Lady Bracknell’s Wisdom

II do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit, touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound.” (The Importance of Being Earnest)

Far-sighted  Lady Bracknell had wisely identified the virus which would have endangered her world made of privileges one day: education. Masses could not constitute a problem so long they were kept ignorant, hence, untouched by schooling which was spreading in the 19th century. Just  like any other virus, Lady Bracknell thought it needed to be circumscribed otherwise: 

“… it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.” (The Importance of Being Earnest)

Hence, if education  were effective in England as elsewhere,  it would threaten the established order, Lady Bracknell feared. And the grand lady was right to be worried, because this is exactly what happened in the following decades of the early twentieth century. Education actually tampered worldwide ignorance  making no distinction amongst gender, social class and colour of the skin, thus providing access to that “social elevator” thanks to which anybody could be allowed to reach a station different from where he was placed at birth. Till something changed. Lady Bracknell, as conscience of the advanced “Western civilization”, made her voice  be heard again: “ Are you really  sure that increasing to such extent the number of educated people would result into an improvement of mankind? Can’t you see the dangers of giving anybody the tools to fully understand the schemes on which societies are founded?  You mean to fight ignorance, and this is commendable, but then, in such world of cultivated people, who would accept to stay at the bottom of the social ladder– unless you admit  immigrants in your “advanced countries”, who, on the other hand, once part of the democratic educating system you planned, would also expect to advance socially eventually? “

When these kind of doubts started to surface towards the end of the twentieth century, it was too late to  go back. The right to education  for anybody could not be discussed or circumscribed again to station, gender etc. , hence, other ways should have been found to satisfy that conscience with its ominous speculations.  Eventually, three strategies were detected : a) re-defining the objectives of education and educators; b) proving that education was not the only “social elevator”; c) lowering learning standards.

If the sacred fire of teaching placed you in a school, because you romantically thought to educate, forge personalities or simply to  give the basis for future opportunities, I am sure you have grown a bit disappointed, like myself, as today  a teacher is mostly required to be an entertainer. The quality of courses is measured on how lively and fun these are perceived . That is why we are kindly suggested  to get a degree at the Barnum Circus Academy , which we eagerly do and you know why?  For fear of being labelled with scarlet letter “B” of boring. If you demand neatness, correctness, insight you are BO-RING. And what about the knowledge of dates and rules? SACRILEGE!!!! Knowledge has no longer reference points such as time or space, it ..floats in the air.  After all, is it really important to know when  the French Revolution  took place? Isn’t all the effort to memorize dates a waste of  time ? It seems it is, underestimating the fact that, for example, while memorizing you could notice that the date in question is  a sequence of 789 (1789), thus stimulating the neurons which rule associations and being able even to create nets of knowledge. In fact, I could also venture to say  that 100  years before another important revolution had taken place: the Glorious Revolution and compare the two. With one effort, two dates and two revolutions.  But it seems I am obsolete in having such expectations and this why the majority of our students roams in “meaninglessland”, as they  have grown unable in time to give the necessary  time and space frame to what they apprehend. Those dots of knowledge, if not connected, end up inevitably engulfed  by the abyss of ignorance.

Of course, any measure of learning,  such as tests or more, must take into consideration the sensibility of the student, who must never perceive that measurement as too oppressive or frustrating . Homework is mostly seen unnecessary and pointless and should never conflict with the truly useful time our students spend in their many activities. When I try to make my point asking if Usain Bolt would have been such a champion anyhow without training , they are all aware that talent is not enough to reach such goal. “Well, learning is the same”, I reply . “What did you say?” Ah, BO-RING.

Maybe they are right. I am boring. After all, our society has opened to a myriads of “working” opportunities which are not strictly connected  with schooling. The new “professions” such as youtuber, influencer, footballer, tiktoker etc. provide this generation with what they believe to require : money and visibility. Here in Italy, for example,  being a “tronista” has been one the most craved “positions” amongst the youngsters these last 20 years. A “tronista” is a young  man or a woman  who sits on a throne for weeks till she/he decides to pick one among the many suitors who are, episode after episode, eliminated. If this is what they have in mind, how many chances do I have to make them be interested in what and epiphany is, for example? Epiphy…..what?

That is why, we teachers have given up in time. We have given up tilting at windmills preaching effort and dedication  and accepted to do what we are demanded : lowering learning standards and we did it, no need to say, with the approval and great satisfaction of parents or at least the majority of them. Those parents believe that the aim of education is just getting the diploma, what we call here contemptuously “a piece of paper”. That diploma is nothing but a toolbox ,and what makes the difference is the number of the tools you have collected during the school years, rather than the box itself. If the toolbox you are given is just an empty box, unless the student in question is a youtuber, influencer, footballer, tiktoker, “tronista” or any other excellence of this “social” era , he’ll need money and time to obtain those tools, in short, those who have means and connections can anyhow manage their way in the world , while all the others will be left behind to follow their dreams of effortless success.  So, after more than one hundred years it is reasonable to say that Lady Bracknell’s fears have been crushed: the privileges of the upper classes are secured today more than ever. The wise lady can look at the future with great confidence.

26 thoughts on “Lady Bracknell’s Wisdom

  1. I quite fancy being a tronista. I’ve got a university degree and professional qualifications, but my job is rather boring – choosing from numerous suitors sounds rather exciting 🙂 .

    • Well, you still may have your chances , as there is also a ” senior” throne and very popular indeed. The star of this “senior” edition has been a woman of 74 these last ten years!!🙃

  2. Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 1588. Glorious Revolution, 1688. If only those Parisians have stormed the Bastille in 1788 instead of 1789, it would be so much easier for people to remember!

  3. Is it too late for me to be a tronista? … I’d have to get approval from my wife … hmm … any other no-effort positions avaliable? Wait … I’d have to be handsome, right? I knew there was a catch! There’s always a catch!

    Wait … are you saying everyone there believes they’re “beautiful people”?!

    Ah, of course … we’re all beautiful, desirable, worthy of the prize.

    We have different cultures, and yet the same trends here.

    Here, I firmly and without reserve put a lot of the blame on religion for sowing distrust in science, learning, and thinking in general. Years of conditioning gets people … well, conditioned to accept bull droppings as unquestionable truth.

    Mix in the Internet and social networks where even the most ridiculous ideas now can find purchase and flourish unchallenged by reason and rationality, remove the ability to question “feelings”, and here we are.

    Of course, I blame teachers for acquiescing. After all, isn’t it their job to make everyone learned and smart?

    If only they would have protested and sounded the alarm, we might have stemmed our descent into Idiocracy.

    The movie predicted it, but we didn’t listen.

    • Seriously, my only hope for the future is for a ‘silent majority’ of people not fully radicalized to the ideas of the extremes (Left and Right). “Majority” might be hoping too much, but sometimes all one needs is a spark.

      I have to assume that some embers of common sense still smolders beneath the ashes of “what could have been”, and that they may yet relight and power the resumption of intellectual progress.

      . . . but I don’t think I’ll live long enough to see even the smallest lick of flame break through what appears to be an impregnable layer of willful ignorance, blind partisanship, and misplaced self-interest.

      • Emilio “tronista” would be really fun. I haven’t mentioned in the post, but the “senior” throne is even more popular than the others. You have your chances too, if Melisa allows it.
        Now, about “acquiescing”: it is very difficul to end up otherwise, as we do not have the support of parents, principals, institutions or even unions. As you see, I haven’t mentioned the students, as they represent the best part of the school system and I feel sorry for them. Well, at least some on them.
        Radicalization is the effect of ignorace. You are with me or against me. Noticing all the many nuances in between requires effort, time, curiosity…. sorry , I am being BO RING!

      • I’d hoped you would realize the acquiescence was just my attempt at humor.

        For the few of us who can question, and know from having studied history that we’re traveling a dangerous path, it’s frustrating when the tide of incompetence creates an undertow too strong to fight.

        All we can manage is to maybe not drown in it.

  4. LOL! Bravo! This is awesome. One really doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry? I think perhaps Lady Bracknell had it right, don’t tamper with natural ignorance. Just walk away, leave it be, and stop troubling yourself.

    I am laughing, but I am a huge fan of the lower classes, the farmers and plumbers, the drop outs and trade schoolers. Many people today are seeking fame and fortune, this kind of celebrity status in society, which as you know really doesn’t require any education or critical thinking skills at all. Also it’s not real, it has no substance.

  5. I fear that there is a great difference in the toolbox that is education and that which is current UK politics (but possibly applies to other governments). It is the British slang meaning of ‘tool’ and I’m afraid that’s what the UK cabinet is: a toolbox.

    But most western governments and institutions seem to have imbibed Lady Bracknell’s bons mots, thus thwarting the visions of true enlightened educators who believe their duty is to ‘lead’ their charges to self-knowledge and fulfilment, not to merely be economic pawns to the likes of milady.

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