Emerson on Education

The entire approach to education or re-education presented here can be fruitfully thought of in terms of this journal entry (dated July 15? 1831) from the journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“The things taught in schools & colleges are not an education but the means of education…”

(Emerson in his Journals, 1982, selected and edited by Joel Porte, Harvard University Press, page 79)

This insight on education comports well with the approach we are taking here: courses and majors, lectures and tests, grades and discussions are “raw material” for a more composite understanding or perhaps understandings “in motion” as one goes through life. This is true whether you major in English lit. or polymer chemistry.

This Emersonian insight is what is missing from campuses and schoolyards and what we are exploring here. Pedagogy can’t be on the right track without this sense of “parts and wholes” where the raw material of school is a “component” of something that includes the larger context of your life as a person as well as student and paradoxically, the whole “surround” of global commerce and the techno-commercial world which cannot be hidden away in specialized schools such as business schools (say, Harvard Business School). You are “in” all of these dimensions and storms and some tentative integration must be attempted.

Every student is a a person who is born, lives, and dies. This takes place in a world-system of global finance, technology, trade, tensions.

Deep education shows the student that the ongoing “amalgamation” of all of these dimensions is where real and deep education lies. Everything else (ie as done now) is a kind of “perfect myopia.”

This is how we implement Emerson’s point from his Journals, given above.

How to Be an Info-Observer and Knowledge Self-Educator: Parachutist Skills

MetaIntelligence is the mental jump where you go from being processed by the system to being the processor of the system.

The U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has a “flagship” publication called FDIC Quarterly.

In Volume 15 of this periodical, Number 2, 2021 [PDF] there’s an article called:

The Historic Relationship between Bank Net Interest Margins and Short-Term Interest Rates

(pages 31 to 41)

The authors of this piece have a boxed insert on the first page where they define NIM (Net Interest Margin) which is a phrase and acronym you see in the title above.

The insert begins like this:

Net Interest Margin is a key profitability ratio…

This measure is so popular that banks report it, bank examiners assess it for individual banks, and the FDIC calculates it for the industry every quarter in the “Quarterly Banking Profile.” For a vast majority of banks, net interest income is the primary source of income, and for such banks NIM is a primary component of profitability.

(FDIC Quarterly, 2021, Volume 15, Number 2, page 31)

Such FDIC publications are freely available online and otherwise. Suppose you borrow an issue from the Library or download a copy from their archive and read it attentively. You could begin the process of “parachuting” into something outside of your ken, namely banking and finance.

This learning to become a “parachutist” in knowledge and information is the only way to escape the kind of “house arrest” forced on you by whatever you happened to specialize in in school and if you accept this kind of “knowledge detention” you will always be “stranded on your lonely island” which is not what you want and is potentially a form of “stupidization.” This agility acknowledges the fact that obviously “you can’t major in everything.”

To parachute in and back out of knowledge domains is a profound component of the remedial educational skill we call MetaIntelligence.