October 17, 2016 by Cláudia
Is it really important to go to school? To read endless theoretical dull texts? How often do we get the feeling we don’t need to know what we are learning and immediately forget it after the tests?
Does learning things make me happier?
Yes. But not immediately.
It may seem, at first sight, rather contradictory: knowledge is so many times the cause of great distress, yet an ignorant life appeals to no one. It is true that knowledge comes with a disturbing counterpart: our mind, once carefree and lax is progressively filled with complicated concerns and questions. To be disturbed is not necessarily a negative thing, though, as these concerns and questions are what will guide our choices and actions and turn us into more conscious, independent individuals. Before a change has to be a moment of rupture and therefore before our growth a lot of these moments must happen.
Having a good education (and I stress the word good) means to be provided with the tools to gain the ability to think and to not be easily manipulated. It’s an enriching experience that puts us in front of a wide range of information, often contrastive, that will inevitably collide at some point to what was previously stored in our mindset. The ability to process these contradictions, to let go of superstitions and stereotypes, to reevaluate the prior beliefs is what makes a person evolve.
Interestingly enough, there has been some discussion around whether or not education should be more versed to “practical knowledge”, namely learning how to file taxes. This view claims that school is not directed enough to the real adult life – that it should prepare the children to be adults. This is assuming that reading Shakespeare, knowing History or learning Maths is not “useful” for one’s future. That way of thinking is flawed. It is extremely useful to know Shakespeare as he explores the biggest themes of the Human condition and therefore it helps us to know and understand ourselves and others better; when we know History we can better understand our present and therefore make more responsible decisions regarding our future; to learn Maths is to develop our abstract thinking and so on. Without these subjects, we are just very efficient robots filled with nothing but practical information. Learning how to be an adult is part of being an adult. Some things we are just going to figure out when the time comes. But we need the maturity, the cultural bagage and the critical approach we (hopefully) learn at school. It’s not something very intuitive for most people – to be curious and want to find out more. To be suspicious and want to confirm something’s veracity.
I believe it’s safe to assume that a good education can really be crucial into forming independent, informed and open-minded individuals who have critical thinking skills and aren’t afraid of letting old systems of belief go and creating new ones. School isn’t the only place to find education and knowledge – but it is the only way we can assure everyone has at least an opportunity to gain that. Knowledge is, in many ways to be powerful because firstly you’ll more easily point out flawed arguments and second of all, you’ll be presented with new choices and paths you didn’t consider before. A good education means, above all things, freedom. And without freedom one cannot truly be happy.