The Fundamentals of Life — Economics and Education

There is nothing wrong with this. I mention it because of my naivete. In-flight magazines are essentially about selling airfares, and peripherally about describing destinations.  I was naive to reverse the essential and peripheral purposes of the Osaka feature. I had already been to Osaka, so the article was aimed more at other flyers than at me.

This story points to one of the most fundamental aspects of American life. Our economy is driven by the selling of goods and services. Without understanding this, American life makes no sense. In this case, without understanding this, we would not understand that the purpose of in-flight magazines is to sell airfares. (I was silly to think it had anything to do with my travel interests.)

Here are other examples of what does not make sense until we realize American life is driven by the selling of goods and services:

1. Newspaper and magazine advertisements — Isn’t the purpose of newspapers and magazines to educate and entertain? (It is not. American life is driven by the selling of goods and services.)

2. Electronic media advertisements — Isn’t the purpose of the internet, television and radio to educate and entertain? (It is not. American life is driven by the selling of goods and services.)

3. The drive for winning intercollegiate athletic teams — Isn’t excellence in athletics second to excellence in academics? (It is not. Winning teams increase student tuition payments and donations. American life is driven by the selling of goods and services.)

4. Celebrity guest appearances on radio/television political talk shows — Isn’t a celebrity’s political insight equivalent to that of my neighbor’s? (It is, but my neighbor’s ratings would be lower. American life is driven by the selling of goods and services.)

5. Channel One television in public schools — Aren’t public school educators responsible for protecting a captive, vulnerable audience from crass materialism. (They are, but they don’t. American life is driven by the selling of goods and services.)

6. Huge donations to political candidates — Doesn’t the size of a donation, alone, make it clear which donations are meant to purchase political favors? The Supreme Court says, since everything else in American life is driven by the purchasing of goods and services, why not politicians?

We all understand the economic reasons behind numbers 1-6. If we did not, not only would these experiences not make sense, but much of American life would be a mystery.

That is the situation we face with public education. We have not defined what it means to be educated, so “educated” is both good and bad, and improving education is a complete mystery.

It is common knowledge that our economy is driven by the selling of good and services.  American life cannot be understood without knowing this.

But when the six virtues of the educated person are described in plain language, the fundamental nature of this premise is not easily accepted. Could it be because Americans have been educated in schools that teach them to be intellectually incompetent, fearful of truth, and proud? Is there a set of vices that more reliably prevents Americans from thinking philosophically and improving education?  Is there a set of vices that more reliably maintains the privileges of governing elites?

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2 comments ↓

#1 World Wide News Flash on 10.21.10 at 12:43 am

The Fundamentals of Life ? Economics and Education…

I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

#2 Casey on 10.23.10 at 8:44 pm

The Six Virtues of the Educated Person provides the framework for understanding what happens in schools and how to improve it.
Go to http://www.sixvirtues.com, and click on “Order the Book” to get a copy.

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