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The Bearded Skeptic offers educated & insulated skepticism in a world full of BS. Content and opinions provided by the skeducator, William T. Kendal.

Skeduzoic: A New Era in Education


Philosophical thoughts, claims and predictions with a skeptical twist from the Bearded Skeptic.

Skeduzoic: A New Era in Education

Taylor Kendal

What is it to be educated and how subjective is that label? I often (maybe too often) make projected judgments. Occasionally internally subdued, more often in a well calculated outward breath-masked sneer from a distance just great enough to avoid detection. Now don't get me wrong, I categorically assert that the fate of this planet rests in the metaphoric Parkinson's-afflicted hands of some unbelievably ignorant people, but is it worth stopping to think about what the hell being educated really means? I can have three Dr.Philos (you must be uneducated if that reference eludes you. Damn, see, there I go again.) from three equally prestigious institutions, but does that make me educated?

The word education is a derivative of the Latin word educatus, meaning "to bring up; rear," and carries a lot more baggage than is initially extractable from the surface.  Education is culturally driven and its usefulness becomes all but extinct when examined without reference to cultural context. The classic example is an elder African tribesman.  Fully educated if education involves the necessary cultural trades having been passed down through generations allowing water to be extracted from the sapped Sahara sands and food to be tracked via dung viridity across thousands of miles.  In America, that guy is a good bar conversation, but hardly educated.  

So what is it to be educated in America? A place where culture and context is a messy soup, and finding direct educational ties to tradition and culture is like searching microfiche (I don't actually know what that even is) for a genealogical rundown of your African roots. Even 5 years ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone that didn't confess a direct correlation between education and institution (along with the accompanying degree), but I'm not sure that paradigm holds as much water these days, or at least it shouldn't. A recent article in The Economist titled "Learned Luddites," notes a recent restlessness with the onslaught of online education and Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Even at Harvard, which has invested $30m in MOOCs, much of the faculty is prickly
— The Economist

Where education was once fully defined by evolving translated tradition, then by elite institutional indoctrination, I think a new era is upon us where education will be defined more by our ability to effectively process and synthesize information, and less by our knowledge of any particular skill or trade. It certainly won't be a smooth transition as institutional fundamentalists get squeezed out (no euphemism here. I'm talking about old people dying), but I think it's inevitable. Access to information, and I'm talking about any information, is no longer a concern, but determining what information is worth finding and how it's used to formulate an understanding? Now that defines education in the Skeduzoic era.