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Comment by luis_enrique on Two More Things to Unlearn from School · 2007-07-13T14:09:17.000Z · score: 14 (17 votes) · LW · GW

University English Lit departments should be closed down for teaching appalling habits of thought to impressionable young people.

You read the books, and then you pick up elements from them and turn them around a bit until they line up nicely to form a pleasing argument. The more tenuous (sorry, 'sensitive') your reading, the more marks you get. The more 'powerful' the story you weave, the more marks you get. Especially if it chimes with the prevailing intellectual fashions. Extra points also for being subversive or challenging the (straw man) orthodoxy. Looking behind the superficial to decode the deeper truth is, of course, compulsory. Marks deducted for anything as neolithic as thinking literature might teach us anything about the human condition.

Never do you weigh the merits of your chosen interpretation against other available interpretations - in fact the question is nonsensical, because there are no criteria for comparison. There is no analog of testing whether your hypothesis is consistent with facts. Never do you consider how the elements of your 'reading' hold together or relate to the real world - that is to say you can employ any half comprehended 'philosophy' without being held to task if that 'philosophy' is a poor description of reality. Internal logical consistency is not required.

Once you learn the tricks, it is child's play to get a first class degree.

Then you go out into the world and start applying your mental habits to the real world. For the results, see newspaper columnists, novelists and playwrights taking on topics such as economics, politics and foreign policy.

I am aware the above might make me look a bit like a nutjob .. perhaps I just had a particularly unpleasant match with my Eng Lit faculty. But I reckon there's something in it.