Is This The Answer To Educational Decline?
Jordan Peterson has a school. — The most inflated ego and most compromised mind in today’s world of internet celebrity gurus imagines he is going to make oodles of money by pretending to offer people some sort of university equivalency certificate from an online teaching institute named (what else?) Peterson Academy. Of course, his “school” will star all the best educators, because who wouldn’t give up a job teaching serious students in an actual face-to-face manner at, say, The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies at U of T, or the Higher Institute of Philosophy at Louvain, for the honor of serving as a social media personality under the banner of “Jordan Peterson’s Patreon Channel University,” where for a mere four thousand dollars, Jordan’s groupies can pretend they are getting a higher education which, while giving them no officially accredited degree (although Peterson claims that he and the puffed-up, uneducated daughter he is continually hyping as a cross between Henry Ford and Mae West are working on that), will surely function as the golden key to any future dream job, since of course no self-respecting billionaire employer would dare to question the supreme legitimacy of a real, full-color Certificate of Achievement with Jordan Peterson’s own personal signature copied and pasted onto it?
I would love (sarcasm alert) to hear Jordan Peterson explain in detail what he believes a university is supposed to be, what role it ought to play in a liberal democracy, what a serious teacher is supposed to be giving his students, and what, if any, is the proper relation between profit-seeking and educating. And by the way, in case you are just amazed at his grand proposal to offer a real bachelor’s degree of international quality for a mere four thousand U.S. dollars, I might simply remind you that he is offering this entirely as an online academy, which is to say more or less in the same form that you may see his content on YouTube for free right now — except this will be even better, because you can now pay four thousand dollars to watch it, and get tested on it, like an actual school or something, but without personal interaction with teachers, or a campus, or a sense of daily camaraderie and friendship, or a library, or a dormitory, or study rooms, or any reassuring sense of history or tradition to support you in your strange journey through…whatever Peterson’s band of mini-class video lecture experts claim to be offering.
As for what they are claiming to be offering, I should point out that the website for Peterson’s online academy promises, by way of a motto, that they will teach “how to think, not what to think.” Well, there’s an original and ingenious banality, and a stirringly abstract promise to boot. Now, just one little question for Dr. Peterson (a man who has never met a question for which he did not believe he had a final and absolute answer, right down to how and what you should eat, what lipstick color a real woman should wear, and exactly what psychological deficiency is revealed when a woman chooses not to wear that color): What in the world does it mean to teach “how,” rather than “what,” to think? Does it mean you have no content to teach? Does it mean each student should create his own content? Or is it just another one of those ill-defined platitudes, intended to imply some equally ill-defined notion of freedom, that sophistical educators from John Dewey to Margaret Mead (the inventor of the phrase) to Jordan Peterson like to spout in lieu of actually trying to guide a few young souls in human nature’s most definitive quest, namely the search for self-knowledge? Did Plato, in his Academy (the pre-enlightened precursor to Peterson’s Academy) teach how to think, or what to think? Did Aristotle in the Lyceum teach how to think, or what to think? Did Hegel at the University of Berlin teach how to think, or what to think? How, when we come down to it, is “how to think,” as such, not itself a “what”?
“Oh, don’t play semantics games! You know exactly what he means, and why it is so important to teach young adults how to think, rather than what to think.”
No, actually, I don’t know what he means. And I don’t think he knows either.
(As for what I think education is, you may read about some of my investigations here.)