Saturday, 2 March 2013

It Sounded Good At The Time

Learning, thinking, and studying are very much uppermost in my mind lately. My philosophy course, which isn't actually very good, finally reached a point where it was both incredibly difficult, and interesting. Perhaps the two go together, but the particular area was "intellectual autonomy". I'd never heard that term before, but it's something I'm rather keen on. It was good to learn how it had been approached by experts.

I went to a really crappy school. It was partly my own fault too. At 11 I passed the "11-Plus", a test designed to sort the wheat from the chaff intellectually, and what had happened up to that point in time was that those who passed, were sent to one school, while those who failed were sent to another. Simple as that. A cut-off point, and if you were able enough, you got a better education.

Politicians decided this was wrong, and our tests results were tossed aside and we became the first year who all went to the same school. But, unlike some parts of the country, we had a second chance to go to the better school at the age of 13. I was again recommended for transfer, but as my closest friends were not going there, I declined. It was a bad decision, and nobody talked me out of it, because 13-year-olds are perfectly capable of making life-changing choices all by themselves.

So I stayed where I was, albeit in the "top" class, and the less said about my education the better really. I am actually quite resentful about it, but that was then. Different world.

I was a naturally curious child. Given better teachers I think I would have made far better use of school. But at least I didn't stop learning when I left. I have never stopped. Every day of my life some time has been devoted to studying something or other, and I remember things. I am useful to have on your quiz team.

Therefore I usually describe myself as self-educated. The problem of course, with that method of education is that one concentrates on what is interesting, there is no real discipline. Because I am interested in a wide variety of things, mine has been pretty broad, but still, let's be honest, it's patchy.

There was a dramatic increase in this process when I came to the internet. I was instantly drawn to educated people, and learned from them. I feel quite comfortable in the company of people who have had real/good educations. It's not unusual to find that despite a person having a degree or two, they are only expert in that one area. What some of them do, in fact, is stick so rigidly to their area of expertise, they are complete bozos in others. I'll give them a break. There are only so many hours in a day.

But there is an aspect of learning that isn't just studying facts, but this whole thing about learning how to learn.

Critical thinking. The backbone of all learning, really. I was in my forties before I even heard the term, but obviously, it was something I was already doing. It was notably absent from my schooling, apparently it's taught as an "A" Level subject now, but that's bit late. It's something a child needs at the start. It was an ability I acquired by myself, just from being bright as a child, and I feel rather lucky about that. I'm pretty sure it was encouraged by my mother, in her own way, despite the fact she'd been deprived of a formal education too.

What I'm seeing is not enough of it, "out there". Regardless of whether a person had a crappy education, or a most excellent one. I am seeing a level of credulity that is the antithesis of "intellectual autonomy". And I'm getting the urge to shake people. I want to shout "THINK!". But it's not nice, is it?

I'm not talking about stupid people. I expect it from them. I'm talking about people who are EITHER well-educated OR have taken the trouble to educate themselves and in both cases, to have continued to read, study, watch, learn etc. But every so often, it's like they put their brains on "power save". Call it a blond moment if you like, but it's more than that. It's not a moment.

Is it habit, I wonder, or laziness, or........

Kathy posted a picture on Facebook this morning that illustrated this perfectly. I'm not blaming Kathy here, she just shared the photo, because it's very appealing. I'm having a go at the person who wrote the comment that went with the image. Here's the photo:

Very, very appealing village. And more so because it's real and not a movie set, I think. But the person sharing this around wrote the following:

Beautiful eco friendly village in England! These homes, built entirely from natural materials, are over 600 years old.

Now, hang on a minute. 600 years ago natural materials were the only thing available, so that was a pretty redundant remark. Silly.

But eco-friendly? I doubt it. People live in these houses, so they will have modern plumbing (PVC pipes), full electricity, and some sort of central heating, probably natural gas. Do I even have to bother explaining what's not eco-friendly about all of that? Taking into account there is unlikely to be much insulation in the rooves and walls.

And those bins outside? Garbage. Not recycling. Not compost. (Why did they photograph the ugly bins, I wonder?)

So, what did this person mean by eco-friendly? Bugger all. It was just words that sounded good thrown out without a second thought.

Maybe you think I'm being petty, but this nonsense is just accepted, and it's just one example of what I'm talking about. Airheaded pseudo-information, written for whatever reason. Unless anyone has any evidence that I'm unaware off, that these houses have grey water systems, geothermal heating, or whatever, they are no more eco-friendly, and probably less so, than a newly-built house.

Think people, THINK.


  1. It is on the internet, therefore it is irrefutable truth.
    1. Apple is giving away Iphones
    2. I am the 1,000,000 visitor to the web site and have won valuable prizes.
    3. My Nigerian uncle has left me $15,000,000.
    4. Russian women want to meet me.
    5. My penis and my boobs are too small.

    Says so on the internet.

    1. Let's not forget that for months it has been widely known and discussed that the apparently non-commercial FB pages asking for likes are collecting them so they can SELL the page when it has enough, but people keep on clicking like. This is like giving charity to Wal-Mart.

  2. When you spoke of your school changing I thought "ah they decided to do it the way the US did." U.S. schools or at least the ones around here don't teach thinking. They train good factory workers. The kind of factory worker that will stand around for 8 hours pushing buttons to run machines. The kind of factory worker that calls Scott an hour after the factory starts up at 10pm on Sunday night telling him their machine is dead and does nothing. So Scott goes into work and plugs their machine in because sanitation unplugged it before cleaning it like always. So I guess schools give my husband job security.

    1. And when you say around here, you expose the other big issue. The way education varies, not just from country to country, but from area to area within a country, and even within a town. You live one side of the river, you get school A, the other side you get school B, and it's all just a matter of luck, or what home your parents can afford to live in. For 100 years or more in the west we've had this idea of universal education, and it still isn't happening. This critical investment for the future is still a roll of the dice.

  3. "Natural". I have come to hate that word. It is now a word that appears on my Bullshit meter. If it occurs in Nature, it is natural. Crude oil is natural. Steel and concrete are all made of natural ingredients. (BTW - did you know that the Romans built bath houses and other things out of concrete?) Plastics? Carbon and hydrogen, natural.

    Eco friendly. Study ecology and you will find out that once a steady state is established, then nothing is eco friendly. We have anthropomorphized Nature.

    1. I am beginning to share that dislike of "natural". Especially the way politicians use it. What happened to honesty?

  4. Critical thinking is the process that takes ordinary [energy] and gives us the opportunity to elevate it to the next level or spiral on its path. Could be good, could be bad; but it takes some determination that we can do something more or better than usual.

    The same is true with nature, in a way, if we think about it. Nature and change work together in a critical way. There is 'wood' and there is what we can do with wood. Do we create with it or burn it for fuel? Do we make a structure that lasts for hundreds of years or waste even more energy in processing it with a whole lot of chemicals or other technology?

    I have a problem with some of the buzz words used these days, I do. While we have grown in modernity, we tend to forsake the basic. I know some elements who can get pretty upset at times when we forget to recognize and work with the awesome power of nature. Things come and go in their time. As to the energies we can add to nature, we must employ critical thinking. We see what happens when we fail to do so. :( ~ Blessings!