Saturday, May 25, 2013

Real Education. Fear it!

Education is powerful.  To train a person to use that brain is powerful, when the training is real training in thinking, in how to look at a question properly, in how to search answers to it and also in how to live with the fact that there will always be ambiguity, always be uncertainty always be we-do-not-know.

I love real education (which doesn't necessarily happen in formal institutions of learning or only in them) and I see it as the medicine (sadly, a slow-acting) for much of what ails the social and political systems of this world.  Real education doesn't just teach information and skills; it also teaches how to find information and how to learn skills, it teaches how to think about something very hard, very slippery, very controversial, and, if done properly, it teaches a certain kind of tolerance.

Conservatives, fundamentalists and extremists of some types fear and hate education, because of what education accomplishes. 

Some believe that it brain-washes the youth.  Brain-washing can be done in education, of course, but more often it is carried out in anti-education, in systems where you are not ever allowed to speak about the invisible elephants sitting on the living-room sofa, suffocating you with their weight.  Real education only washes your  brain in the same sense a car-wash makes your car all shiny and squeaky clean:  It improves what is already there.

If education causes a person to change her or his basic values, then those values were not firmly attached in the first place, were unable to face the interrogation by facts and by other values,  perhaps were truly not values at all but just stories others had deposited in our heads.

When I write about learning to live with ambiguity I mean ambiguity about facts, not about values.  But proper education challenges the learner to dig deep, to find which values matter the most, how to figure out the hierarchy of the values and what to do when those values clash.

Should anyone else fear real education but the extremists?  In a sense, but only in the sense that we might fear all that challenges us,  that demands we stretch, grow larger, grow into what we were meant to be. 

That was today's sermon for you.  Enjoy the rest of the day!