Pedagogy, Philosophy

The Lindy Effect and Classical Education

Schools purporting to offer a classical education are cropping up around the country. Is this recent trend good or bad? To answer this question, I propose that classical education is Lindy-compatible, and therefore minimally not harmful, but likely helpful.

Here is Nassim Nicholas Taleb‘s description of the Lindy effect:

“Lindy is a deli in New York, now a tourist trap, that proudly claims to be famous for its cheesecake, but in fact has been known for the fifty or so years of interpretation by physicists and mathematicians of the heuristic that developed there. Actors who hung out there gossiping about other actors discovered that Broadway shows that lasted, say one hundred days, had a future life expectancy of a hundred more. For those that lasted two hundred days, two hundred more. The heuristic became known as the Lindy Effect.“

In other words, to be Lindy-compatible is to be an object, idea, or organization whose continued survival is implied by its increased age, whereas to be Lindy-incompatible, is to have your life expectancy decrease as you age.

In the case of classical education, a model of education whose end is individual liberty through self-mastery which is obtained by competence in the skills that most fully capacitate the person, we might say, “If these schools are just now cropping up, then on Lindy principle, classical education is bound for failure.” But, studying the seven liberal arts, gymnasium, and the fine arts to fit the individual for virtue in a free society has only recently been rejected by liberal arts programs in colleges.

In other words, as the public schools and the university system have all but rejected the lost tools of learning contained within this tradition, their reappearance in private high-schools is precisely evidence that classical education is anti-fragile (it evolves in order to thrive in chaotic/disordered circumstances).

If classical education is Lindy-compatible, it, by definition does no harm, for if it did, it would die off as practitioners died off or rejected it. So, while the universities became interested in a combination of government subsidized profit and social-justice initiatives that reject classical education on the basis of its alleged role in systemic racism, other avenues appeared to provide this form of education. A question for another time is, “How do the seven liberal arts prepare the individual for liberty or make them happy?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *