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This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

In which I quote the Gospels

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells the story of people who are given bundles of money ("talents", from an old Greek word) by their master; some invest it and make more and give their master the profit, while others simply save it away and when their master returns they give back what they were given without increase.  The master is angry at the one who did nothing with what he was given, and is pleased at the ones who made much of what they were given.  This is not a parable about stock markets (Jesus wasn't a fan of the moneylenders) but rather a parable about the duty to use what you are given. But progressive education is based on the idea that the most important thing we can do is lower the bar to admit everyone, which essentially demands that the best students twiddle their thumbs for the benefit of their less-advantaged peers.  Their talents are not to be developed.

Now, that idea is not without defensible motivations, even if they are mistaken motivations.  The following section of the Gospel of Matthew is about those who serve the least of Christ's people; you are blessed when you help them, because by helping them you help Him.  It is believed among those who teach in non-elite institutions that we are doing what Christ commanded, but I do not believe that collecting tuition checks in furtherance of credential inflation serves the disadvantaged, and I do not believe that it dignifies the less intellectually gifted to water down a Bachelor's degree.  What is wrong with getting vocational training and then getting a productive job? I would rather dignify the work that they can do, and embrace the ethos that all productive work is noble, than hold up a particular credential as the most respectable path for everyone.  At the same time, I would rather empower those who have talent, and help them make the most of what they have.

Of course, there is nothing worse than hypocrisy, and I do put my actions where my words are.  I've invested quite a bit of time in helping students network for jobs, including students who are not necessarily from the most privileged backgrounds.  I have done a lot of resume critiques and spent a lot of time helping students prepare for interviews and career fairs.  Indeed, this week I will be helping somebody go over a presentation for a technical interview.  So I do act as I speak.  And I believe that if I can empower disadvantaged but talented students to get jobs, I can help them to help the communities from which they hail.  But this requires recognizing that human variability is a thing, and that we must develop those who have talents rather than expecting them to sit back while we focus on those who are least-prepared for what we have to offer.

As an aside, an interesting thing about the word "talent" is that the modern English usage (meaning "ability" or "aptitude") is derived from the Parable of the Talents.  In older language it referred to a unit of weight used in regard to money (i.e. the money that the Master gave in the parable).

1 comment:

tushar soni said...
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