Saturday, May 5, 2012

Late Night, Can't Sleep, Ruminations

“It’s never the doctors or the scientists; it’s always the barbarians at the gate.”

There are two kinds of people. One group is young and they know in their core that the world should be made into a perfect place, and they are angry as they view the reality of the world and thus observe that it IS far from a perfect place.

The other group is old, and they’ve been watching the world for a long time, and they’ve noticed that it is far from a perfect place, but they have concluded that the world will NEVER be a perfect place.

This notion is as good as it gets if you’re looking to explain the half filled glass and how it is perceived. One group is optimistic but frustrated. The other group is frustrated and figures the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

I am no longer optimistic. I’ve been young, and now I’m the other. So this clouds my thinking in a predictable manner, so bear with me.

I have some holes in my education. Setting out to become a veterinarian exposes the student to plenty of science and related disciplines. But in the rush to master these areas, some of the philosophy, economics, language, education, history, literature, etc. get left behind. Folks often slap me upside the head when I express an opinion derived from my observations rather than any actual study of these important fields. I’m not truly qualified to talk of the human condition. I’m a reasonably deductive person but that is no substitute for actual expertise in any of these fields. Try to remember these last two sentences because hopefully I’m going somewhere with this thought, but this is opinion, not science.

One of my deductions regards my impressions of education in this country’s population. Taken in its simplest form, education should expose students to a certain minimum amount of plain old information, which forms a foundation for more learning and allows the student to rise to two legged transport. And then from this platform, a student can branch out into specific areas with more specialized learning to master.

This is the ole “what to learn”. We cannot forget the more necessary “how to learn”. For when formal education ends and life begins, the how to learn thing becomes far more important, because this is what arms each individual to continue learning after formal schooling ends.

As this old guy looks hopefully to the next generations, the glass is looking very nearly empty, because my deductions suggest serious deficiencies in both the “what” and “how to learn” in education these days. Now, the experts in today’s education system and the folks who encourage them would disagree. Perhaps we might address my conspiracy theories at some other time, These are only my deductions, so take three times daily with a grain of salt.

The products of this education system are no more stupid than my generation, but they often are shamefully less educated. Thus unarmed, some lack understanding of, and respect for, those mysterious elements in life they missed in their education. You know, things like the work we veterinarians do. It is no surprise to me that there is one important reason we veterinarians face such vitriol from people who act like they don’t understand the difficulty and cost of the work we do. And that is simply because they don’t understand the difficulty and cost of the work we do. The folks responsible for their education didn’t prepare them to handle such complex notions.

And sadly, these people don’t even know what they don’t know.

Of course, if their expectation might be that the world can be made a perfect place, the complex, difficult, and costly work we do should be provided for free to everyone. We might suggest that perfect is far from obtainable, but again we face an education system that seems to be leaning toward the economic models that favor everything free to everyone, so this is small wonder.

Another of my deductions, take at your own risk, is that there are two kinds of people. The HAVES and the HAVE NOTS. The HAVES get all the breaks, have all the money and all the power, and they stay up nights plotting ways to get more breaks money power from that other group, the NOTS. The NOTS of course suffer a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the HAVES.

This is another one of my conspiracy theories, but don’t you wonder why this sense of HAVES and NOTS has become a core concept in the education of today’s youth? Again, no time for this argument now, but could one of the reasons we veterinarians encounter such vitriol from some really angry people possibly stem from the notion that they consider us to be HAVES, and they are relegated to NOTS status. Not their fault, but certainly ours. Because that’s what they have been taught.

Small wonder we become money grubbing thieves to some folks when we think we are simply dedicating our lives to a really difficult task. We think we are the good guys who are trying to help, and some think we are the enemy.


  1. I can see a difference in my high school education vs those kids that went to other high schools. Both the experience at the public magnet school and, later, the private school, where heads and tails above what the average pubic school student received. I learned not just how to find information, but also how to evaluated that information, how to use it, and how to critically think. Sure, the private school was more about vomiting out facts, but so many of the teachers challenged us to think beyond our borders...personal borders, religious borders, state borders, national borders, etc. We were that being a citizen of the world was to be a custodian of the world. Sure most of the people at the school had money...sometimes private plane kind of money. But in our city, the large industry/corporations are also big local supporters of the arts and the city itself. They always seemed more interested in community growth than outsourcing jobs. Our school even had its own festival where all the proceeds were donated....we gave up lunch on certain days that the cost of that lunch went to the food bank.

    When I got to college and breezed through the gen ed courses, I realized that I had basically gotten a liberal arts education in high school. As a freshman, I was tutoring art history (I was taking 4 classes, biology, chemistry and art history). I can argue the merits of different architecture and the political figures that pushed for or funded it. I can discuss most religions and reference their holy books as well as recognize the historical context of the time of the rise of the religion. Other students were just being introduced to these concepts. I already had a grounding in them and considered the classes to be just another time to discuss them and hear other view points. But it does get hard for me to hear people espouse opinions without having any real understanding of the subject. And I am not referring to the writer of this blog post.

    There is a ton of talk about stream lining veterinary school into a shorter program, cutting out the "un-necessary" stuff. I value those liberal arts courses so much that it was worth the time and money to take them. I can discuss art, history, philosophy, etc with clients. I can find some sort of connection with just about anyone because I have so much information to draw on.

    Right now, when I read about people with no concept of what the term "theory" means in the scientific usage, making laws about other thoughts as "theories," it makes me sick. When high school students cannot id our COUNTRY on a map, it makes me sick. The hidden racism and bias inherent in statements made in the comments section that follow news stories..never mind the non-existant grammar and spelling. Ugh. I believe that everyone should commit to a post high school education: plumbers certificate, B.A., nursing degree, whatever. Because obviously, they are not getting enough in high school to be successful. And when people want to strip the public schools of funding, I see a furthering of the problem.

    I am young yet, but I am glass half empty as I look at what is going on in our country.

  2. Just found you and read your whole first page in one sitting. I'm impressed and stalki-- uh, following you. Damn, I had no idea vet life sucke-- um, was as interesting as being a doctor. But posts like the above are well-thought and smoothly constructed.

    Now get some sleep!

  3. I'd like to *personally* welcome you to the VBB! Yeah. It's loads of fun. Wait till you get through all of 'em. Oh, and don't forget the comments, cause you know those are *extra* special sometimes. :) Welcome!

  4. Ok, lots of disgruntled vets piping up with what sucks about the profession. Has been eye opening and educational for sure. Wondering what parts of a vet's day make it all worth while?

  5. I could go on for ages about this subject but I'll try to keep it short. I'm one of the young hopefuls right now so I hope I don't come off as one of the ones talking about subjects she's not an expert in either. My mom is a recently retired high school teacher and she's one of the "less young" pessimists. I tend to lean liberal but I'm more conservative with my views on education.

    My mom taught at an affluent public school and would complain to me all the time about how the students would always ask in their most whiny voices "Are we gonna do something FUN today? Mrs. So-and-so had us watch shrek in history class, Mr. So-and-so had us make ornaments in spanish class." And my mom would always tell them she's not there to show them a good time, she's there to educate and that they'd be in for a rude awakening when they went off to college and couldn't whine their way through class and couldn't have their parents call up and get their grade changed when they didn't do the assignments. I think the problems with education vary with geographical/demographic location, but at the root, the system just wants the kids to be physically present and move on up to the next grade, so if the kids don't want to be pushed intellectually, let's just lower the standards to get them through the system and off our hands.