Mike Rowe: Lending money to kids who can’t pay it back to educate them for jobs that don’t exist anymore is a bad idea.

I think Mike Rowe is quite on-target with this. As a friend of mine put it, when she posted this on Facebook earlier today,

“I don’t regret college, I believe it was the right choice for me, but I do regret not being more thoughtful about the degree I chose. I love history but if I had it to do over again, I would double major in something a little more employable.

“Let’s stop telling kids if they get a college degree they won’t have a problem getting a job. We have too many college graduates with the equivalent of a mortgage at the age of 22 who are under- and unemployed for that to be true. Seek all options and find what works for you.”

Indeed. I have said for years that we as a society make a mistake when we try to sell “college for all.” For any reason, but particularly as a ticket out of poverty!

First and foremost, not everyone has the intellectual gifts and temperament for college. Actually getting them through it – which we must, if we are claiming that anyone can go to college, and everyone should – means that a) academic standards are being “dumbed down,” and b) colleges themselves are refashioning themselves into glorified vocational institutes, which is unfair both to them, and to genuine vocational institutes, which have for a long time gotten a great deal less credit and support than they deserve.

On a related note, it fosters the greed and expansionism (both part of fallen human nature) to which colleges and universities – no less than any other large human institutions – are prey, leading them to seek to recruit more and more students (whether they are what was once called “college material” or not), thus exacerbating the problems.

Speaking of problems, when more and more students are (by hook or by crook) graduating, diploma in hand, we have a growing issue of degree inflation: in which an Associate’s, or even a Bachelor’s, degree is needed to perform jobs which once could be filled by a qualified high school graduate, a Masters to fill what were formerly Baccalaureate positions, and a Doctorate to fill what used to be Masters-level positions.

Which of course means that now more and more people are trying to go to college or “uni,” because what used to be a helpful bonus is now a necessity! And once again the problem grows…

From the standpoint of economic success, the reason a college or university degree used to be a pathway out of poverty is precisely because it was RARE. It was indicative of a person with an unusually high degree of intellect, drive / determination, or simple sticktoitiveness, either singly or in combination. That is obviously not the case when a degree is simply another ticket to be punched, on one’s way (hopefully, but less certainly all the time) up the ladder.

It was also viewed by those tasked with hiring as a major plus because a college or university graduate could reasonably be considered to be a person who had both a certain broadness of perspective, and who had received training in broadening and fostering his or her critical thinking skills.

With colleges and universities morphing into vocational training schools, the classic liberal arts breadth of perspective is increasingly becoming a thing of the past; while even a brief survey of the level of political – or if there even was such a thing any more, philosophical – discourse in this county by folks who theoretically are the beneficiaries of higher education leads to the inescapable conclusion that critical thinking can no longer be counted upon as one of the fruits of such education.

But the root problem is this: if everyone has a thing, it is no longer special. Would anybody care about having a Porsche, if everybody had a Porsche? Businesses aren’t going to pay someone more for a college degree if everyone has a college degree! So the more people who seek one as a means of getting hired, or paid more, the less likelihood there is that any particular degree-holder is going to be hired, or given a raise.

The most they will do is refuse to consider anyone who does not hold a degree, transforming what – as I mentioned above – used to be a selling point, into a necessity. It is difficult for me to see how this is an improvement in the situation!

On a personal level, I agree with you, Olivia: I am the holder of a B.A. in medieval studies, and a Masters in theology. While I do not (usually) regret either degree, I also have to be honest enough to admit that cool as they are, neither has proven particularly salable! They have not brought me the level of financial stability – forget about “success,” whatever that means – that the salesmen for universal college education would like people to believe.

If I could do it over again, I, too, would have chosen my major(s) with more care, taken a second and more salable major, or at the very least gotten my teaching certificate when I was in college the first time. Or perhaps better yet, learned a trade, to fall back on. Degree inflation was already a “thing” when I graduated in 1991, and the intervening almost 30 years have increased the problem exponentially!

That doesn’t mean that those degrees weren’t worthwhile in other respects: they were, and are. I am very glad, from a personal and philosophical standpoint, that I got the education I did. But as money-makers? Not so much. Thank God I didn’t go on for Ph.D. study, and come out with that level of debt, and not much more chance of finding employment!

If I had dictatorial powers, I would make colleges and universities smaller, not larger; shrink, rather than increase, their enrollment; and return them to what they used to be: places for those who wished to grapple with the larger and deeper existential questions of life – for the pursuit of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. At the same time, I would strengthen opportunities for vocational / technical learning, which is badly needed, and which can be done more efficiently and economically in other contexts than a college or university environment.

Higher education and vocational training are not the same thing, and it’s time we stopped pretending that they are.

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Education, the arts, metaphysics, and robber-barons – inspired by “I’ll Take My Stand”

https://i1.wp.com/solidarityhall.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/takemystand1.jpg?resize=202%2C300Here’s another excerpt from Donald Davidson’s essay, “A Mirror for Artists,” in I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (1930), with my thoughts inspired thereby, following:

“Education can do comparatively little to aid the cause of the arts as long as it must turn out graduates into an industrialized society which demands specialists in vocational, technical, and scientific subjects. The humanities, which could reasonably be expected to foster the arts, have fought a losing battle since the issue between vocational and liberal education was raised in the nineteenth century…’

“The more they indoctrinate the student with their values, the more unhappy they will make him. For he will be spoiled for the industrial tasks [and the same could be said of technology, or the “service economy”] by being rendered inefficient. He will not fit in. The more refined and intelligent he becomes, the more surely he will see in the material world the lack of the image of nobility and beauty that the humanities inculcate in him.”

Maybe this is the true reason that so many colleges and universities seem to be trying to re-envision themselves as glorified vocational schools! The proximate cause may be the (arguably laudable, on the face of it) desire by institutions of higher learning to make themselves more “relevant” and help their students get jobs with their diplomas.

But it may be that the ultimate cause is the desire of the puppeteers that pull the strings in so many aspects of society – the globalist, corporatist plutocrats, the vulture capitalists and profiteers, the robber-barons of the 21st century – to suppress aspirations toward the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, in favor of their (un)holy trinity of Production, Consumption, and Profit.

It certainly would suit those whose goal in life is to make money by selling “stuff” (whether goods or services) to promote the creation of a society of mindless drones who are numbed by the technological equivalent of “bread and circuses” into a passive existence where getting said “stuff” and being entertained (mostly electronically, which doesn’t even require a person to leave the house) becomes the goal of an otherwise largely futile and nihilistic existence.

They certainly wouldn’t want people to be seriously wrestling with questions like “what is the Good?” or “how do we reach it?” or “what is the proper end of a human being?” Or struggling with attempting to discern the meaning of Truth, or which volitional (self-willed) acts of a human being are ethically virtuous, and which are ethically vicious. Or even grappling with the characteristics of genuine Beauty, and the relationship between and among Beauty, Truth, and Goodness, the classical Three Transcendentals.

Best not to even admit that there might be such a thing as transcendence. Certainly under no circumstances should they be led down trails which might lead them to the consideration that there may be some sort of actual, objective Divine Reality, outside the constraints of our physical-sensory universe (although in significant ways immanent within it) – and especially not one which is personal, concerned with humanity, and which has both plans for, and expectations of, us humans!

Human beings concerned about such matters would be lousy consumers of “stuff,” since they might begin to suspect that there may after all be higher aspirations which are, in the long run, more important…

The Blowback Against Facebook, Google and Amazon Is Just Beginning | Charles Hugh Smith: Of Two Minds

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“The theory of the happy union of capitalism and democracy rests on capitalism creating secure middle-class employment for millions of citizens. Once capitalism only creates a peon-debt-serf class and a 5% technocrat / manager / financier / entrepreneur / speculator class that harvests 70% of the wealth and income, then democracy dies by the slow poison of rising inequality and ever greater asymmetries of wealth and political power.”

Source: Charles Hugh Smith: The Blowback Against Facebook, Google and Amazon Is Just Beginning

Politics, my late grandfather used to say, makes for some mighty strange bed-fellows.

Capitalism was a logical ally for our American (and more generally, Western) representative democratic-republican system during the Cold War, when our enemies were based on a vicious combination of totalitarian political systems and state-controlled economies – and when capitalism was indeed creating secure middle-class employment for millions of citizens.

But this is no longer happening; indeed, quite the reverse. What we are seeing is increasing polarization into “haves” and “have-nots,” into wage-slaves and wealthy overseers. Which leads to the question, is today’s capitalism an ally of freedom, (representative) democracy, and self-determination, or yet another – and apparently voracious and implacable – adversary? At the least, as the above quote makes clear, democracy (or, as in the U.S., a Constitutional Republic) and capitalism are not always or necessarily allies.

This is true in part because of a difference in philosophy and ethos.

Capitalism is, at base, about competition and dominance: various companies, corporations, entrepreneurs, etc., are are in competition to attract consumers, acquire customers, and in the process, accrue wealth and the power that comes with it. Those entities that are most successful eventually dominate the marketplace, at least until a more successful competitor comes along and knocks them off their hill. People are viewed basically as units of production, consumers of goods and services – sources of either labour or money – or both.

Democracy, on the other hand – or again, more properly, representative republics (because a true popular democracy is perpetually dancing on the edge of demagoguery and dictatorship) – is about power-sharing, checks and balances, and the common good. While competition is not absent (particularly during campaign season!), a properly-functioning representative republic is more about cooperation than competition and dominance. People are viewed as citizens and members of society, with a common stake in the success of the enterprise.

Thus, both the methods and the aims of representative democratic–republicanism and those of capitalism – at least, in its current dominant form – are actually quite distinct. But it is also the case that not all forms of capitalism are created equal.

There is a great deal of difference between the kind of extreme crony capitalism, economic oligarchy, or corporate plutocracy in which neo-robber-barons like the aforementioned Google, Facebook, and Amazon are able, by their extreme wealth and the power that wealth purchases for them, to manipulate the machinery of democracy itself, and the capitalism of the Jeffersonian ideal, in which a nation of yeoman farmers, shopkeepers, craftsmen and artisans, merchants and tradesmen, working largely for themselves, own pieces of a widely distributed network of capital and means of production.

I have commented previously on the fact that the present, voraciously predatory form of capitalism is a relative latecomer to humankind, and even within the American experience: the massive shift that took place from the Antebellum (pre-War Between the States) period to the Gilded Age (from c. 11850 to just before the First World War) was a cataclysmic course-change, here in the U.S., from a culture and society in which most Americans worked for themselves (most of those on farms, the rest in the kind of Jeffersonian businesses I mentioned above) to one in which the vast majority of Americans worked for others, for wages.

The modern form of plutocratic capitalism is not the default form, for America – and furthermore, it is not, I think, healthy for any society.

The question, of course, is what can be done about the present crisis; and although the linked article points out – accurately, I think – that blowback is beginning, what form it will take, and what effect, it will have, remains to be seen. But that something needs to be done is, I think, an unavoidable conclusion; lest we end up governed by “Avatar”-style quasi-governmental administrative entities (QGAEs) that are accountable to no one – except, perhaps, their stockholders!

A full return to the Jeffersonian ideal is (sadly, in my opinion) probably pretty unrealistic, in today’s world. But something like Chestertonian distributism may be, as I have posited on more than one occasion, the only route to a system of economics which is human both in scale and in ethos. Every alternative I can think of is frightening.

The Big Pile of Work That Must Get Done – by John Horvat

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While both sides [Left and Right] clamor for jobs, they fail to call for work. The old distinction between “job” and “work” could well shed some light on where we need to go to solve our economic problems.

Source: The Big Pile of Work That Must Get Done – by John Horvat

John Horvat precisely articulates the real problem with that oft-repeated refrain by some on the economic right – or who think they’re on the economic right, which usually means they are neoliberal, a school of thought which is only (very) questionably conservative, and not traditional at all – that people should just “get a job”:

The word “job” is recent, dating from the Industrial Revolution. Its original meaning was “a pile of things to be done,”  and now insinuates something done indifferently for hire. On the other hand, the word “work” is a very old word dating back to medieval England. Its first appearance is in the eleventh century Aelfric Homilies which stated that “work was begun under God’s will.” Work refers to an activity done for its own sake, motivated by a pleasure or passion for that which is done, as in a work of love or a work of art.

And that is the problem with so many well-intentioned people calling for jobs – they don’t call for work. They create “piles of things to be done,” which once done leave us looking for further piles… What is missing is the human element that has been hollowed out of the economy. Our economy has taken on a mechanical character where people really don’t matter anymore since they are but numbers in bureaucratic databases or statistics in political campaigns.

Of course, there are times when people need “jobs” as temporary avenues to secure sufficient income to live. But the job should not be the norm. It cannot become a panacea for all our economic ills. Indeed, creating jobs for jobs’ sake tells people they are expendable.

Work is something different; it confers dignity and value. Because work involves a passion for something, it goes deep into the soul. Work is not all about money. It involves relationships, honor and loyalty that bind together employer and employee, producer and consumer, and even families and generations. Work looks for craftsmanship, profession and calling. It includes God since real work takes on a prayer-like character…

The problem is so many are unwilling to even consider moral issues in the context of economic problems. They refuse outright to make the link between human relationships and business transactions. They prefer to reduce everything back to jobs.

Our efforts to rescue the present economy will be to no avail unless we look beyond the “piles of things to be done” and help those who will work to follow the desires of their hearts.

So “get a job” (frequently delivered in a sneering tone of voice) means exactly what it sounds like it means: do something, anything, to get paid, and never mind whether it has anything to do with your vocation, or even the larger good of society – two concepts which, in a healthy society, ought not to be at odds. Horvat is right: there are times when that is a practical necessity – but it should not be the norm. “Get a job” is a mindset which may, in the short term, get people off the streets. But it is not the way to build, long-term, a healthy society, still less a culture of lasting value.

Much to think about!

Evola: “Capitalism just as subversive as Marxism…”

Capitalism just as subversive as marxism

I have not read much Evola – just a few quotes here and there – but I agree with this. Economics, while important for survival (the word means, literally, “household management” – Greek oikos + nomos), is a means to an end: one which is too-often treated as if it were an end in itself.

The high and ultimate things – religion, e.g., the proper relationship between God and Man, and philosophy, including ethics and morality, e.g., the quest for a right relationship between and among humans, as well as something like Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” – must come first, and serve as the basis for the practical, instrumental considerations which follow, including economics.

By placing economics at the forefront and letting our values flow from there, I believe, we as a society are currently putting the cart before the horse!

You will note that these “high and ultimate things” are closely interrelated, not separate and distinct: I have spoken and written elsewhere about the importance of re-weaving the connections between and among God, Nature, and Humankind – that is to say, adopting a truly holistic view of the world (cosmos) and our place within it.

Economics has a role in this process, and it is an essential one. But it is or should be a supporting role, not a lead role. An analogy might be architecture, in which support structures such as pillars, arches, etc., are absolutely essential to the construction and support of a building – and which ones are chosen is far from irrelevant! – but they are not the purpose of the building.

This is where we have gone wrong in our treatment of economics, in my opinion, whether capitalist or Marxist in orientation. And this is, I think, the point of the Evola quote, above.

The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic – and why that’s important

Source: The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic (It’s Not The Gluten) | Real News 24: Breaking Alternative News Source

• Emails from folks with allergic or digestive issues to wheat in the United States experienced no symptoms whatsoever when they tried eating pasta on vacation in Italy.

• Confused parents wondering why wheat consumption sometimes triggered autoimmune reactions in their children but not at other times.

• In my own home, I’ve long pondered why my husband can eat the wheat I prepare at home, but he experiences negative digestive effects eating even a single roll in a restaurant.

There is clearly something going on with wheat that is not well known by the general public. It goes far and beyond organic versus non-organic, gluten or hybridization because even conventional wheat triggers no symptoms for some who eat wheat in other parts of the world…

I have chosen not to focus intensively on either ecological or agricultural issues in this blog, although both are of very intense personal interest to me, because there is so much other “stuff” going on, that when I decided to open The Anglophilic Anglican up to contemporary political commentary, I decided not to dilute the focus too much.

However, one of the premises of this blog is that traditional society, and traditional life-ways – particularly, but not exclusively, those of Western Christendom – are under attack from a variety of quarters, and this is one of them: the industrialization and globalization of agriculture, and the replacement of wise husbandry and stewardship of the land by people who live and work close to that land, and are responsible to their local communities, a hallmark of (most) agriculture since its earliest beginnings in the “Neolithic revolution,” with cynical profiteering by multinational corporations.

Note: it’s not the farmers who are getting filthy rich from the (mis-)use of chemicals or GMOs in agriculture, it’s the producers of those chemicals or GMOs. Most farmers still want to do the right thing, but they’re facing an uphill battle, caught between industry propaganda and the lure of higher yields with less effort. Who loses? We all do:

The farmers, who aside from the moral issues are still usually struggling to make ends meet.

The local community, since the internationalization of agriculture shifts the money-making aspects from Main Street to corporate boardrooms.

The consumer, who as this article makes all-too-clear, are consuming agricultural products – one hesitates to call it “food” – that are making us sick, and in some cases may be slowly killing us.

The environment, which suffers from herbicide, pesticide, and fertilizer run-off, and is at constant risk from the potential escape of genetically modified organisms into the ecosystem.

Meanwhile, the corporate fat-cats get fatter. What’s the answer? Well, there is no easy one. This article makes a good case for avoiding conventional wheat, wherever possible (a real challenge, especially for people on a limited budget), but in general, the less processed, industrialized food we can consume, the better: for our own health, the health of our communities, and the health of our all-important ecosystems. Here is the rule of thumb I try to use, finances allowing, when it comes to the source of my food (in order of preference):

  1.  Local, organic. Obviously, this is the gold standard!
  2. Local, non-organic – but sustainable, if possible. Look for “certified naturally grown,” or at least “IPM (Integrated Pest Management) certified.” In any case, at least local farms have a vested interest in not making their neighbors sick, and often you can actually see how they’re growing their food… some even invite this. Look for those farms.
  3. Non-local, organic. It’s better not to have to eat food that has been shipped for hundreds of miles, for reasons of taste, nutrition, and fuel consumption; but even at that, it’s better to eat food that has been grown organically – even far away – than food that’s been pumped full of chemicals.
  4. Non-local, non-organic – as a last resort, to sustain life, if that’s all you can get (or afford). Try to be as choosy as possible, and if nothing else, at least shop the edges of the supermarket: that’s where the (reasonably) fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, and dairy hang out. Avoid the brightly-packed, but hideously over-processed, “food products” in the center as much as possible.

We are under attack from, as I say, many quarters: political, social, economic, environmental, nutritional, even medical. Globalism and corporatism are the enemies, at least as much as the more obvious ones like Islamic terrorists, and runaway, displacement-level immigration. The more we can stick to healthy, sustainable, local sources – from keeping politics as local as possible (with exceptions like securing national borders), to patronizing the local farmer, local artisan, craftsman, or business, the better. For all of us!

Reflections on the Southern Agrarians and their lessons for us today

eastman-johnson-american-painter-1824-1906-man-with-a-scythe-1868-1340986648_org
Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906): Man With a Scythe – 1868.

I finally had the opportunity to acquire a book I have long wanted to read: “I’ll Take My Stand: the South and the Agrarian Tradition” by “Twelve Southerners,” a collection of essays written specifically for that publication (called by its authors a “symposium”) and published in 1930. Continue reading “Reflections on the Southern Agrarians and their lessons for us today”