Megalothymia: a need to disproportionately dominate over others in ostentatious and spectacular ways

According to Paul Sagar in “The last hollow laugh: Since Francis Fukuyama proclaimed ‘The End of History’ 25 years ago, he has been much maligned. His work now seems prophetic

Throughout his analysis, Fukuyama insisted on the centrality of thymos (the Greek for ‘spiritedness’), or recognition, to human psychology: what Thomas Hobbes called pride, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau labelled amour propre. This denotes the need to be liked and respected by other people, and to have that recognition outwardly affirmed – if necessary, extracting it by force. Some human beings, Fukuyama thought, are always going to be inherently competitive and greedy for recognition. Some will therefore always vie to be thought of as the best – and others will resent them for that, and vie back. This has the potential to cause a lot of trouble. Human beings demand respect, and if they don’t feel that they are getting it, they break things – and people – in response.

Fukuyama thought, human beings didn’t just exhibit thymos, but also what he termed ‘megalothymia’: a desire not just for respect and proportionate recognition, but a need to disproportionately dominate over others in ostentatious and spectacular ways.

There was every chance that the last men (and women) would be deeply discontented with their historically unprecedented ease and luxury, because it failed to feed megalothymia. If the last men went this way, they would become bored by what Fukuyama called ‘masterless slavery – the life of rational consumption’. The spread of egalitarian values that went along with secular democratic politics would open up spaces of severe resentment – especially, we might now postulate, among those who had lost their traditional places at the top of social hierarchies, and felt cheated of the recognition that they believed they were owed.

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“If anyone strikes you on the right cheek”: The day Martin Luther King was punched twice by a Nazi

Brad Pierce's Blog

According to Ron Rosenbaum interviewing MLK biographer Taylor Branch about his “battle to prevent Dr. King’s profoundly considered theory of nonviolence from being relegated to history, and not recognized for its relevance to the issues America and the world faces today”

King’s practice, Branch says, was complex and radical and has been often misunderstood. Some of his closest supporters had their doubts about King’s own commitment to nonviolence—whether it was “personal” or just an abstraction for him.

During a meeting of King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a man rose up from the audience, leapt onto the stage and smashed King in the face. Punched him hard. And then punched him again.

After the first punch, Branch recounts, King just dropped his hands and stood there, allowed the assailant (who turned out to be a member of the American Nazi Party) to punch him again. And when King’s associates tried…

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If you aren’t real, you aren’t powerful

Brad Pierce's Blog

According to Jules Buccieri

If you aren’t real, you aren’t powerful.

See this essay by Howard Fine on why a speech was almost universally considered a disaster. It shows why you come across so much better when you’re spontaneous, and how important it is to have something important and real to say, compared to merely trying to say it well.

According to Phil Gyford’s notes on Stanislavski’s An Actor Prepares

Be careful when rehearsing with a mirror — teaches you to watch the outside, not the inside.

According to John Wareham (The Anatomy of a Great Executive, pp. 35-36)

A person will often present a facade founded upon the aspect of his or her personality that he/she most fears — or knows — to be missing.

He says to ask yourself

What is the impression that this individual takes the greatest trouble to convey to me?

Then, until…

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Let’s hear it, quietly, for introverts

According to Susan Cain, regarding “Why the world needs introverts

We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal – the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He or she favours quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong; works well in teams and socialises in groups. We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual – the kind who is comfortable “putting himself out there”. Sure, we allow technologically gifted loners who launch companies in garages to have any personality they please, but they are the exceptions, not the rule, and our tolerance extends mainly to those who get fabulously wealthy or hold the promise of doing so.

and

Many of the most important institutions of contemporary life are designed for those who enjoy group projects and high levels of stimulation. As children, our classroom desks are increasingly arranged in pods, the better to foster group learning, and research suggests that the vast majority of teachers believe that the ideal student is an extrovert. As adults, many of us work for organisations that insist we work in teams, in offices without walls, for supervisors who value “people skills” above all. To advance our careers, we’re expected to promote ourselves unabashedly. The scientists whose research gets funded often have confident, perhaps overconfident, personalities. The artists whose work adorns the walls of contemporary museums strike impressive poses at gallery openings. The authors whose books get published – once a reclusive breed – are now vetted by publicists to make sure they’re talk-show ready.

See also the TED talk and even the book.

In all the world there’s no one like you or me

Clothes make the man.

A story told by Arthur Naiman

A man goes to a tailor to try on a new custom-made suit.
The first thing he notices is that the arms are too long.
	"No problem," says the tailor.  "Just bend them at the
elbow and hold them out in front of you.  See, now it's fine."
	"But the collar is up around my ears!"
	"It's nothing.  Just hunch your back up a little … no,
a little more … that's it."
	"But I'm stepping on my cuffs!" the man cries in
desperation.
	"Nu, bend your knees a little to take up the slack.
There you go.  Look in the mirror -- the suit fits perfectly."
	So, twisted like a pretzel, the man lurches out onto the
street.  Reba and Florence see him go by.
	"Oh, look," says Reba, "that poor man!"
	"Yes," says Florence, "but what a beautiful suit."
		-- Arthur Naiman, "Every Goy's Guide to Yiddish"

Naked

According to Mark Twain

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

According to Steve Jobs

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

If you aren’t real, you aren’t powerful.

According to Jules Buccieri

If you aren’t real, you aren’t powerful.

See this essay by Howard Fine on why a speech was almost universally considered a disaster. It shows why you come across so much better when you’re spontaneous, and how important it is to have something important and real to say, compared to merely trying to say it well.

According to Phil Gyford’s notes on Stanislavski’s An Actor Prepares

Be careful when rehearsing with a mirror — teaches you to watch the outside, not the inside.

According to John Wareham (The Anatomy of a Great Executive, pp. 35-36)

A person will often present a facade founded upon the aspect of his or her personality that he/she most fears — or knows — to be missing.

He says to ask yourself

What is the impression that this individual takes the greatest trouble to convey to me?

Then, until you discover more, work on the assumption that the real person may likely turn out to be the exact opposite of this facade.

Robbing ourselves

According to Scott Ballum

When we align ourselves with the opinions of others without examination, we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to analyze our own preferences and desires, to determine our own solutions. We miss the chance to review the criteria others are utilizing, to question their biases and seek our own inspiration. In stunting the development of our own individual perspectives and initiatives, we trap ourselves in lives that appear to be predestined, and deny the possibility of realizing our personal potential.

According to Blayney Colmore

Mary Dyer and Jon Daniels […] turned from an identity adopted from surrounding culture, to their own inner identity and authority. It’s the kind of authority that cedes to no one what we call conscience, but what might more accurately be named authentic self.

Get out of that pickle barrel!

According to Daniel Kahneman

Look at yourself as a point in the distribution.

You may be a superhuman outlier, but don’t count on it. We’re herd animals, and a psychological force of gravity pulls us into orbit around the norms of our current social network.

According to Philip Zimbardo

It’s not the bad apples, it’s the bad barrels that corrupt good people.

and

You can’t be a sweet cucumber in a vinegar barrel.

When you notice that the system or your social network are a corrupting influence on the people around you, better play it safe and move on before you catch the same disease.

According to Trent Hamm

The first surprise about change is that the problem usually isn’t people, it’s the situation. If you want change, you’ve got to change the situation a bit.

According to Magic Johnson

If people around you aren’t going anywhere, if their dreams are no bigger than hanging out on the corner, or if they’re dragging you down, get rid of them. Negative people can sap your energy so fast, and they can take your dreams from you, too.

The arts and the insistent, speechless self

According to Mark Edmundson

The truth of what we’re best fit to do is latent in all of us, Emerson suggests, and I think this to be right. But it’s also true that we, and society, too, have plenty of tricks for keeping that most important kind of knowledge out of reach. Society seems to have a vested interest in telling us what we should do and be. But often its interpretation of us — fed through teachers and guidance officers and priests and ministers and even through our loving parents — is simply wrong.

and

To be young is often to know, or to sense, what others have in mind for you and not to like it. But what is harder for a person who has gone unhappily through the first rites of passage into the tribe is to know how to replace the values she’s had imposed on her with something better. She’s learned a lot of socially sanctioned languages, and still none of them are hers. But are there any that truly might be? Is there something she might be or do in the world that’s truly in keeping with the insistent, but often speechless, self that presses forward internally?

This, I think, is where literature can come in — as can all of the other arts and in some measure the sciences, too. By venturing into what Arnold memorably called “the best that has been known and thought,” a young person has the chance to discover new vital possibilities. Such a person sees that there are other ways of looking at the world and other ways of being in the world than the ones that she’s inherited from her family and culture.

and

It’s probable that most people will be relatively content to live within the ethical and conceptual world that their parents and their society pass on to them. Burke and Johnson thought of common-sense opinion as a great repository of wisdom stored through the ages, augmented and revised through experience, trial and error, until it became in time the treasure of humanity. Perhaps the conservative sages were right. But there will always be individuals who cannot live entirely by the standard dispensation and who require something better — or at least something else. This group may be small (though I think it larger than most imagine), but its members need what great writing can bring them very badly indeed. We professors of literature hold the key to the warehouse where the loaves lie fresh and steaming, while outside people hunger for them, sometimes dangerously.

Call yourself what you want to call yourself

According to Neil Tweedie, writing here of the modern French Foreign Legion

“We don’t accept the hardened criminals any more, the murderers or rapists,” says Capt Samir Benykrelef, “so this makes our job easier.”

But there is still a hint of romance: all recruits must assume a new name on joining the Legion. This is because some recruits do indeed want a new start and new identity, and it is fairer to make all new Legionnaires undergo the same process. Soldiers can revert to their real identities after a year.

“Real” identities?

According to Bob Dylan, when asked why he changed his name

Some people …. you’re born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens, You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.

Maybe everyone should change their names every 10 years. Your “given name” doesn’t come with a gift receipt, so no refunds, no exchanges? Why should we be stuck with their choice? Yet, we feel we are. Same for our “family name”. Why doesn’t each wedding announce a cool new “family name” for the couple, like the reign name of popes and emperors?

I was tempted to title this section “Self-hatred is underrated.” Too strong, yet there’s some truth to it. People are so attached to whatever identity they got imposed on them, and accidentally acquired, often by bad choices and limited experience, or even victimhood and suffering. That’s the most dangerous attachment.

If you could reboot into a totally different self, why would that be so bad? It’s a trick programmed into you somewhere; loyalty is often so foolish.

Self-improvement, rewrite the program, reboot. Reinvent according to your own blueprint, not theirs, not the accidents of history. Sure, putting on airs, playing like you’re a bigshot, can be ridiculous, but the impulse to better yourself is not at all ridiculous.

According to James Camp

As the publication date drew near for Slaughterhouse-Five, on which Vonnegut had worked, fitfully, for 20 years, he brooded over his author photo. He was clean-cut, clean-shaven, a bit paunchy—in 1969, an unlikely candidate for cultural eminence. He decided “to cultivate the style of an author who was in.” “To meet the expectations of his audience was key,” Mr. Shields writes. “He lost weight, allowed his close-cropped hair to become curly and tousled, and grew a moustache. … He looked like an avant-garde artist and social critic now, not rumpled Dad-in-a-cardigan.” His upper lip would never reappear. Slaughterhouse-Five became a number-one New York Times best-seller, and its tousled (not rumpled) author became an icon of the counterculture.

Maybe that’s the way he saw his real self. Maybe it was the first time he was authentic?

Is authenticity overrated?

According to David J. Gordon in Shavian comedy and the shadow of Wilde

But Wilde’s dandies are self-possessed because, paradoxically, there is no single self for them to defend, only a mask or persona to adopt opportunistically; it is in fact Wilde’s main argument against “sincerity” that it must be false because there are many selves.

His footnote cites The Picture of Dorian Gray

For the canons of good society are, or should be, the same as the canons of art. Form is absolutely essential to it. It should have the dignity of a ceremony, as well as its unreality, and should combine the insincere character of a romantic play with the wit and beauty that make such plays delightful to us. Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities. 

Such, at any rate, was Dorian Gray’s opinion. He used to wonder at the shallow psychology of those who conceive the ego in man as a thing simple, permanent, reliable, and of one essence. To him, man was a being with myriad lives and myriad sensations, a complex multiform creature that bore within itself strange legacies of thought and passion, and whose very flesh was tainted with the monstrous maladies of the dead.

and The Critic As Artist

ERNEST. Well, at least, the critic will be sincere.

GILBERT. A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal. The true critic will, indeed, always be sincere in his devotion to the principle of beauty, but he will seek for beauty in every age and in each school, and will never suffer himself to be limited to any settled custom of thought or stereotyped mode of looking at things. He will realise himself in many forms, and by a thousand different ways, and will ever be curious of new sensations and fresh points of view. Through constant change, and through constant change alone, he will find his true unity. He will not consent to be the slave of his own opinions. For what is mind but motion in the intellectual sphere? The essence of thought, as the essence of life, is growth. You must not be frightened by word, Ernest. What people call insincerity is simply a method by which we can multiply our personalities.

Aside: Unrelated to selves, but also about sincerity, from The Picture of Dorian Gray

“I don’t agree with a single word that you have said, and, what is more, Harry, I feel sure you don’t either.”

   […] “How English you are Basil! That is the second time you have made that observation. If one puts forward an idea to a true Englishman — always a rash thing to do — he never dreams of considering whether the idea is right or wrong. The only thing he considers of any importance is whether one believes it oneself. Now, the value of an idea has nothing whatsoever to do with the sincerity of the man who expresses it. Indeed, the probabilities are that the more insincere the man is, the more purely intellectual will the idea be, as in that case it will not be coloured by either his wants, his desires, or his prejudices. […]”

Brick walls

According to Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

So that was a bit of a setback. But remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

Remember brick walls let us show our dedication. They are there to separate us from the people who don’t really want to achieve their childhood dreams. Don’t bail. The best of the gold’s at the bottom of barrels of crap.

Aside: According to Leon Lukaszewicz in “On the Beginnings of Computer Development in Poland

Our job, although very stimulating, was poorly paid. It was quite easy to obtain a salary twice as high in industry and also be alloted a flat, which in those days of the acute housing problem mattered a great deal. We turned to [mathematician] Professor [Kazimierz] Kuratowski [the director of the Institute of Mathematics in Warsaw] with our grievances. He answered that “low salaries are a severe but necessary test of a genuine dedication to science of young research workers. If the salaries were high, what sort of people would we get here?” His arguments were not entirely convincing for us, but of course no one quit the Institute we adored. It should also be added that, some time later, some of us, already “tested,” were allotted the flats we and our families had dreamt about.

Advance the action, make things happen

According to Edward de Bono

If I had to choose the one motivating factor that seems to me to be operating in most successful people, it is the wish to make things happen.

I wonder if the emphasis on “results orientation” doesn’t sometimes inhibit this impulse in those who are nearer the middle of the distribution on this trait. Often the “result” I most want to see is simply getting started, taking action, making a down payment on the final deliverable.

Everything must go

According to Sean Murphy

Solve real problems that people will pay for where you add unique value.

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules for writing a short story

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

See also “The only way to convince them it’s a great idea is to do it yourself“.

According to Corey Dragge

Let’s stop getting things done and start making things happen.

Your only lever to move the world is to move yourself

According to Jonathan Mead

The biggest benefit to working on a revolution is that it gives you an insane amount of energy.

According to Tolstoy

There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.

The only lever you have to significantly improve the world is to improve yourself.

That doesn’t mean beating yourself up, or changing your essence. Your essence is OK. It’s just the bad habits, rough edges, priorities that need straightening out.

According to Jules Buccieri

And (magic fact) if you aren’t real, you aren’t powerful.

Improving yourself gets to the root of the problems that are in your power to fix and enables you to engage effectively with the world.

Looked at another way, you’re your most valuable capital asset. Your brain, your skills, your sharpness, your knowledge, your health and appearance, etc.

When I moved out of a townhouse a few years ago after ten years residence, the wooden floor in the kitchen still looked new and the roses were big and full of flowers. But what is the asset of a townhouse compared with the asset of me or you? Yet, we all fill that asset with poison of one kind or another, such as alcohol, stress, caffeine, pornography, mindless entertainment. (Don’t “choose your poison”, choose life.) And we forgo the physical and mental training that we need to maintain and grow ourselves.

Instead, with the right priorities, we could grow healthier, stronger, smarter, and more skillful each day. (Of course, you also need a thrilling purpose. On what should you set loose this glorious machine? It’s seem unlikely you could get and sustain that “insane amount of energy” without a compelling purpose.)

According to Joseph Epstein

Some years ago I read a brilliant essay called “Prosaics,” by Gary Saul Morson, a teacher of Russian literature at Northwestern University, in which he showed how Tolstoy believed in the prosaic life and Dostoyevsky in the dramatic.

Things happen to Tolstoy’s characters — they go to war, have vastly disruptive love affairs, suffer unexpected deaths — but they are most interesting in their ordinariness: a strong case in point is Natasha’s family, the Rostovs, in War and Peace. Her brother and father and mother, with their rich but normal passions, appetites and family loves, are people who gain moral stature through an endless series of small acts.

In Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, nothing is ordinary: passions turn into obsessions; gambling addicts and epileptics are at the center of things; men are beating horses to death on the Nevsky Prospect; poverty has wrenched people’s lives into little hells on earth. The question isn’t really who — Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky — is the greater novelist, for both are great, but which shows life as it is more truly is.

As Professor Morson puts it: “Dostoyevsky believed that lives are decided at critical moments, and he therefore described the world as driven by sudden eruptions from the unconscious. By contrast, Tolstoy insisted that although we may imagine our lives are decided at important and intense moments of choice, in fact our choices are shaped by the whole climate of our minds, which themselves result from countless small decisions at ordinary moments.” At some point in life, I think, one has to decide if one is, in one’s belief in the shape of his or her life, a Dostoyevskian or a Tolstoyian.

Is your life decided at critical moments, suddenly erupting from the unconscious? Or is your life shaped from countless small decisions at ordinary moments?

The power of positive action

According to Jim Grady on Facebook

“If you want to change your behavior focus on the thinking that causes it.” ~~ Brahma Kumaris”

I commented

If you want to change your thinking, focus on positive actions. “Move your ass and your mind will follow.”

Background: According to Funkadelic

Free your mind and your ass will follow.

You may be just as likely to free your mind by moving your ass. The power of positive action.

According to Knarf Rellöm Trinity,

Move your ass and your mind will follow.

Is happiness overrated?

On p. 85 of Happiness is Overrated, Raymond A. Belliotti writes

If the standard of meaningfulness is minimal – having goals, projects, interests, relationships that engage and energize one’s life – most of our lives on the whole meet it. But that is not saying much. […] Is it better to live Michelangelo’s life and not be particularly happy or to live an obscure, minimally meaningful life and be happier? If living a happy life was a greater good than living a robustly meaningful, significant, valuable life, then we should prefer the former. Yet we reasonably value a life replete with enduring accomplishment, high creativity, powerful social effects, and unparalleled excellence more than a minimally meaningful, happy life.

According to Martin Seligman

The third form of happiness, which is meaning, is again knowing what your highest strengths are and deploying those in the service of something you believe is larger than you are. There’s no shortcut to that. That’s what life is about. There will likely be a pharmacology of pleasure, and there may be a pharmacology of positive emotion generally, but it’s unlikely there’ll be an interesting pharmacology of flow. And it’s impossible that there’ll be a pharmacology of meaning.

To me the basic, lower level of happiness (that could potentially be medicated) is like not having a headache. It’s a normal aspect of being healthy. I’m not talking about joy or ecstasy, but just a mild, pleasant sense of well-being. Unfortunately, too often even that level of happiness is treated as something suspect, as something that must be earned by achievement. You don’t deserve not having a headache, it’s the normal human state, and similarly with being mildly, low-level happy.

Scientific studies indicate that creativity is more likely to occur when people are positive and buoyant. According to Helen Phillips

In a decade-long study of real businesses, to be published soon, Amabile found that positive moods relate positively to creativity in organisations, and that the relationship is a simple linear one. Creative thought also improves people’s moods, her team found, so the process is circular. Time pressures, financial pressures and hard-earned bonus schemes on the other hand, do not boost workplace creativity: internal motivation, not coercion, produces the best work.

Another often forgotten aspect of creativity is social. Vera John-Steiner of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and author of Creative Collaboration (Oxford University Press, 2000) says that to be really creative you need strong social networks and trusting relationships, not just active neural networks. One vital characteristic of a highly creative person, she says, is that they have at least one other person in their life who doesn’t think they are completely nuts.

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Does school train away and drain away the love of learning?

Is school bad for kids? Yes, according to Roger Schank. He writes here that

Schools should simply cease to exist as we know them. The Government needs to get out of the education business and stop thinking it knows what children should know and then testing them constantly to see if they regurgitate whatever they have just been spoon fed.

and

We need to stop producing a nation of stressed out students who learn how to please the teacher instead of pleasing themselves. We need to produce adults who love learning, not adults who avoid all learning because it reminds them of the horrors of school. We need to stop thinking that all children need to learn the same stuff. We need to create adults who can think for themselves and are not convinced about how to understand complex situations in simplistic terms that can be rendered in a sound bite.

Just call school off. Turn them all into apartment houses.

According to Jamshed Bharucha

Education as we know it does not accomplish what we believe it does

The more we discover about cognition and the brain, the more we will realize that education as we know it does not accomplish what we believe it does.

It is not my purpose to echo familiar critiques of our schools. My concerns are of a different nature and apply to the full spectrum of education, including our institutions of higher education, which arguably are the finest in the world.

Our understanding of the intersection between genetics and neuroscience (and their behavioral correlates) is still in its infancy. This century will bring forth an explosion of new knowledge on the genetic and environmental determinants of cognition and brain development, on what and how we learn, on the neural basis of human interaction in social and political contexts, and on variability across people.

Are we prepared to transform our educational institutions if new science challenges cherished notions of what and how we learn? As we acquire the ability to trace genetic and environmental influences on the development of the brain, will we as a society be able to agree on what our educational objectives should be?

Since the advent of scientific psychology we have learned a lot about learning. In the years ahead we will learn a lot more that will continue to challenge our current assumptions. We will learn that some things we currently assume are learnable are not (and vice versa), that some things that are learned successfully don’t have the impact on future thinking and behavior that we imagine, and that some of the learning that impacts future thinking and behavior is not what we spend time teaching. We might well discover that the developmental time course for optimal learning from infancy through the life span is not reflected in the standard educational time line around which society is organized. As we discover more about the gulf between how we learn and how we teach, hopefully we will also discover ways to redesign our systems — but I suspect that the latter will lag behind the former.

According to John Taylor Gatto’s website

John Taylor Gatto’s Weapons of Mass Instruction focuses on mechanisms of compulsory schooling which cripple imagination and discourage critical thinking.

Here is a demonstration that the harm school inflicts is quite rational and deliberate. The real function of pedagogy is to render the common population manageable, remove the obligation of child care from adult workers so they are free to fuel the industrial economy and to train the next generation into subservient obedience to the state.

John Gatto shows us that Ivy League schools do not produce the most successful graduates, some of the world’s richest entrepreneurs are high school drop outs and Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie didn’t finish elementary school. An education matters desperately, but spending a fortune on college fees will not get you one.

Filled with examples of people who have escaped the trap of compulsory schooling, Weapons of Mass Instruction shows us realization of personal potential is not possible within the system of compulsory schooling. That requires a different way of growing up and learning, one Gatto calls “open source learning.”

According to Joseph Marr Cronin and Howard E. Horton

With tuitions, fees, and room and board at dozens of colleges now reaching $50,000 a year, the ability to sustain private higher education for all but the very well-heeled is questionable. According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, over the past 25 years, average college tuition and fees have risen by 440 percent — more than four times the rate of inflation and almost twice the rate of medical care. Patrick M. Callan, the center’s president, has warned that low-income students will find college unaffordable.

and

Consumers who have questioned whether it is worth spending $1,000 a square foot for a home are now asking whether it is worth spending $1,000 a week to send their kids to college. There is a growing sense among the public that higher education might be overpriced and under-delivering.

According to Don Tapscott

Back in 1997 I presented my views to a group of about 100 University presidents at a dinner hosted by Ameritech in Chicago. After the talk I sat down at my table and asked the smaller group what they thought about my remarks. They responded positively. So I said to them “why is this taking so long?” “The problem is funds,” one president said. “We just don’t have the money to reinvent the model of pedagogy.” Another educator put it this way: “Models of learning that go back decades are hard to change.” Another got a chuckle around the table when he said, “I think the problem is the faculty — their average age is 57 and they’re teaching in a ‘post-Gutenberg’ mode.”

A very thoughtful man named Jeffery Bannister, who at the time was president of Butler College, was seated next to me. “Post-Gutenberg?” he said. “I don’t think so! At least not at Butler. Our model of learning is pre-Gutenberg! We’ve got a bunch of professors reading from handwritten notes, writing on blackboards, and the students are writing down what they say. This is a pre-Gutenberg model — the printing press is not even an important part of the learning paradigm.” He added, “Wait till these students who are 14 and have grown up learning on the Net hit the [college] classrooms — sparks are going to fly.”

Bannister was right. A powerful force to change the university is the students. And sparks are flying today. There is a huge generational clash emerging in these institutions. It turns out that the critique of the university from years ago were ideas in waiting — waiting for the new web and a new generation of digital natives who could effectively challenge the old model.

According to David Benjamin, reporting on Steve Wozniak’s comments at an engineering conference,

Wozniak, now chief scientist at Fusion-io, described American education as stagnant, obsessed with testing and destructive of creativity. He said children in American schools, crowded into large classes, where they are pressured to complete each inflexible unit in a prescribed time and measured by statewide and national standardized tests. “They’re not allowed different ways to think” and kids grow swiftly discouraged.

Wozniak, who confessed that he spent some eight years in mid-career “secretly” teaching at the middle and high schools levels, said, “By third grade, teachers can pretty much spot the kids who’ve given up on education, for life.”

According to Anthony Grafton in Our Universities: Why Are They Failing?

The Collegiate Learning Assessment reveals that some 45 percent of students in the sample had made effectively no progress in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing in their first two years.

and

In general, though, two points come through with striking clarity. First, traditional subjects and methods seem to retain their educational value. Nowadays the liberal arts attract a far smaller proportion of students than they did two generations ago. Still, those majoring in liberal arts fields—humanities and social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics—outperformed those studying business, communications, and other new, practical majors on the CLA. And at a time when libraries and classrooms across the country are being reconfigured to promote trendy forms of collaborative learning, students who spent the most time studying on their own outperformed those who worked mostly with others.

Second, and more depressing: vast numbers of students come to university with no particular interest in their courses and no sense of how these might prepare them for future careers.