Regular readers of Al Fin blog are familiar with the concept of psychological neoteny. The societies of western developed nations and particularly North American societies, have adopted a method of child-rearing that results in the perpetual incompetence of an idle adolescence. By age-segregating children in classrooms of indoctrination, by removing children from all responsibility and exposure to the adult world of work, western societies are creating entire generations of incompetent and narcissistic know-nothings and do-nothings.
But there are notable refuges from the world of perpetual incompetence and irrelevance--one of which is the military. In the military there is no escape from responsibility, and no excuse for not developing the competencies of your current rating and assignment. You are thrown in with persons of all ages, backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and experiences. You are expected to learn how to do your job, and to do it professionally.
The modern military is as much about disaster relief, and providing order for rebuilding a devastated region, as it is about fighting and killing an enemy. Military members are encouraged to improve themselves, and many gain degrees while in the service, through online courses.
Joel, who is stationed in Baghdad with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Stryker Brigade Combat Team, earned his degree through online courses and hopes to be able to watch the ceremony through an online link-up.Denver Post
"A lot of it has involved slipping in homework in between missions and rest time. But there's always the unforeseen, though," Joel, 36, said Wednesday in a phone interview from Iraq. "Taking courses online gives me a sense of normalcy. ... As one class completes, I'm that much closer to being home."
According to military publications, more than 40,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq have enrolled in online college courses.
By acquiring real world skills in a genuine world atmosphere, while still being able to earn credits and degrees online, members of the military are able to bypass the academic lobotomy that millions of on-campus university students receive every year.
While their home societies are preparing their civilian cohorts for perpetual incompetence, military members are seeing much of the world firsthand, and working side by side with people from other cultures for both peacekeeping, disaster relief, and making war.
Military members who do not make a career of the military often join reserve units or national guard units, to combine their civilian lives with continued service to their country. Career military members often retire by age 38, at which time many of them join city, county, state, or federal agencies of law enforcement or other active civil service agencies that require competent workers.
Competence is rare in a neotenous society. You have to look for it.
Originally published in Abu Al Fin.