Identity – Education

I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. So I summoned Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam, who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of learning, and I ordered them to go to Iddo, the leader in Kasiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and his fellow Levites, the temple servants in Kasiphia, so that they might bring attendants to us for the house of our God. Because the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah, a capable man, from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, the son of Israel, and Sherebiah’s sons and brothers, 18 in all; and Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and nephews, 20 in all. They also brought 220 of the temple servants—a body that David and the officials had established to assist the Levites. All were registered by name.?

  • Ezra 8:15-20

“Hear my words, you wise men;
    listen to me, you men of learning.
For the ear tests words
    as the tongue tastes food.
Let us discern for ourselves what is right;
    let us learn together what is good.

  • Job 34:2-4

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
    whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
    rebuke the wise and they will love you.
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
    teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For through wisdom your days will be many,
    and years will be added to your life.
If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
    if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

  • Proverbs 9:7-12

“This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:
I am the Lord,
    the Maker of all things,
    who stretches out the heavens,
    who spreads out the earth by myself,
who foils the signs of false prophets
    and makes fools of diviners,
who overthrows the learning of the wise
    and turns it into nonsense,
who carries out the words of his servants
    and fulfills the predictions of his messengers,

  • Isaiah 44:24-26a

“Somebody else insists that we are here for a higher purpose than merely work. Our purpose is to educate ourselves, develop ourselves and perfect our intellectual nature. The process of this cultivation of the human mind is extensive. A young person will go through school and be taught all the important things of life. He then might continue through college and learn science, art, literature and history. If he is ambitious, he will go on to do postgraduate work and get a degree. I only see one little catch in this scenario. That young man, educated and well cultivated, is going to die and take all that education with him down into the grave. All that culture, that love of Bach, of Brahms and everything else will go right down with him into the grave.
“Everything we do for a man is going to go right down into the grave with him when he dies. If he earns 40 degrees, they can put that on his tombstone, but he does not know anything about it. He is dead. Education alone is not the reason we were born. Our purpose is not for the perfecting of our intellectual nature, the education or development of our mind. I am not against education, because the alternative is simple ignorance. Education, however, does not answer the eternal purpose of why l am here.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Purpose of Man

I have known many wise men who did not have a high school education.

I was once in a nuclear physics class, in industry (although I have a few nuclear engineering credits in college).  The other engineers were struggling, but a supervisor that had worked up the ranks from operator had no trouble at all.  Besides having a brilliant mind regarding nuclear physics, he had a sense of humor and a strong compassion for his fellow man.  He happened to be African-American, but I liked him because he was one of those people that cared so much for you that you would do anything for him.  When we took the final exam, I got the second highest grade in the class.  I missed one question that only an experienced operator would know, a question about things that were not covered in class.  I had no way of knowing, being a maintenance engineer.  He made a perfect score.  He made a perfect score on a nuclear physics test where most of the engineers in the class were struggling to pass, and he only had an elementary education.  I don’t think he passed the sixth grade if he had even gotten that far.  In those days, the 1980s, I knew so many people, regardless of color, who quit school after the third grade.  They were, for the most part, diligent workers who knew their job.

As time went on, my friend advanced to senior supervisor, supervising, in most cases, engineers with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  Then an edict came down from Washington, DC that everyone who worked at the plant had to take a reading test.  There were too many written procedures that had to be followed.  I arrived at work feeling ill soon after the edict.  I told my supervisor that I had to go home, but he said that I had to take a reading test first, part of the control group.  I scored the maximum on the standardized reading test, while having the flu and running a 103F fever.  I apologize to anyone who sat near me during the test.  I was not offered the chance to go home sick and I may have exposed you.  (You wonder if that has happened with COVID exposures.)

My friend flunked the exam.  He could not read, elementary level at best, and eighth grade reading level was required.  He made a perfect score on a nuclear physics test by having his children use flash cards that they made for that purpose.  He memorized and recognized the key words and the relationship between that word and nuclear physics concepts.  If you can do that without being able to read, you have a brilliant mind, but with not finishing elementary school and being unable to read, the government stripped him of his position, and when I left that facility with a new job at a NASA facility, he was taking reading classes by day, at company expense, and working as a custodian by night.  He was scheduled to take the reading test again and be restored to his previous position.

But that being said, Rev. Tozer is correct, when men get together, they focus on work, but then it gravitates to education.

I loved the television show, The Big Bang Theory.  Three of the four friends had PhD degrees, but the engineer only had a master’s degree.  When that came up, he often tried to explain how, unless you wanted to be a college professor, the doctorate level engineer rarely paid for itself.  I have a friend who joined a think tank, and his doctorate paid for itself, but that is rare.  Thus, I feel slightly incomplete by not getting my doctorate, but I do not lose any sleep over only having a master’s.

But I have seen three methods in which “education” has nearly been weaponized.  First, the simple statement of having a higher-level degree, than another person, has been used to put the one down and inflate the importance of the higher educated.  In many cases, the higher educated refused to listen to sound reason from the one who had a lesser education.  Sound reason because the higher educated refused to listen and the lesser educated person was correct.

Second, there are elite schools.  If you have a degree from one of those, you can pretty much name your salary, for example, Ivy League Schools.  I have a nephew from Yale, so I will tread lightly.  I worked with a guy who had a degree from an Ivy League school, but he said, “But it was Pennsylvania, so that doesn’t count.”  Since I do not know many people from Ivy League schools, I am unaware of any pecking order within the schools.  Most people know Harvard and Yale, and some other schools.  I have known people from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Providence, Columbia, and Pennsylvania, but none of the others.

One day someone was marveling over this guy who had gone to Harvard.  When I finished my active duty military time, I lived a few blocks from the Harvard campus.  I knew all about the “pahking the cah in Hahfud Yahd” routine (parking the car in Harvard Yard) to illustrate the local’s nonrhotic dialect of English (although I never found a parking place available there), but to deify someone because they had a degree from there was simply wrong.  I told the little coffee klatch where I had lived while in the army, and that those Harvard people were not that smart.  Each building had a cupola on top.  Each cupola had a different color.  The students were taught that their next class is in the red cupola building.  The group roared with laughter.  Then I heard a familiar voice behind me, the voice of my mentor whom I loved and respected, whisper in my ear, “How did you know that’s how we navigated around the campus?”  I apologized profusely.  I had remembered that he had gone to Rensselaer Polytechnic for the bachelor’s degree, but he then went to graduate school at Harvard.  But he was so down to earth, I had forgotten.

Third, in case you forgot there were three points, some schools teach a class to instruct their students that their education had been the best.  For anyone who lacks humility, that class explodes their brain, and they are unable to get their head through any standard door.

When we first moved to Pennsylvania, I worked with several people from Penn State.  The company mostly had graduates from Penn State, Pitt, and West Virginia, but the Penn State graduates were the most memorable.  To them, the football coach at the time, Joe Paterno (Joe Pa) was to be worshipped and never use his name in vain, AND never check their calculations.  They were from Penn State.  They never made a mistake.  I had a friend who was down to earth, but I had no idea where he got his degree.  I asked him if Penn State had a class that brainwashed them into thinking they were perfect because they came from Penn State.  He said, “Sure, we had classes on that, but don’t condemn Penn State because some of us actually believed it.”  Oops.

The previous school that I had heard had that type of class was Georgia Tech.  At one particular site where I worked, my last course that I designed, developed, and taught was a graduate level Thermodynamics refresher – required by the US government to be as hard as I could make it, but I tried to make some of the calculations easy.

The plant had some instruments that produced data in degrees Celsius, other in degrees Fahrenheit.  There were flows in gallons per minute and heat transfer coefficients in kcal…  I determined that with the job that these engineers were going to do that data conversion to a common measurement system, such as the American traditional system, the British Imperial System, or the SI (International standard) would take up too much of their time.  The SI, the metric system, used to be divided between the MKS (meter, kilogram, second) and the CGS (centimeter, gram, second) systems.  The units in the control room ranged over all those systems.  I created a single conversion factor so that they would not waste half their time converting to a common system.

The Georgia Tech graduate told me that my approach insulted his intelligence.  For the three-day course, he refused to participate in class.  On the third day, I gave them a short study period and then a final exam with only four questions.  I gave them roughly five hours to solve the four questions, allowing the stragglers, including the Georgia Tech guy an extra hour of six hours total.  Of course, as the designer and developer of the class, it took me about two hours to solve the questions myself, but as the designer, I knew in what direction I was going.  My bizarre, real-life, problems caused them to spend much of the first hour just figuring out how to get started.  I told the class that the exam would be a monster and to turn in all their paperwork, even the wrong turns, so that I could give them partial credit if I could follow their thinking.  The Georgia Tech graduate growled at my statement, refusing to follow instructions.  He was going to prove me wrong.

Only one problem when you try to prove the instructor wrong: He did not get any answers correct – not bad off, but off, and there were gaps in his “showing all his work.”  He spent half of his time converting everything to the CGS system (the only system of measurement ever used at Georgia Tech, according to him) and then using the oddest technique that seemed to make no sense to solve the problems, the reverse of standard logic.  It took me a couple of hours to grade the other exams in the class, eleven trainees, all passing but a couple of them barely making it.  Then I spent 3-4 hours of my own time, to solve the problems the way the Georgia Tech graduate had done it (less time than he had taken by half).  I did the extra work so that I could figure out where he went wrong, challenging myself, rather than simply failing him for getting wrong answers and not following instructions and failing to turn in the exam on time.  I had multiple reasons to fail him, but he had been a royal pain and I did not want my feelings to override my technical decisions.  The thing was that he made only a couple of minor errors, which amplified as those numbers were used in the next step of the calculations.  The rest was in the volume of unit conversions that he made, and he would round off improperly, compounding the errors into more significant errors.  I passed him, but I had a side conversation with his supervisor that if his arrogance was not toned down by the time he finished the training program, he might need to transfer to another department.  The supervisor snickered.  It seemed he had the same attitude toward him.

But the worse situation of having a course that amplified arrogance is that of West Point.  You must achieve in the classroom while your entire world is turned upside down, turned into a military thinking world instead of the real world.  Those that took their arrogance to the extreme became “ring knockers.”  My company commander, a West Pointer, had me on orders to run the company in his absence and he was almost always absent.  I even attended battalion staff meetings, and as the battalion commander, also a West Pointer – just one that was down to earth, started to commend my company on a job well done. That is when the ring knocking started.  All the West Pointers, except for a couple of them, turned their graduation rings with the jeweled side facing their palm.  They then tapped their palm against the various tables around the battalion meeting room.  You could not hear yourself think, the noise was so loud.  The LTC battalion commander shouted that he would clear the room if they did any more ring knocking, for they were insulting him while he gave me a compliment, and any more ring knocking would result in a written reprimand in their file.  One of the majors, the executive officer, pulled me aside after the meeting to say that if my commander had been there, he would not have been given the compliment, since the battalion commander knew that I was the one who really got the job accomplished.  But that LTC and that major, both West Pointers, were different; not arrogant at all.

And I think that is where this entire discussion is going.  As Tozer says, why get so arrogant over a piece of sheepskin when we cannot take that degree with us when we die?  And that guy with a third-grade education may have a lot more common sense than we ever thought of.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

3 Comments

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  1. Good post. I learn to be enjoy humble guys with wisdom. Your story reminds me of someone I was in the marines who enlisted but had a degree with Emory. He was dumb and useless. BUt he always talked about his degree. Years later when we met up with a reunion he was so shock I went to UCLA and had a class on Classical Greek; it was whatever for me but I think those that often are about outward degrees and predigrees can sometime miss the point of what training and learning is about

    Liked by 1 person

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