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The world as we know it has drastically changed in the spans of just a few generations. In many ways the scope of the human dream has expanded radically, and in many ways it has shrunk. Technology is pushing our view of what is possible to new limits, and never before have so many people had access to such a breadth of knowledge. This is truly the bleeding edge of history. This truly is the Information Age. Yet, with all of the knowledge we have accumulated as a species, and as a global culture, mass ignorance pervades. The framework of human learning has changed so quickly with the rise of accessible travel, mass communications, and the the internet, but the way that we educate our children has but slowly progressed since 1821. At this critical point in history, it is time that we re-examine how we should be pouring into the lives of the youth, and how we can foster a new renaissance of human excellence.
For the first entry of this series I would like to address the situation in broad strokes. Imagine for a moment that you were able to sit across a table from the great philosophers. Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Thoreau, Locke, or any others. Describe to them the vast amounts of data that you have at your fingertips, the overwhelming sum of human knowledge and experience in its entirety. They would reply to you, "So where is Utopia?" yet it is all too apparent that we are no more wise than our predecessors.
Ignorance of the masses has always been a pervasive trouble for society at every stage of history. Most governing systems have resulted with an attitude of cynicism of this fact, and the resulting philosophy has been that the masses must be directed, and ruled, and commanded. Otherwise, society will fail. It is for this reason that democracy has such a terrible success rate in history. Plato stated that a truly exceptional society must be ruled by philosopher kings. I very much agree. But for perhaps the first time in history we can, through blood and sweat, build a society that consists of philosopher kings. I am of the belief that true education does two very important things for the mind, one being that it banishes broad unknowing ignorance, and the other being that it reveals a true ignorance. One where you are unaware of the answers to the great questions, but you are at least aware of the questions. This is how Socrates was able to claim "I know nothing." He was a man who rid himself of the broad ignorance, and became aware of his true ignorance. It is my dream to see both of these ignorances eliminated, but what a magnificent world would we live in if we but eliminated the first.
American culture is bleeding ignorance in this age of constant information. We have created something much worse than the absence of wisdom. We have filled our lives with a storm of foolishness. Media bombards the masses to try to gain some sway over them, while actively trying to keep them in the dark, knowing enough to vote, or buy, or be enraged, but ignorant enough to not make any genuine progress. Some claim that the answer is to disconnect, to revert to a time where the public wasn't plagued by such a dividing entity of information. And indeed that would solve the issue, but imagine the potential we would be losing. We can still be the enlightened generations. We are not yet so far gone. And it starts with how we bring up members of our society. They are our responsibility. Their faults are our faults, and their failures our failures. A true and deep education of even one generation could change everything: how we attain jobs, who we work for, and even what those jobs look like. The market might not be the only thing to improve. The political landscape may be healed, and seen as a table in which to bring the best ideas to better our collective lives, rather than tribal warfare between two monolithic factions using events and emotions as weapons of mass destruction. It is not too late to remake our society from the ground up, and it is not idealistic rambling to think so. Our first step is shaping the lives of our citizens.
I realize the framework I have set up is vague at best, but this introduction is not meant to provide a full argument. It is simply to inspire thought on the matter, and hope that we can still make the future of our civilization a better one. The proceeding articles will attack the specific issues that I see with the standardized American education system, and outline possible solutions to the problem. I would like to ask any reader to leave any presuppositions of how education should be run at the door, as we are taking very much a blank slate approach. I do not pretend to hold all the answers. Perhaps I hold none at all. It is only my wish that we as a society take more of a vested interest in a largely influential yet largely ignored part of our lives. My only hope is that the ideas presented here will inspire bravery and action to the founding of better lives.