Each epoch, each economic system, has its own demands for the level of education of the population. For example, in the blessed Middle Ages, peasants were not taught to read and write. Why do the peasants need to do this? They learned the skills necessary to perform agricultural work from childhood from their parents, who passed on their experience and the experience of generations. Royal ordinances or royal decrees were read to them by heralds. The essence of the biblical texts was conveyed in their sermons by priests, adapting them to an undeveloped intellect.
But at the same time, the ruling class of feudal lords was not taught to read and write. A knight had to be able to ride a horse, wield weapons, and preferably be able to run a domain (however, this was often done by wives or specially appointed stewards). The most “educated” were able to play the lute and compose simple poems. This was already a higher education that allowed access to the courts of the lords, but most were limited to acquiring purely military skills. Their intellect was no more developed than that of their subjects, so they listened with reverence to the same sermons in the same temples.
Even among priests and monks, literacy was far from common. Some of them were scribes who preserved and copied the books of the miraculously preserved libraries, but most of them were just “strong economic managers” who were concerned about the material prosperity of monasteries and parishes. By the way, without these economic managers, the scribes would simply starve to death.
Only a relatively small group of jurists, doctors, theologians, and alchemists who graduated from medieval universities were fully literate and educated (according to the education standards of the time). This was due to the peculiarities of their activities. The basics of their sciences were recorded in books, and all new achievements, no matter who made them, were preserved only if they were recorded.
The problem with these groups was their increased social mobility. Due to the need to obtain a university degree in order to conduct practice, they rarely maintained professional dynasties. Descendants of former literates often did not want to spend years of their lives on education, preferring, if their parents managed to accumulate sufficient capital and occupy an appropriate position in society, to move to the class of nobles, clergy, or merchants. Unlucky persons were reduced to ordinary artisans (barbers, perfumers, etc.). In general, the transfer of knowledge from father to son was difficult, it was necessary to learn from books, and therefore to comprehend literacy.
Society was remarkably stable. People who knew only what they had been taught since childhood, who had mastered one specialty in life, did not come up with absurd ideas about “social elevators”, the changeability of power, and other populist nonsense. The agreement between the governors and the governed was based not so much on laws as on customs. New laws were rarely passed. Mostly, they were needed in order to adjust customs in times of crisis and usually related to taxation. If the government was not arrogant and did not abuse its rights, and performed its duties relatively efficiently, then there were no attempts to revolt for decades.
The only unstable and rebellious group, as it is easy to guess, were the literates. And not only secular ones, but also ones of spiritual rank. Having mastered the subtleties of the science of that time, they started to feel like people equal to the rulers, because they knew something that the rulers could not. They even took up the interpretation of biblical texts, challenging the authority of church fathers and apostles. Some in their scientific swagger went as far as atheism, which in that era was considered as impossible as today’s recognition of the earth as being flat. Atheism, according to the views of that era, was the worst of evils. For if you are not a believer, then you are not with God, and if you are not with God, then you are against God. Then you are on the side of the Prince of this World. I.e., you are worse than the enemy of the nation, you are the enemy of the human race.
Nevertheless, the assimilation of even a very modest amount of scientific knowledge (in addition – half anti-scientific), available to the era, led to the fact that educated (by then standards) people became a stratum destabilising society, because they considered that the amount of their knowledge did not correspond to their social status. Since this stratum was extremely small, and there was no mass media capable of communicating its ideas to the entire society, the situation was in principle tolerable. Most of the “scientists” were integrated into the existing social model, and for those who did not want to integrate, there was a medieval justice system that was far from humane, later supplemented by inquisition.
With the increasing complexity of the economic model, the need for educated people grew until, by the end of the 19th century, it grew into the need for universal primary and then secondary education. Since the end of the 18th century, when the number of educated people in society reached a critical point, revolutions and civil wars become a permanent process in the life of at least European and/or Europeanised society. Dissatisfaction with those who “know” how to manage the state, but are not allowed to use the levers of state administration, is growing much faster than the state authorities manage to implement reforms. At some point, the reforms stop satisfying, because there is still not enough space in the management structures for all those who are queuing for social elevators.
This growing process of social destabilisation and revolutionisation was tolerated solely because the growth of the population’s education was a necessary condition for economic progress, and therefore ensured the survival of the state in an aggressive, competitive external environment. But since the middle of the 20th century, the essence of education has changed radically.
Henceforth, not only was education required, but a specialised education at that. A necessary condition for success was obtaining secondary vocational and then higher education. As a result, the desire of society’s constituent individuals for an increasingly high level of education started to conflict with the interests of society, which had no need for such a large number of narrow specialists, while public consciousness started to classify an increasing number of available jobs as non-prestigious.
There was a contradiction between the significant number of unfilled “non-prestigious” vacancies and the growing number of dissatisfied “highly educated” unemployed. In part, in terms of filling vacancies, this contradiction was solved by attracting gastarbeiters, but this did not solve the problem of an increasing number of dissatisfied “highly educated” unemployed and no less “highly educated”, but in reality not able to do anything and receiving a fairly modest salary, office plankton. Civilised societies (including the Russian one) have not yet found a solution to the problem of an ever-growing number of ambitious “educated” people who realise that their turn in the social elevator is moving too slowly and they will not have time to go up before the end of their lives.
But this is only part of the problem. The second part is more serious. As I wrote above, since the middle of the 20th century, society has been in need of increasingly narrow specialists. It has already reached plumbers who understand the functioning of strictly defined models of toilets (they were not taught otherwise), historians who specialise not just in the New Times, the Middle Ages, or the Ancient World, and even not just in the peculiarities of the development of a state in a certain historical period, but in one historical event. A person, for example, may be an expert on the First Russian Revolution of 1905-1907, but the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 is already a background event for them that goes beyond the chronological framework of their scientific interests.
A constant narrowing of specialisation and an increasingly earlier specialisation (soon kindergartens will be divided into humanities and mathematics, and then possibly split into narrower disciplines) leads to profanation of science. A scientist who can describe every minute of the life of Louis XIV, list all the items of the wardrobe of the Sun King and his many mistresses, who remembers the location of every tree in the Park of Versailles, is not a scientist. This is nothing more than an article from an encyclopaedia, listing a lot of facts, but not able to make any independent conclusions.
However, the modern economy needs just such narrow specialists/performers who can blindfold repair the only model of electric kettle known to them but are afraid to even think about approaching an electric kettle from another manufacturer. The era when almost anyone could repair any equipment with sticks, ropes, and some kind of material is fast fading into the past. If the universal generation is still alive and active in our country (“progress” reached us later), then Europe and the US are already facing a situation where “unique specialists” of one operation are not able to cope with complex equipment either together or separately.
The worst thing is that the disaster in the field of humanitarian knowledge is not so noticeable, but much more dangerous. A technician can also manage a well-established state (of course, after acquiring the necessary experience), but creating new (promising) and debugging (reforming) old state models is the lot, mainly of humanitarians. There are, of course, exceptions, like mathematics, academician Igor Shafarevich, who managed to become not only a skilled historian, but also a major political thinker, but like any exceptions, they only prove the rule. In the end, the same Shafarevich, relying on the universality of the education he received in the first half of the 20th century, was able to skilfully master the related field of knowledge. This manoeuvre is not available to modern “unique specialists” due to their limited horizons.
But this very limitation, coupled with the awareness of their “uniqueness” (in terms of accumulating useless knowledge available in any encyclopaedia) makes the mass of waiting lists for the social elevator super-revolutionary. The lack of breadth of vision, which is acquired by universalism, sacrificing the depth of immersion in the problem at the expense of the breadth of the problem, generates absolute confidence in any heresy that has appeared on the Internet. A person simply believes that the writer is as narrow a specialist as they are, which means there is no point in verifying (you still won’t understand anything), it should be taken on faith.
The result is the simultaneous acceptance of diametrically opposite points of view, without a sense of cognitive dissonance. For example, in the spring and summer of this year, I encountered a lot of people who simultaneously claimed that the coronavirus does not exist, and the stories about it are a conspiracy of governments supervised by reptilians from the planet Nibiru, who dream of chipping humanity, and immediately resented the fact that the Russian authorities closed the country too late, as a result of which the coronavirus (which is a fiction) entered Russia. It’s possible to believe in the absence of the coronavirus, it’s possible it believe in its presence, but only a schizophrenic can believe in both at the same time. However, up to a third of society are such “political schizophrenics”.
Similarly, adherents of different Maidan movements simultaneously believe that they are for democracy, freedom of speech, against police violence, and are committing an exclusively peaceful “revolution”; and they demand that their opponents be denied access to the media, gagged, banned from their rallies, jailed, and eventually killed. This also fits comfortably in one head: “We must not be beaten up because we are for the truth”, and “they must be killed because they are against us”. Just as any Maidan opposition starts with the statement that it represents the majority, or even the entire nation, and ends (when they are convincingly proved that they are in the absolute minority) by saying that the majority does not mean anything, since the country should be governed by the “best, most progressive” people, who are “always in the minority”.
Thus, the current economic reality requires narrow specialists who can be called highly qualified, but it is difficult to consider them educated people. At the same time, the traditions formed over three centuries in society, which presuppose respect for an education and the desire to get one, force the state to provide conditions for almost universal higher education. Narrow specialists, gradually moving up the career ladder, have already decomposed science. A doctor of science who is not able to navigate in their own discipline, and who is outside of their narrow field, becomes commonplace. This is especially true in the Humanities, where the error sometimes becomes apparent after years and decades (societies do not explode like a rocket at launch). But the cost of such a mistake is much higher than when designing a space rocket – the losses from an unsuccessful launch cannot be compared to the catastrophe of statehood.
In fact, distributing higher education diplomas to people who de facto lack the horizons that provided secondary school students with a sensible average at the beginning of the 20th century, they are the fruit of the cannon fodder of Maidan – continually unhappy with everything and not capable of waiting for social elevators, quickly realising that they can only break into this elevator by force, only at the cost of destroying a system in which they are not in demand, despite the fact that they are not able to build another one. Any Maidan is always preceded by a drop in the quality of education. An ambitious crowd, with diplomas, but without knowledge is very easy to manage – just tell them that they are the salt of the earth, and they will follow you to storm the foundations that hinder them (or rather you).
It is the disintegration of the education system, its accelerated adaptation to the needs of the modern economy, without significant changes formulated by the end of the 20th century, detached from the economic reality of the social need for universal higher education, that led western countries to today’s pre-Maidan state. No NGOs or Soros funds formed an anti-state opposition there, if only because the liberals had an absolute monopoly on power in these states. The conservatives have so far only pushed them a little, but they are still far from a radical change. Nevertheless, across Europe and the US, there is so much Maidan cannon fodder that it’s possible to send tons of it for export – and there still will be no decrease.
But the most important thing is that in the states of the victorious Maidan (absolutely victorious, as in Ukraine, where Maidan did not change the politicians in power, but actually changed the system of power to the Maidan administration, although it infused it into the previous structures), the education system continues to be destroyed at the root, but the distribution of diplomas continues. Ukrainian schools and universities produce people with an early Paleolithic hunter-gatherer outlook, but provide them with diplomas of education and absolute confidence in their knowledge and abilities. Instead of a nation, the country receives a controlled mob, which today can be persuaded to go to a Maidan for everything that’s good and against everything that’s bad, since “Berkut“ was allegedly cruel to the “innocent protesting students”, and tomorrow it is easy to send the same people to crush the city of Donbass with tanks, opening fire at it from large-caliber guns and bombing it from the air, or burn Odessa residents in the House of Trade Unions. The day after tomorrow, as part of de-oligarchisation, they will elect an oligarch as their President, then a clown, then an inveterate fraudster, then a Nazi dictator. And all of this will be done “in the name of a good and better life”, proudly carrying a swastika on the banner and branding those who do not become fascists under this banner.
This is not nonsense or complex political technology imposed by a “secret world government” that has been dreaming of killing everyone for 10,000 years in a row. This is just an absurd respect for education. Not everyone can be a good tractor driver, a good turner, a good pilot, and so on. Similarly, not everyone is capable of doing science. Education that does not provide the broadest outlook cannot be considered distinguished. Whatever the subtleties of handling the most complex technique one is taught, it is no more than a specialist average. And this is not a big deal, because most of our contemporaries, like hundreds of years ago, do not even need to be able to read and write. “Royal ordinances” will explain TV and the Internet. On YouTube even written articles have long been voiced for the lazy. Moreover, apart from signboards, they do not read anything, and it is no more difficult to remember by external signs where the store is, where the pharmacy is, and where the pub is than in the Middle Ages. Uneducated peasants were able to count geese, cows, and money even then, and today this simple science is usually taught to children by their parents before school.
Unfortunately, public sentiment does not allow the education system to be immediately brought in line with economic reality. If to take away from millions of illiterate people the hope of a diploma, a riot is inevitable. They will perceive it in the same way the “new Russian” of the early 90s perceives an attempt upon his gold chain, red jacket, Mercedes, mistress, and stall in the market, which he rackets. I think that to begin with, so as not to be very painful, it would be worth simply, within the framework of democratisation, making secondary education universally voluntary instead of universally compulsory. You don’t want to go to school? So don’t go, you will see that at first the number of applicants for a diploma will decrease (after all, one cannot apply for a higher education without secondary education), and then, with the dropping out of those who are incapable (who simply do not want to go to school), it will be possible to improve the quality of education, because the teacher is focused not on the best student, but on the middle class level.
At the next stage, it will be possible to introduce abandonment for the second year and dismissal if the program has not been mastered from the second attempt. This will make it possible to again increase the average level of secondary education, and therefore the level of applicants (with a simultaneous decrease in their number). In the end, this will reduce the burden on teachers, but at the same time increase the requirements for teaching personnel, and therefore the prestige of the profession, since not everyone will meet the new requirements.
You will see that in 10 or 20 years, the number of ambitious nonentities with a diploma, but without knowledge, will decrease significantly, and along with them, the ranks of Maidan cannon fodder, always ready for mutiny, will thin out. But the demand for jobs of janitors, construction workers, and other “non-prestigious” activities will have to grow. They will have to thin out the ranks of office plankton (those who are really qualified will remain, and their salaries will increase), as well as reduce the number of gastarbeiters (jobs will belong to their own people, without diplomas and without ambitions).
Education reform, like any reform, requires time and caution. But we must understand that just like how not everyone can be a boxing champion, not everyone can be a scientist. The state’s job is not to provide everyone with a diploma, but to provide an opportunity for everyone who deserves a diploma to get a diploma. It should also be understood that bringing the system into line with reality will be in the interests of all. Otherwise, we will quickly, in a few decades, grow a generation of Maidan zombies, who, striving for everything good and opposing everything bad, will arrange a fully-fledged apocalypse not only for themselves or their state, but also for all mankind. Only because in their self-confidence they will not know what they are doing.
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