(Subtitle: Cognitive despair)
There is a video going viral on Facebook: Jack Ma’s pronouncement on what to teach children in the future (during the Davos 2018 World Economic Forum meeting) .* This billionaire’s remarks are truly awe-inspiring, they are so ignorant. His main thesis: “Teach children something that machines are not good at, such as values, believing, independent thinking, team work, care for others, because machines are better at content”. Five lifetimes would not be enough to challenge and disprove this man’s critically ignorant declarations. Here are three reasons why any self-taught billionaire should not be listened to about matters that concern children’s education and general knowledge:
1. Values are always about something. The meaning of the word “value” carries within its meaning a hook and that hook is “the value OF something”. By itself, the meaning of “value” does not signify anything, and therefore the meaning cannot be taught. So teaching about value must be teaching content, knowledge, context, all the matters that according to this great thinker are subjects belonging to the past. How can the meaning of “belief” be taught without its cognitive hooks, such as “belief in something”, “belief about something”? Therefore, as much as he would like teachers not to teach content (knowledge), this is not possible. The same goes for his push to teach “independent thinking”: thinking is always about something, so what is this something which teachers should avoid teaching? And, in any case, critical social thought demonstrated that there is no such thing as “neutral thinking” – every idea has its context, history, development.
2. He advocates for teaching sports, music, painting, art, anything that humans are apparently better than machines. Here too, he’s contradicting himself, since all art is about something and therefore the artist has to have something to be artistic about. One does not have to have a knowledge of human history, of course, and one can still paint (such as the painting of elephants, or chimpanzees). Is this the “painting” that teachers should teach kids? Furthermore, computer programs are now creating music and they will probably be better, faster, cheaper at it than humans.
3.It remains to be seen why the war on knowledge continues so vociferously (Ma’s statements are just the tip of the iceberg). Is he promoting himself, a billionaire (a self-made man)? Is this attitude the result of a long tradition of anti-intellectualism which some Western democracies put on a pedestal? Is it a not-so-underhanded way to say “get out of my way”, since it is impossible in the capitalist world view to allow stiff competition at a certain level? Is he promoting his own lifestyle and way of doing things? Is the world really so uninformed as to accept, without any shred of opposition, the future made by and for self-taught businessmen in whose eyes everyone is a consumer?
In the final analysis, clients (and he needs many and constantly) are better consumers if they are ignorant. This is why ignorance is promoted by billionaires.