Today’s history textbooks often claim that everything began some six centuries ago, when some brave Europeans dared challenge at great costs the dogmas accepted by the Church. These textbooks never mention the East, but this is the subject of another long discussion.
From then on, as the textbooks read, these “brave” Europeans relied more and more on experiments and observations, gradually abandoning and later on opposing the classical methods of education, namely superstitions and the belief in the mystical, replacing them with what they called “reason” and “rationality”. These brave venturers took their first step by following Luther’s lead and translating the Bible into their own vernaculars. Literacy rates rose and people began to read the Bible and various texts written by the leading thinkers of their time. Who could predict that this long path would eventually lead to what we now call “Enlightenment”, after which education would become a “fundamental and indispensable right” for all citizens and a duty for the newly-established nation states? Even in the eighteenth century, who could foresee that I, as a male commoner, would study at a “prestigious” university and discuss what only philosophers and politicians were “eligible” to discuss until roughly a couple of centuries ago? Who could even dream I would be able to use this machine to type this essay and share it with you on the Internet? The most important question to be asked, however, is, how did we end up where we are, and are we heading in the right direction?
Just when we felt relieved to have overcome the first shock after facing Positivism and Modernism, we first met the Radio and Television, then computers and “social media”, which were followed by smartphones. Today’s societies are educated more by the Internet than schools. Infants learn how to read and right before they begin their first grade, thanks to the smartphones given ignorantly to them by their parents. Everyone can blather about everything, and information has almost totally lost its significance. We’ve been asking whether AI will someday be able to read the human mind, but we never ask whether we will even need to use our brains in the future or whether our brains will still be able to hold enough memories to make all the efforts worth the achievement. Google is at our disposal to do all the research for us, and many of us never feel the need to actually learn anything as all they need is a few key presses or taps and swipes in order to recall the results of their previous search. Besides, we confidently believe that no more than a few tweets suffice to shape our political view and make us the most knowledgeable person on earth. We are proud to have earned equal access to many opportunities that only the elite had in the past, but we never acknowledge that we see ourselves not much differently than how the classical aristocrats saw themselves. The worst thing is, those arrogant aristocrats constituted only a small portion of their societies, but we are much greater both in numbers and in proportions. What we call “individualism” has taken the form of vast amounts of “self-improvement” garbage. We’re always subconsciously exposed to the belief that we can do everything. They constantly repeat these fancy words: “You have the capacity to do everything you wish. You just need to have dreams, inspiration and passion.”.
My opinion, in conclusion, is that only a small group should be educated; though this group should be made up of not the wealthiest, but those who really deserve to be educated. Also, everyone should learn what their job requires. Only so can we raise knowledge to its actual holy place.