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Why Educate Yourself?

24 April 2018

4 mins

Welcome to my most recent, and most provocative, blog entry to date! I am going to explore the topic of education and how it may be valued.

Becoming a Student and Teacher

I hope you are inspired to think about how precious it is to be able to “learn” in an institution like Loughborough University and begin to see that anyone and everyone can learn. While many of us have been lucky enough to be students our whole life, each one of us also has the potential to be a teacher of others… and I am not talking about just in a classroom!

The Power of Education

Education is usually the first institution to come under attack when oppressive and tyrannical regimes come to power within a region. This is for good reason, as no matter the form that education may take, its purpose is to enable the individual to ask questions and spark their curiosity to try to find the answer(s) and/or solution(s) without resorting to being told what to think/do by those in power. In a “Big Brother” regime that controls its citizens lives under the pretext of protecting them, those who question why things are the way they are and offer solutions for how to improve the system are dangerous to those who want to maintain the status quo that made them powerful. This is the root of sayings like “the pen is mightier than the sword”.

Choosing Your Pen Wisely

In light of the fact that not so long ago the majority of the world was illiterate, this modern day and age of instantaneous access to information via the internet and the widespread knowledge of the written word are magical. However, with the opportunity for anyone and everyone to become informed via the relatively free flood of information, the question of whether some types of knowledge or education are more valuable than others becomes critical to evaluating different learning opportunities.

For those of you not familiar with the book, 1984 is a classic dystopian novel written in 1949 about a future where the totalitarian ruling system is characterized as a “Big Brother” to the citizens. The author, George Orwell, was an English novelist who was an avid supporter of “democratic socialism”. (As a side note, he is also attributed with coining the term “Thought Police”.) A particularly apt quote of his from this novel captures the challenge and opportunity for the metamorphosis of modern learning systems: “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” The challenge for choosing the best education for any given individual is the same as the opportunity in that the more people are able to share their thoughts with larger audiences via digital media and within a free society, the greater the potential that their words will sway others to help or harm according to the intent of the originating thought.  As G.K Chesterton (also an English writer) said: “Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.”

The Value of Self-Education

While discussing what constitutes “value” is beyond the scope of this current blog, it is my belief that the most valuable type of learning does not take place in a classroom or even at home. While higher education and applied learning are very important for further developing and refining one’s critical and analytical thinking skills – in addition to building societal awareness and the ability to socialize with diverse others – and many people pick up valuable insights from their family and friends, the most important education is of the self about the self. Until one is educated about oneself – including likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses – any attempt to learn from or teach others is constrained. The chances of an individual achieving her/his full potential, whether as an electrician or as a politician, is inhibited by the fact that s/he may not be pursuing an external education that is aligned with who s/he is inside.

The Best Protection

In a world increasingly focused on external and material satisfaction, I argue that the satisfaction of knowing who you are and what you need to learn to get where and what you want/need is a basic foundation for achieving success and happiness. Once you figure yourself out, in essence becoming the sole expert on you, it becomes easier to hone your specialized set of skills and share your expertise with others. This knowledge, often hard-earned, also protects you from being misled and misinformed by a myriad of world-views that may be divorced from facts and truth.

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