Column by Vahram G. Diehl.
Exclusive to STR
The essence of culture is formed by ideas that are passed down through the generations. Politics, religion, customs, language, etiquette, fashion, music, sports, cuisine, and every other ideology that distinguishes one place from the next constitutes culture. Everything about culture has developed respective to each group of people because it has at one point served a useful role. As societal progress accelerates through the availability and use of technology, we increasingly run into the problem of outdated and contradictory cultural inheritances clashing with one other.
What was once determined by those with the greatest force or fame now faces competition from influences around the world. We see vain and arrogant attempts today by national leaders and political activists to close cultural borders and limit the availability of options through trade restrictions and anti-immigration policies. As these mostly arbitrary ideas and ways of thinking make war with each other and eventually claim territory in new minds, one grand importance remains unchanged in its true importance and utility.
The part of culture that we call “education” never can alter in principle, only in the efficiency of its application. A true and right education consists of obtaining a greater understanding of cause and effect principles of reality, and nothing more. As only an individual mind can come to understand cause and effect, education is necessarily an individualist concept. The idea of a “mass education” or “cultural education” is inherently flawed. Individuals become educated, and when enough of them live in the same area, we say that the collective has been educated. Education is always a choice; no one can be forced to gain new insight and understanding. A man may intimidate you into memorizing an equation or a verse, but he can never through superior strength wrestle into you the curiosity to comprehend reality.
Though the two are consistently confused, education is fundamentally apart from indoctrination. Masses can be indoctrinated without active choice or consent, for indoctrination only works when it is provided as the path of least mental resistance. When all of one’s neighbors believe in Yahweh, or that the Nazi holocaust never happened, or that taxing the rich helps the poor, believing the same as they do will require less intellectual work than arriving at any other conclusions. One can be indoctrinated with any idea, but can only independently arrive at right conclusions through education. Indoctrination can as well be enforced on the weak-minded; education cannot.
While one could indoctrinate a bound hostage to believe in Newton’s laws of motion by putting a gun to his head, one could never force him to actually learn the principles that Newton identified and generalized to the whole universe through experimental observation. Nor could one coerce him to willingly go through the mental steps of drawing these same correlations to other yet unobserved aspects of reality. Indoctrination consists of low-initiative memorization of conclusions. Education can only occur when enough initiative exists to overcome ideological inertia and proceed through the necessary steps of drawing complex conclusions from simple premises. Even if one is indoctrinated with the right ideas, such as Newton’s laws, it still cannot be considered education until the rational individual mind is capable of arriving at that conclusion themselves as Newton himself did without external influence.
Understanding the fundamental distinction between indoctrination and true education sheds light on the problems of many of the cultural ideas that are passed on from generation to generation, as we see that most aspects of culture today have nothing to do with education and the individual discovery of right ideas. They are passed on to children and are considered true simply because most everyone else is already supporting them. It is a misnomer to say that one is receiving a “religious education” in church or temple or Sunday school. No one in any church I have ever heard of is being led through proper rational thought processes to arrive at logical conclusions based upon observable premises. They are being told only what to believe, what conclusions to memorize. In most societies, one is considered to be “educated” when he has memorized enough conclusions. The same applies to the current day's version of “political education,” or any other cultural baggage that is unnecessarily replicated in growing young minds, save one exception.
The only true method of discovery and education that has ever existed and ever can exist is called science. The scientific method is the only method which functions through the exclusive application of reason, and it requires that every individual participating go through the same journey of discovery that all innovators of the past did when they became the first to arrive at new conclusions.
Good science requires certain strength of character to be performed. In fact, doing science requires the same virtues as good parenting. One must possess incredible intellectual integrity and ambition; he must always be slightly discontent with his present level of understanding and willing to question everything he has thought to be true. He requires a total allegiance to intellectual honesty, never ignoring new evidence that invalidates even his most cherished and convenient beliefs. He must maintain throughout his whole life the innate childlike curiosity that is typically lost when one reaches the end of their official cultural “education,” such as college graduation. He must learn to temper this very same curiosity with a healthy dose of skepticism in all things, to avoid falling victim to his own haphazard and reckless desire to gain new knowledge on things unfamiliar. Most importantly, he must acquire enough self-confidence and self-esteem to be totally secure in knowing that he does not and can never actually “know” anything with complete certainty, and that he may have spent his whole life chasing a fruitless dream.
With globalization and cross-cultural influences abounding all around us at exponential growth rates, many of us will find ourselves having to be exposed to and raising our children in a world quite different from the one we grew up in and took for granted once we became acclimated to it. The old ways of doing things will come to pass and be replaced by new ways, our parents’ archaic values will be found to be useless and new ones will have to be invented on the spot to keep the structural integrity of cultures and societies around the world intact. The one thing that will remain true throughout all the changes the future brings for us as a species will be the intuitive ethical code of respect for each other and true education. We must teach our children to value curiosity, ambition, intellectual honesty, reason, skepticism, and humility above all other cultural peculiarities that they may encounter as they develop and explore the world. If we fail in imparting these values upon them, they will themselves fail to keep up and adapt to the rapid changes we face as a species in the years to come.
It is senseless and futile to try to disprove every single cultural fallacy and guard our children and their impressionable minds from every form of harmful indoctrination and mysticism that exist and plague minds today. The most important role a parent can play is to teach them to fend for themselves intellectually. If we wish to preserve their unique personalities and individual identities in a world that seeks only to crush and assimilate, true education is the only tool we have. This requires all parents to step up to the plate and take on roles once delegated to outside professionals and socialized school systems. While they will have many teachers throughout their lives, their parents will be the most important educational influences they have until they reach the age of reason and can begin to rationally determine for themselves what is true and what is false. It is a parent’s job to guide them safely along this journey from total ignorance to a rational mindset capable of understanding reality as individual volitional beings.
Parents have the most important job in the world, at one of the most difficult points in history. We who have perspective enough to realize this ought best to prepare ourselves well for the mountainous task at hand of ensuring their physical and intellectual integrity. Those who excel as educators have a wonderful opportunity before them to begin producing the tools and materials that will become the brain food and intellectual inputs for the free-minded youth of the world. Let the education revolution begin with your own children.