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How our modern education smothers real learning

by Tareq Shahwan February 3, 2015
How our modern education smothers real learning

A focus on the economically viable kills our pursuit of knowledge

It is truly the end of science. You can only tell that something is dying when the very basis of it starts to fade away. Wisdom, love of knowledge, the ever-strong human affinity to develop mental and physical tools that protect human survivability, and the unsaturated human zeal for knowledge, are all becoming uncommon and will one day be extinct. Currently, science is being driven by money.

If your research will have a positive economic impact, it will be funded and encouraged. If not, your research will be stillborn. People conveniently forget that money does not have a great moral purpose; it was only made to serve its own existence, which is generating more money.

I don’t blame corporations for funding research that only add to their bottom line, neither do I blame governments which only fund research that reinforces their political ideology because—simply put—it does not make any sense. These institutions are structured only to perpetuate their own existence, isolated from the concept of public good and good citizenship.  Blaming them would be like blaming a lion for killing its prey to eat.

I think the blame is to be put on smaller social circles. Families are urging their children to study topics that match the market’s needs. Universities are channeling money into subjects that serve the current capitalist industry, such as engineering and business. Topics like philosophy, political science and social studies are heavily under-attended and under-funded. Eventually, this will lead to a society that does not question things, a society that does not understand the theories of power and hence its own exploitation, a society that cannot govern itself democratically and in an egalitarian way, and most importantly: a society that does not search for purpose or meaning.

The only society we are producing, then, is a collection of antisocial individuals who can only apply pre-made tools, and produce businesses that, in its totality, serves only its own bottom line. Hence, the environment and morality’s bottom lines (so to speak) will suffer. Humanity’s daunting task of searching for meaning and purpose in a universe filled with puzzles will eventually stop, after a journey of several millennia.

If families want to see their children happy, if universities and schools wish to see their graduates truly inflict fundamental change in society, they should help them search for meaning and purpose—and most importantly, question the status quo through their education.

Philosophy, for example, taught us that human knowledge only developed when people started questioning things, loving wisdom, and worked to satiate their intellectual hunger.

These habits, I believe, generated quite a lot of human happiness.  When philosophy was the mother of all sciences, we all felt that we are part of a collective effort to unravel the puzzles of the world. Nowadays, we all feel lonely in dark cubicles working for business silos: we lost the joy of the collective and the coziness of a universal purpose.

We always wonder why there is global warming, why children are consuming drugs to escape reality, and why porn penetrated society like a golden bullet.
These dangerous phenomena clearly show that our society is heading towards an education that discourages reflection and analysis, but encourages fast solutions and lack of social responsibility, which clearly reflects the capitalist market needs.

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