Thursday, September 18, 2008

Who Needs College Anyways? Part 1

There are many studies that been performed demonstrating that a human's frontal lobe continues to develop until his twenties. This has been very important information, especially for auto insurers, since the frontal lobe is responsible to critical thinking and decision making. That means that a 17 year driver is less likely to make a smart decision while driving and therefore is more accident prone and should pay higher rates for insurance. This is further supported by the overwhelming number of observations of teenagers driving too fast, texting while driving, and trying to beat yellow lights. Is there a logical extension to this data? I believe so, and I would refer to it as the Are We Still In High School? effect, or AWSIHS.

We've all been there. Well, most people have. I would daresay that the slight majority of people have not so fond memories of high school, with more women than men not wanting to do it all over again. And why is that? The answers are simple and obvious. High school is a microcosm where the cliques rule and gossip is fact. If you don't play by mob rules, you don't play at all. But how does the hierarchy of high school maintain itself without collapsing on its nonsensical basis for existing? Anyone who has gone to high school knows the answer to that question--diversion and character assassination. Granted, these are fancy terms beyond most high school students, but it the sociopolitical sense they are perfect descriptors.

How does diversion and character assassination work? It's very simple. When you are accused of inappropriate behavior (in high school this means being a geek, being a flirt, being anything other than the established social norm in the school) whether it is true or not, the most effective method of defending yourself is not to defend yourself or address the accusations. Protesting "I am not a geek" only brings more attention to the possibility you are a geek and causes more people to believe you actually are a geek. You can see that there is no discussion as to whether you are indeed a geek. Gossip is fact in high school, remember? The most effective defense is to divert the attention from you and onto your attacker. And you divert the attention by mocking you attacker. If there is one thing people can't seem to stop themselves from joining it is the fair weather mockery of a person.

You can envision how this plays out in high school with infinite permutations. Someone runs for student council, saying change is needed because current school politics only favors the athletes. His incumbent opponent, an athlete, likely has nothing good to say in his own defense (this is high school politics, after all), and so simply mocks the way his opponent talks, or dresses. Or creates some disastrously specious slippery slope to make his opponent seem like a nutjob. You can substitute girls for the boys, cheerleaders for jocks, use the in clique versus the out clique, and so on. The diatribe remains the same at heart.

Have we seen this recently? Of course we have! The current Presidential campaign! I knew it seemed familiar. It was simmering over the spring, and is now boiling over since the Republican and Democratic conventions. Seriously, it's a campaign for student council president of United States High. I have not heard a detailed and coherent plan for any issue by any of the four candidates in both parties. We are electing someone who can steer the country and take of adult issues, not someone who knows how to mock the speech of the opposing candidate. Yet, the cheering at the Republican and Democratic conventions would suggest otherwise.

Another feature of the AWSIHS effect is reductionism. As in high school, there is a reduction of candidates into political parties, and then further into classically associated beliefs of the party. For instance, one would reduce McCain to a Republican, and the further into a prolife/antichoice candidate. At that point, it would not matter whether he favored sending more troops to Iraq, including one's children, to die for a cause embroiled in controversy. It would also not matter if he favored drastic cuts in Medicare, choking off one's affordable access to medical care. The reduction point does not have to be abortion. It could be Iraq, "middle class" tax cuts, environmental slant, or anything else. The result is the same--disregard for other issues.

With all this, who needs a college education? Everything you need to know to survive today's world you learned in high school. Without even cracking a book or taking a test. You experienced it. You lived it. You're still living it now. Next up, AWSIHS in everyday life--you don't actually have to grow up like your parents warned you.