Friday, 18 May 2012

Ignorance and poor education may be life-threatening

You know, it strikes me again and again that the poorly-educated are much more vulnerable to harm than those whose personal stock of intelligence has been developed.

I speak of 'education' as learning all you really need to know about human nature, and how to live a successful life.

This involves a lifelong willingness to look into what is going on, to understand it, and to shape your actions to increase your chances of happiness - and to decrease the chances of illness, misfortune, abuse and death. Yes, a 'formal education', mastering your chosen specialist subjects, is a way of getting a good job and achieving material comfort. But you can't rely only on schooling. You must mostly teach yourself, for all your life, without ever stopping. Watching events, especially watching other people and getting insight into what people of all kinds think, and why they do what they do. And how to tell lies from truth, and possessiveness from genuine caring.

Education opens your eyes. Education shows you that there are other ways to do things. Education makes you question the hysterical 'facts' that you are spoonfed 24/7. To sift the news for its real significance. Education allows you to break free from damaging social situations, because you'll recognise that they are damaging. You'll know when it's time to cut and run, to get out. You'll know that there's a better place to go to, a better life than what you have.

Who hits the news, when there's some dreadful case of cruelty or neglect or violence directed against an adult? It's usually some badly-educated person, stuck in a destructive relationship they can't think their way out of. They have not been told the danger signs. They have not seen how perilous their position is. So they cling to outmoded or traditional or naive beliefs about their situation and the people in their lives; and as a result, those who would do them harm can easily have their way. You see the outcome in case after case. And if the victim is education-starved, all too often is the perpetrator also.

I can't exempt babies and young children from what I say, because their welfare is in the hands of their parents, and parents (of all people) should be very well-educated to fit them for their vital nurturing role. And for 'parents' I mean also those in loco parentis. Responsible adults who have children in their charge.

I'm not saying that simply stuffing yourself with experiences and facts will automatically make you a nice person, or wise. Any fool can seem like a walking encyclopedia. Many scientists and politicians, the people who affect our lives so much, are men and women from dazzling academic backgrounds. But not all have developed the capacity to improve the world. And the most horrible criminals are the ones who have trained their minds.

But I do believe that understanding can only come with knowledge. And you can't place a limit on it. Education must never end. Everyone needs to tell themselves that.

Which is why I am wary of anyone whose demeanour or speech suggests that they are not well-educated, or have stopped learning anything fresh. I will expect from them a narrow outlook, a lack of perspective; a fixation on points of procedure and belief that don't matter two hoots; perhaps a tendency to generalise without insight, or not see the value of another point of view; a tendency to despise alternative modes of living, to laugh at different types of people. Perhaps a dangerous tendency to bigotry and prejudice.

It used to be thought that the uneducated Noble Savage - a human being who lived in a state of unspoilt naivity - was something to be admired. A person untrammelled by the complex and artificial standards and desires of the developed world. Except that the actuality was in its own way just as bad. An elemental world of unexplained and unexplainable natural dangers; a world of evil spirits and watchful ancestors, and taboos, where innovation and change was impossible unless stimulated by crisis. A closed-in world full of fear and immutable customs, and arbitrary control, with no known escape. And not just on isolated places like Easter Island. Such conditions obtained in ragged, reeking villages on the fringes of Europe in the Dark Ages. They obtain now in many places around the world, on every continent, in corners of every town.

But education can change it all, and make it safer to be alive.

1 comment:

  1. According to some who believe we have been around for a few million years we should by now be very 'educated' indeed but there will always be idiots, there will always be those lacking in common sense, there will always be the variety of folk we have. There will always be the street-wise and the foolish, the know it alls and the ignorant and every other cross-different folk you can imagine. If we were all the same we would be as boring as hell. There are those who want educating and those who couldn't give a damn. What can I say? That's folk for you.

    Shirley Anne x

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