If you have misunderstood me

It is so much the easier for me to accept your mis-statements if I assume they betray some underlying misunderstanding.

It would be so much easier for you to helpfully locate my responses if you realize I am responding to the ways in which I believe you have misunderstood me.

Considerable stress ensues if one of us insists ‘no, I have understood you’ for asserting I nearly understand you engenders no power-language, but insisting on my understanding limits your ability to speak on your own account. Now we both are to wrestle for the same ground — and presumably the ground ought to be yours first.

In this our usage more closely relates to epistamai in Greek or oferstandan from Old English wherein our piecing together stands upon this (cf. http://www.etymonline.com, maintained by D. Harper).  The word picture is of a conqueror, not of a partner in discourse.

How better to dismiss another than with the words I understand?  To do such is to disinherit the other’s power of commanding her own words.

But if I assume we are wielding two competing misunderstandings, the bugle call to unending allegiance to what I probably did not intend dies away in favor of a chance to listen to you — to listen without immediate concerns of power.  We should become accustomed to the body postures which accompany the most harmful of misunderstandings — the shoulders of dismissal and the accompanying upturned lips along with the spinal tilt of self-rectitude and compare these with the relaxed focus necessary to give any worthy other a hearing.

Of course hearing is more difficult than non-hearing.  A ready mind must readily dismiss more than it accepts and so many misunderstandings may persist.  The commitment, daily, should be to unstop the ears quickly and with it to un-tense the neck so a positive misunderstanding might be attained.


I ‘ve tried enough times to disturb some difference worth mentioning in describing my upbringing or culture to recognise I do n’t easily produce a helpful product.  ‘My home is different from here in that…’  Worse yet, I found myself endlessly searching for what distinguished ‘me’.  Some of us should cede the field upon dis-covering we are not experts.

I ‘m not sure exactly why, but over the past year I ‘ve been collecting reasons not to write a book.  One is being added tonight: the best biography (=least mis-leading?) is rarely the auto-biography.  In short, I should perhaps choose not to retain sole privilege of recounting what boundaries of events and experiences distinguish me from you.  A third party may do a fairer job.

Part of the reason is because I rarely become aware of the mis-understandings which constitute my daily existence.  I react not to the world as it is, but to the world as such — as I expect it to be.  As such I am hoping the approximations produce acceptable results — but who would I be to tell you what was most important about my story?  My job is at best to invite you in to the home in which I myself am a stranger, and let you misunderstand it for yourself.

So I ‘m giving up my rights as an authorised witness in order to extend the horizons.  I do n’t doubt I could add a few ‘we don’t do that’s which might dissuade the easier misunderstandings, but I do not pretend to know who is in the best position to know how specifically I may best be misunderstood.

Mis-Education: Foreseeable Outcomes of a ‘Post-Campus America’

I mean to here respond specifically to Megan McArdle’s Envisioning a Post-Campus America.  In order to do so, I shall consider her projected outcomes critically:

First, education will be dominated by huge brands.  I believe I agree from the standpoint that certain companies with a decent product, some consistency, and a few wealthy benefactors are able to develop a sizable market share which then cycles.  Certain names are likely to remain dominant for long periods because they can afford to employ the best and offer more nuance in their program offerings.

I don’t understand how that fits her following statement about the “benefit to having learned stuff the same way as the people around you” because I don’t see how the experience at MIT equates to MITx, much less how it then compares to Ricex or U. of Delawarex.  Isn’t online education a way of multiplying educational experiences, not standardizing them?  She specifically cites the nature of grading scales as they differ from one business school to another.  Grading can only be standardized within one system, can it not?  I’ve seen how grading differs not only from one school to another, but from one professor to another.

My honest take is that online education will lend itself to less adaptability and student-teacher interaction.  I base this assertion on several online classes I have completed – in only one of them was my work critiqued to a standard matching an in-class offering (it actually exceeded quite a few of them).


Second, the liberal arts degree will die out.  As a former engineering student with degrees in theology, I have some insight into the differences in educational philosophy in math & science programs from those in the liberal arts.  Teaching someone to think and respond critically is very different from instilling mathematics fundamentals and the use of formulas.  Some skills cross over, it’s a lot easier to demonstrate success in math or the physical sciences (your formulae are correct or not) than to consistently critique papers.  I agree with McArdle here: grading papers is labor intensive and this alone makes it an uphill battle to save the liberal arts degree.


Next, McArdle asserts that teaching will be prioritized over research.  I think it’s far worse – image wins the day.  I’ve had teachers with various distracting elements (cross-eyed, missing a few fingers, stuttering, etc) who proved excellent because they had a lot to offer.  Can you imagine the well-qualified teacher who commands a classroom well, but is poorly apportioned, blotchy, or worse – whose personability is limited to the physical classroom?


This naturally leads us to most professors (she estimates 95%) losing their jobs.  That’s especially disturbing for those of us already disillusioned with the job prospects left to we pursuers of higher education.  If you don’t pass the eyeball test and don’t get absurdly lucky to be in position to join the 5%, how will you apply your skills?  The few schools lucky enough to cement their foothold in these markets will grow richer in media technology, administration, and advertising while it will become tougher for good teachers to keep their jobs.


Going back to the prior point, where do the researchers then go?  Maybe medical/pharmaceutical degrees will escape some of this, but it’s difficult to see how the research markets don’t fold eventually under the strain of no longer being rewarded for their efforts.  Truly this would signal the end of universities as research centers.  I agree with McArdle on this point.  What the rich deem relevant to research will be deemed relevant because there won’t be money to research much else.  Liberal Arts professors and underlings, again, will have to adapt.


In order, more unpaid internships, etc. will result.  Yep.  Graduate studies will change drastically, and the Ph.D. especially – I think these need revisited but not dismantled.  I don’t see a smooth transition here.  Community/Networking experiences – ‘collegiality’ – will have to be fostered another way.  I see this as less of a problem, but then I was pretty anti-social throughout most of my schooling.  

Upward mobility won’t flow the same way through higher education.  This may be a good thing.  Perhaps it stabilizes some communities so that their young talent finds applications for their abilities locally.  Affordability would be nice…but why wouldn’t Yalex and MITx’s products be as exclusive as ever?  Their branding is built on a certain level of exclusivity and schools will still want to capitalize on wealthy graduates or pioneering minds.  Will a marketable degree really be more affordable and easier to achieve?  I hope it results in less debt for our youth, but I wonder if exclusivity won’t proliferate.

Tutoring will boom.  I completely agree and clearly see the inevitable cheating problems which will arise.  I’m foreseeing a considerable rise in test centers, even while the cheating industry booms (and with it the counter-cheating industry). Cheating is all too rampant and if the diagnostics are what matters for future careers, isn’t it worth the risk?  To compensate for this, schools become martial about drilling anti-cheating mantras and enforcing standards rather than show why the standards matter (or determining whether they really do – that is for another discussion).


Concluding statements – if a good portion of the aforementioned items result, is the result both convenient and beneficial overall?  Are the resulting skills truly more beneficial for the students and society?  Honestly, I think there will be less room for innovation and more standardization because it’s easier to draw a profit and to find teachers who will enforce standards serving a set in stone curriculum.  Overall, I think the educational system in America is broken, but the market won’t be able to fix it by means of the internet.  It will only come when standards can be put in place which enrich the students as members of communities – how that is to be accomplished through a screen I can’t picture.


Misphil I: the educative value of dis-illusion

I ‘ve come to realize that there will be struggles in my teaching style as it communicates to students. Honestly, few things have proved more useful to the growth of my thought and communications as disillusionment. So yes, expect a healthful (or supra-healthful) helping of disillusionment in my tutoring.

Many may fail to appreciate the value of such an approach. I may fail to execute it to the greatest possible effect, but what has often troubled me is the question: ‘how do you know when you ‘ve got it?’ The answer has proved to be that you do n’t really – instead you are aware that you have communicated well or not. As others are fellow persons (one might assume) and so are inordinately complex, the probability of miscommunication multiplies.

More honestly, how is one to resolve a question which a less experienced person has n’t struggled with to effect? Is n’t solving such questions stunting the possibility for growth? Tension and frustration are tools – they must n’t be confused with the goal of deep searching – and they should be used. Let us be wary of being easily answered or of answering easily, for the full weight of experience in disillusionment prior to enlightenment is easily undervalued and so the enlightening’s luminescent effect is lessened considerably.