I have no notion of a world improved by education left. My country, Britain, is probably the biggest exporter of education per capita, and we are so mean we wouldn’t be letting the rest of the world get hands on it if we really thought it was any good. It’s not that we are any good at education, more that our previous export of English, continued by our former colony-cum-Empire-centre the USA, rules OK! It must be obvious to anyone who has seen him that Gaddafi’s son could only have bought his PhD from the London School of Economics. Standards collapsed long before that, and may never really have existed. Porterhouse Blue (Tom Sharpe) has the ring of truth about it and I saw a PhD in 1983 that was useless and followed by £100,000 in ‘research’ money from Nigeria to Glasgow – not far short of what poor Libyans will have paid, allowing for inflation.
I don’t doubt that there is much we can term knowledge around that could help us. I believe this more strongly in my later years, partly because it has helped me understand how wrong I was when younger, and yet has also helped expose how much shit I was forced to swallow. What is clear is that education has very little to do with developing our collective abilities to work with and through knowledge. We are very grateful to our local primary school in child-minding and developing our grandson, though we were put through distasteful pretenses of being Roman Catholic to get him in the place. His secondary school has much greater problems and is nowhere near as good, sometimes leaving us with dread thoughts of home tutoring the lad. He and his mates are already showing they have had enough, and it would now be less cruel to let them enter the world of work, perhaps so some of them might appreciate learning again later. They are about thirteen.
Shaun and his mates, with an odd exception, have shorter attention spans than our cats, do about as much work, cause far more mess, break more valuables and are more difficult to herd and train. I mostly live and work around Manchester, and in a few years time some of these kids will rack up with the 25% of adults in our population who remain functionally illiterate and innumerate. I don’t know how anyone manages to teach them anything (well I do really, having taught remedial kids, but you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever strayed onto a bus just after the schools finish). There is no doubt these kids need more knowledge and skills, but I think they might have more chance if we turfed them out of the schools (not onto the streets – I don’t want them outside my house!) at 14, than forced them to rot there in more child-minding until 18.
This is all some way from Pyrrho, but I contend we need some Tour de Farce thinking if we are to provide anything beyond the bullshit on offer from politicians. Their ‘joined up thinking’ is probably a form of painting by numbers in which the paint pots are all empty. We can’t do tour de force today, we are told, because no one can know all there is to know about a subject. I doubt there ever was a tour de force, but also feel pretty sure we should be able to do loads better with big problems now there is more established knowledge and technology to use and develop it. Fuck me, Pyrrho and his mates knew argument could be made in all kinds of directions more than 2000 years ago. Why we have to stick our heads up just one blind alley now makes no sense at all, unless education means to keep us all from proper enquiry. That’s right, ‘enquiry’ is spelled with an ‘e’ unless you have your head stuck where the sun don’t shine, waiting for knowledge to impinge directly on your unconscious in inquiry.