Detroit HARDBALL!!

Study as a political act

Detroit HARDBALL !!

(Leave your idealism at the door)

We have defined “study” and “learning” as two
different things.
Definition – LEARNING is a naturally occurring
process of a person adapting to the demands of his
Can you drive a car? Can you use a computer? Can
you do your own laundry? Can you make a cup of
coffee?  These are examples of learning.  The proof
that learning has occurred is that a learner can do
something new. He or she has acquired a skill. 
Learning can be fun.
Can someone learn sociology, philosophy, psychology?
 Maybe it can be learned, and maybe not.  Bear with
me and I will explain that in a later chapter.
Definition – STUDYING the social activity that is
similar to learning in many respects, but is constrained
by factors of politics, custom, and money.  (These
social factors are usually institutionalized in a school of
some sort.) 
The proof of success in studying is what can be shown
on an official transcript.  You can be a blithering idiot,
unable to do much of anything and yet belong to an
academic honor society and hold a Doctorate in
Definition – “DOCTOR OF THINKOLOGY” is the
name of the degree bestowed on the Scarecrow
(played by Ray Bolger) by the Wizard (played by
Frank Morgan) in the classic 1939 MGM adoption of
the Frank Baum children’s book “The Wonderful
Wizard of Oz”.
Employers and other social and economic entities
consider the content of a transcript to be a suitable
evidence of a person’s intelligence and competence. 
Generally speaking the transcript is the only measure
taken.  So the question often asked by students (and
held in contempt by intellectuals), “Is this going to be
on the test?” is not only realistic, it is rather
The student must attain a degree of dominance in two
relationships in order to be successful in school: the
relationship with the school itself; and the relationship
with the instructor.  The strategy that will be
successful in relating to the school might fail to
win dominance over the instructor—and visa versa.
The availability of the official transcript is the product
of a successful relationship with a school.  What the
transcript says about the student is largely dependent
on the relationship of the student with members of the
The school seeks order and conformity with rules and
policies.  In most cases, the student must demonstrate
that they conform to these rules and policies.  Any
deviance from these arbitrary standards will increase
the difficulty the student will have and increase the
probability that he or she will fail in their studies.  Such
rules vary from school to school.  They usually involve
money and behavior.  If one conforms to school policy
and pays the money required, the school will grant a
degree of some sort and issue an official transcript.  If
a student does not conform to the demands of the
institution, the school will not issue a transcript.  The
student might be a better person for the experience in
school, but they are nonetheless a failure at study.
Homeless shelters and MENSA meetings are full of
brilliant, worthy and sometimes very competent souls
who were utter failures in school.  Like the quest for
money, schooling can either be a dream come true, or
it can be a nightmare
The time when a student is most likely to be dominant
over the school is before he or she enrolls for study. 
The choice of the school to attend and the choice of a
major (i.e. the degree sought) are the points where
dominance over the institution must be displayed. 
The choice of the school
There is a contract of sorts that a person makes with
the school.  The student obeys unquestioning for a
period of time, and the school in return issues a
credential (a degree and a transcript).  When
comparing an array of colleges and universities, there
is a large variance of what “unquestioning obedience”
means from one to another.
It should be noted that in many situations an act of
obedience to a school’s policies can be experienced as
humiliation.  It can be quite uncomfortable. 
Indoctrination in academies by humiliating the student
is a long standing tradition in schooling.  It shows up in
hazing in teams and clubs, and in dealing with a schools
administration. Offices offering financial aid to
students can be nests of sadistic paper pushers
(second in cruelty only to social workers or municipal
On the other side, credentials (being a marketable
commodity) vary in value too.  The value of a
credential is a product of the nature of the degree
attained and the school from which it was attained. 
Many people would agree that Yale and Harvard are
among the more prestigious schools in the United
States. A credential from either is a prize.  But let’s
take another school, the University of Chicago.  That
school is distinguished in the social sciences.  A PhD.
in economics from Chicago is a formidable credential. 
On the open market, it would easily trump a PhD. in
French literature from Yale.
In all probability, it is easier to conform to the rules of
the University of Chicago than to the rules of Harvard
or Yale.  It probably costs less as well.  So it is not true
that the more rigorous the job of conformity, and the
more the tuition, the more value to the credential
One chooses a school and a major based on the nature
of the trade-off—what one gives up for what one gets
in return.  The successful student will know what they
are getting into, and be willing to pay the dues and
collect the prize.
The student may be dominant when they pick the
school and its rules.  And they may be dominant when
they pick their major.  Unfortunately, most students
are meek and fawning and commit themselves to
untenable situations in school.  Maybe they will be
lucky.  Maybe they will adjust to the school.  But
probably they won’t.
Remember this?  “Definition – LEARNING is a
naturally occurring process of a person adapting to the
demands of his surroundings.” 
The student who has LEARNED what the school
environment is likely to be, before they start to attend
classes there is more likely to adapt to the demands of
the school environment.  This means determining the
value of the array of possible credentials as pieces of
personal property (as commodities).  And comparing
that to the effort, cost, and discomfort the person is
willing to assume to get that commodity.
Too many potential students suffer too much (and pay
too much) for a credential.  And too many fail in

Editors Note: 

I am working on some materials to help college
students succeed.  The following is an excerpt from
those materials.  It is highly critical of the system and
generally more cynical than most of the stuff I write. 
So to clear the air, this essay seems to say that
learning cannot occur in a school setting.  School can
inhibit learning. But it also provides laboratories, and
internships that are primarily learning.  And there is
that old standby, the research paper. If one were to
learn in the humanities or the social sciences, the
research project and paper stand out.  Later
installments of this material will talk about such
matters.  But for this essay, cynicism rules.