[Home] [Weblog] [The Bibliothecary] [Driving the Quill] [Library][Bookmarks]

Friday, May 4, 2007

On Apprenticeships

Callie bristles at the bold assertion that all bloggers are in it for the money. She doesn't make money blogging. We don't make money blogging. I suspect few bloggers make any money at blogging. So why do it?

The question assumes that money is the reason for everything. We would not be surprised if 90% of all writers don't make money writing, or have to supplement their writing income in order to pay the rent. Before Vermeer's time, artists lived the high life on their art, having wealthy patrons for their support. Beginning in Vermeer's time, artists produced art for themselves, and if they wanted to make money at it, they had to find a way to sell their art to the public. Today, patrons of the arts primarily build museums, or make donations to charitable funds, or throw lavish champagne parties for other wealthy patrons to coincide with the opening of an exhibition. No longer do they pay artists to live and produce art.

So, taking the assumption that money is the reason for everything, and tweaking it, one wonders what is the payoff in blogging for nothing. Again, the reward has been lost in history. Knowledge is something which fewer and fewer people have today. More and more people have specialized skills--that is not the same as knowledge. The old way of gaining knowledge, or learning a subject, and probably the best way, was apprenticeships.

Often beginning in youth, people became apprentices to a master in a guild. In the guild, one learned far more than just how to cobble a shoe, or fire a brick, or paint a portrait. Apprentices worked their way from the ground up, doing all the menial tasks for the master, and thereby learning every detail of the craft, including the work involved. More importantly, apprentices learned critical thinking, how to analyze, accept, reject, improve, and codify knowledge. They made no money, but they acquired intellectual capital.

Following this period of apprenticeship, which typically lasted for seven years, one attained the level of a journeyman. Journeymen were day laborers in possession of documents from their master or guild which certified them and entitled them to travel in practise of their craft or art. When they finally produced and presented to their master what was deemed a Great Work, they attained the level of master, at which time they became members of the guild. And so the process would be repeated.

Stefanie tangentially laments the things taught in today's schools. What is offered to prospective students these days is not so much knowledge--intellectual capital--but image. Too many students aren't interested in the best teaching, they are interested in the best college. Commercials don't entice one with the reality of learning, they lure with the final goal, upward social mobility, the making of money, the high-paying cushy job (though your results may vary). Schools do not teach critical thinking, they teach capitalist skills, such as balancing a checkbook, or producing a spreadsheet. Details and context are left out of education. The goal of all this is not to produce individuals in possession of intellectual capital, but to produce good consumers.

Once again, when we look back to previous centuries, the finishing touch to any good education was a grand tour of Europe. This was equivalent to the work of the journeyman, traveling, learning, acquiring additional intellectual capital, and honing one's ability to think critically. Once this was achieved, the person was ready to produce a Great Work. Today, four years of partying in college is seen as the final inevitable step in an education. Students learn what they are told, see what they are shown, and more often than not feel they are entitled to whatever they want, because they are paying for it--they don't learn, they purchase an education. Only the few who move on to a doctorate fully follow the path of apprenticeship, a thesis being the equivalent of a Great Work.

Some bloggers aren't trying to make money at blogging. Some recognise their efforts as an honing of their critical thinking abilities, an accumulation of intellectual capital, or an apprenticeship to a career in writing. Knowledge is its own reward. Critical thinking exposes the fallacy that money is the reason for everything.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Quillhill! I don't make money blogging either, not a penny. I do it because it's fun and because I learn so much from thinking and paying attention to my reading in order to talk about it with others. And I learn by reading other blogs too, like yours! :)