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Education is useless because it destroys our common sense, because it isolates us from the rest of humanity, because it hardens our hearts and swells our heads. Bookish persons have long been subjects of suspicion and contempt and nowhere more so, perhaps, than in the United States during the past twenty years.
Critics of education point to the Nazism of Martin Heidegger, for example, to assert the inhumanity of highly learned people; they contend that an oppressive form of identity politics has taken over the academy and complain that the art world has been overrun by culturally privileged elitists. There are always, it seems, far more reasons to disparage the ivory tower than to honor it. The uselessness of education, particularly in the humanities, is a pervasive theme in Western cultural history.
With wit and precision, Why Education Is Useless engages those who attack learning by focusing on topics such as the nature of humanity, love, beauty, and identity as well as academic scandals, identity politics, multiculturalism, and the corporatization of academe. Asserting that hostility toward education cannot be dismissed as the reaction of barbarians, fools, and nihilists, Daniel Cottom brings a fresh perspective to all these topics while still making the debates about them comprehensible to those who are not academic insiders.
A brilliant and provocative work of cultural argument and analysis, Why Education Is Useless brings in materials from literature, philosophy, art, film, and other fields and proceeds from the assumption that hostility to education is an extremely complex phenomenon, both historically and in contemporary American life. According to Cottom, we must understand the perdurable appeal of this antagonism if we are to have any chance of recognizing its manifestations—and countering them.
Ranging in reference from Montaigne to George Bush, from Sappho to Timothy McVeigh, Why Education Is Useless is a lively investigation of a notion that has persisted from antiquity through the Renaissance and into the modern era, when the debate over the relative advantages of a liberal and a useful education first arose. Facing head on the conception of utility articulated in the nineteenth century by John Stuart Mill, and directly opposing the hostile conceptions of inutility that have been popularized in recent decades by such ideologues as Allan Bloom, Harold Bloom, and John Ellis, Cottom contends that education must indeed be "useless" if it is to be worthy of its name.
Education, Religion and Identity
Education is an important tool for the development of human potential. Organizations and individuals interested in development consider knowledge, skills and attitudes, obtained through formal, non-formal and incidental learning, as invaluable assets. Therefore, it is necessary to reflect on fundamental elements that shape the process through which education is attained: How do people learn, and what are the conditions that facilitate effective learning? Answers to these questions demonstrate that no education can be politically neutral, because there is no value-free education. The traditional or indigenous education systems in Nigeria, which covered (and still cover) physical training, development of character, respect for elders and peers, development of intellectual skills, specific vocational trainings, developing a sense of belonging and participation in community affairs, and understanding, appreciating and promoting the cultural heritage of the community were, and are, not value-free. In other words, the goals and purpose of education, the content, the entire process and the procedures chosen for evaluation in education are all value-laden. This book attempts to show that the teaching-learning process in higher education, and religion, taught and learned through non-formal and informal education (or the hidden curriculum), and other socialization processes within and outside the formal school system, all interface to determine the persons that women become. This education enhances or limits womenís capabilities, whether in the civic-political sphere or in their attempts to resist violence. Hence, education and religion have ways of empowering or disempowering women.
Local and Global Expressions
Youth, Education, and Marginality: Local and Global Expressions is a close examination of the lives of marginalized young people in schools. Essays by scholars and educators provide international insights grounded in educational and community practice and policy. They cover the range and intersections of marginalization: poverty, Aboriginal cultures, immigrants and newcomers, gay/lesbian youth, rural—urban divides, mental health, and so forth. Presenting challenges faced by marginalized youth alongside initiatives for mitigating their impact, the contributors critique existing systems and engage in a dialogue about where to go from here.
Youth poetry, prose, and visual art complement the essays.