The Tension Between Education and Training – A Counterpoint

So emphasising a humanist education rather than training builds reasoning, critical thinking and creativity. That’d be great, except that none of those skills are at all useful in the festering wound which is our society. Teaching children to learn and follow their interests only creates a fantasy of adult life, whereas training them for the reality of wage labour avoids any such delusions.


Which is more cruel? To keep an eagle caged for its entire life? Or to let it fly free for just one day in its youth, to better illustrate its own captivity? To teach children about the wonders of science and art as youths, only to plunge them into indentured servitude as adults is dishonest and cruel. If they are to be compelled into bullshit procedural jobs as adults, why do we maintain the fantasies of invention and creativity in their education?


To give a person intellectual challenges then take them away encourages them to strive ever onwards up the corporate ladder in search of a position where they may again be challenged. This striving serves to better motivate employees than is possible with mere discipline, and has the added benefit of legitimising the position of those at the top of the hierarchy. A simple glance at our political and corporate leaders should be enough to disabuse any notions of meritocracy, but we very much want to believe. We want to believe that with just another promotion we’ll finally get the responsibility to make challenging decisions.


I had the good fortune to rise quickly through the ranks in my past engineering life. From the lowliest cleaner to the most exalted managers, all were merely cogs in the corporate machine, following procedure and the wisdom of convention. Ultimately, there is no place for the skills imparted by a humanist education anywhere in our society. No place for reason, critical thinking nor creativity. One doesn’t need lateral thinking to size an air duct, nor logic to send a purchase order. These things run counter to the dominance of the workplace in our society, and of Taylorist management within it. Instead, one needs training to be familiar with the procedures that one must follow.


To this day, I can find more to be proud of on this daggy blog than anything I’ve accomplished professionally, or am likely to accomplish within that realm in the future. Because here I am freed from the dictates of the market to explore ideas, rather than wasting my talent picking air conditioners out of catalogues, managing projects, or whatever other procedural guff I might be able to worm my way into in the future. Here I am a human, not a cog in a corporate machine. But is it really worth imparting years of education to kids that they’ll only ever be able to use in hobbies? Is a handy tutorial for Kerbal Space Program really a satisfactory return on 4 years of aerospace engineering study?


In a society with no place for critical thinking or creativity, teaching people of these things only sets them up for disappointment. Selling children on a utopia of intellectual curiosity, only to later reveal the dismal reality of wage labour is dishonest and unfair. Is it any surprise that suicide is on the rise, particularly among young adults? Giving kids an array of skills which they’ll never have the chance to use is not only inefficient but it also provokes rebellion and distrust. Indeed, these things actively work against success in our hellscape, where subservience is more rewarded than righteousness. The most important skills for success as adults in our society are not learning, logic or reason, but inheritance, training and blind obedience.


A broad, humanist education might be good for a communist utopia, but in our society it is an act of cruelty. The young should be trained with the skills they need in a competitive labour market, not with frivolities which serve only to disappoint them. We need to train people for the society which exists, not some fantasyland of intellectual inquiry.


This article is a counterpoint to The Tension Between Education and Training, exploring an opposing view. Though I find myself more sympathetic to my original position, there are some nuggets of honesty in here as well. I might experiment more with this format in future, particularly given how the ascension of Trump and the alt-right have crippled the coherency of the conservative ideas I normally like to challenge myself with. Who better to challenge my ideas than me, right?