The “Disadvantages of Being Educated” examines contemporary society’s preference for building specialized skills at the expense of liberal education. Albert Knock believes that today’s curricula have changed its orientation from helping create the Renaissance Man from the tabula rasa into the mechanic of Ford or the programmer of Silicon Valley. Knock pointed out that this is training and should not be synonymous with education. Being proficient or trained in something could categorize one as trained but not educated. Training is not synonymous to having been educated.
Knock’s man has cultivated his intellect and character to the point where his options for the future included, in his words, “what he could become and be instead of what he could get and do”. What is surprising for him is contemporary society’s not distinguishing between the difference between training and education which was not the case before. During the Medieval period, scholars of classical works were looked upon as learned men. The cobbler, builder, stonemasons, tinkerers, and town criers were on a subordinate level far below that of the scholastics.
Carrying on with Knock’s line of thought, we could imagine the manual laborers of the Dark Ages as having become shoe stylists and fashion models, engineers, computer programmers and technicians, and TV hosts of today who are good in their fields and perhaps below mediocre in dialectics. Yet, the honor of having “made it” is easily applied to them by contemporary society than to the stereotyped harried-looking teacher of a university. Knock has nothing against the emphasis on specialization. He argued that specialization and liberal education are relevant. Both could be had instead of having one being preferred at the expense of the other.
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Knock expressed regret this is not so today. The educated man that he had in mind would be hard put to find his place in today’s modern setting. His educated man is open to other fields of interests that would encourage the thinking process: argue the ills of society, participate in dialectics, and develop a mind that is always inquiring and trying to discover what is good for the best kind of life. Since today’s trend in life is getting the proper or specialized skill that could ensure one a high-paying job, Knock’s educated man would have difficulty connecting with his contemporaries.
He would not be in agreement with their having narrowing the focus of their concentration and energy to the mundane ambition of having an eight- to- five job that could buy them a Superbowl ticket and ensure a healthy pension after working as a cog or bolt in an assembly line. He would not even care to become the main nut in that assembly line. Each field created its own complexities and somebody having found himself a niche in his chosen field could claim a consultancy fee. I could be a consultant to the Tupperware Company if my scientific expertise resulted to inventing a fireproof plastic.
The skill acquired in such a field may be hopelessly irrelevant during the Renaissance period but the pay is hopefully and insanely more than sufficient to ensure a comfortable life while still pursuing new plastic discoveries. One can only stay in the business if he or she will continue to update with new developments or make new developments himself. Failure to do so would condemn oneself to irrelevance in his chosen field. Meaning, the acquisition of knowledge on plastics will have to continue until the moment I die, perhaps induced by having to work with plastic.
The competition for the American dream is rigid and I could not afford to pause for a breath asking the meaning of life while everybody else is plunging down to their success. As a student, Knock would prefer me to be the educated man that he has in mind. He wouldn’t agree to my cultivating a mindset that looks forward to having just a job to enable me to pay for my daily meals, ensure payment for my cable bills, and after work enabling me to be a couch potato. Knock would love see me entertain ideas for ideas’ sake and look at them as an educated man would look: objectively and disinterestedly.
Knock perhaps sees the mainstream as a flock of sheep narrowing their vision on the grass before them and seldom raising their heads to appreciate the greater perspective. For most of us-including me- the trend is acquiring skills; the more specialized the skill, the greater the opportunity for a well-placed and well-paying job. The past-paced world that we have today is unkind to thinkers. Why pursue the meaning of life when what is life has already been defined by the American dream? Consumerist society measures a man by his capability to purchase the hottest and the latest pick.
For someone to indulge in the search for the meaning of life would be condemning oneself to a meaningless life of penury and from the viewpoint of the mainstream-irrelevance. The social construct on success has already been insinuated, defined, and considered as an end. Knock may quote Longfellow and implore me, “Be not like dumb, driven cattle, be the hero in the strife”. Yes, I have already heard it in the required subjects in the first year and it is difficult to indulge myself in them when I am about to major in something useful.
History, reexamining its ills, could not buy my cappuccino at Starbucks; Moliere and his wit could not pay for my taxicab fare; and I have no time to waste on Kant’s “Critique on Pure Reason” when I have to attend a workshop on plastics. Free thinking could free the soul, nourish the intellect, and strengthen the character. This is quite noble and at best, the preoccupation of the Renaissance Man. This is tempting but it would be difficult to explain myself to my friends in when we met to socialize or even to my family during a reunion.
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