Myth Matched – A Blast from the past post from December 2015

Myth Matched – A Blast from the past post from December 2015

Every culture has myths. For instance, I grew up in a culture where I knew (not thought, mind you, knew) that if you took more than one aspirin at once, you’d die.

Proven?  You don’t need proven.  Everyone knew this.  Why would you test something that could kill you?

So my first week in the states, when I told my host mother I had a headache and she said “just take a couple of aspirin” I thought she was trying to kill me.  She had to show me the instructions on the bottle.

This trivial incident was my first exposure to the idea that “what everybody knows” can be wrong.

Progressive culture in the US, having been the dominant culture in media/entertainment and the news for the last 100 years at least (not the dominant culture in the country, necessarily, but the dominant culture in the classes that controlled these intellectual products and which were consolidated/made uniform by the “mass” aspects of communication since at least the end of the nineteenth century) has lacked challenges to its internal myths, which means it ended up with as many unfounded “everybody knows” as a small village in Portugal where aspirin was still a miracle drug and a little scary.

I normally don’t pay attention to what Bernie Sanders says, and pay Hillary only the attention necessary to roll my eyes at the things that come flying out of her mouth.  (Like, for instance, that Republicans don’t know that terrorists use guns to kill people.  Oh, lady, we know, that’s why we want guns of our own to defend ourselves, because the terrorists, you know, aren’t likely to obey gun regulations.)

But yesterday Mike Rowe went after Bernie Sanders.

At first I just read it wishing that popcorn didn’t have so many carbs.  Then I went back and read the tweet that inspired Mike’s take down. Here it is in its full glory:

“At the end of the day, providing a path to go to college is a helluva lot cheaper than putting people on a path to jail.”

Mike got seriously upset — as he should — at the notion that not going to college is the same as being condemned to becoming a criminal, and he went after it, as well as after the fact that absent a few professions (and the only reason my kids are in college is because they’re aiming for two of those professions) college really doesn’t help.  (Make an informal count in your head.  How many of your friends with degrees work at anything even vaguely related to their degree?  And don’t tell me “but they learned to learn” because this is another thing altogether and you might have confused cause and effect.)

But there’s more than that in that tweet, there are at least three warring myths, all of them so central to what liberalism once was that the current progressives aren’t even aware most of them have been disproven by the real world tm.  These are things “everyone knows” and why would you question something everyone knows?

The thing is outside their world, where no one gives a good goddamn about their myths, these things are disproven, and most people only don’t realize it because of the entertainment news industrial complex repeating them so often and acting like they’re proven.

The first and most basic myth, and one of which, once upon a time, I was an ardent proponent, is that education is transformative.  This goes along with the myth that man is infinitely perfectible.

The liberal project — back when liberal meant classical liberal — as undertaken by our ancestors, hinged on the idea that education would transform everyone into individual thinkers and philosophers like themselves.  It would make them more moral too and improve them to be onto like angels.

They had a point of sorts, in their time.  Most of the people who weren’t learning weren’t learning because they were underfed, too busy making a living, sick with a million little illnesses that made them not function well intellectually.

I saw this in action in the village, which is why I was an ardent believer in this myth.  Giving people education truly uplifts them if the people giving the education also provide a meal and clothes.

The thing is, it’s one of those things that has huge gains up front.  “Teach everyone to read” makes a huge difference.  And yes, can make for a more moral society, if the education has a moral component.  This is important as “education” is not a neutral value.  It can be adaptive or maladaptive to reality.

However just about every country in the world that isn’t in dire crisis or doesn’t belong to a religion that forbids secular education has free education — yes, even where I came from, though often the kids were taken out of fourth grade to work in factories.  This was strictly speaking illegal, but you could always find a doctor to sign a paper saying your kid was educable mentally retarded and couldn’t learn any more “abstract stuff” but could learn to be a factory worker) — at least through 9th grade and often through 12th.

I’ll pause here to point out that when I was little, someone with a 9th grade education was accorded the respect here given to people with Masters Degrees now.  They were learned and performed work of the mind, and didn’t dirty their hands.  This I’d guess is true for most of history.  The level of a 9th degree education allows you enough to explore and learn just about everything that doesn’t require hands on training or specialized tutoring only administrated by professionals.  (I’ll not specify which trades because it varies per learner.  I can’t learn languages outside a classroom, at least a virtual one.  I also have trouble with art by myself.  I’d guess there’s the same problem with most things requiring labs to learn.)

So, are people made more moral?  Snort giggle.  Hardly.  The causes for this are complex and a lot of it has to do with how wealthy our society is.  Wealthy people have always had more time to get funny on morality.  Other parts include a morally neutral or worse education (when the purpose of education is to deconstruct the culture that made more people wealthy and healthy than any other culture in history, while praising cultures that mutilate women, kill gays and enslave children, it is worse.)

Are people individual little philosopher kings, for all these years of education thrown at them?

I read something in a book I can no longer remember the title of, when I was researching Shakespeare.  The number of people who are fluent enough readers to read for pleasure in our day is the same as in Shakespeare’s day.  When they didn’t have free education, much less 12 years of it.

The idea that if you gave everyone enough food and time and free schooling they’d all become erudite and thinkers can be disproved by a stroll through your local Welfare hub.  Go on, I dare you, go down and start a little discussion on Kantian philosophy.

But it’s an idea that remains a myth on the left which has lost all other classical liberal ideals (like, you know, individual freedom) but holds fast onto this idea that education will somehow make a progressive out of everyone.  (Patently ridiculous as they’ve been indoctrinating several generations now, and it still won’t take the way they want.  That cold slap of reality counteracts it.  Which is why they advocate more cowbell.)

The other myth in that statement — and the only way to make sense out of that linkage between education and prison — is actually several linked myths:

1- that people turn to crime when they’re poor  (an insult to every poor but honest person ever.)

2- that without a college education you’ll be poor (Mike Rowe ably disposed of this one in the linked article.)

3- that if the government won’t pay for something it’s unobtainable because there is no private charity and also people can’t lift themselves up by their bootstraps.

All of these are nonsense.  Sometimes I think people like Bernie Sanders watch Les Miserables (a piece of propaganda even when it was written) and say “it’s true, it’s all true” and then see the world through that lens ever since.

Being poor doesn’t lead to crime.  Wealthy people can and do commit crimes, not all of them white collar (in one of the stunning contradictions that would make their heads explode if they paused and thought about it, progressives also assume that all rich people are criminals, since economics is a fixed pie (giggle-snort) and to have more you have taken “more than your fair share.)

Lack of a college education doesn’t make you poor.  I’ve yet to meet a poor, competent plumber. And I sometimes regret I didn’t learn more carpentry from grandad, instead of going to college.  We knew someone who built cabinets by grandad’s method (think all manual tools) in reproduction of colonial furniture.  One of those cabinets which he could build in 3 months, sold for what my husband was making at the time, as a computer programmer. I’m fairly sure anyone who knows one of those trades really well is raking it in.  We’ve become a nation of do-it-yourselvers not because we enjoy it, or want to save money but because finding a competent tradesmen takes longer than just doing the best you can.  (Been there, done that, have spackle on my t-shirt.)

People have managed to be educated beyond their relatives and parents without any government intervention (in fact until government stuck its nose and quotas in, there were a lot of merit scholarships.  My husband did his college with them and a part-time job.)

Once you realize those myths ARE myths, Bernie’s prescription to end crime makes about as much sense as saying something like “Hit yourselves on the head with rubber mallets, increase the production of wheat.”

In fact, someone came trolling a share of this post trying desperately to keep the two things linked by yelling that it was a shame we spent more on jails than education.

Again, with the what?  Nothing our government does makes much sense, but this makes as much sense as “Abolish the helium reserve. Subsidize canneries.”

What we’ve found since the classical liberal times when we thought education would uplift everyone is that education and proper nutrition and proper civic instruction does uplift some people.  Yeah, there are a percentage of people out there who could/would do much better with a little help.  I don’t know about you, but I make it a point, on my own, to identify such people and such situations and intervene and help when I can.

But you can lead a student to school; you can imprison him/her in it for 8 hours a day for 12 years: what you can’t do is make them learn.

The same person who was whining about that horrible discrepancy between jail spending and education spending said that you know, most criminals stop learning in grade school.  I think he meant they dropped out.  This is probably true, although I’d bet the reverse, that if you dropped out of grade school you’re likely to be a criminal isn’t true.  It’s also insulting to claim so.  For this he advised more cowbell… er I mean more free education.

The sad fact is that we’ve continuously not only dumbed down education, but tried to make it “fun” (listen, if you’re learning a language, there’s no way to make it fun.  To be fluent, you need to start by memorizing vocabulary and studying grammatical structures.  Neither of those is fun.  Useful. Needed.  Not fun.) to the point that a High School diploma means nothing, which is why the new push to put everyone to college, as if more of the same will fix the problems.

There are people who don’t learn because they have no interest in learning.  Some of them might be very good at things — engines. Carpentry — that would baffle phds who are not put together that way.  There are people who don’t learn because our educational system, barring active teaching at home after class, is put together NOT to teach but to keep the masses from rebelling in their pseudo-scholastic prisons.

Lack of book learning doesn’t make anyone a criminal.  It doesn’t make them poor either.  I think my dad’s dad had a third grade (might be fourth) education.  Like younger son when he was younger, he had problems with verbal expression, and issues writing a legible hand.  In those days this meant “stupid” or at least book stupid, so his caring parents apprenticed him as a carpenter.  He supported his family in (for the village — grin) a more than middle class lifestyle, never that I know so much as stole a stamp, and raised sons and daughter who did better than him, and grandchildren who — weirdly — all have college educations, almost all of them (except me) in useful fields that actually make things or cure people.

The left is so wrapped up in their myths that they don’t understand “subsidize more education.  You’ll need fewer prisons” makes about as much sense as “eat more fiber. Control garden pests.” Worse, they legislate based on these myths, without the slightest qualm.  And then are shocked and posit bizarre theories (the GOP is holding back solar energy! The oil lobby! Eleventy!) for why it didn’t work.

And this is why our monoculture of progressivism hurts every field in which it is in fact a monoculture: education, the arts, entertainment, politics.

This is why diversity of thought is important. And why the progressives’ crazy attempts to shut down opinions they don’t agree with are … well… crazy.

In the safe space everyone believes as you do.  And that’s the problem.  Human beings aren’t built to be safe.

It is in the rubbing of thought against thought, in the contest of vision against vision that the truly ludicrous is eliminated and that, at least, we avoid the worst errors.

It is in not being locked up in a tiny intellectual village that real progress is made.  Not the “progressive” of progressives, which fills mass graves with those humans who weren’t infinitely perfectible, but the progress that fills bellies, raises humans above poverty and makes it possible to aspire to the stars.

Real progress comes from strife and work.

Which is why they’re acting more and more like isolated, illiterate villagers in a land where myth is more important than evidence.

And why in the end we win, they lose.

125 responses to “Myth Matched – A Blast from the past post from December 2015

  1. It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
    Mark Twain

  2. I wonder if Bernie is aware that corporations, those criminal organizations bent on despoiling the world and exploiting the workers, hire college graduates exclusively? Perhaps his thought is that the criminally inclined need good educations so they can afford the kinds of lawyers and publicists who can enable them to engage in immoral acts with impunity?

    • He’s an academic socialist. He doesn’t know anything about corporations that isn’t in Mao’s Little Red Book.

  3. they learned to learn

    Progressive pedagogy seems inimical to this process, given its preference for “throwing kids into intellectual waters and hoping in the expectation they’ll learn to swim.” Actual guided instruction, repetitive drilling and directed development of study skills are derided by educational bureaucrats.

  4. The first and most basic myth … is that education is transformative.

    This is a fact, not a myth. Of course, it depends on what values you employ for “education” and for “transformative.”

    Somebody educated in the values of classical Western Civilization is certainly transformed. Somebody educated in the dialectical materialism of Soviet Russia has also been transformed. Anybody educated in the simmering resentments of race/gender/ethnic identity studies is unquestionably transformed.

    The critical consideration is that “education” is merely a transformative process (thus making “education is transformative” a tautological assertion, see: fallacy) and not all transformations are equally desirable.

    • A trip through the digestive system is transformative of food.
      A trip through the public education system is transformative of people.
      Sadly, the results are quite similar.

      Didn’t Glen Seaborg say something about an Act of War, a few decades back?

      • Jerry Pournelle likes to keep that comment at the top of the Chaos Manor page, most days:

        If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

        Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

        • It’s just that we lost the cold war. where it counted. Our media, our schools, and our arts are occupied and aimed against us.

          • The long march of PROGRESS!!! finally succeeded in academia in the decades after the USSR fell away into history’s ash heap. Memetic inertia. Except Left isn’t a destination, it’s a disturbance (as is Right), the pendulum always swings back, and any effort to keep the pendulum out at the edge just makes the swing back more energetic. Whether the pendulum’s inevitable swing back destroys the ivory towers of Academe at this point likely depends on how frantically any swing back towards the center is opposed.

            I think Sarah’s made the observation before that the whole thing is like a machine running through it’s program after the operator lost interest.

            I personally think the Great Plan had the Soviets rolling unnoposed into Western Europe around 2005-ish. The convergence of the anti-nuke stuff, the various green movements, the march through the education establishment, and the various suspiciously successful leftish politicians all seemed to hit peaks in the first 5 years after the millenium. Too bad the USSR fell apart a decade and a half prior.

    • Public education at the Federal level has since its inception been designed to take typical ordinary children and transform them into compliant automatons with just enough education to be trainable for detailed work in factories that have not existed for at least half a century.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        From what I’ve been hearing, modern schools would fail at that task. 😦

      • When i was in school in the 80s, i think it was shifting toward office jobs that were automated out of existence in the early 90s.

  5. I was just thinking the other day, as I moved engine repair manuals to dust the book shelf (because you never know – an R3360 might wander by and be in need of some adjusting), that I hate electrical work. I loved engine repair, even the finicky and messy parts, and I will happily mess with hydraulics (mess being the operative word). But not electricity. I cannot grok things electrical. I can’t see the electrons leaking out. Intellectually I can get basic electricity physics, but application? No way.

    I will happily pay a master electrician to do whatever needs to be done. Has he gone to grad school? Nope. What about the power company lineman? Probably not. Are they a lot more useful to society than my PhD in history? Oh Heck Yeah!

    • Ain’t it awful the way, when you finally break down and dispose of an “obsolete” manual, the very next week you will find yourself confronting a task which requires that very same manual?

      • Never had that problem. Problem is finding the manual for what I just bought last month. Maybe it’s under the LDOS for the Radio Shack TRS-80 manual? Or the train set manual (which, hmm, IIRC, has been in my possession for exactly fifty years and one day now).

      • I think that’s true of anything you throw out. You have something that isn’t without value, but you got it 10 years ago, never used it, and it’s taking up space, so you donate it. One week later, you will suddenly need it. There’s probably a Murphy’s Law variation about that somewhere.

    • OTOH, a lineman might not know that where he’s setting a pole is on an old WWII live fire range, where a historian might. At that moment, a PhD in history and knowledge that there might be unexploded ordinance around is a good bit more important than knowing how to run an auger. It’s all based on context.

    • Hydraulics? Release The Schmoo

  6. it was a shame we spent more on jails than education.

    What is the real shame is that the people who are forever lecturing us about the complexity of society mandating a nuanced understanding and addressing “root causes” rather than symptoms of societal disorder invariably resort to arguments that would embarrass bumper stickers by their banality.

    I will agree that we spend so much on education and get so little for our expenditures. I will agree that it is a shame we’ve done such a bad job of inculcating basic cultural values that so many people think that their only option for a minimally fulfilling life is to break the laws so that they can get a $200 pair of sneakers running shoes … and that they so disdain the rights of others to be secure in their property and their persons that they are willing to endanger the lives of themselves and others to achieve such transitory achievements.

    But I cannot see how “educating” them in the resentment of “The Man” and nourishing their resentments and feelings of entitlement to that for which they have not worked is going to keep them out of prison.

    • I really, really despise the Progressive Smug Bumper-Sticker.

      “A mind is like a parachute; it only functions when open”

      A perpetually open parachute will drag you through gorse bushes and off cliffs.

      “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”

      Thats great, if you can manage it. But if your side is the only one that doesn’t show up, then it’s 1939, and your name is Poland.

      “Friends don’t let friends vote Republican”

      Oh, really?! And what was it that the KKK was doing during the Civil Rights era that had Yankees so worked up?

      • There you go thinking again . . .

      • Sir, I ask that you retract your slander against the Poles of 1939 at once.
        A much better comparison would be to the British and French of 1939.

        • The Poles had a large, well organized army, but it was equipped with obsolete equipment – horse cavalry and no tanks, little A-A artillery, very few aircraft (mostly obsolete or obsolescent), and a poorly thought out defensive strategy (defend all borders). The reserves were called up way too late, most were caught and strafed/bombed at train stations. The Polish Army was a good army by the standards of 1920 when they drove the Soviet troops out, but ill-equipped and trained to fight the Germans fighting a one-front war with a better doctrine, training, and equipment.

          The British and French are much more to blame for encouraging Poland and then not attacking Germany to force them into a two front war they were not equipped to fight.

          • Back when I was paying attention to such things the Poles were hailed as the last historical case of a cavalry charge against crew served machine gun emplacements. And the final score was driven home to illustrate precisely why that was a very bad idea.
            Of course the converse of that is the historical fact that George Custer was issued Gatling guns as field artillery and chose to leave them behind because they slowed his cavalry down.

            • And you have to remember that the WWI Canadians invented blitzkrieg.

            • Which was, in a word, so much German bullshit propaganda. No such cavalry charge took place.

              The Poles cavalry troops were not suicidal or stupid; they were conducting themselves more like dragoons, or mounted infantry, using their horses solely for mobility, and conducting attacks on foot.

              The Germans actually had cause to rue the few Polish cavalry charges that went in, because the Poles carefully selected their targets, and went after things like maintenance areas and staging areas where the horse and cavalry lance might actually be effective. The rest of the time, they got themselves into good positions on horseback, dismounted, and fought on foot.

              The Germans liked to cite the Polish horse cavalry charging their tanks as something that was real because that suited their propaganda, but the reality was far different. What did the Poles in was in having a 1920s military going up against a 1930s one, with a thin crust of a 1940s mechanized army at the spearhead. Had the Poles had better resources, and not been stabbed in the back by the Soviets, the results of the German invasion would have been far different than they were. As it was, the invasion of Poland showed huge gaps in German planning, capabilities, and doctrine. Which they signally figured out, overcame, and then put the knowledge of to use in invading the rest of Europe.

        • Oh, the Poles FOUGHT, right enough, but the got thoroughly torn apart by the Nazis and the USSR. And their side, the Allies, didn’t show up.

          It’s the thoroughness of the devastation that I want to convey.

      • Geoff Withnell

        “Friends won’t let friends vote Republican” !!!??? They are advocating compelling people on how they vote, and WE are the totalitarians???

        • I remember seeing a bumper sticker that said “If you want to live like a Republican, then vote Democrat!” and I thought, “Yeah, but who’d want to live like me and my family?” We weren’t exactly the richest family in town. We still aren’t.

          Of course, I don’t exactly want to live like that, so I vote Republican, but still…

      • I like my mother’s saying (she stole it from somewhere but doesn’t remember where): Keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.

  7. scott2harrison

    Oddly enough, while I have never succeeded in learning a human language other than English, I find grammar both of human and computer languages fascinating and a lot of fun. Yes, I am odd.

    • Some neural paths take rather strange turns… For some reason, I have the same fascination.

      If I were sure that I wouldn’t somehow end up in a bestial transgendered bondage website, I would have great fun “testing” Alexa or Siri…

      • From school years:
        “Why don’t go into X.”
        “I hate X!”
        “But you.. are so good at it!?”
        “I do NOT want to have to do it again!”
        “…”

        Also, along those lines, it was fascinating to see what strange places happened when student of a.. certain age.. and ELIZA met. Sobriety might not have been involved. Things got Seriously Weird very fast.

      • I learned Hebrew for 12+ years. I never became fluent. At the height of my knowledge I could read primers it. I really enjoyed learning grammar and doing proofs in Geometry. I flunked Geometry. I should have gone to work after high school. I didn’t because I didn’t want to look like a dummy compared to the rest of my family who have graduate degrees. I never measured up to the rest of my family. The only bliss I had was in ignorance.. I was a horrible student in college.

  8. Part of me wonders if Portuguese aspirin of that era had at least double dosage compared to American aspirin. 🤔

    • I more suspect that it was a matter of things being ‘new’ (even if not really new) and perhaps priced such (what to do prices do in places run by and for the Left? And Portugal was [is?] so far left that the socialists were the ‘right wing’ party, it’s been said here) and a story started somewhere as a means of conserving something expensive. And then the story… evolved.
      Just a suspicion, mind.

    • In some countries, aspirin can also contain codeine. Not certain about Portugal in the 1940s-60s though.

      • This was more 60s to 80s. I’m NOT that old!

      • In Jamaica Tylenol with codeine is sold over the counter. Watched with some amusement a couple with a strong New York accent discover this and start to buy the drug store out before I mentioned that when the cruise ship docked back home we all had to go through import control. Funny that, did not seem to appreciate what a favor I’d done them.

    • they’re still doing the only one, so I doubt it.

  9. I have to admit that if I weren’t both happily married and too old I’d want Mike Rowe’s babies. 🙂

    Before elder child had her back surgery followed by three concussions in one year (school gym classes are dangerous, responsible for two of those concussions, not to mention at least one for the other kid) she was attending the local vo-tech high school. She had signed up thinking she wanted to do culinary and ended up in their computer program. I rather wished she’d been interested in the electrician program. I’d have happily supported younger child going that route if she’d been interested too.

    So instead I have one taking an art degree at the local community college, and the other getting ready to take a degree in creative writing at the community college near my sister.

    • I really like Mr. Rowe. If he ran for public office (though I don’t know why he would) I’d vote for him.

    • Some years back, I thought being a licensed electrician would help me at work. Problem, though: The local tech school didn’t offer any classes. Shrug: go figure.

      • The vo-tech high schools in Connecticut have some very good programs. Unfortunately our (spit) “Governor” and the rest of the Dem idiots who run our state think that those schools are a great place to cut funds when they find themselves short.

        Of course they’ve also completely looted the highway fund to prop up the general fund, so we have some really crappy bridges too. I’m waiting for the northbound span of the I-95 bridge between New London and Groton to need complete closure. It’s rated “deficient” and last year a piece of the roadbed broke lose and nearly totalled my husband’s car. They repaired that spot, and it looks like it’s already starting to crumble right next to the repair.

        • The solution, of course, would be to privatize these schools and make them “for-profit”, but Dems then go on to decry how such schools prey on the naive, and don’t have great graduation rates, and don’t have good job placement, etc (but always manage to fail to examine how well State schools do the same things)…

  10. That Portuguese folk belief about aspirin reminds me of the Korea belief about fan death. This is the belief that if you run an electric fan in a room with no air circulation (i.e. closed windows and doors) you will suffocate and die as the fans will use up all the air!
    Many Koreans believe this, and in the hot Korean summertime, newspaper accounts of “fan death” are printed as people try to cool off with fans but fail to follow “safe” procedures. (After all, opening your window when the temperature outside is 40 degrees Celsius and the humidity is monstrous high isn’t going to help cool down your living space.)
    But you will have a hard time telling many Koreans that this isn’t true… they know it’s true (otherwise, why would they read stories about the deaths?)

    As an interesting aside, I think I know the reasoning which led to this belief. In the not-so-distant pre-electric past, Koreans heated their houses with what is termed “ondol” heating. In brief, think of a horizontal chimney running underneath your house, so that hot air and smoke from a fire built on one side of the house heat up your floor as it passes to the other side. They tried to make their floors as airtight as possible, to keep the smoke out. But they didn’t know about carbon monoxide, which is invisible to the naked eye. So in former times, people would lie down on the warm floor to sleep, and suffocate from something they couldn’t see.
    This is probably the cause of the fan-death fear.
    I wonder why the Portuguese people developed the fear of aspirin? Perhaps the formula or dosage was different long ago?

    • The carbon monoxide molecule is tiny, and it will seep through things that are air-tight.

      • Source? Apparently the bond length of carbon monoxide is 112.8 pm, whereas the bond length of dinitrogen (which also has a triple bond) is 109.76 pm, just a bit smaller; and they both have the same molecular weight. That sounds as if CO is no tinier than the primary constituent of air.

        I’m just speculating, but it seems to me that you could make a floor that was smoke-tight, meaning it would keep out the relatively large bits of soot and incompletely oxidized carbon polymers from a fire, without being air-tight. So it would let through both carbon monoxide and nitrogen, and likely enough oxygen. It’s just that neither nitrogen nor oxygen would do any harm to the people lying on the floor and breathing them. . . .

    • I knew people who wouldn’t drink Coca-Cola and take an aspirin within hours of each other. Don’t know if I know any people like that now, but that was pretty common when I was kid. Don’t combine the two.

      • There was a documentary when I was 18? 1980 about some girl who supposedly had coke and aspirin and it supposedly had the same effect as “speed” and made her brain dead.
        I’ve never asked son about it, but I suspect it was either an hoax, probably by the parents, to hide the fact she… did speed; some rare genetic defect that caused this, or something.
        BUT since I lived on espresso with vague aspirin interruptions, and it was supposedly caffeine that did this, all my college friends were convinced I was doing “speed” and that accounted for the tutoring, busy social life, extreme credit hours, and good grades.

        • Caffeine does, in fact, have an effect on a number of drugs, including aspirin; it helps them bypass the blood brain barrier. All Excedrin is is aspirin and caffeine.

          And Em has a sensitivity to caffeine and caffeine analogs like the theobromine in chocolate; even a little makes her heart arrhythmic. It also raises blood pressure.

          Given that aspirin is an anticoagulant and caffeine kicks bp, I could see someone bumping their head, taking aspirin and coke or coffee, and exacerbating bleeding in the brain.

        • The rumour I heard, as a kid in the 1960s, was that Coke had originally been formulated with cocaine and that combining it with aspirin somehow activated the cocaine.

          I also heard the formula had long since been changed to eliminate the cocaine.

          It is all nonsense, of course, as everybody knows the best thing to mix with your coca-cola …


          … is rum.

          • Coca-cola uses ‘decocainized leaves of the coca plant’ as a flavoring. Before it was criminalized, they didn’t bother decocainizing it.

        • Some aspirin, such as Anacin ™, had caffeine added to hasten the drug taking effect. Headache powders usually have aspirin and acetaminophen along with caffeine for the same purpose. You could, in theory, end up like someone chugging an energy drink.

          • I have read that headaches are a symptom of caffeine withdrawal, so there is a certain sense in adding it to aspirin.

            • Some headaches are. Not all. Sometimes I’ll reach for a soft drink when I have a headache, but it doesn’t always work. I was introduced to the fact that Anacin ™ had caffeine while being taught to read product labels, and was told it was to speed how quickly it took affect. That could be wrong, but a quick search shows that caffeine increasing the pain relieving effect. OTOH, that didn’t come from the Physician’s Desk Reference, either.

              • Regrets for my infelicitous phrasing. That ought have been:
                ” … a symptom of caffeine withdrawal is headaches.”

                Actually, I was simply eager for the opportunity to play “infelicitous” and gain the “cleared tray” bonus even though I missed the Triple Word Score.

                • Yes. I get caffeine withdrawal headaches. I also get sinus headaches and migraines (both the classic sort that hurt like hell, and painless visual distortions that simply make reading impossible). I can tell them apart, because they all have different symptoms. What I have trouble telling apart is sinus headaches and tooth pain. . . .

    • I often wonder if things like “death by aspirin” are brute force attempts at moderation gone out of control. I.e. aspirin is a new and wonderful drug at the time it became available, and the rumor started to keep people from mixing whole bottles of it into their cereal every morning. (Would that we’d had that instinct with antibiotics.)

      Because a lot of people will ignore reasonable instructions like “Take a couple every few hours to decrease pain or lower a fever.” but if you tell them “Take more than one and you’ll DIE!” it gets their attention and makes it into the “fact file”.

      Kinda like how in olden times parents had to invent child eating monsters living in the water to keep them from messing around on the banks of rivers and ponds. I guess “You can’t swim very well and you’ll drown.” doesn’t have quite the impact of Jenny Greenteeth or the Grindeylows.

  11. Neither of my Grampas made it past 8th grade in school. Had to go to work to help support family.

    One clerked in a law office in Chicago with an eye to becoming a lawyer by ‘Reading Law’ ’til the Depression hit and firm closed. He got on with the Postal Service and worked as armed mailcar guard for a time, ended up a regional supervisor ’til he retired. I still have his Colt revolver.

    The other helped on the family farm ’til big enough to work as a lumberjack. Ended up meeting Grandma when she was working as a lumber camp cook on Isle Royale. Worked for a while for Ford in Flint, MI. Also spent some time in the iron mines on the Mesabi Range, working his way into being a blaster. Picked up enough carpentry along the way to get into that, along with enough plumbing and electrical that after he’d built a house, all he’d need a plumber or electrician to do was come along and say, “Yep. Looks good.” When he retired, he and grandma opened and ran a paint and hardware store for many years. When they retired from *that*, they came to live with us on the farm we had picked up.

    Also, for fun, look up the 8th Grade graduation exam. Most High School graduates today would be lost. Heck, most *college* graduates would be lost.

    And if you hate paying for more prisons, STOP MAKING SO MANY THINGS PUNISHABLE BY PRISON!

    • Also, for fun, look up the 8th Grade graduation exam. Most High School graduates today would be lost. Heck, most *college* graduates would be lost.

      over at Kim’s place he mentions his old saying of “We used to teach Latin and Greek in high school, now we teach remedial English in College”
      Meanwhile the left has decided that non-whites cannot learn proper spelling or grammar, so obviously we need to drop standards on these as they are obviously racist standards

      And if you hate paying for more prisons, STOP MAKING SO MANY THINGS PUNISHABLE BY PRISON!

      But really dangerous folk are to be let out of prison, and lesser things are to be cause for more prison time.
      They live in htraE (Bizzaro World)

    • That was supposed to be the 1890 graduation exam. Sheesh!

  12. I read this on a bumper sticker (may have been a t-shirt)
    I can explain it to you
    but I can not understand it to you

  13. The whole ‘learning should be fun’ thing has annoyed me for a long time. I think it sums up a great deal of what is wrong with edcucational theory.

    The fact is that HAVING an education is fun. It opens all kinds of possibilities. But acquiring that education is often extremely tiresome, and (and I think this is rather telling) INCULCATING that education is, if anything, even more tiresome. Teaching, especially at the beginning levels, is a chore. And it is all very well to say that our children should be taught by the Best and Brightest among us, but the best and brightest often have other things they want to do, and do not desire to surround themselves with half-civilized yard-apes.

    The idea that Teaching The Young is some sort of Higher Calling, requiring an extensive education in the mysteries of Pedagogy, is largely bushwa. Oh, there are folks who are Called to teach, just as there are folks who are Called to a Ministry, and if one is lucky one encounters a few of them during one’s schooling. But the majority of teachers, especially if a society wants universal education, are going to be drones, as uplifted by their jobs as so many refuse removal engineers. And the ‘theory’ that learning should be fun was created, I am convinced, to keep said drones from throwing it all up and running away to the merchant marine.

    So we have New Math, which bypasses the drudgery of rote learning and introduces playful mathematical concepts long before the pupils are really ready to appreciate them. And we have See-Say, which bypasses (rather dull) Phonics to get the little heathen ‘reading’ quickly, because leading a class in ‘reading’ something is more fun than teaching them the building blocks they need to make,some sort of sense out of words they don’t know.

    I think that some of the opposition to reform in public education is resistance,to the idea that teachers are hirelings, not High Priests of Education.

    And hirelings who won’t or can’t do their frigging jobs get fired.

    • I have long believed that a discouragingly large number of teachers came to the calling when long about the end of Junior year at a liberal arts college it struck them that they would have to actually find a job and support themselves in a very short time. At that point they discover that by loading up on teaching courses their last year they could qualify for a job where you got to dress well, had summers off, and got a certain amount of respect. Many such eventually became fair to middling teachers, but far too many discovered that they truly hated children but couldn’t turn down the cushy job.

      • And the real problem is that the ones the realize it as soon as the end of junior year are the BRIGHT ones. Just bright enough to be bored to tears with grade school curriculum.

        • I attended Sib’s graduation from college. All the sociology and psych majors were Suma Cum Laude. There went any respect I had for that degree. And then there was the Dept. of Ed. penalizing Sib and two other students had double-majored in serious subjects and Ed. . .

    • Funny you should write that. My maternal grandfather and his 3 brothers that survived to adulthood all ran away from home at age 16 and joined the merchant marine, early 1900’s. From 320 miles away from the shore in Texas. All 4 became ship’s engineers. All 4 were commissioned during WWI. And all 4 went on to successful non-seagoing occupations, all without college degrees. Or HS diplomas. Unfortunately, with the decline of the American merchant marine, that’s no longer a valid option. And with the modern worlds insistence on degrees and documentation rather then proven job performance, gaining a commission would be impossible. From the family stories I heard, my great-grandfather was a difficult person to live with. I’m trying to think of any job or profession you can run away to today and make a living, with no previous experience, and no HS diploma, and I’m coming up blank. Can’t even join the Army without that precious piece of paper.

    • I keep hearing about sight-words, but ours were taught phonics. The teachers recommended having the kids reads to the parents, and to make them sound out words, not guess at them.

      • From what little I know of the history of education reform, See-Say is the Theory That Will Not Die. Study after study has shown it to be utter pig-swill, but every ten years or so some big-brain from a Major University’s College of Education revives the damned thing.

        The other two problems I see with how English is taught in schools are that most ‘readers’ are tiresome (who the F*ck CARES about Dick and Jane anyway?) and then later, they tend to assign as juvenile reading either ‘relevant’ books (boring!) or Victorian novels originally written for adults, which have a very different pace and cadence from modern english.

        I don’t know about anyone else here, but I find the average Victorian era classic fairly heavy going. I’ve learned to adjust, but it takes a while AND a genuine interest in what is being read.

        I never DID make it through THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE or GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

        Of course if they tried to teach kids to read with books the kids might actually LIKE (HARRY POTTER, THE SHADOW, something good and pulpy) somebody would have a cow, breach presentation.

        • I believe it was called Look-Say in the 1960’s. Almost got thrown into the “special learners” class in 3rd grade because in the out loud reading circles I never knew what was going on with Dick, Jane, and Spot. On the day of the big conference with my parents the teacher discovered me reading Podkayne of Mars behind my social studies book, which was big enough to hide what I normally read while the teacher droned on. Think of Look-Say, or sight reading, or see-say, or whatever they’re calling it, as hieroglyphics with letters and you get the idea. Instead of 26 letters, with 50 or 60 sounds and a few exceptions, you have thousands of letter combinations that all look alike and you’re supposed to memorize all of them.

          I believe it’s on Jerry Pournelle’s website that I read that no one who has learned to read with phonics has ever been diagnosed with dyslexia. I can believe it. The few people I know who’ve told me they have dyslexia, regardless of age, can NOT sound out words. Any words. If they haven’t seen the word before, it’s a complete mystery to them.

          • Beloved Spouse learned to read via Phonics and is dyxlesic, but …

            Beloved Spouse has never been formally diagnosed as dyxlesik because by the time schools were looking at such diagnoses Beloved Spouse had already completed all schooling.

            More importantly, while Beloved Spouse learned to read via Phonics, Beloved Spouse was not dixlesyc until entering school where they chastised Beloved Spouse’s parents for the sin of premature reading and attempted to force Beloved Spouse to learn to read all over again by the Think System.* We view this type of effort as an early expression of what Vonnegut identified as Harrison Bergeronism.

            *They can call it “See & Say” all they want, I prefer Professor Hill’s formulation.

          • No. I have dyslexia on spelling/writing not reading. Dyslexia applies to writing as well as reading, and my problem is writing, including transposing letters, looking at the word, and it looks right to me, sounding it, it sounds right, but it’s wrong. Double letters defeat me. And I did NOT learn whole word, nor am I impaired on reading new ones. One is a defect in learning. People might be diagnosed as dyslexic, but that’ snot what’s actually going on. The other is genuine brain glitch. I do same with digits. Thank heavens for spell checker.

            • In college, I knew someone majoring in math who was dyslexic. It was especially important for the professors to make sure she got the steps right, because transposing digits while working on an algebra or calculus problem will surely cause you to get the wrong answer.

              Once you get past calculus, calculation isn’t as important; I suspect that a dyslexic mathematician would do better with higher mathematics, describing why something is true — so transposing letters won’t matter so much.

              I’m not sure what she did after graduation; I can’t even remember what she was planning to do….

          • Hate to burst you bubble on the dyslexia front; I have a mild version and I learned to read by sounding out and was formally taught at least SOME phonics (non of which I consciously remember).

            OTOH, my Family’s family vice is reading. I WAS going to read, even if I had to recapitulate the entire english language from first principles. I want to read that badly, and was that determined.

            Also, I suppose you can squeeze through on the grounds that I have never been formally diagnosed. I reverse letters and numbers, and from that I deduce that I have mild dyslexia (in extreme cases the scrambling is far more comprehensive).

        • Classics depend on selection. I remember a Faust-type tale that probably made it into the textbook because it was dark and dreary, but was a pretty good read. It was written by an American author long before The Devil and Daniel Webster. Wish I could remember the title and name.

          What frustrated me about the Dick and Jane series is that the first level books have no words. Remember complaining to my mother about it. We were supposed to infer action by the pictures and anyone at that age should have been able to do that.. After we got out of that abysmal part, the series increased in words and complexity, and weren’t that bad.

          Another example is the Frontier Dan series. It starts as simple text, but each book increases in vocabulary and complexity until they reached juvenile novel level.

          The really bad stuff of that time doesn’t seem to have survived. Twice our school broke out old readers instead of the official state sanctioned pablum, even though the new books sat in boxes. The best was in what’s now call middle school, with a reader that had the likes of Kipling and O. Henry. Our classics were the likes of Jules Verne, Daniel Defoe, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Fred Gipson, and Jack London.

          Then we got to high school. Bleah. One of our literature books even ruined Mark Twain (nice going, ya bums). To the library I’d go for science fiction to flush out the crud.

          The current lit books I’ve had the displeasure of seeing is the Same Old Drek made worse by making the books too busy. Too many footnotes and side-bars. I’d tell ours to read the story first, then look at the rest. The books we had assumed we had enough sense to use a dictionary.

          Knowing what was ahead, and reading to ours long before school, I made the promise they could always go to the library to check out what they wanted to read. That helped when the drek got deep, because they knew there were good books out there to read.

          • Pick up a set of the McGuffey Readers and you will observe that at one time Americans knew how to teach reading.

            The appalling thing about the quality of contemporary reading instruction is that we live in a time in which there is a tremendous wealth of excellent children’s and YA books out there.

          • My first exposure to Twain was Tom Sawyer and the second was Huckleberry Finn. Neither seemed to be heavily edited as I recall (so much in dialect, and yes ‘those words’ or at least ‘that word’ used). But the school treatment of them put me off Twain for some time. It wasn’t until I saw a version of Mysterious Stranger, of all things, on TV that I had the idea that maybe there was something to this fellow’s writing – and I proceeded to read everything Twain the local library had (except Life on the Mississippi – the folks were watching that as a series and it just put me off) and then used inter-library-loan to get more, including texts of his notebooks. I know I’ve not read everything he wrote, but a good many summer hours were spent reading the more known stuff. Because of… television, not school, which sounds very strange.

          • About liking what you read:

            When I was helping with the LtUE Symposium just these couple of weeks ago (at the time I was helping to stuff “swag bags”), I was overhearing the conversation of an English grad student who dropped out of a Master’s just short of graduation (in part because he wanted to do his thesis on “Dune”, and had a hard time finding academics interested in such a novel).

            He talked about wanting to go into grad school because he loved reading and writing, but by the end, he *hated* reading an writing. I’ve heard that happens to a *lot* of English grad-students; this is the first example I have seen first-hand. By the fact that he was there helping with a science fiction and fantasy writing symposium gives me hope that he’s been able to recover from that experience…

            (At one point I personally found myself bored in my math classes as a math grad student; after a while, I realized that it was because I was constantly checking the time. When I refused to check the time until I finished two columns of notes, I found that the interest in my classes picked up again….this may be one of the ways that mathematics is different from traditional humanities, despite its similarities…)

            • He should have pitched Dune as an exploration of the effects of environment on culture and of the dangers posed by religious fervor.

        • With apologies in advance to our hostess, the reason we have so much drek in our US literature textbooks is that literature has come to be something of the same sham as modern “Hey, I puked on the canvas” art. That was driven home with Their Eyes Were Watching God. Contemporaries panned the novel when it came out because it wasn’t the message they wanted to hear. Then it was picked up for the feminist message, and all of a sudden became good literature. Same book, different bunch of yo-yos. I’ve come to suspect the ,only reason The Great Gatsby was lifted from the poor sellers is because someone said “Hey, this book would be great in literature class.”

          • Long ago I read a quote attributed to Josef Stalin, on the Soviet Union’s goal of universal literacy: Every body should be able to read sufficiently to understand the Party’s diktats but not well enough to read anything else.

            The best way to achieve that is to persuade folk that reading is dull and something only to be done when absolutely necessary.

            I keep looking for the actual quote, with no success. I did find these:

            Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.
            Joseph Stalin

            Print is the sharpest and the strongest weapon of our party.
            Joseph Stalin

            The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organizer of the masses.
            Vladimir Lenin

            • That’d certainly a Progressive/Socialist/Communist ideal. It works out about as well as most such. Someday when the Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressive lock on academia has broken up I look forward to reading a lively history of Samizdat.

            • One of the reasons I’m against Common Core is the emphasis it places on “practical” reading. One example is the reading excerpt from a manual on how to repair an air conditioner; another example, if I recall correctly, is an excerpt from EPA regulations.

              If there’s no better way to kill an interest in reading, I don’t know what it is.

              It’s best to develop a love of reading, and then, if you *really* need to repair that air conditioner or figure out how to deregulate the EPA regulation (or find the best way to get around the regulation, while keeping to the letter of the law), then you have the foundation to read that material and understand it. And you develop that skill by reading things you love to read.

              • Yes, like so many things the Left do they get it entirely bass ackwards. Instill a love of reading and people will read anything; insist it is an instrumental skill and they’ll only read as a last resort.

            • Another random thought: I remember Christopher Stasheff talking about his attempted visit to the Soviet Union (well, it was the Soviet Union when he got on the plane…when he landed, not so much…).

              He met with people who wrote science fiction, but had to hide their activities, because it was practically illegal. It hadn’t occurred to me until just now that it might very well have been illegal just by virtue of trying to write something *others would want to read*!

  14. Education and trades go hand in hand, something a lot of people don’t understand. A really good carpenter knows and works with fractions much better then an educated lawyer. You can’t work with dimensional lumber and build a house without knowing and working with fractions. They’re also really good with geometry, both 2 and 3 dimensional. Again, 3-4-5 makes a right triangle, and ensures your corners are square and your walls go straight up. Think of carpentry as applied math and geometry, though most, including carpenters, don’t think of it as such.

    Anyone who lays a good, even tile floor is also a master of geometry and math, more 2 dimensional then the carpenter.

    Plumbers likewise are good at 3 dimensional geometry and fractions. The good ones know the pitch to lay a drain pipe that drains. The not so good ones do what the good ones tell them to do. The trade separates rapidly into planners and workers. But then, there are some who simply cannot make a solder joint that looks neat and professional. There are others that make really neat joints, but don’t know the proper places to use ½” or ¾” copper, or whether it should be type M, L, or K and why. There are some that can do both.

    I could go through this with a lot of the trades. Use of math in everyday life is far more frequent then most people realize.

    • Yes, indeed, but that’s not what I mean by education. Or rather, this is not what these people mean.

      • They promised there’d be no math!
        Lessee
        As a groundskeeper I used none (summer job)
        As a carpenters helper I used a lot. even just being a helper.
        As a dishwasher, again, none (job lasted a few months only)
        As a bicycle mechanic I used a little math.
        As a delivery driver, very little.
        As a salesman I used a good bit of simple math.
        As a shipper I used a lot more.
        As an aircraft fueler I used a lot as well.
        As a satellite installer I used a good bit.
        As a warehouse manager used a bit more.
        As a firefighting foam blender and packager I used a lot.
        Moving to chemical blender and dealing with repairing product and small reaction I use a goodly amount more again. Lots of percentages in this line of goop mixing.

    • Bah, that’s not math! That’s mere calculation!

      That isn’t to say that calculation is important, or helpful. But real math is theorem-proving, and understanding the postulates and theorems, and how they all go together to justify the calculations. And I like the fact that math, in its purest form, is absolutely useless, excepting for the fact that it’s the foundation of science, of engineering, even of writing (although the Babylonians were merely developing basic arithmetic when they decided that the same symbols being put on clay pots and tablets to count sheep can be used to preserve other ideas as well), so basically, all of civilization as we know it…

      Having said all that, when it comes to getting a higher education, I really like Heinlein’s heuristic: if the subject you are studying doesn’t rely heavily on math, it’s probably not worth studying. (And I would add: reliance only on statistics, as a lot of soft “sciences” do, doesn’t count. Also, even though economics relies heavily on non-statistical math, it probably doesn’t count, either, mostly because it’s not clear how the assumptions used in the math really correlate to conditions in the “real world” it is attempting to predict — with “attempt” being an important word, because I’m not aware of many economists who have a good track record in proving what actually happens…) (I would also make exceptions to “not worth studying”, in that if you really like it, either minor in it, or double-major in something worth studying…)

  15. Even the weirdest habit can be used as a talent. When I worked at a bookstore, I used my habit of omnivorous reading and information collection to help people buy books they wanted that they forgot the specifics of. A few times I turned a plot summary or blurb into a title and author, which I then sold them.

    • And today you can Google the ones you don’t get in your head.

    • I did the same when I worked in a place that sold videos; given half a chance I could identify a movie froma couple of Stars or a plot summary. The only real fast lure I remember was the nice lady who was looking for a horror film about a bunch of teenages beseiged in a cabin. I had to tell her she had just described about a third of the horror movies made in the last two decades.

    • My favorite thing to do at the bookstore was “if you liked that, you will probably like this.” There were a few genres I could do really well and another couple that I could fake. My favorite was one Christmas rush when some parents came in with a printed Amazon wish list and I found a bunch of things that weren’t on the list but were similar in style and fun choices.

  16. Okay, lady. I finished Revenge. You joined Ringo, Weber, and Flint in making me curse the end of a book. More please!

  17. Couldn’t agree with you more. I value education but I’m pretty sure my boss has never asked for my report on sedimentary rocks on their desk by 8:00 am (I work in insurance). Yet you can’t promote within my organization past a front line manager without not just a bachelors, but an MBA. I have mine and my company paid for it, but literally it has nothing to do with my profession in the claims world.

  18. I actually saw a link a year or two ago about some big name companies that were starting to use their own standardized tests instead of looking at the college degree for new hires. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I saw the link (probably Instapundit, but I don’t remember) or address of the website.

    I’m hoping that the trend will catch on. Though if it does, it’ll still be a while.

  19. William Newman

    To “run away [as a minor]” is complicated in different ways today, and I know hardly anything about the practicalities of that.

    To “make a living, with no previous experience, and no HS diploma”? I don’t know about today, because my personal experience is earlier and it has probably closed up at least somewhat since then, but from personal experience I think computer programming qualified in the 1980s. “No previous experience” is a harder qualification than “without a diploma”, depending on how strictly you mean “experience”. (Never had a paid job? Or never written a program outside of class, and indeed never worked on a nontrivial program at all? The first problem can be an difficult chicken and egg bootstrapping catch-22, but the second problem is not, especially now that computers and Internet access are so cheap.) It wasn’t sufficient just to be smart and earnest and hope to be trained in programming from the ground up when you were on the job, and I doubt there were many (any?) high schools in the country that would give you sufficient training in their course curriculum, either. However, it was reasonably common for highschool-age people to teach themselves enough to be very useful. And I myself held two entry-level-ish programming jobs working part-time in high school, and I also got feelers from Mentor Graphics (dunno how they found out about me, but they were based in my part of the Portland area, so it wasn’t particularly incredible) along the lines of “if for some reason you aren’t going to college, get in touch with us”. And not too far from that time John Carmack took a famously idiosyncratic route into an accomplished programming career, and it is my impression that there are a fair number of college dropouts and otherwise-oddball-early-career programmers from that era too.

    I’m also pretty sure that various fields related to web design and front end web programming had even easier entry for a decade or so around the turn of the century. I didn’t have much direct contact with that, but it is what I heard from others. Also I find it particularly easy to believe because more than once in that era some commercial-establishment person (shopkeeper in one case, harder to characterize in others) found out — merely by ordinary casual conversation with me, not by some extraordinary lucky break for me such as having someone they respect give me a glowing recommendation — that I was a programmer, and that was enough for them to spontaneously start trying to sell me on doing some web work for their establishment.

    And even today I don’t *know* but would guess that someone with US residency who was willing to move to a suitable city (e.g. DFW area, where I live) would be able to find a first programming-based job with a comfortable income, even with no formal qualifications, on the strength of doing good work on a free software project or two. Even if you have no more appealing explanation for leaving high school without a diploma, saying “I was bored in high school” is more likely to be the whole truth and nothing but the wholly justifiable truth if you can show the timestamps of disciplined capable work you did instead, and a (annoyingly small but still usefully) nonzero fraction of employers know how to evaluate programming work and knowledge reasonably impartially.

    When I ran a free software project earlier in this century, I didn’t check qualifications of contributors (and still don’t know the qualifications of some of them), and the only remarks I remember about US contributors having difficulty finding paid programming work were about someone who wanted to stay in — IIRC — Maine. And that outlier was comfortably outnumbered by contributors who ended up being hired by Google alone:-) although admittedly many of them, for all I know possibly all of them, had reasonably solid formal qualifications too. But I have been largely out of that scene for quite some time, so even if there were lots of recent examples (or counterexamples) I wouldn’t know of them. And I don’t have much practical knowledge of other countries’ job markets, or the practicalities of US visas.

  20. One of my favorite things about my major is that it’s incredibly technical. My major, digital media, is probably one of the most technical majors that my university offers. I’m learning not just theory, but practical skills. I’m making things that I’ll be able to show future employers. I’m pretty sure that my portfolio is going to be more help to me in my field than my degree when I graduate.