I have become almost deaf to the question of practicality given in the title. The asking of it is usually a confusion. The confusion is often over one of two things. Either the interlocutor has falsely bifurcated the philosophical and the practical, which is normally an issue of not liking philosophy, or not “getting it” so therefore I will make it a the “bad guy” and practicality the “good guy.” Or the one asking the question of practicality is confusing the term with utility. In this case what they mean is “can I turn it into cash.” Many of my followers who choose to comment on my blogs have started up a “practicality” campaign on my recent posts regarding Berry’s metaphors of the Road and the Wheel as pictures of life.
All thinking eventually becomes doing, or my Bible is woefully wrong when it asserts that all the issues of life flow out of the fountain of thought it calls, “the heart.” But I believe it to be true, so getting our thinking right is the most practical and even one of the most “efficient” things we can do. Bad thoughts are going to proliferate impractical or bad actions. But eventually we can talk about doing instead of being.
One of the contrasts between the Road and Wheel is that of how culture or knowledge is passed on from generation to generation. In the Road analogy, the operative words for “education” are training and programming. In seeking to get the child from point A (young and unmarketable) to B (young but now marketable), the most efficient and quick way to accomplish this is to train or program them rightly. The past is no longer relevant. The future is unknown. So let’s focus on the now and get them where they can be useful, for when they are useful, they can in turn enjoy the fruits of usefulness, which is to get the things they have been trained to want. The child does not count nearly as much in this view as the system, the steps to “graduation.” We even name the end result based upon the method – they work their way through grades or gradations until they have completed their training. They are now ready for their place in the market.
In contrast, the Wheel requires that each new generation join the past and look to the future. The now is the joining place between the two. Education is about generational continuation. We are part of a process of birth and death that comes from before us and goes on past us. When seen this way it takes a much different practical path to its ends.
Practically speaking, training is a response to what a “society” needs from each child. Enculturation, a word very closely related to farming, by the by, looks more toward what each generation receives and then passes on. It is much more concerned with the millennium than with the decade. Good philosophy is practical because it changes how we do things.