), Kumbaya is not a native word in Swahili or other minor languages found in the region from which the song sprung. He said it was a bastardization invented by the British missionaries who wrote the song.

Anonymous said...

SilverFiddle,

The John Grisham anecdote is unbelievable.

Are you sure you're not just pulling our leg?

Doesn't matter. It's funny as hell -- and as scary.

~ FreeThinke

liberaldude said...

Only the uneducated would be stupid enough to slam those with education. Yeah, let's allow this country to sink even in it's standing among the educated countries in the world. Who needs teachers and scientist and engineers? They just get smart, wise up and vote for Dems, lol!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the historical background SF, none of which I knew. Fascinating!

I guess you learned that "on the job" when stationed there?

Always assumed "Kumbaya" was African. It sure sounds that way. Knowing the British I'm surprised they didn't call it "A Exercise in Inter-Cultural Amicability" or something of the kind.

Maybe this pseudo-African neologism is an example of the "new" British attitude of "inclusion?" Of course the reformed policies of "inclusion" in what-is-now-regrettably-called "The UK" are causing the exclusion soon-to-be-followed-by the eclipse of everything that once comprised the essence and substance of British Identity.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Maybe it's just as well? Insularity may be perfectly natural, but a genuine gravitation towards greater understanding and acceptance of the good qualities found in alien elements would be best no doubt.

The trouble is as a species we seem less and less able to discern what's good and what's bad. That's carrying "egalitarianism" much too far.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

The incoherent and impenetrable psychobabble of these self-styled thinkers never makes it out of the corner wine shops, shabby union halls and dilapidated communist party storefronts.  It does, however make for lively intellectual conversation among the unemployed.

Sounds highly reminiscent of what-one-is-apt-to-find in Irish pubs where chronic intellectual, alcoholic ax-grinders sit glum or irate eager to affix blame to anything and everything but themselves for their failure to amount to anything. I imagine it’s the same in most countries among the malcontents.

~ FreeThinke

Finntann said...

Here's an interesting article on the subject.

"The system must change before students are made poorer, society grows less equal, the bright are left ignorant and "college" comes to mean a four-year pajama party intruded upon by the occasional group discussion on gender studies."

http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/CollegeAndFamily/CutCollegeCosts/is-a-college-degree-worthless.aspx?page=1

Bastiatarian said...

>Only the uneducated would be stupid enough to slam those with education.

Only the hopelessly ignorant, naive, and gullible would be stupid enough to believe that enrolling in college, not getting kicked out for four years...or so...then being handed a diploma means that a person has actually been educated. Unfortunately, intellectual improvement, scholarly achievement, and demonstration of mastery of a subject are not always required for a degree (undergraduate or graduate) these days.

Ducky's here said...

So G.I. Joe were the painters just marking territory or had a genetic drift occurred. Curious where you stand.

Anonymous said...

Sitting in a classroom doesn't make you an educed person any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.

Hardly original, but apt all the same.

~ FreeThinke

Ducky's here said...

Ya know, Ducky, you claim to be smart and literate and all artsy fartsy, so your little acts of feigned ignorance are transparent. I didn't call them the 10 most worthless degrees, the article I linked to did.

-------------
Wrong. Your link descriptor mentions the ten worthless degrees but it points to an article which makes no such reference.
It does refer to someone who takes a low paying social work job and may have her yearly payments capped.
o what, doesn't cost you squat.

Also why wouldn't the points of the article refer to all degrees rather than just the "10 most worthless" that you mention in your link header.

Start backpeddling again.

Ducky's here said...

Hey Freethinker, I have a fine arts degree and I'm worth more than three million dollars.

I own art that is worth multiples of your car.

Go fuck yourself.

Bastiatarian said...

>I'm worth more than three million dollars.

Monopoly money doesn't count, sport.

>I own art that is worth multiples of your car.

And I painted the Mona Lisa. Mona and I dated, in fact.

As for your final comment, you've revealed your true identity as a middle-schooler. Congratulations.

Anonymous said...

Well, Ducky, while I agree with you about the significance of the cave paintings, I think you'd have to admit the artists performed their miracles without the benefit of a college education.

Artistic expression came first, schooling came later.

It's very mucht like the rules of part-writing. Bach didn't compose by following rules. The rules were derived later on from consistent patterns analysts spotted in his work.

An oversimplification, of course, but true enough in principle.

Mozart was "taught" by his father Leopold, but not really. The works of the father are dull and lifeless. Once little Wolfgang learned his ABC's he was off and running -- independent of any further tutelage.

~ FreeThinke

PS: Ducky! Tut tut! I never mentioned a car. Be careful whom you address when waxing pugnacious. And here I've been so pleasant to you lately. Shame in you! I'm glad you have a good deal of money. I have a fair amount, myself. I only wish everyone did. And I wish that your good fortune made you a happier person. ~ FT

Anonymous said...

By the way, Michael savage accused the Republican party of "taking a dive" because of their dismal, depressingly trivial performance in the debates. Savage predicted that Obama would be reelected.

He said we're living under a sham two party system, that everything is rigged behind the scenes.

How could he be wrong considering the way things keep going?

Obama WILL be reelected. It has been fore-ordained. Mark my words.

~ FreeThinke

Silverfiddle said...

Hey Freethinker, I have a fine arts degree and I'm worth more than three million dollars.

I own art that is worth multiples of your car.

Go fuck yourself.


There's the true 1%!

FreeThinke put me on to your game awhile back. You sidestep legitimate points and comments that you are incapable of answering and instead focus on the trivial. So why didn't you challenge my free market comments? Out of propaganda?

C'mon Three Million Dollar Man, you've gotta be smarter than a workaday country hick who clings to his bible and his guns! (which are not lockered three states over, but locked and loaded right here so that my 3rd grader can grab it and shoot an intruder if need be)

Finntann said...

I tend to side with Jack's basic tenet that " a college degree is only worth as much as the person who has it. "

That said, I think we are arguing over intrinsic vs market value.

All degrees have some intrinsic value (or worth if you prefer), yet not all have marketable value.

A MSW is a fine degree, however the market value of an MSW is reduced by the large number of graduates from that program across many schools.

I have a friend, intelligent, well educated, with an MSW, an MS in child and adolescent development, and an MSc from Oxford in Evidence Based Social Intervention (EBSI).

My friend currently works in supply chain management. Why? Because he is not competative in his fields job market and private practice is out of the question due to the exhorbitant costs of malpractice insurance.

I think everyone would agree that we need, say, anthropologists. The question then becomes not only how many anthropologists do we need, but how many new anthropologists?

At a certain point and for any degree, regardless of the worth to the individual, the market will be come saturated and people with those degrees will be unable to find meaningful employment in their field.

No one will argue that we don't need physicists, but if we produce 100,000 of them some of them will undoubtedly be slinging joe at Starbucks.

My advice to my kids? You can major in whatever you want, but don't go into what all your friends and everyone else is majoring in. Find something that you like that no one else wants to do. Otherwise, when you graduate, you will be competing with all of those people for the same jobs.

Cheers!

Finntann said...

One more observation on "pseudo-intellectual mental manipulators and professional troublemakers with advanced degrees".

I have in the course of my day to day business the opportunity to meet and interact with many people with advanced degrees.

One car in the parking lot bears a bumper sticker that always makes me smile, it reads "Why as a matter of fact, yes, I am a rocket scientist".

One of my primary clients, that I have worked with since 2008 has a PhD along with several Masters in scientific fields. I knew him three years before I knew he had a Doctorate. He is one type.

With the other type the second or third word out of their mouth after you meet them is "Doctor".

In the first type their intellegence manifests itself beyond their chosen profession. They tend to be highly skilled socially, well-rounded, and highly successful.

The second type tends to be awkward, irritating, socially inept, and kept around only for one small particular skill set at which they excel.

Both types are extremely intelligent, some just lack common sense. Don't get me wrong, this is just an observation, I'm not trying to be judgemental.

I was absolutely awed by one of the second type who I was in a design review conference with. Someone asked some obscure question in a presentation on adaptive optics that even the presenter was unprepared for. Suddenly this mousy guy in the back blurts out .3 radians per second, having done all the complex math in his head in about five seconds.

Cheers!

ecc102 said...

Ducky says:

"Go fuck yourself."

*clapping* Nicely said, sir, nicely said! You really told him, huh! I'll bet FT will be more careful in how he speaks to you online, oh yeah!

LOL! Priceless. And indeed if you are "worth" 3 million dollars, the Occupoopers want to kill you. Oh, wait...no, you're a liberal woman, so you are safe. They might try to rape you, though, but no harm no foul. Even Socialists gotta get laid now and again.

Bastiatarian said...

>You really told him, huh!

It reminds me of that classic line from Ring Lardner's "The Young Immigrunts":

"Shut up he explained."

Lisa said...

SF- "Three Million Dollar Man"

Now that's Priceless,lol!!!

Anonymous said...

"The second type tends to be awkward, irritating, socially inept, and kept around only for one small particular skill set at which they excel.

Both types are extremely intelligent, some just lack common sense."


Except for the business of reminding you he had a doctorate at every available opportunity, you've given a perfect description of my one-time next-door neighbor.

He was a professor of Metallurgy at one of the Ivy League schools, and the father of four boys, incidentally. A recognized authority in his field he was otherwise completely inept -- literally didn't have enough sense to come in out of the rain, and fell all over himself before he could blurt out a garbled monosyllabic response if you big him "Good morning."

I still have the feeling he'd have preferred to go to the Scaffold rather than brave the terrifying challenges of attending a dinner party.

Perfectly decent chap. As far as I know, he never beat his wife, but he just didn't live in this world.

A leftist, of course! The boys all went through a hippie phase. One of them never came out of it and wound up in cold water flat on New York's lower east side doing God-knows-what to sustain himself.

The youngest boy could be seen walking on top of the dining room table from time to time -- during dinner.

Last i heard he was living in Paris trying to recapture the heady atmosphere of Hemingway's youth when Gertrude Stein held her famous salons.

To each his own. As far as i know no one in that family ever lived at taxpayer's expense, so I suppose we must permit them their eccentricities.

At least they kept the grass cut. I've always been one to be grateful for small mercies.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

I'd still like to know what prompted Ducky's return to Junior High?

His bizarre outburst, which several have discussed, was directed at me, but could not have related to anything I said here -- or at any other thread.

Ducky, you've acted so strangely I can't take you seriously enough to want an apology, but I'd still like to know what the hell prompted you to tell me to perform an anatomically impossible action?

Especially weird since I have extended you an olive branch on ore than one occasion recently. Perhaps that was a mistake?

~ FreeThinke

jez said...

FT: "Mozart was "taught" by his father Leopold, but not really."

He was certainly influenced by other composers, many he would have met on tour as a child prodigy. J.C. Bach for one. The idea that a genius creates in splendid isolation is just too simplistic.

Anyway, the point of education is not to create geniuses, that's too much of a long shot

Alligator said...

"At a certain point and for any degree, regardless of the worth to the individual, the market will be come saturated and people with those degrees will be unable to find meaningful employment in their field."

Nicely put Finntan. Therein lies the problem with all education. The mindset exists today that because you get a degree, you should automatically get a high-paying job in that field.

I graduated from college in 76 with no debts. Between my savings and work and what my parents kicked in, we paid as we went. Now that my kids have gone through the system, we've had to take out in loans the amount my whole education cost me. I'm just thankful that the bulk of their education costs was covered by scholarships.

I've often wondered what happened between 1976 and now that forces people get more loans (private or government) for college. The only consistent factor that I can discern is that tuition costs rose with each intervention of the federal government in the system.

Anonymous said...

Jez,

You're not making a sensible argument against my assertions. Instead, you're merely drawing inferences I never intended just so you have something to oppose.

I think that's called using a "strawman," if I understand the term rightly.

No one should argue against the obvious point that history is a cumulative series of events and developments -- the result of a never ending chain reaction.

Palladian architecture is based on Graeco-Roman motifs. So what? It was Andrea Palladio who thought to recombine them in his own distinguished fashion.

I have no idea who envisioned and brought to life the first Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns, or the first triangular pediment, however, do you?

Does it matter?

Not to me. I'm just glad someone did. That's all.

Being influenced by experience is one thing. being specifically "taught" quite another.

The principles of Geometry can be taught to any reasonably intelligent person. How those principles were first discovered and codified is another matter altogether.

At root all things come from God. A few rare individuals have been equipped with an uncanny ability to take dictation from the Almighty.

My original point remains that the value of the Academy is limited. It cannot "teach" anyone to be "creative," although one naturally hopes individuals exposed to learning will discover new ways of looking at old phenomena and draw fresh insight and inspiration from what they learn that might help advance Civilization.

Data has no significance until someone with insight draws helpful inferences from patterns they discern that might lead to logical conclusions. Conclusions, however, should always be open to further examination. After all someone may see a different pattern in the data and draw another "conclusion" that nudges us a little farther along the road that leads to Ultimate Truth -- i.e. God.

The Truth has always been available to free us from our insane misuse of the great opportunities Life affords. It is only the blindness imposed by our stubborn prejudices -- our persistent provincialism -- and our stupid passion for Conquest and Subjugation that holds us back.

If we could allow ourselves to develop sufficient curiosity, humility, and above all an eagerness to share rather than convert, the world would be a much better place.

Very few have ever realized it, but that was the message Jesus Christ came to impart. The temporal power structure men have created in His name -- we call it The Church -- has had very little to do with the Essence of His Holy Word for a very long time.

After he rose to consciousness and virtually absorbed the rudiments of his craft Mozart was not "taught" by his father, by Johann Christian Bach, by Karl Stamitz, by Haydn, or anyone else. He simply took dictation from God -- as did all who have ever brought light and vitality into earthly existence.

The truly great never make the mistake of casting themselves in the role of God. That dubious distinction belongs primarily to those unfortunate souls who would dare to take it upon themselves to dictate to us "for our own good."


~ FreeThinke

jez said...

'a "strawman," if I understand the term rightly.'

You do, except that it really does look like you're saying that creativity happens in isolation and that past geniuses would have been as useful without outside direction, which I do genuinely disagree with.

"My original point remains that the value of the Academy is limited."

Certainly.

I would however say that a classical music education bestows some useful transferable skills that can be applied to many types of music (and actually non-musical applications too), and that discipline and practice (both teachable to some degree) make a composer better able to make efficient use of inspiration when it briefly strikes. No-one is inspired all the time, the trick is to get as far as you can before that blessed state leaves you. If you can't get on with being creative without having to hunt and peck for the right notes on the keyboard, or flip through a thesaurus for the right word, that's a waste inspiration. That's why you should not only be aware of the rules but be practiced and nimble at following them. They're there to help you follow that illusive muse whenever she visits.

I'm convinced that Mozart was a diligent student of the previous masters, and I'm sure he practiced at his violin and clavier and probably had a regime not a million miles away from what the academy tries to guide its students towards.

Anonymous said...

I can't argue too much against your last post, Jez. Of course a degree of education is necessary to make optimal use of whatever talents one may possess. I never suggested, I hope, that anything worthwhile could erupt spontaneously in a vacuum, although Creation, itself, apparently did just that.

I think I told you recently that I am a graduate of one of our most prestigious conservatories and have earned two graduate degrees in the field as well.

I'm one of those poor souls who had enough talent to enter the field and achieve a high degree of mastery over the keyboard and a useful understanding of Theory and Composition. The sad part is that it was not enough to make a proper career.

In any other field it would have been, but in Music, unless one belongs by nature to the top one-tenth of one-percent, one is fated to be an also-ran. A high degree of learned competence is not enough.

I disagree, however, on the matter of facility in composition. Bach, Haydn, Mozart and many lesser lights such as Vivaldi, Telemann, Quantz, the sons of J.S. Bach and Salieri produced reams and reams of highly competent music. Most casual listeners would be unaware, however, of the significant difference in quality that sets Bach, Haydn and Mozart -- and to a certain extent Vivaldi -- apart.

Beethoven and Brahms on the other hand -- especially the latter -- took a long time, and made incessant revisions in order to produce relatively few symphonies. A lot of hemming and hawing and hunting and pecking of a sort went into it. Ultimately the finished products proved that doesn't matter.

Haydn and Mozart each produced over a hundred symphonies. Beethoven nine, Brahms only four, but few would dispute their superior quality, despite having been brought into the world with much effort. I hasten to add that I don't mean to imply that the two B's are superior to Haydn and Mozart. The process each went through in order to to produce their works was quite different that's all. None of it matters at all if the "spark of genius" is not present.

Listen to the likes of Stamitz, Spohr, Moscheles, Taussig, Henselt, Kalkbrenner or Chadwick if you don't believe me.

How by the way would you account for the emergence of a figure like Charles Ives?

~ FreeThinke

Finntann said...

The problem with music:

You may compose the most perfect, precise, innovative symphony in the history of the world in accordance with everything you learned in college about music theory. Perfect in rhythm, harmony, melody, structure, form, and texture. Truly a brilliant work of musical genius.

And there is no guarantee that anyone will ever like it.

Cheers!

Bastiatarian said...

>there is no guarantee that anyone will ever like it.

Most of the best music being created today is completely unknown to the typical music consumer. Everybody knows abominations like Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and the typical fecal matter that ends up holding a Grammy, but how many people even know the names Uli Roth, Victor Smolski, or Michael Romeo?

Unfortunately, most people seem to want music that takes no effort to appreciate: derivative, repetitive, and superficial. Not that everybody has to like the musical craziness of Spastik Ink, for example, but so many people appreciate music at the same level that a chimp appreciates it. What they come away with is about what a chimp comes away with: a rhythm for throwing poop.

Anonymous said...

Finntann,

That's the oddest post you've produced yet to my knowledge. I wonder what prompted you to write it?

Popularity, commercial success and the kind of critical recognition that wins prizes, while "nice," if one receives them, are rarely the goal of serious people, -- artists, writers, scientists, inventors, et al. Some of the great composers achieved a good deal of wealth and acclaim, but most did not. Shakespeare made enough to sustain himself and provide for his distant family, but I doubt if anyone would ever describe him as "rich," in the usual sense.

Many people think those singular individuals who are seriously interested in pursuits other than providing well for their families and accumulating wordly goods are "crazy." Perhaps they are but it's a Divine Madness if so, and the world would be much the poorer and drearier without the achievements of those who are driven only by a passion for great Beauty, supreme Excellence, and the hope of making Discoveries that bring light and joy into the world.

Oscar Wilde is reported to have said, "Whatever is popular is wrong."

Considering the degraded state of the popular culture -- the virtual worship of gaudy, tarted up waste matter -- I can't help but agree with Oscar.

I did not achieve the lofty goals I set for myself in the field of serious music. I wound up making my money by restoring dilapidated houses for profit -- something for which I ironically have an apparent knack, but no formal training.

Despite having had a difficult time making ends meet most of my adult life, I wouldn't exchange the wonderful education I had for being the overpaid CEO of a company tediously involved in the production of workaday widgets. The kind of understanding and appreciation my education gave to me is capable of sustaining lifting your spirits and making life fascinating even in a dungeon.

As angry as I get at the Reign of Incredible Stupidity, Bad Taste and Profligate Waste to which we are routinely subjected, I could never sour on life. I'm never bored, never lonely, and blest to feel reasonably content. It's a great gift to be able to know when you're well off.

I wish everyone could experience life as abundantly as I have. I envy no one and would wish everyone the same sense of well being

It may be an unpopular view, but I define "success" as being pleased to perform the role you've chosen for yourself no matter what others may think.

If that sounds smug, I apologize. It's meant to be honest not conceited.

"The greatest people are rarely famous; the famous rarely great."

I would dare to say there is nothing more rewarding than sincere devotion to the pursuit of excellence in a field that truly interests you.

Shaw said it best, I think:

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you're thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

And he's been roundly condemned in today's quasi-Conservative circles for having been Socialist with a serous interest in Eugenics!

Ah how true it is that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!"

That's why I never venture opinions on such things as Mathematics, Nuclear Physics, Industrial Engineering, Organic Chemistry, or Surgical Procedures.

Cheerio!

~ FreeThinke

Finntann said...

Meant no offense, my point was disassociate musical ability and knowledge of music theory from musical success. Perhaps I have done so poorly.

Most popular music is not necessarily good music, from a music theory perspective. Most good music is frankly, not all that popular.

It has been my experience that most people don't listen to music and most music doesn't stand up to the scrutiny of listening for very long. For most people it comes down to what flavor of musak you prefer. Music has become the audio equivalent of paint.

Anonymous said...

No offense taken, Finntann. What-I-call serious music never has been and never will be "popular." There is a small segment of the human race who are unusually sensitive and receptive to its many charms and virtues, but I doubt if it comprises as much as five-percent.

Something in the neighborhood of 250,000 people support "The Arts" in greater Manhattan which has a population of more than fifteen-million.

The likes of Madonna, P. Diddy Coombs, Eminem, Ludakris and Lady Gaga thrive, while the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic struggle to pay its bills.

Bach's widow died in an almshouse.

Mozart was buried in a pauper's grave.

Aaron Copland was a Communist.

So what?

It has never been about either popularity or money -- and it certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with Social Justice.

As I said, it's a kind of Divine Madness. I wish everyone were equipped to enjoy it to the extent that i have.

Like financial independence, itself, a sincere love of serious music and all the fine arts is something I would wish for everybody.

Cheerio!

~ freeThinke

dmarks said...

"Aaron Copland was a Communist."

Was he a genocidal kook, or did he really have no idea what he was supporting? It has to be either one.

I'd give him the benefit of a doubt and call him a fool, rather than someone who favored a system in which artists had no freedom of expression and a large proportion of the population is typically slaughtered for various reasons of non-comformity.