226. Learning, Value and Making a Dollar

Learn­ing, we can prob­a­bly agree, is a good thing. That is a huge prob­lem. Peo­ple will not pay for good things. They will pay a king’s ran­som for vice. Thus, to pro­mote learn­ing we have to dress it up in van­ity and greed. No group in soci­ety is more vain, as a group, than aca­d­e­mics (except per­haps the mil­i­tary), and no houses of learn­ing are more enthu­si­as­ti­cally received than those that are mar­keted with all the spin of the drug com­pany cartels.The man or woman who is to spend their life research­ing the age rings in fish’s ear bones or the use of modal verbs in medieval Eng­lish may have much to con­tribute to the weft of civ­i­liza­tion, but it is a con­tri­bu­tion hid­den to all but the ini­ti­ated. To sus­tain their lonely and often mocked pre­oc­cu­pa­tions they may have to per­suade a small group of fol­low­ers that they are indeed spe­cial, and wrap their pub­lic faces in deep, or should we say, pompous mys­tique. Once this tem­ple of mys­tique is built, of course it attracts swarms of wannabes, refugees from cubi­cle slav­ery, who have nei­ther the curios­ity of a true sci­en­tist, nor the cun­ning of a street mer­chant. They sim­ply want a com­fort­able and respected life, which is an expen­sive wish. They there­fore hire the mar­ke­teers. Meet mod­ern edu­ca­tion.

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