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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:14 AM   #1
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Default Anyone ever read

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

It was recommended to me by one of the fiance's hippie friends, and I was wondering if it was even worth picking up.

Right now, it sounds kind of like the inverse of Atlas Shrugged. They are striving for the same end, but offering two VERY different approaches...

Anyway, even if I would only gain a better understanding for a conflicting opinion, it may be worth it.

Here's a selection I found regarding "the abolition of the degree and grading system"

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[His] argument for the abolition of the degree and grading system produced a nonplussed or negative reaction in all but a few students at first, since it seemed, on first judgment, to destroy the whole University system. One student laid it wide open when she said with complete candor, "Of course you can’t eliminate the degree and grading system. After all, that’s what we’re here for."
She spoke the complete truth. The idea that the majority of students attend a university for an education independent of the degree and grades is a little hypocrisy everyone is happier not to expose. Occasionally some students do arrive for an education but rote and the mechanical nature of the institution soon converts them to a less idealistic attitude.
The demonstrator was an argument that elimination of grades and degrees would destroy this hypocrisy. Rather than deal with generalities it dealt with the specific career of an imaginary student who more or less typified what was found in the classroom, a student completely conditioned to work for a grade rather than for the knowledge the grade was supposed to represent.
Such a student, the demonstrator hypothesized, would go to his first class, get his first assignment and probably do it out of habit. He might go to his second and third as well. But eventually the novelty of the course would wear off and, because his academic life was not his only life, the pressure of other obligations or events would create circumstances where he just would not be able to get an assignment completed adequately.
Since there was no degree or grading system he would incur no penalty for this. Subsequent lectures which presumed he’d completed the assignment might be a little more difficult to understand, however, and this difficulty, in turn, might weaken his interest to a point where the next assignment, which he would find quite hard, would also be dropped. Again no penalty.
In time his weaker and weaker understanding of what the lectures were about would make it more and more difficult for him to pay attention in class. Eventually he would see he wasn’t learning much; and facing the continual pressure of outside obligations, he would stop studying, feel guilty about this and stop attending class. Again, no penalty would be attached.
But what had happened? The student, with no hard feelings on anybody’s part, would have flunked himself out. Good! This is what should have happened. A large amount of money and effort had been saved and there would be no stigma of failure and ruin to haunt him the rest of his life. No bridges had been burned.
The student’s biggest problem was a slave mentality which had been built into him by years of carrot-and -whip grading, a mule mentality which said, "If you don’t whip me, I won’t work." He didn’t get whipped. He didn’t work. And the cart of civilization, which he supposedly was being trained to pull, was just going to have to creak along a little slower without him.
This is a tragedy, however, only if you presume that the cart of civilization, "the system", is pulled by mules. This is a common, vocational, "location" point of view, but it’s not the [true learning]’s attitude. [True learning]’s attitude is that civilization, or " the system ", or "society", or whatever you want to call it, is best served not by mules but by free men. The purpose of abolishing grades and degrees is not to punish mules or to get rid of them but to provide an environment in which that mule can turn into a free man.
The hypothetical student, still a mule, would drift around for a while. He would get another kind of education quite as valuable as the one he’d abandoned, in what used to be called the "school of hard knocks." Instead of wasting money and time as a high-status mule, he would now have to get a job as a low-status mule, maybe as a mechanic. Actually his real status would go up. He would be making a contribution for a change. Maybe that’s what he would do for the rest of his life. Maybe he’d found his level. But don’t count on it.
In time six months; five years, perhaps a change could easily begin to take place. He would become less and less satisfied with a kind of dumb, day-to-day shopwork. His creative intelligence, stifled by too much theory and too many grades in college, would now become re-awakened by the boredom of the shop. Thousands of hours of frustrating mechanical problems would have made him more interested in machine design. He would like to design machinery himself. He’d think he could do a better job. He would try modifying a few engines, meet with success, look for more success, but feel blocked because he didn’t have the theoretical information, he’d now find a brand of theoretical information which he’d have a lot of respect for, namely, mechanical engineering.
So he would come back to our degreeless and gradeless school, but with a difference. He’d no longer be a grade-motivated person. He’d be a knowledge-motivated person. He would need no external pushing to learn. His push would come from inside. He’d be a free man. He wouldn’t need a lot of discipline to shape him up. In fact, if the instructors were slacking on the job he would be likely to shape them up by asking rude questions. He’d be there to learn something, would be paying to learn something and they’d better come up with it.
Motivation of this sort, once it catches hold, is a ferocious force, and in the gradeless, degreeless institution where our student would find himself, he wouldn’t stop with rote engineering information. Physics and mathematics were going to come within his sphere of interest because he’d see he needed them. Metallurgy and electrical engineering would come up for attention. And, in the process of intellectual maturing that these abstract studies gave him, he would be likely to branch out into other theoretical areas that weren’t directly related to machines but had become a part of a newer larger goal. This larger goal wouldn’t be the imitation of education in Universities today, glossed over and concealed by grades and degrees that give the appearance of something happening when, in fact, almost nothing is going on. It would be the real thing.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:15 AM   #2
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why don't you just shoot your hippie friend, then I don't have to waste my time worrying about them not working.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:17 AM   #3
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why don't you just shoot your hippie friend, then I don't have to waste my time worrying about them not working.
I'D LOVE TO.

But it's the fiance's friend, so I have to play nicely.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:19 AM   #4
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you shouldn't be marrying any girl with hippie friends. That means they've rubbed off on her (and probably on her) and she is now part hippie.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:22 AM   #5
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you shouldn't be marrying any girl with hippie friends. That means they've rubbed off on her (and probably on her) and she is now part hippie.
Nah, the fiance is moving up in the world (getting better jobs/internships/just got into a better school), and she's starting to get annoyed by how these people are doing nothing with their lives. She's finding it harder to be friends with some of them because their views (politically and otherwise) are so dang crazy.

It makes me proud, really.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:43 AM   #6
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Good for her.

instead of reading hippie books about how we should change the grading scales to make everybody equal, your friend should be reading up on how to move into the work force.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:52 AM   #7
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Good for her.

instead of reading hippie books about how we should change the grading scales to make everybody equal, your friend should be reading up on how to move into the work force.
Again, he is not my friend.

But, in my best efforts to take in everything in order to make educated decisions and form researched opinions, I thought I'd pick this up.

I was just curious as to if anyone had read it and had any opinions on it. (Besides, it's only 540 pages...)
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Old September 9th, 2008, 08:45 AM   #8
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I've never read it but after reading that i might. I've been wanting to find something that would be a counterpoint to Atlas Shrugged.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 08:51 AM   #9
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I've never read it but after reading that i might. I've been wanting to find something that would be a counterpoint to Atlas Shrugged.
Does not exist.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 08:56 AM   #10
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I've never read it but after reading that i might. I've been wanting to find something that would be a counterpoint to Atlas Shrugged.
its called welfare and the catholic church.

please try them both and check back.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 09:00 AM   #11
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its called welfare and the catholic church.
Just Catholics, Kelly?
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Old September 9th, 2008, 09:01 AM   #12
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I've never read it but after reading that i might. I've been wanting to find something that would be a counterpoint to Atlas Shrugged.
I don't know for a fact if it is a counterpoint, that is just my assumption from the small passages that I've found in the abstracts/book reviews.

I'm almost reading this for the "Wow! That's stupid!" factor.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 09:10 AM   #13
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What I found interesting about the above excerpt is that it sounds a lot like my college experience. I started out going just because that’s what was expected of me and I just wanted to get the hand stamp to move to the next class, rather than trying to learn. I dropped out and spent a year working in restaurants and decided I didn’t want to do that so I went back to school. But the second time I went to learn rather than just get grades and a degree.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 09:12 AM   #14
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What I found interesting about the above excerpt is that it sounds a lot like my college experience. I started out going just because that’s what was expected of me and I just wanted to get the hand stamp to move to the next class, rather than trying to learn. I dropped out and spent a year working in restaurants and decided I didn’t want to do that so I went back to school. But the second time I went to learn rather than just get grades and a degree.
Maybe my perspective is different, because I've always gone to school to learn, but I view grades as a metric as to how well I have achieved that goal.

I honestly don't think I'd try as hard without grades. Sometimes I understand the material, but I go that extra mile to ensure that my GPA won't be compromised.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 09:21 AM   #15
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I don't know for a fact if it is a counterpoint, that is just my assumption from the small passages that I've found in the abstracts/book reviews.

I'm almost reading this for the "Wow! That's stupid!" factor.
That would never be my motivation to read something. My overall philosophy in life is that the truth usually exists somewhere between the extremes, but itís the extremes that get all the attention and that people talk and write about. So if I can understand the extremes, I will find the truth lying somewhere inbetween.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 09:26 AM   #16
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Maybe my perspective is different, because I've always gone to school to learn, but I view grades as a metric as to how well I have achieved that goal.

I honestly don't think I'd try as hard without grades. Sometimes I understand the material, but I go that extra mile to ensure that my GPA won't be compromised.
Grades and GPA's were usually not sufficient motivation to get me to ďgo the extra mileĒ. If it was a subject I was interested in learning about I usually did well. If it was a subject that I didnít care about I didnít.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 09:28 AM   #17
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That would never be my motivation to read something. My overall philosophy in life is that the truth usually exists somewhere between the extremes, but itís the extremes that get all the attention and that people talk and write about. So if I can understand the extremes, I will find the truth lying somewhere inbetween.
You'd be surprised how many times I found intelligence when reading for the "Wow! That's stupid!" factor...
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Old September 9th, 2008, 09:30 AM   #18
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Grades and GPA's were usually not sufficient motivation to get me to ďgo the extra mileĒ. If it was a subject I was interested in learning about I usually did well. If it was a subject that I didnít care about I didnít.
Grades pushed me to excel in all subjects because I couldn't slack off in the classes that I didn't care for.

I've also found, as I'm progressing through work/life, that some of the classes that I didn't care for in high school/college are proving to be pretty valuable, and I'm glad I put in the extra effort.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 09:36 AM   #19
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I've also found, as I'm progressing through work/life, that some of the classes that I didn't care for in high school/college are proving to be pretty valuable, and I'm glad I put in the extra effort.
True. Fortunately for me it's never too late for learning.

Last edited by brewmenn; September 9th, 2008 at 11:35 AM. Reason: or for correcting past mistakes.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 09:41 AM   #20
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True. Fortunately for me it's never to late for learning.
True. But it is even better to head into a situation knowledgeably.
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