Education vs. Training

Yesterday I went to Marilynne Robinson’s lecture on the crisis in American education. She said a lot of pertinent things that you can read in a lecture that appears in Harper’s. But one thing she mentioned is the distinction between education and training. I’m going to extrapolate from her point, while probably looping into paraphrase from time to time. 

Ahem: If we think about the implications that attach to “education” and “training,” we’ll find that education is supposed to teach a person to think, create and question. A liberal arts education introduces a person to all manner of subject, so she can lead an intellectual, inventive, and critical life. On the other hand, if someone receives training, she is conditioned to do a task. Some of that is necessary. We want to train a soldier how to react under pressure. But training can also be more mindless than that, such as when we train a dog. Training is not mutually exclusive from education, but on the whole, it teaches the trainee to follow a protocol. 

Now I think we should consider these politicians who want to turn our universities away from education and more toward training. What are they–deliberately or not–situating their public to achieve? What are they setting us up to follow? Are we supposed to accept their proclamations without having studied rhetoric? Are we to follow the news, without having studied comparative religion? Or economics? Or history? I understand that a liberal arts education might not be for everyone. Some people just don’t flourish in school. But, as Marilynne says, it should be available to anyone.

(Originally posted December 10, 2015)

A Halloween Babysitting Story

When I was home from college, my sister and I spent an afternoon looking after a four-year old who lived down the street. We didn’t know each other at all; I can’t remember how we got the job. For some reason we took this kid back to our house, where she was happy but quiet. She really didn’t make much noise at all, except for the time she tried to play my guitar with a rice cake–and except for the fact that, all afternoon, she would muster great seriousness and ask me my name. At the end of the day, we walked her home. She wanted me to carry her, so I hoisted her along. As we approached her house, she looked me deep in the eyes, and said, “Are you still Megan?”

(Originally posted October 30, 2015)


Perhaps because the makers know that enough exhaustion leaves us pondering death, my yoga videos finish with some guided meditation. Today the video told us exhale for longer than we inhaled. “That,” said the yogi, “is a sign of grace. You can afford to give more than what you just took.”

(Originally posted September 22, 2015)

Love in the Time of Caesar

So I’ve been reading about death rituals in pre-Christian Rome, and I’ve discovered two things. The first is that one’s memorial had some kind of effect on the afterlife. The more people remembered you, the better. This is why tombs and inscriptions where all over public places–and it’s why, if you were poor, and if your family couldn’t afford to do much, some might feel that your afterlife could be less than peachy. (I don’t want to make this correlation too simple, because honestly, I don’t think the afterlife entirely hinged on remembrance. If one of you knows more, let me have it.) Thing two: It’s really very touching to see the poorer tombs, where a family obviously couldn’t afford to hire an artist (or at least a good artist) to decorate the graves. Some of the most loving folk art is intricate and… really pretty bad. It’s also interesting to see how the tombs have birds and flowers and serene furry things, much like we modern folks decorate our nurseries.

(Originally posted August 19, 2015)

Even Better Than the One with the Dentist

In the middle of the night, I somehow decided that I had to remember the secret identity of the Robin (as in Batman and) who came after Jason Todd. I knew he was Tim somebody. He’s actually Tim Drake. But I came up with Tim Conway–and this left me imagining the best Carol Burnett skit in the world.

(Originally posted August 16, 2015)

Happy Baby

I’m in Florida with my parents, because my mom has just had her hip replaced. She’s doing well, but she’s relatively immobile and she needs somebody at home while my dad’s at work. Their condo is lovely, but it’s set up in such a way that the living room is the only place where I can exercise. So my mother sits in her chair, with her Diet Coke, waiting to watch what she calls The Yoga Show.

(Originally posted August 1, 2015)