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Were I inclined to be charitable (and it's Bruni, so, really, eff him sideways...) I'd guess that he's trying to suggest in a ham-fisted way that part of schooling is learning to endure; to stick to an unpromising task to completion, and through that learn that through such effort such tasks CAN be completed.

Not so much that education is supposed to be a grim, soul-destroying slog, but that at times it's supposed to provide uncompromising challenges that will produce in those challenged the gritty determination to see the challenge through to a successful completion.

For some reason this seems to be a favorite trope of those whose experience with "uncompromising challenge" appears to be limited to, say, bulimia and knocking out a food column once a week. You'll note that Bruni has, to the best of my knowledge, not once taught English in an inner city clasroom, cleared mines while inder mortar fire, performed high-risk open-heart surgery on indigent patients, or spent aching hours on a picket line confronting angry strikebreakers and hostile policemen.

I have no idea why he seems to think that this mirthless misery will produce the sort of person who might be capable of doing any of these things, but given that he went to elementary and secondary school in White Plains in the early Seventies I suspect that he has no personal experience with them, either.

I agree that one of the qualities hopefully imparted by education should be the ability to, when needed, work hard at an otherwise-unrewarding task that simply needs to be completed, whether it's changing a diaper or solving a mathematics problem.

However, I doubt that simply by making that education unpleasant and mirthless is likely to nurture such a quality, and I suspect that Mister Bruni knows himself that he is merely being simplistic and contrary.

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