Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Corportations and Consumers

It is obvious that most people understand that companies are out to make a profit and their primary goal is thus to maximize profits.

I was studying abroad in Italy last semester and experienced a totally different world view from what I am used to here in America. It is very obvious to me that America and our capitalistic economy has changed the way people see each other. In Italy, a persons status is defined primarily on birthright and secondarily on social status. Contrast this with the "melting pot" of America 'the land of equal opportunity', where social status alone defines who we are. Our social status comes from our economic status, so more money means more importance and power.

As was said by another student here, companies make money off "making consumers happy", so the companies define what it means to be happy. Of course this is only possible in this modern day and age when we know longer have a general census about what it means to be a person and what our purpose in life is. Only in this modern era have corporations had the power to define dignity and happiness. and as long as they keep people confused and guessing, they will jump from fad to fad always grasping to finally be happy.

What we need is an objective standard by which to define dignity and happiness. But of course the corporate machine will fight this with all its power and resources, because defining these things objectively will mean the end to their large profit margins. The rich and powerful will try legally (and every other way possible) to make it impossible to define anything objectively thus ensuring their wealth for the foreseeable future.

But we must ask ourselves, if we want to be rich and powerful (and thus happy) would it not be better to just leave the machine alone? If we understood the machine would it not be possible to 'work it' in order to get to the top? As the old saying goes, if you can't beat them, join them. Should we just give up and join them?

My answer to all of these questions is no. I believe in a high objective standard, and I believe that no one should be used as a tool for someone else's profit. But to go against the corporate machine these days means to go against what it means to "be American." It means to buck the whole system and not just part of it. It requires a new world view.

Friday, September 09, 2005

New School Blog!

I have created a new blog to cover the thought I have regarding my education. The last post will be duplicated in both blogs. Visit my blog at

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Restructuring of education?

Ever since I came back to college at the University of Saint Thomas and read books about the days of old (3000BC to 1600 AD) I have wondered what Rhetoric is, why we don't hear about it in everyday life anymore, and why it is not taught at school.

Here are some of the conclusions that I have found on this topic:
Rhetoric – The art of being able to express oneself in language elegantly and persuasively.

Rhetoric was a required part of education until after the enlightenment (1600’s)
In the pre-enlightenment period of education (henceforth called the ‘old school’) it was part of primary/elementary education, that is to say it was pre-university education (whether you would like to say that it was part of the secondary education instead of primary/elementary education is up for debate).

Oration was a large part of school, and life in general, back in the old school days. Books were mostly hand copied and rare, thus students were expected not to simply buy and ready textbooks, but instead they were expected to memorize and recite sections/passages of books. Being able to speak elegantly and persuasively was not a mere luxury, but an expected necessity.
Society was largely communal, with people for the most part ‘staying put’ in one community one’s whole life. There are, of course, exceptions to this, particularly the nobility/governors (who were the people receiving the education).  A person was expected to be a fully participative member of the community and everyone looked after each other to make sure all was well. Life was centered around personal relationships, which of course meant that communication was extremely important.

Rhetoric was part of the primary education called the Trivium. The Trivium consisted of three phases:
  1. Grammar

  2. Dialectic

  3. Rhetoric
The Trivium was meant to teach the pupils the proper use of the tools of learning. Learning was not broken out into subjects as it is these days. Subjects did not come until a person started school at the university level. Grammar involved learning how a language is put together (structured), Dialectic taught how to use the language (defining terms, detecting fallacies, etc.), and Rhetoric taught how to express oneself using the language.
In this modern age we would associate these topics with:
  1. Grammar

  2. Logic

  3. Public Speech (or Debate)
In my educational experience, Grammar was still taught at the primary education level (and poorly at that), Logic was eliminated altogether, and Public Speech/Debate was optional in secondary education (I took Interpersonal Communication instead). I finally took Logic at the university level of education – after I had formed bad logic habits. I now wish I had taken Public Speech or Debate in High School, but the past cannot be changed.

Nowadays, the people who receive education in ‘Rhetoric’ are the ones who get into politics and marketing. Of course without the tools of Logic/Dialectic, the average person is unable to see the errors in the debates of the politicians and the fallacies in the advertising of the marketers; so we are duped into supporting people and buying things that are not right for us.

Perhaps it is time to revisit the old school way of structuring education.

(This article was inspired by an article by Dorothy Sayers: