Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Hmmmmm. I haz a job in science and I like to read and hear about it. Thus I approached this article with some trepidation. I can even see what he is saying as being largely true throughout the Western world where we have sold our societies for a mess of pottage, an' all. Science has to break free but IT'S THE MONEY innit? The love affair with capitalism has us by the essential fluids and no mistake.
But it is a worthwhile article to read and you may comment in non veiled penis references, of course.


fish said...

Couldn't finish it. Made it about half way and could take no more "woe is me."

Free public education was a mechanism whereby an increasingly industrialized world could offload the cost of training workers onto the general population. The other aspects of education (art, creativity, worldliness) are just frosting. In all of history, not just today, only a small number of artists and philosophers could survive, and only from the benevolence of the money holders. Left to his own devices, Michelangelo would have spent much less time painting saints and much more time with a long line of young, buff, and nude male models. Pretending education was ever about spiritual development (outside of the original church-bound universities) is a tiresome indulgence.
I also hate the bullshit, shallow view of science as non-creative, observation of the external world. It is the view of someone who has shunned science his whole life and then defends his "creative" world against straw science.
Just another "the world doesn't value what I value" article.

merc said...

Love teaches.

conkesse, horsey Princess.

Smut Clyde said...

Mark Slouka is cordially invited to eat a big bag of dicks.

I lost interest right at the beginning, when he stated that "this I feel is true: That we are more nurture than nature; that what we are taught, generally speaking, is what we become..." I tend to be interested in facts and the arguments that can be based on them, not so much in reading someone's list of the things he prefers to believe. Call me old-fashioned.

Further down he goes on about the cowardice of scientists, who never fear for imprisonment if they arrive at the wrong value of Hubble's Constant, and whose careers apparently never suffer if the results of science conflict with a government's political ideology. Yeah, right. We are left to marvel at the implicit bravery of humanists, who daily risk persecution if their translations of Seneca are incorrect.

To contradict his claim that scientists are non-risk-taking (to the extent that "strictly democratically speaking [they're] useless"), Slouka himself admits only two feckin' paragraphs earlier that there are "latter-day inquisitors, ever eager to sacrifice the spirit of scientific inquiry". He's on the side of the creationists, AGW-denialists and [insert list here] who are doing their best to make scientists go away, though he doesn't want to be seen aligning himself with them.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

didn't read.

hey, let's go beyond science, hasn't money corrupted EVERY profession? The degradation of short term amortization of construction costs, let me show you it. Engineering: cutting costs has eliminated the art, Calatrava notwithstanding.

fish's "other aspects of education" are being rapidly eliminated from consideration. Feck all of you if you can tell me the Five Orders, or the Three Types of Columns without resorting to Wikiwhosits, and I bet they've got it rong too. Also. And such as.

Myself, I would not dare to impugn the bravery of sciencey types, if only for the way people like Darwin and Galileo gave a hearty "UP YOURS" to Standard Wisdom, because that is where the logic led them. Recent innovations in cobaggery and negation do not result from new impulses; there is a Sort who will kill you rather than see their sacred cows turned into lunchmeat.

But let it be said that A Big Basket of Dicks has NOTHING on classical architecture.

And finally, need a lawn mowed?

Substance McGravitas said...

Don't much like the article, but it speaks to some of my prejudices.

The other aspects of education (art, creativity, worldliness) are just frosting.

I really disagree with this. One of the strengths of US education - which kinda sucks at the high-school level for science and math in any case compared to a lot of first-order states - is a fairly broad curriculum in which the values of citizenry are learned. You learn 'em through science, philosophy, literature, music, and so on.

Slouka's complaining about a system which has a lot of advantages over systems that descended from English French and German models that stream their kids mercilessly into welding programs and what have you. Really, funding aside (California being a prime example of education funding problems) the US has pretty much what Slouka wants.

At the university level most North American programs have a shitload of gen ed courses that force engineers to read stuff other than Ayn Rand, and make literature students burn themselves with nifty chemicals.

In other words, it's a pretty awesome system if the money's there for it. Plenty of public universities in America still have programs that are the envy of the world, and they have American students to fill spots if they want them, and all of those students have had the opportunity to learn more broadly than students in many European countries.

Smut Clyde said...

the Five Orders
(1) Feck off.
(2) Eat a Big Basket of Dicks.
(3) Die in a fire.

Can't remember the other two.

Smut Clyde said...

the Three Types of Columns

(1) Broderesque centrism.
(2) Nihilist and ironic.
(3) Paglia-style gibberish.

ckc (not kc) said...

1. all these pursuits (science, art, music, sports, prostitution, etc.) are creative
2. they're all channeled by internal constraints (methodological naturalism, 12 tone scale, etc.)
3. some of them make some money (if practiced well, or marketed cunningly)
4. the relationship between amount of money earned, intrinsic value, and return in fulfilment to the practitioner is a giant crapshoot
5. I do science because I enjoy it - I make music because I enjoy it - fortunately one of these puts food on the table

Smut Clyde said...

You have a table? Luxury.

ckc (not kc) said...

(you're assuming it's my table)

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

per CkkkC cK...

it appears my mistake is in not having more than one potential revenue-generating activity.

Which I am even now looking to correct. Per Mr McGravy-bavy, I have a COMPELLING LEAD on a lucrative newspaper delivery position. And NEWSPAPERS are apparently a GROWTH INDUSTRY!

mikey said...


I wish I played in you guy's league.

For that matter, if I had the appropriate plumbing I'd want to have Smut's babies (and yeah, band name).

I dunno. I have a high school diploma. Since I get creeped out by bead-jigglers, I kind of worship science. No, not in THAT way.

It's just that it's not that hard to say WHY you believe something to be true, instead of just saying WHAT you believe.

One depends on fraud. One depends on rigor. I just have yet to find a challenge that couldn't be at least described, if not solved, by mathematics.

I'm sorry. Did I miss the goddam point again?

Smut Clyde said...

I'd want to have Smut's babies

If you mean my collection of specimens, they are for sound educational purposes and NOT MORBID at all.

Slouka is writing to us from an alternative reality in which the humanities are edgy, and dangerous, and a valuable part of a democratic society because they SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER, whereas science has none of these qualities. He complains that humanities education must justify itself by promising an immediate-term economic benefit, by way of contrast with science... in his reality, scientists are funded for decades ahead to pursue their abstract curiosity.

I would like to visit it some time.

Substance McGravitas said...

Yeah, he's pretty deaf to the idea that learning how to learn is an enormous part of the sciences. Even if you don't pull the science job he believes exists, you've received something that can help you live. Particularly if you took Sucking The Life Essences Out Of Lesser Beings.

ckc (not kc) said...

Sucking The Life Essences Out Of Lesser Beings

...we prefer to think of it as relieving their inner tensions

fish said...

Not sure we disagree SMG. I agree with much of what you said. I would only argue that the good aspects of education in the US are a byproduct of its original intent (i.e. to make good workers) not its primary goal. From wiki:
The rise of the high school movement in the beginning of the 20th century was unique in the United States, such that, high schools were implemented with property-tax funded tuition, openness, non-exclusivity, and were decentralized.

The academic curriculum was designed to provide the students with a terminal degree. The students obtained general knowledge (such as mathematics, chemistry,composition, etc.) best applicable to the high geographic and social mobility in the United States. The provision of the high schools accelerated with the rise of second industrial revolution industry. The increase in office white collar and skilled blue-collar work in manufacturing reflected in the high demand for high schools.

The US was fortunate to have visionaries such as John Dewey early on, that had a huge positive influence on US public education, but that was secondary to the primary objective of trained workers. It has always been that way, at least for the masses.

Smut Clyde said...

that was secondary to the primary objective of trained worker

Let's not over-simplify. Any fule kno that the primary objective of compulsary universal education was to leave parents unencumbered and free to work full-time in the factory.

Substance McGravitas said...

The US was fortunate to have visionaries such as John Dewey early on, that had a huge positive influence on US public education, but that was secondary to the primary objective of trained workers.

We do agree on pretty much everything, but it's notable that in a country with so many states all capable of doing their own thing in education that so many have managed to maintain interdisciplinary education of about the same style and length. The feds until recently had nearly no power to do anything and yet you could study all sorts of things all over the country and wind up reasonably well-educated. There's something more to the maintenance of that standard than babysitting and enslavement.

Another Kiwi said...

I have found this discussion to be very interesting, thanks to all contributors.
I also found the article interesting since it gave a different take on education to the one I am immersed in.
He's got a point, in education today money rules. It may have always been that way. But that is a reflection of our Western societies, there is no reason to think that education might be different.
As a part of society that has been shown to produce wealth to society members it is pretty natural that the society would want to encourage science.
I'm not sure that he's right about under-valuing of art. There is a real and strong base for support of the arts but it is possibly not so evident in the education world. That support may not be of the same size and depth of support for science but that is probably a reflection of the sizes of the two communities.

fish said...

yet you could study all sorts of things all over the country

Except Evolution in Mississippi.

fish said...

One difference in education today is that Dewey would be dragged out of town by his ankles for being way to socialist to be serious and would never have the impact on education now that he did then. David Horowitz would be denouncing him daily and Glen Beck would weep at the destruction of our way of life.