Sunday, July 8, 2012

Knowledge and Credentials

One of the unstated principles that lies behind what I do on this blog is that knowledge and credentials are essentially unrelated concepts. I came to this understanding by initially attending a university and discovering that they had absolutely nothing to offer me in my most important need. I went there to learn how to play the classical guitar and they had just lost their guitar teacher. Instead they assigned me lessons on piano and a chamber music group where I would be playing lute!

The first time I met someone with a bachelor's degree that really didn't seem to me to be educated just underlined this for me. Don't get me wrong, it was that first university that opened the doors to knowledge for me--well, their library, mostly! And a few professors. But the acquiring or not of a degree is a quite different thing from the acquiring of knowledge. I have learned more outside of class than I ever did in class. In fact, with probably too much honesty, I used to tell my students when I taught classical guitar at university, that I could not teach them to play guitar--that they had to do themselves. All I could do was guide them, offer encouragement and criticism as needed and provide them with the appropriate materials. They had to do all the actual work!

I bring this up because I just read a very thoughtful article on the slow rot of the university credential titled "Death by Degrees". Here is a telling quote:
Introductory economics courses paint “rent-seekers” as gruesome creatures who amass monopoly privileges; credential-seekers, who sterilize the intellect by pouring time and money into the accumulation of permits, belong in the same circle of hell.
Worth reading for what it reveals about the situation in universities today.

Of course blogs are a great threat to all those credentialed dispensers of knowledge because they can't prevent us from dispensing our knowledge. Or opinion, whatever! University departments of music tend to dispense a standard view of aesthetic value, though they usually call it 'importance'. So-and-so is an important composer and we will talk about him all the time while this other guy is not and we will never mention him. There is sort of a standard model of music history.

The nice thing about doing a blog is that you can present a NON-standard model. I can say on this blog (and have) that most of what John Cage did was a joke. And someone like Shostakovich is a thousand times better as a composer. Nothing sterile about my intellect.


toramip45 said...

It’s easy to find free guitar lessons on the web these day's. There are a lot of websites

available out there that will teach you beginner to advance guitar techniques for free. And

if you love to watch videos rather than reading articles, YouTube is absolutely for free.

However, the problem with free stuff is that most of the time it's low quality and maybe

that's one of the reason why their giving it for free.
guitar lessons
learn guitar

Bryan Townsend said...

I looked at those two links and yes, I suppose you could say they were free guitar lessons. But they were pretty much the sort of advice someone might toss off over a cup of coffee! A real lesson with someone who actually knows what they are doing, i.e. an experienced teacher and accomplished player is not going to be free. But whatever you have to do or pay to find a good teacher is worth it.