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One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. -Nietzsche

  August 22, 2012

Education for Error

Schopenhauer was not just a clear headed thinker, but also had a big heart and wished to spare humanity of the time and effort typically spent in long repetition of perpetual error, misunderstandings, miseducation, popular fables, willful self-deception, and institutional ignorance praised as wisdom. He instructed:

Instead of developing the child's own faculties of discernment, and teaching it to judge and think for itself, the teacher uses all his energies to stuff its head full of the ready-made thoughts of other people. The mistaken views of life, which spring from a false application of general ideas, have afterwards to be corrected by long years of experience; and it is seldom that they are wholly corrected. This is why so few men of learning are possessed of common-sense, such as is often to be met with in people who have had no instruction at all.
...
No child under the age of fifteen should receive instruction in subjects which may possibly be the vehicle of serious error, such as philosophy, religion, or any other branch of knowledge where it is necessary to take large views; because wrong notions imbibed early can seldom be rooted out, and of all the intellectual faculties, judgment is the last to arrive at maturity. The child should give its attention either to subjects where no error is possible at all, such as mathematics, or to those in which there is no particular danger in making a mistake, such as languages, natural science, history and so on. And in general, the branches of knowledge which are to be studied at any period of life should be such as the mind is equal to at that period and can perfectly understand. Childhood and youth form the time for collecting materials, for getting a special and thorough knowledge of the individual and particular things. In those years it is too early to form views on a large scale; and ultimate explanations must be put off to a later date. The faculty of judgment, which cannot come into play without mature experience, should be left to itself; and care should be taken not to anticipate its action by inculcating prejudice, which will paralyze it for ever.
[On Education, Studies in Pessimism]
Academics eventually get around to discovering what greater minds knew long ago. Because academia is no longer concerned with awareness of what is already known, but rather attempts to create "unique" publications for the benefit of the academic's career, the past is effectively severed and all previous works, especially the best, are in essence destroyed for the sake of deliberate ignorance that allow the academic to attempt baby steps of no consequence while past knowledge is lazily discarded.
According to a recent paper by Andrew Shtulman and Joshua Valcarcel, however, we may not be able to replace old ideas with new ones so cleanly. Although science as a field discards theories that are wrong or lacking, Shtulman and Valcarcels work suggests that individuals -- even scientifically literate ones ones -- tend to hang on to their early, unschooled, and often wrong theories about the natural world. Even long after we learn that these intuitions have no scientific support, they can still subtly persist and influence our thought process. Like old habits, old concepts seem to die hard.
[Scientific American]

This destruction of education is merely modern and is not necessary, unless it is tolerated.


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