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.
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