Saturday, March 10, 2012

Does education make you a better person?


In my house growing up, education was a prize attribute. We were all encouraged to study hard and go to college. I read a lot, enjoyed learning and now generally make friends with people with similar values.
But it's very easy to get caught up in the belief that more education = better. That people who have more education have more value in society. And, conversely, that people who aren't educated are worth less.
It's an easy trap. People who are able to speak eloquently about a variety of subjects, who have mastered logic or a variety of languages - they dazzle us. And if you have a strong background in liberal arts, spelling and grammar mistakes are cringeworthy.
But, in truth, morality and education have very little in common. I can be a professor in philosophy and still be an asshole. I can have multiple degrees but be a deadbeat dad. I can speak a dozen languages, but never talk to my elderly parents.
And poor people have shown consistently to give more to charity than those with means, who are usually more educated.
It doesn't take smarts to do the right thing. Sometimes it takes a good upbringing, but that can mean as little as having parents who teach you right from wrong. Even if they are penniless, they can still be menches.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Socrates thought literacy was for chumps


Despite Rick Santorum's idiotic comments that aspiring to higher education is snobbery, we seem to agree that most educated (nay, intelligent) people believe that at least LITERACY is a good thing.

Well, Socrates (469 BC – 399 BC) thought you should shut your damn trap about that claptrack. In speaking to a Egyptian king about writing, Socrates commented:

This discovery of yours (writing) will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves…you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing.

Seeing how he was from a oral society and suddenly a new technology was introduced, was he just scared of the next thing? Possibly. But I can also empathizse with him. I remember in High SChool one classmate told me that math was no longer a needed skill because they had a calculator. And maybe Wikipedia is making us less educated but more resourceful.

In Jewish history people regularly memorized the ENTIRE Torah / Old Testament. This is still done today in some ultra-Orthodox communities. In preliterate society, if you didn't remember something it was gone forever, so the importance of the brain and recalling information was pretty vital.

Still, without writing there are limitations of how much society can grow, about trade, and certainly about transmitting knowledge to the next generation. I guess it's a tough call.... wait - no literacy means no comics. F U So-crates.