Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.— Nelson Mandela
In these essays we want to keep the following questions in mind. These are the fundamental questions to our existence and all our beliefs are in turn built on the foundation of how we answer these questions.
Let us pose a simple question. Am I the same in nature as other humans are? If so then I must embody the same faults as other humans. If other humans have mistaken beliefs, if it not so that I would have it too? Isn't other people's understanding of things dependent on their experiences.
If there is something which someone else states which we believe is wrong, there are a few possible outcomes. The first being that we are indeed wrong and upon further research we acknowledge our gap in understanding. The second is that the other person is wrong; however, it is not enough just to think they are wrong. In order to be able to justify that we are not wrong, we must understand why they would believe that was the correct answer.
Unlike other mammals, human infants are incredibly vulnerable. For years they are not about to function on their own. When they are born they can’t walk or talk. However, what might look like a weakness is actually our greatest strength. Our mind is much more malleable than other animals. While the primitive parts of our mind functions to run the machinery of our body, our cerebral cortex is free to live in a world of its own. We are able to think abstract thoughts and build worlds in order to envision what would happen if we were to make different choices. It is precisely our ability to not live in the present which makes us special.
Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. The version of the world that we create inside our minds is one built from the world we see around us. It fills us with awe and sometimes infuriates us.
Like the role of music in dance, the world around us provides a rhythm and cadence for us. We must to listen to the music in order to know how to dance. We have to experience the world around us and learn how to hear it’s melody. For when we find the current, the world will start to propel us forward.
One of the greatest innovations in the history of humanity is story. By telling and listening to a story we were granted the ability to live the lives of other people, but without the risk and in a fraction of the time. This way each person was able to gain the knowledge, experience, and wisdom gathered from the lives of many others. Generation by generation these stories were distilled and each telling accumulated the work of ever more people. Indeed, to read is to truly live the lives of millions of people.
When we were still young and living in caves there was a blurry concept of time. The sun rose and the sun set and seasons would come now and then. But without the ability to count and keep track of the days they had to look for other ways to foretell the coming of winter. If they were unprepared they could easily die of starvation. So on the cave walls they painted the position of the stars alongside pictures of the cold. They painted the night sky with the coming of the herds of buffalo. This way they could tell when they should go hunt and when they had to prepare for the cold. As a species, we were still incredibly fragile then and it was these things that preserved our survival.
As society grew so did our stories. Larger civilizations grew and many technologies were invented. While it was safest for people to live in their communities, we needed people to take up courageous roles at great risk to themselves in order to ensure the survival of their people. Thus the epics grew. Stories of great heroes defending loved ones and defeating the monsters of the unknown at great odds because told from generation to generation. Each society had their own, whether it was Gilgamesh or the Odyssey, each embodied the archetype of the hero’s journey.
These weren’t so much stories about the heroes themselves, but a guide for how we should act.
We learn because we are curious about the world. We look out and see a wondrous but puzzling environment. When we are young, that curiosity is incessant and we relentlessly ask why does this happen and why does that happen. We ask until we stop getting coherent answers from the adults around us, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t keep searching for answers.
The amount of things to learn is dizzying and can be scattered. In order to understand it well, we learned to group similar concepts together and delve deeper into each subject. We catalogue each of these and teach subject by itself.
In the speed of the modern world where metrics are set and kids are set to compete with all the other kids around them, we often lose sight of the nature of knowledge. Many parts of education forget the purpose and origin of knowledge and try to force feed it to the students making it dry and unappetizing when it is actually incredibly fascinating. For each subject is a look at reality from a different perspective, a different facet of the same diamond.
For many years this worked well. We took pride in the division of labor and the division of knowledge.