Perspectives: Staying uneducated today is a choice

OPINION – Our lives must really suck. Don’t believe it? Just think about how we complain about our First World problems.

We grumble about having to buy a stainless dishwasher to match the other appliances in our new home. We gripe when we must register to use the free Wi-Fi or we have to check our emails on our phone because we can’t find Internet service.

Yeah, we have it pretty rough.

One day, the period in which we live will be recognized as having contained one of the greatest opportunities in the history of mankind. But it’s an opportunity that we are in danger of squandering.

Thanks to the Information Age, becoming educated has never been easier or more affordable. Yet few people recognize the revolution that has taken place right under our noses.

We forget that for much of human history, knowledge was very difficult to obtain. Most people spent the great bulk of their lives simply working to survive. Education was reserved for the elite.

The Industrial Age ushered in schooling for the masses, but it wasn’t until just a few generations ago that higher learning became a possibility for almost everyone. Even so, true world-class education was still limited to Ivy League schools with exclusive admission policies and steep tuition costs.

That all changed with the arrival of the Internet.

We now have virtually unlimited information at our fingertips, including the knowledge which used to be reserved for those granted admittance to the best schools. Best of all, we can access this learning for free.

We can learn math and chemistry from Khan Academy, or take Open Yale Courses in the humanities or social, physical or biological sciences. The true geniuses among us can expand their understanding with MIT’s Open Courseware. And it can all be done for free.

This does not mean that you will receive an actual degree for free from these institutions. It means that if you wish to learn, the knowledge is there for the taking. All you must be willing to do is step up and begin learning.

So why don’t more people take advantage of this remarkable opportunity?

It’s not just our favorite distractions holding us back. We’ve been trained to treat learning as an event rather than a process.  Too many people consider schooling to be a necessary, expensive, undertaking that must be endured for a few years in order to get a degree.

True education has always been something more than satisfying the requisite number of hours of classroom study in order to earn a certificate.

Before education became synonymous with professional academia, credentialism, and job preparation, the focus was on training leaders and citizens. It was about developing personal character, skills, and talents, as well as attaining knowledge. The end result was not simply earning a degree, it was about becoming a great soul.

This required people who were willing to continue to self-educate outside of a formal classroom setting and the desire to become a lifelong learner.

The educational phase of our lives doesn’t have to end with graduation. Our personal education should continue until we draw our final breath.

The societal benefit of an educated populace, as opposed to one that has simply been schooled cannot be overstated.

Russell Kirk explains:

Really educated people rather than forming presumptuous elites, will permeate society, leavening the lump through their professions, their teaching, their preaching, their participation in commerce and industry, their public offices at every level of the commonwealth. And being educated, they will know that they do not know everything; and that there exists objects in life besides money and power and sensual gratification; they will take long views; they will forward to posterity and backward toward their ancestors. For them, education will not terminate on commencement day.

The barriers that previously prevented people from becoming educated have fallen one by one. The gatekeepers whose job was to keep education exclusive to the elite are guarding entryways that no longer have walls.

This is the opportunity that we are missing.

Even the poorest and most disadvantaged in America have access to the Internet via public libraries. It has never been easier to access and learn the kind of knowledge that allows us to live up to our fullest potential. We have no excuses.

To remain uneducated in the Information Age is a choice.

 

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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15 Comments

  • Roy J October 24, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Although I agree with much of what you’re saying, I have a hard time agreeing that remaining uneducated is a choice. This is because I think you left out the primary barrier to learning, which is disinterest in the subject matter. I may be wrong, but I believe that in the Great Conversation there is considerable discussion about fostering the sense of wonder. (maybe it’s in Mortimer Adler’s ‘How to Read a Book’, I don’t remember). It is difficult to inspire in others (read Plato’s ‘Seventh Letter’, or the ‘Ion’, for example), but without it learning is a tedious slog. It also may take more than a great teacher’s efforts to inspire seriously lazy people (like Augustine, as he describes himself and his spiritual development in the ‘Confessions’), or it may take the pupil many years after seemingly fruitless searching to come to a point where they finally acquire (or are given?) themselves that wonder. In any case, the real question has always seemed to me to be why one subject is so absorbingly interesting to one person, and not to me? The answer is simply that I have not yet seen really seen that subject, and in that I am deficient. That’s neither right nor wrong, but simply where I am at, and worrying about it or trying to shove it along, as I have tried with all sorts of subjects and life in general, doesn’t do any good. I suspect it does no good for anyone else, either. For example, I keep waiting for you to discover the riches of the perennial philosophy of Aquinas and the French Thomists of the early part of the last century, especially since Maritain, Gilson and Charles DeKoninck are all listed in the extended readings of the Syntopicon. But I don’t think you uneducated for all that; I think rather that you simply haven’t been properly introduced yet.

  • Sgnative October 24, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Roy J has a wonderful point. I find it interesting that I made it through formal education, earned a Bachelor degree and yet I retained so little of that knowledge I gained because of my disinterest in the subject matter. Now that I am “out in the real world” I find myself eating up any and all info that I can that interests me and retain so much more. There is a lot to be said about having an interest and desire first for knowledge and learning to get it stick. Very thought provoking article!!!

  • starboss October 24, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    Roy J I appreciate your attempt-to-be-dazzling with your Mershaum-pipe-and-suede-elbow-bender-smoking jacket litany of musical language and improbable literary references, but I need to confess that I found the whole soliloquy skull-crushingly boring and saddened to realize that that was five minutes of my life that was wasted and I can never get back. I failed to find meaning in anything you wrote other than interest escapes you and I’d like to offer that lucidity also escapes you. You know Cowboy, it’s time to move out of your parents basement and quit watching Star Trek reruns.

    Sgnative, you really don’t want to encourage this kind of idle free association by saying ol’ Roy makes a good point ’cause after all if you do it with the other hand it only FEELS like somebody else is doing it. Roy’s logic is like a cow pissin’ on a flat rock.

    • Roy J October 25, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      starboss,

      Thanks for proving my point and by providing yourself as an example of Plato’s Seventh Letter! If it’s any consolation, I hope that you too will someday pick up a book and stop looking at the pictures in magazines. Good Luck to you!

  • philiplo October 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

    The first three paragraphs of this opinion piece speak volumes about the author’s life experiences, or perhaps his lack of empathy for those in circumstances different from his own. The conclusion he draws says equally as much about his lack of understanding of what day-to-day life is like for those struggling at the bottom of our socioeconomic ladder.

    Yes, there are indeed many ways to physically access the internet. But accessibility is not the panacea implied here. Without a foundation of literacy, access is meaningless; without the idle time to pursue online instruction, the availability of such instruction is a cruel tease.

    Computers in libraries are handy for those with time to avail themselves of the machines, but for those whose second (or third) job demands that they be working well past the library’s closing time, they are as useless as a snooze button on a smoke alarm. Pretending otherwise, and proclaiming the internet to be the great equalizer of education, only blinds us to the true inequality of opportunity afforded those born into less fortunate circumstances than the iPhone crowd.

    • Bryan Hyde October 25, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      I’m flattered that you faithfully follow my columns, but I think you’ve missed the point. Widespread access to virtually unlimited knowledge is as devastating to elitism (class warfare, if you prefer) as it is to ignorance. The barriers that remain are now largely self-imposed.
      .
      People who stop wallowing in victimhood and choose to make self-improvement a priority, cannot be stopped from improving their situation. They aren’t waiting for someone’s permission to move forward.

      • philiplo October 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm

        People working multiple minimum-wage jobs in order to feed and house themselves are not “wallowing in victimhood,” as you put it. They are suffering the realities of a system currently tilted so far in favor of the “haves” that not even the wonders of the internet (cat videos, snarky blogs, viruses and tracking cookies) can come close to getting them onto the playing field, much less leveling it.

        • Bryan Hyde October 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm

          Victimhood is a state of mind more than a function of mere circumstance. Helen Keller said, “I long to do great and noble things, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
          .
          That’s what happens when the ideological blinders come off and we focus on self-improvement.

          • philiplo October 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm

            None of the people I know who are struggling just to get by would consider themselves victims. The fact that you believe that they do is apparently where the disconnect occurs.
            .
            Perhaps your own ideological blinders don’t allow you to see the reality of circumstances rather than the rose-colored view you have of how the world should be.

          • Bryan Hyde October 25, 2013 at 4:30 pm

            We all struggle with circumstances that are not within our power to change. But holocaust survivor Victor Frankl correctly noted that, we always retain the ability “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” I don’t know why some people reject this choice.
            .
            You’re pretty intent on taking offense so I’ll stop trying to talk you off the ledge.

          • philiplo October 27, 2013 at 9:09 pm

            I haven’t taken offense, though your attitude in several comments has been quite offensive. Off the point, though. As I said, I haven’t taken offense, I just disagree with your conclusion, as stated:
            .
            “To remain uneducated in the Information Age is a choice.”
            .
            For some, certainly, but to apply this universally would be ridiculous.

  • climber October 25, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Starboss! Your awesome! Being educated is not about a degree. It is about knowledge. If a person decides to get a bachelors degree in a subject matter they find disinteresting, well boo hoo your bad. I am always expanding my knowledge base on a variety of different subject matter thru reading, researching and seeking intelligent open minded conversation. Will I get a certificate stating I am thoroughly educated in any of these topics? No. But I will come out as an interesting, well rounded, intelligent individual. The formal education I am recieving is just to get a career in the future.

  • Roy J October 25, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Here is another opinion on education, from G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Superstion of School’. The link at the bottom is to the whole essay itself.

    “… the self-educated think far too much of education. I might add that the half-educated always think everything of education. That is not a fact that appears on the surface of the social plan or ideal; it is the sort of thing that can only be discovered by experience. When I said that I wanted the popular feeling to find political expression, I meant the actual and autochthonous popular feeling as it can be found in third-class carriages and bean-feasts and bank-holiday crowds; and especially, of course (for the earnest social seeker after truth), in public-houses. I thought, and I still think, that these people are right on a vast number of things on which the fashionable leaders are wrong. The snag is that when one of these people begins to “improve himself” it is exactly at that moment that I begin to doubt whether it is an improvement. He seems to me to collect with remarkable rapidity a number of superstitions, of which the most blind and benighted is what may be called the Superstition of School. He regards School, not as a normal social institution to be fitted in to other social institutions, like Home and Church and State; but as some sort of entirely supernormal and miraculous moral factory, in which perfect men and women are made by magic. To this idolatry of School he is ready to sacrifice Home and History and Humanity, with all its instincts and possibilities, at a moment’s notice. To this idol he will make any sacrifice, especially human sacrifice. And at the back of the mind, especially of the best men of this sort, there is almost always one of two variants of the same concentrated conception: either “If I had not been to School I should not be the great man I am now,” or else “If I had been to school I should be even greater than I am.” Let none say that I am scoffing at uneducated people; it is not their uneducation but their education that I scoff at. Let none mistake this for a sneer at the half-educated; what I dislike is the educated half. But I dislike it, not because I dislike education, but because, given the modern philosophy or absence of philosophy, education is turned against itself, destroying that very sense of variety and proportion which it is the object of education to give.

    No man who worships education has got the best out of education; no man who sacrifices everything to education is even educated. I need not mention here the many recent examples of this monomania, rapidly turning into mad persecution, such as the ludicrous persecution of the families who live on barges. What is wrong is a neglect of principle; and the principle is that without a gentle contempt for education, no gentleman’s education is complete.”

    -G.K. Chesterton

  • Sgnative October 25, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Climber you just reiterated my point. I don’t know if it was my comment you were referencing but if so I want to clarify that I am extremely grateful for the formal education that I received and worked very hard to get. I just was simply trying to comment on the article and say I think Mr. Hyde’s point is information is there for the taking. Simple as that. It’s what each individual chooses to do with their allotted time and resources on this earth that will allow them to utilize said available information. Hopefully we can all do just that and be as you put it “interesting, well rounded and intelligent individuals.”

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