The Only Thing Worse Than Ignorance

In ages of humanism like our own, it is often widely considered that the worst thing is ignorance.  There is a great complaint about the wasted potential of people who are denied the blessings of the education this world provides, a feeling that people who could be so much better than they are are living wasted lives if their intellectual potential is not reached.  Let it not be said that I am by any means anti-intellectual as is the habit of some [1].  Yet while it is true that wasted intellectual potential through a lack of education is a terrible thing, miseducation is so much worse.  The cure for ignorance, after all, is knowledge, and those who are ignorant and want to learn can be taught and often have a high motivation to learn.  Those who do not want to learn are responsible for their own ignorance.  When someone is miseducated, on the other hand, they must unlearn what they thought wrongly to be knowledge before they can learn it again.  It is not as if they are starting from a zero point, like the ignorant, but are starting below zero because they think they have something that they in fact have not got.

It is fashionable nonsense that there are no ultimate truths and that the perspective of everyone is right in their own eye, but among the many contradictions of this view is the seriousness by which people take education.  Yet we are in the position, it must be honestly admitted, where a great deal of miseducation lies in the perspective of the beholder.  Education and its perversions depend strongly on one’s worldview and perspective.  Most people are consistent enough with their belief systems to have a strong insistence to have their children educated according to their worldview, if they are aware of possessing a worldview at all that is distinct to the education system.  The corrupt agents of a corrupt state are often of the belief that they know best and sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong.  I judge, for example, the education of various subjects by my own worldview and often find it lacking, because of the political games that are so often played in education.  Yet mankind is a political animal, and those games must be played.

Whether or not students learn much about subject matter during their years of imprisonment in public schools, they learn a lot about the way the world works.  For one, they know how to take standardized tests, and how to game a system by giving people what they want.  They learn that people are not looking for evidence of creative or independent thought, but usually for the “right” answer expressed in a particular form.  And so those forms are learned and applied for the desired result.  This is not mere ignorance, but rather miseducation.  To be sure, some schools do a better job than others.  Some teachers, even in public schools, do want their students to think and encourage debate and research even where it disagrees with the perspective of the teacher.  Such teaching is perhaps more rare than it should be, but it does exist and I certainly remember it.  Those schools that are less beholden to the state have a greater flexibility in the way they arm their students, although private schools have their own agendas–some of them intellectual and philosophical and cultural in nature, and some of them religious in nature.  Whether or not students accept the worldview of those who seek to educate them, that worldview influences them and they are educated by it, whether for the better or for the worse.

This is not only a problem when it comes to education but also in our own personal lives.   To the extent that we believe that we know the truth about someone or something, we are not motivated to investigate into the matter further except to find people to back our opinions on one matter or another.  In our own lives, concerning matters and people and situations close to us, it is very often the case that mere ignorance is not an issue.  Even if we are not the most gossipy of people we will often have more supposed knowledge than we could have ever wished for about various matters.  Yet how much of that knowledge is genuine knowledge and how much is merely slander and supposition?  It is like that a great deal of the knowledge that we think we possess is strongly affected for the worse by our willingness to accept bad authorities.  No matter how we may try to tout our abilities to think for ourselves, we are continually forced back to look at the question of the authority by which we think or believe a certain thing, and that is not a comfortable place to be.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Only Thing Worse Than Ignorance

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Journey Of Special Education | Edge Induced Cohesion

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