MARCUS: Training and education aren't same thing

Morton Marcus
March 26, 2011
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Morton Marcus

My friend’s father died last week in Michigan. I never met the father. I don’t know where or when he was born. I don’t know what he did in life or what family may be mourning his passing. I do know he was a very old and very sick man.

His life may not have been lived in Indiana, but that does not make him ineligible for a kind word from a Hoosier. I don’t know whether he had a genial personality, but I believe he had some fine characteristics that are part of his legacy.

These virtues are evident in his son, who is thoughtful in the pursuit of justice and unyielding in his search for personal and social sanity. His son is, as are we all, representative of those who raised us. We have been delegated to carry a set of values and attitudes into a most uncertain future. We are not automatons with pre-programmed responses to a limited set of lifetime experiences. Rather, we are creatures of free will acting in accord with our education as humans.

One must be educated to be human. Many creatures are susceptible to training, but that which makes us human requires education. Training is what we provide for employment, discipline is how we socialize animals, education is what we offer for living as a human being.

This is not news. We have known the value of the arts and humanities, of history and the social sciences for generations. Today, however, we confuse training and discipline with education. Sadly, it will only get worse if the current juggernaut against our schools persists.

It has become fashionable to attack teachers as the villains of education. This is possible because upward mobility from the primordial slime is no longer valued. A society more concerned with settling the professional football contract dispute than with the brutalization of public servants by Wisconsin’s Jurassic governor is not looking to the betterment of the human condition.

My friend, though retired, is still a teacher. He has always been a teacher, even when he was a civil servant or a newspaper editor. Teachers are people who encourage others to improve themselves and their ability to communicate. 

Today, many ill-informed people believe they have reached the pinnacle of personal virtue, the apex of public wisdom. They denigrate teachers and education. They know how others should live and wish to use government to enforce their behavioral codes on mankind.

The tragedy is that ignorant and bigoted people are encouraged to run for public office when they witness this dumbing-down of society. Lately, they have been victorious. We see this in the current Congress and even in our Indiana General Assembly. Recently, a minority block of Indiana representatives took decisive and divisive action. They left the state rather than permit the majority to push through a retrograde agenda of legislation.

It is easy to see a humorous side to this walkout by the House Democrats. One can joke about Moses Bauer leading his flock into exile, into the wilderness of Illinois. There they will remain for 40 days, eating unleavened bread, while their leader maintains communication with Pharaoh Bosma.

This uncooperative, passive-aggressive behavior, however, will not resolve the problem. Protest draws attention but rarely wins converts. If progressive thought is to spread and triumph, we must communicate our aspirations for a better world and be willing to struggle for their achievement.

Or so my friend would say. Somehow he learned that—perhaps from his father.•


Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.


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