Monday, February 26, 2007

Use and abuse of education.

I'd like to return to Arthur Schopenhauer's works today, on the subject of Education. It is clear that the context he had in mind was Catholic education, but the concepts work equally well in regards to Yeshiva education. So I have "translated" excerpts from his treatise into the "key of Rabbi," as a dear professor of mine would have said.


The human intellect is said to be so constituted that general ideas arise by abstraction from particular observations. ...This might be called the natural method of education. Contrarily, the artificial method is to hear what other people say, to learn and to read, and so to get your head crammed full of general ideas before you have any sort of extended acquaintance with the world as it is, and as you may see it for yourself. ...You apply your general ideas wrongly, you judge men and things from a wrong standard, you see them in a wrong light, and treat them in a wrong way. So it is that education perverts the mind.

Instead of developing the child's own faculties of discernment, and teaching it to judge and think for itself, the Rabbi uses all his energies to stuff its head full of the ready-made thoughts of other people. The mistaken views of life, which spring from a false application of general ideas, have afterwards to be corrected by long years of experience, and it is seldom that they are wholly corrected!

To acquire a knowledge of the world might be defined as the aim of all education. ...Specisl stress should be laid upon beginning to acquire this knowledge at the right end. ...But whenever any of these steps are skipped or left out, the instruction is defective and the ideas obtained are false. And finally, a distorted view of the world arises, peculiar to the individual himself.

It follows an attempt should be made to find out the strictly natural course of knowledge... If this plan were adopted, special care would have to be taken to prevent children from using words without clearly understanding their meaning and application. The fatal tendency to be satisfied with words instead of trying to understand things - to learn phrases by heart, so that they may prove a refuge in time of need, exists, as a rule, even in children - and the tendency lasts into manhood, making knowledge of many Yeshiva learned persons to consist in mere verbiage.

The ordinary method is to imprint ideas and opinions and opinions, in the strict sense of the word, prejudices, on the mind of the child before it has had any but a very few particular observations. It is thus that he afterwards comes to view the world and gather experience through the medium of those ready-made ideas, rather than to let his ideas be formed for him out of his own experience of life, as they ought to be.

Experience, therefore, will be a long time in correcting preconceived ideas, or perhaps never bring its task to an end, for wherever a man finds that the aspect of things seems to contradict the general ideas he has formed, he will begin by rejecting the evidence it offers as partial and one-sided. Nay, he will shut his eyes to it altogether and deny that it stands in any contradiction at all with his preconceived notions, in order that he may thus preserve them uninjured. So it is that many a man carries about a burden of wrong notions all his life long...which at last become fixed ideas.

The fact that he has never tried to form his fundamental ideas for himself out of his own experience of life, his own way of looking at the world, because he has taken over his ideas ready-made from other people. And this it is that makes him - as it makes how many others! - so shallow and superficial. ...This will mean that their heads are full of wrong notions, and that they will either see things in a false light or try in vain to remodel the world to suit their views, and so enter upon false paths. It is incredible how much harm is done when the seeds of wrong notions are laid in the mind in those early years, later on to bear a crop of prejudice - for the subsequent lessons, which are learned from real life in the world, have to be devoted mainly to their extirpation.

...Wrong notions imbibed early can seldom be rooted out, and of all the intellectual faculties, judgment is the last to arrive at maturity. ...For the practical man the most needful thing is to acquire an accurate and profound knowledge of the reality of the world. ...The study is difficult enough in itself, but the difficulty is doubled by the Rabbinic morality tales, which represent a state of things in life and the world such as, in fact, do not exist. Youth is credulous, and accepts these views of life, which then become part and parcel of the mind, so that instead of a merely negative condition of ignorance, you have positive error - a whole tissue of false notions to start with, and at a later date these actually spoil the schooling of experience, and put a wrong construction on the lessons it teaches.

This generally exercises a baneful influence on their whole life. In this respect, those whose youth has allowed them no time or opportunity for reading medieval Rabbinic tales - those who work with their hands and the like - are in a position of decided advantage...


So it is obvious why the Rabbis are so anxious to get more and more kids into their Yeshivas and away from scientific and historical secular education - especially vocational or career training of any useful kind for the young men. It is in order to so warp their worldview that they can no longer discern the truth when they hear it from the fairy tales the Rabbis want them to accept. This is also the reason why so many BT's fail to "fully integrate" with Cheredi society - they have a hard time accepting things that fly in the face of science, common sense, and modern medical knowledge. It's why FFB's don't want to attend a shul with BT's, because they and their children's former secular education might get out and contaminate their little brainwashed darlings.

There's not really anything you can do about such people. They filter everything through the nonsense they learned in dayschool and yeshiva. Reality is a stumbling block for them - at least until it rises up and bites them in some manner. Then they learn, but only then. Then they question, but only then. So the Rabbis work oh, so hard to make sure they never have contact with reality. Since they can't compete with it, they need to keep it as far away from their slaves as possible.

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