A Disinterested Light

“There’s no better feeling than seeing the lightbulb go on. To know that there’s a new idea in a child’s head, and that you’re the one that put it there. But if any teacher is being honest, they will tell you that there is a small percentage of students— that no matter how many times you go over something, they just won’t get it. And it burns you out. If you’re emotionally invested— and if you aren’t emotionally invested, you’re not doing it right— but if you are, it can burn you out.” Thus spaketh the teacher to HONY.
To be honest - that word that is so generously taught to children and forcefully cast aside in the name of job security. There was a time about ten years ago when it seemed inexplicable why a certain type of clear yet aspirational text book was out of print, while so many crowded with essays beside the point proliferated. The point - laborious but rewarding; building character. It is no secret that for a man to develop his higher character, he must make sacrifices. But today man says, why stand tall when the skyscraper does it  better. Let it stand for me.
And one thinks immediately of the rising building called the Ziggurat, from zaqaru to rise high, specifically of Etemenanki, that fated edifice that aspired materially toward heaven, toward grabbing its light, with its one language - if not a language of the hypertext, markups, and tags, characteristic of our printed age.
The moral story is too long and, being a thoughtful dialectic, requires too much engagement to be conducive to the happy meal of the takeout education. We have been warned before that to deny man's soulful element is to necessarily cram it with things, the I can haz happi meal of media, when lumping it together. But to lump together is one of the banes of social therapists who teach people to learn how to break things down, to sort out each problem one by one.
To look at education is to see a lump of problems, some of the business-related outlined in the LRB. Others outlined in a Chronicle article explain, "The demand for explicitly vocational training threatens disciplines that offer knowledge over skills, creating a false dichotomy that sets academic programs at odds with one another"- though this author argues that academics may choose to write for the media to reduce this gap, despite the imperfections imposed by its deadlines. How did education become so malleable, so shaped by business, media, trend. Not to advocate the monastic ties of the universities of yesteryear, but an education that fails to uphold ideals, like hard work and a willingness to engage with difference in a pursuit of truth, be this truth historical or scientific, etc., nears a form of indoctrination or mechanization, alien to man's humane and human component.




In The Peloponnesian War, Thucydides uses a most intriguing phrase (I still can't get right, but it begins), ἀπὸ ἴσου δὲ μάλιστα ἐπιόντες ἀπαιδευσίᾳ ὀργῆς, "the enmity which equals foster towards one another". It echoes that one concern of the Chronicle article. But before pausing to further consider that phrase, it seems apt to cite the whole paragraph (via):
"... Most of these deeds were perpetrated, and for the first time. There was every crime which men could commit in revenge who had been governed not wisely, but tyrannically, and now had the oppressor at their mercy. There were the dishonest designs of others who were longing to be relieved from their habitual poverty, and were naturally animated by a passionate desire for their neighbour's goods; and there were crimes of another class which men commit, not from covetousness, but from the enmity which equals foster towards one another until they are carried away by their blind rage into the extremes of pitiless cruelty. At such a time the life of the city was all in disorder, and human nature, which is always ready to transgress the laws, having now trampled them under foot, delighted to show that her passions were ungovernable, that she was stronger than justice, and the enemy of everything above her. ... when men are retaliating upon others, they are reckless of the future, and do not hesitate to annul those common laws of humanity to which every individual trusts for his own hope of deliverance should he ever be overtaken by calamity; they forget that in their own hour of need they will look for them in vain." Emphasis added.
Humanity delighted to show that her passions were ungovernable - a concept also in the phrase I tried to cite in Greek above, ἀπαιδευσίᾳ, which can mean boorishness, but also want of education, or lack of control of the passions. They forget the need for this control and in their hour of need will look for them in vain.
Where the passions are unbridled, the ego runs wild, and people who would otherwise share the same values attack each other. Furthermore, there can be no first among equals, πρῶτος μεταξὺ ἴσων, if the same values if not conclusions are not upheld. Everyone is pitted against each other, which is a terrible tactic.
If there is not the slightest governing of passions and renouncement from worldliness on the part of those who work there, educational institutions become a buffet where the unruliest will be the first to come and first to serve themselves of whatever it is that can be handed down without assistance. Good things so often require assistance - of a ladder, a language. The light does not shine for personal advantage. Thus implyeth the teacher above, who invests of himself in a job he already has.



Brush: Lauren Harrison. Magazine.

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