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Battle Specter Opines: "Old School."

Updated: Jan 8, 2022

Recently my son purchased a Lego Minecraft set. Now, I have nothing against people liking things in principle, but anything Minecraft seems, well, cheap. As in- "Wow, if I'd have known that blocky unrealistic toys would sell so damned well- I'd have done it YEARS ago" kind of cheap. To be honest, it's the kind of old school that makes me question the direction that society is headed. It's the video game and Lego equivalent of Games Workshop going back to tin soldiers and people not only liking it- but loving it. I honestly can't understand the appeal of Minecraft but somehow it's got pull.

I wonder about this every time my son talks about getting Minecraft Legos. I mean, Legos are already two steps ahead of Minecraft- so to make a Minecraft Lego set they literally have to go backwards. And that got me wondering about "Old School" mentality. Why do we cling to what's old, and shun new? Why do we get new, and then go, "meh," and return to old school? You see it a lot in society- this belief that old is somehow better as a general statement. I can see the point at times, but in the macro, I think this method of thinking is seriously flawed.

To illustrate the idea that old is better than new, let's talk about education (touchy subject, I know, but at least give me a chance here). For literally hundreds of years, classical models of education produced some of the greatest thinkers and leaders western civilization has ever had. Now, I'm not talking about the subjects being taught, but the methods which those subjects were taught. Rote memorization of facts, repetition, and a systematic building block approach focused on the end result and not a test. The goal was a completely formed human mind capable of reasoning and logical deduction in a quest for the truth. Sure, in many instances there was a formation of the moral compass through adherence to certain ideological principles- in which education system isn't this the case- but on the main, it was those thinkers so educated that drove society's success. It created, and was intended to create, leaders.

Compare that with today's public model that was put into place to help produce competent workers. Sure, there are leaders that grow within the public education sphere, but on the main those leaders either hit the real world and don't measure up and are replaced, or they lead within someone else's framework. There are outliers, sure- leaders who rise out of the mass and attain greatness- but the system isn't designed to create them. It's designed to create followers. Even the college system is more designed to create workers and low level leaders rather than business owners and entrepreneurs. And being a leader isn't an inherent trait- it can be learned. Yet, the major public education system doesn't train leaders.

Here, I would argue that perhaps a classical model of education would be superior. I watch my wife work with our kids at home, and the methods that she uses are very similar to those that were used in Boot Camp in the Marines. And trust me- the Marines wants leaders. Every Marine needs to be able- at some level- to lead. And the methods that they use to educate and train are very similar to the methods that my wife is using to educate and train. In this instance, going backwards could be a benefit.

To argue the opposite point, I'm going to look at craftsman, mainly in the field of industry. There are those that would argue that when it comes to things we put into our house, quality is of the utmost, and most times quality comes from the master of the associated art form. Say cabinetry. I worked as a cabinet maker for a year at a small mom and pop cabinet shop and we made some amazing cabinets- and those puppies were expensive. They were high quality, custom built, and came with installation included. But are they really better than the crap ones you get from Menards?

I would say only by degrees. The cheap ones from Menards do the exact same job as the expensive ones, the only difference being the overall quality of the build. But to be fair, the cheap ones that were in my house when I moved in are doing just as good as the ones I built. So, perhaps factory isn't that bad comparatively speaking. Even so, no one is going to argue that the Menards cabinets are built better than the ones I helped manufacture and install. Materials, craftsmanship, and the fact that each set of cabinets was designed for the kitchen in question all point to the ones I helped with being better. The Menards variety do the job, but they don't lead the pack when it comes to being the very best cabinet.

And that's what you get with anything mass produced in a factory. None of it will be the very best, because each doesn't get the attention it deserves. Every Menards cabinet has to be generic enough to work in any kitchen. The cabinets made at the custom cabinet shop are made for but one kitchen- though they could do the job in another kitchen. Kids pushed through the public education system (a factory for churning out workers) will not have the same quality of education as those who are taught by one teacher over the course of their lives. The way that they learn will be different, and often is.

But is the older way better? Are hand made cabinets better than those produced by CNC machines in a factory by people who don't know how to do so without? Are kids educated in a home school environment via the classical model better than those educated within the public education system? I guess, in reality, it depends. It depends on the goal, it depends on the inputs and outputs, it depends on a lot of factors that you can't generalize for all given events. Sometimes the hand made cabinet is better than the factory made cabinet. Sometimes the public educated kid is better than the home schooled kid- sometimes not.

If we're talking about something out of left field- say cage fighting- is it better to join the Marines and let them teach you about fighting, or go learn from a professional cage fighter?

The Marines are really good at breaking people's things and killing them- but it's a team sport and the methods used for hand to hand are taught in a factory like setting and reinforce that ideal. A cage fight is an individual sport where the team centered aspects of MCMAP would likely fall apart. Likewise, the cage fighter... Well... He's gonna get shot or worse if he jumps head long into the Marine Corps' style of fighting. Likely before he even realizes he's in danger.

Modern warfare is a bitch that way. But I digress.

Actually- this raises a good point. Take any army from the 1970's on back and pit them against the current US Military and honestly tell me the US Military of today wouldn't walk all over them. Then take a professional wood worker from the 1800's and put them in a cabinet making contest against a pro from today. Likely, it'd be hard to tell which did it better. Modern may get done quicker- but would it be better? The people who buy nothing but Amish furniture might argue with you on that. The cabinets from the 1700's may look at the pre-fab composite board cabinets of today and feel that their line has become soft and weak.

Which they have. But that is a different topic for a different day.

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Simon Rafe
Simon Rafe
Jan 08, 2022

I think education is a somewhat different thing than manufacture of physical goods. There is, certainly, a difference between a mass-produced cabinet made of the composite chipboard vs a hand-made one made of solid wood - but the major difference is in the material. Good, solid wood behaves very differently (arguably better - it does not get as easily damaged and is stronger in certain ways) but it requires very different manufacturing techniques. But two cabinets made of solid wood - one of which was CNC'd and one of which was hand-cut ... well, I don't know if there is much difference in the final analysis. The hand-cut one will have taken longer, but the CNC is machine-precise and every screw…

Battle Specter
Battle Specter
Jan 08, 2022
Replying to

I think you may be in agreement with the basic premise. Yes, the Marines breaks us down to our basic level, reduces us to exactly the same thing, and then molds us how they need us. They have a lot end product in mind at MCRD, and anyone found out of spec is discarded. I guess what I was trying to point out is the point that people are different than goods, and that while modern industry may be able to match the hard earned skills of the master craftsman, the same model isn't nearly as predictable in how it churns out educated adults. Sure, I came out alright, but many around me didn't. Or, to be more realistic, many…

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