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The Power of Education

September 17, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve mentioned before that I believe the purpose of education is to teach us how to live a life. My only argument for that is YOLO :P. Each of us has only one life so we need to know what to do with it. Education teaches how to think. It’s more than simply learning how to solve a problem analytically or how to find a creative solution. Education gives us the ability to exercise control over our thoughts and ultimately, our lives so that we don’t default to our natural reactions or instincts.

For example, a bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Or consider the following scenario: Jack is looking at Anne, but Anne is looking at George. Jack is married but George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person? Many people will initially answer $0.10 and we need to know Anne’s marital status, but that’s incorrect.

This shows how people can still be wrong about many things they are certain of. To quote part of David Foster Wallace‘s commencement speech: here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe…there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of…Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real. Being able to think will allow you to alter your natural me-first attitude, something society frowns upon.

Many people know that I hate waiting. I’ll be honest here: my natural default reaction every time someone is late is fuck you for wasting my time. Thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic it doesn’t have to be a choice. As such, I’m annoyed and am in a bad mood, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead I can use that time while waiting to think. I can choose to think differently instead of simply defaulting to my natural reaction. If I didn’t know how to think differently, I am going to be frustrated and miserable every single time someone is late and there’s no shortage of tardy people.

Obviously there are different ways to interpret the situation and that depends on one’s experiences. For example if you are late, I can choose to think that you helped an old lady carry groceries to her car or that you stayed up all night beside your father who is dying of lung cancer in the hospital. Of course those scenarios are very unlikely, but not impossible. I don’t ask people why they’re late because I would rather give them the benefit of the doubt. If I was so certain I knew what the reality was, I would have neglected other possibilities that aren’t as frustrating and miserable.

I had a conversation with a friend a long time ago who didn’t seem to have any guilt or remorse when admitting that she was a highly judgmental person. Her argument was that it’s human nature to judge others in order for us to survive. She was implying that we unconsciously judge others so there’s nothing wrong with that. While I agree with the argument, I find that to be a weak one though. As such she rants a lot because many people annoy her. That is unfortunate because I believe there’s a difference between merely surviving and living a life with the freedom of thought.

This doesn’t have to be about compassion (although I still believe it’s the greatest virtue a person can have). It can simply be about one choosing to view the world through a different perspective. Thinking isn’t easy, it takes discipline and effort. There are times when I can’t do it or that I just don’t want to do it, as evidenced when I once ranted at an event. I believe this is one part of what learning how to think really means: to be more humble and critically aware of oneself and his or her certainties about reality.

Categories: Education, Life
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  1. September 24, 2012 at 11:04 am

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