3 hard-guy comments on real education, not a commodity

Taleb 360_mugNassim Nicholas Taleb wrote The Black Swan and Antifragile. He tweets aphorisms, one after another.

Recently, he emitted more about education. Tweeted he:

“Good students” usually a category of pple [sic] with the ability to focus on details of boring things not relevant to them, pre-bureaucrats.

Never hire an A-student unless the job is to take exams.

Trial and error means you can learn by and only by failing exams.

The beginning of the end. Education, because it became commoditized/gamed/nerdified, converges to useless.

menckenTaleb reminds me of H. L. Mencken, who said

“Education in the truest sense – education directed toward awakening a capacity to differentiate between fact and appearance – always will be a more or less furtive and illicit thing, for its chief purpose is the controversion and destruction of the very ideas that the majority of men – and particularly the majority of official and powerful men – regard as incontrovertibly true.”


Taleb and Mencken put me in mind of Nereus Mendenhall, who said the same things in milder terms but much tougher straits than either Taleb or Mencken. Mendenhall was the legendary Quaker president who kept Guilford College open, with its pacifist and abolitionist values, in the middle of North Carolina throughout the Civil War.

mendenhlllGuilford College, Mendenhall said, should:

produce men and women with well-trained minds and good hearts; people who can think for themselves and not be blown about by every wind of doctrine.

The promise of liberal arts colleges is precisely that.

A good college is anything but a commodity. Every independent college should be a unique, values-based learning community – that prepares its students – to think – for themselves.

That is what Guilford College does to this day.

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