I know that I know nothing – ipse se nihil scire id unum sciat
He himself thinks he knows one thing, that he knows nothing (Socrates)
Education is learning what you didn’t even know that you didn’t know
The word education is derived from the Latin term ‘Educatum’, which means the act of teaching or training or to lead out. In a wider context, however, it penetrates and influences almost every aspect of our lives, from birth onwards. Education affects what kind of people we and our families will become.
Education is everywhere and it is supposed to be available for everybody. We can read, hear and see education and its diverse multi-cultural and multi-media implications and implementations in books, theatres, films and advertisements, as well as in kindergarten, schools, and universities, at work, all over the Internet and in all aspects of daily life. Across the world media are saturated with a variety of educational information, research reports and teaching methods.
Our need for education is increasing rapidly. The basic need is significantly enhanced by the advancement of science and technology. In other words, advances in science and technology mean that the workforce needs to be better educated.
Educational systems worldwide are changing in an attempt to meet this demand, supported by governments and private providers.
Meeting the increasing demand for education requires novel methods and sometimes unorthodox approaches to transferring knowledge to the next generation.
The most significant changes in educational systems occurred during the last century although change has been continuous from the very earliest times.
Education, religion and morality are the most significant components of human society. In this work the terms religion refers to all religions, as we will not discuss the differences between Christianity, Judaism, Islam or any other religions; neither will we discuss the influence of specific religions and their associations with particular ethnic groups.
The discussion here focuses on the impact of religion and morality on education and on the relationships among them.
Throughout human history religion has had considerable impact on our way of life and societies throughout the world have benefited from education and knowledge.
Religious leaders are concerned about the increase in secular scientific education as they believe it may have a negative impact on religious faith. This concern is corroborated by social scientists who argue that educational and scientific advancement can lead to reduction or even loss of religious faith.
My observations indicate that there is a clear asymmetry between biblical literalism and secular education. A biblically literate qualified person will not be as open to carrying out or accepting the findings of secular scientific research as his or her counterpart. In other words, a scientifically literate individual will be more open to, and accepting of biblical studies than a biblically literate person would be with respect to scientific knowledge and research.
This asymmetry is obvious in many mixed societies, such as Israel. This observation also suggests that a person who has had a secular education is more inclined to absorb biblical influences than the biblically literate person to absorb secular influences.
We face several problems when we investigate religion and morality, especially when dealing with the claim that there is a conflict between the two. It is sometimes claimed that morality is embedded in religion, or that religion is moral, but a moral education does not have to be a religious one.
There are, of course, obvious differences between religion and morality, especially with respect to their objectives and aims. The purpose of moral education in schools is to nurture virtue and to start a cultural conversation about certain moral issues, which are part of our traditions.
In modern times education has become dependent on economic and technological developments.
However the essence and the meaning of life come from morality and religion rather than materialism.
Religious leaders argue that without a religious component to education we might lose our ability to discuss virtue, love, self-sacrifice, community duties and justice. The absence of religion from educational curricula is generating hostility amongst religious groups and may come to divide communities and start unnecessary cultural wars.
Atheism asserts that there is no link between morality and religious behaviour and that we should therefore teach about morality without reference to religion. Religious groups demonstrate by their practices the falseness of the claim that morality is independent of religion and therefore there is no need to distinguish between them. By practicing the religious beliefs, there are many psychological influences in the morality arena. In other words, endorsement of religious beliefs entails a specific perspective on morality.
After my family immigrated to Israel from Hungary I attended the religious school at the Orthodox Chasidic quarter of Bnei-Brak called Wischnitz. It was a small village named after Wischnitza, a town in the Ukraine. The teacher, who was also the Rabbi complained to my father that I was disturbing the peace by constantly asking questions. I couldn’t accept the Rabbi quoting from the Bible, “Naaseh V’Nishma”, which means “first we’ll do and then we’ll hear and understand” or, in plain English,
“Just do what I tell you to do, explanation will follow”… I wanted the explanation first…
History clearly demonstrates that there is a compulsion to bring religion and morality or the lack of it into politics and that this makes for a dangerous combination. One of the reasons for involving God in fights, conflicts and wars is to unite as many active and non-active believers behind one’s cause, whatever that may be.
Let us illustrate this with a small-scale example. Assume that in a small village somewhere people have blond, black, red or white hair. The four hair colours are distributed evenly among the people of the village. The blonds don’t like the blacks. The blacks don’t like the whites and nobody likes the reds, so there is complete harmony…
The only thing that unites the blacks, reds and whites is their religion; they believe in EGO God Almighty, whereas the blonds consider AGO as God. The villagers built two houses to worship these two gods.
All the villagers have small farms on the same tract of land drawing from the same source of water. The blond men are more creative and invest their knowledge, money and energy in their farms, working day and night with their spouses in the fields. The rest of the village men are lazy, smoking pipes and playing cards; only black, red and white women work in the fields.
One day two neighbours, a blond and a black have a dispute over garden pests.
It is nothing serious and it should be resolved quickly and amicably, but it escalates into a big fight involving some of the protagonists’ neighbours.
The reds and the whites just smile, as they are not involved in the conflict and don’t like either the blacks or the blonds.
The case is eventually brought to court and a jury composed of equal numbers of blonds, blacks, whites and reds is selected. During trial the blond farmer claims that snakes, scorpions and other pests from his black neighbour’s farm are destroying his garden, getting into his house and endangering his children. He says that he has several times asked his black neighbour to deal with the problem but that his neighbour just ignored him. To prevent the problem getting worse the blond farmer built a fence. Now his black neighbour is suing and asking that he be ordered to take the fence down as it disturbs the neighbour’s view and stops the neighbour walking through his yard as he was won’t to do.
It becomes obvious that the judge and the jury are going to support the blond farmer’s case and so the black farmer plays his last card. He claims that he has been unable to worship EGO because of the fence. He also claims that the blond farmer not only doesn’t believe in EGO, but has also been cursing almighty God and that if all the blonds were to build fences this would make it difficult for anyone to worship EGO. Religion unites the majority of the jury against the blond and he loses the case.
As long as the case was a local dispute between neighbours about responsible farming, it could be resolved by the parties directly involved. However when it became a religious issue, it involved and united villagers behind their respective faiths. They were prepared to do a lot to achieve their goals, especially if their actions were supported by their religious leaders.
I had a religious and conservative education, and later a scientific and secular education and this has led me to believe that moral education must be separated from religious education if it is to be rational, independent and free.
Religion and morality should be taught in an agreed and appropriate manner if societies are to be healthy, strong and harmonious.
The signing of the Magna Carta (Great Charter) on June 15th 1215 was an important education-related event. The charter was agreed between King John of England and a group of rebel barons as part of peace negotiations. It guaranteed that the rebel barons would not face imprisonment, promised them justice and exemption from certain taxes and payments levied by the crown.
The parties did not honour their respective commitments and later the charter was annulled by Pope Innocent III, leading to the First Barons’ War.
It is interesting to note that the mistrust between the parties was such that the barons insisted that the agreement should be written. They realised that oral promises would not hold.
These events took place at a time when the vast majority of the population was illiterate. The production of such a detailed written chart was therefore a significant achievement.
Magna Carta, which was a political agreement, has become an international symbol of freedom. Its consequences can be seen in later English history, the history of the United States, and the modern world. It has been researched, quoted and used by lawyers and historians ever since it was written. Magna Carta was an influence on the American colonists and the American Constitution which was written in 1787 and became the supreme law of the United States.
Analysis of the foundations of American colonial education in the seventeenth century makes it clear that the education system was significantly influenced by European teachers and intellectuals. This is not surprising as the early colonisation of America was mainly by Europeans. They believed that the primary goal of education was to save souls and so most education was based on the scriptures. The first schools to be established followed the Puritan tradition. Some groups of European immigrants tried to maintain their religious beliefs, morals and even their original language.
Teaching was informal and performed within the family circle, usually from books and publications with basic references from the Bible.
The change from theoretical to practical and more up-to-date education began during industrialisation in the nineteenth century.
It was illegal to educate slaves, but although this law was applied more strictly in the South it was not universally adhered to.
Most schools were for boys only and girls were educated at home or in all-girls schools where they learned domestic skills such as sewing and cooking.
If one could read one could be a teacher. Teachers were using the Old and the New Testaments and students were required to memorise as much as possible. Bible knowledge was the measure of success.
Teachers were responsible for inflicting harsh corporal punishments on all those who couldn’t follow their instructions.
At about the middle of the nineteenth century education was enhanced by use of dictionaries and limited maps of world geography. The curriculum was extended to include certain patriotic and moral subjects in order to unite students behind American nationalism and instill in them a shared set of virtues.
Two hundred years later there were significant evolutions and revolutions in the education systems of the USA.
A lot has been done to improve the USA education but a lot remains to be done. The graduation rate should be higher, particularly among Black and Hispanic students. The number of dropouts is too high and at present too many students fail to graduate on time. Teachers should be more highly qualified and should be paid more to attract and retain better quality teachers into the profession.
This is very important as the quality of teaching is one of the main determinants of educational success.
In general, high schools should be responsible for educating and preparing students for after graduation studies. This phase of education is critical to students’ futures and to the future of the nation.
Civic education is essential if future generations are to understand, be familiar with and cherish democratic values.
The last decade has seen the advent of the Internet, social networks and other technological innovations and a decaying of our morality. Materialism is the new religion and the aim of education has become the generation of financial wealth. This has resulted in certain professions being neglected in favour of others. Subjects such as law and certain technologies are now favoured over social and moral studies.
We cannot distinguish between money and education. Most of us seek to acquire an education in order to earn more money, which will enable us to have a better life. This is the logic which governs basic and intermediate levels of education; however a lot of money is required to access higher education at famous, affluent universities and institutes.
This is one of the reasons for the polarisation of societies, the process by which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer.
The rich and famous are heroes and role models, to be followed and envied; at least that used to be the case, today things are changing.
Television, reality shows and advertisements are shaping the minds of our young children. The distance between parents and children and parental supervision has changed as well. The increasing availability of previously censored material such as pornography has a negative effect on our children’s development and their understanding of right and wrong.
Certain forms of education or lack of education have a devastating effect on our society. Analysis of the origins and causes of violence, terror, robbery, murder and other crimes indicates that bad education, lack of education and ignorance are major factors.
The porn industry requires ever-changing faces and employs or rather exploits many young girls, mainly aged 18-21 years or younger. These girls come from middle or lower class families living in small towns and villages; some of them have been abused by family members or neighbours, some are runaways and never finished school. Most of them spend only a very short period of time in the porn industry, but that short period changes the rest of their life for the worse.
The economic law that where there is a demand there will be a supply suggests that there will be an endless supply of young girls coming to work in the industry.
Legislation will not eliminate this industry, but with the help of parents and schools it can reduce its size and power.
Most social studies put the blame and the responsibility for those girls’ exploitation mainly on their parents. Involved parents, especially a strong father, are very important to prevent those girls to leave home. Parents should enforce appropriate rules and create an environment where certain behaviours are not tolerated. In educating the next generation we, as parents, must set the rules in order to preserve our beliefs and morality.
It is acceptable and even predictable that we will have questions about everything we encounter in our earthly life. The love of wisdom or philosophy leads us to philosophise about our way of life, the many problems we encounter, our values, our existence and our possible future.
The future is unpredictable; however, it is possible to guess at likely developments in the educational area. The application of technology to educational processes and models has the potential to revolutionise current educational methods.
Implanted and wearable devices are another exciting application of technology. In the future, at a higher level of the scientific applications in education we may see nano-robots acting as teachers in higher education.
Developments in genetic engineering may enable certain educational capabilities and maybe even knowledge to be embedded or engineered at gene level so that the individual is guaranteed to be smart or intelligent.
At present we can only imagine what such technological developments would do to global educational systems and teaching methods.
Unfortunately, when evil and ignorance meet we have what I call a social bomb. The nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche believed that evil had a negative effect on human behaviour. Evil is promoting those humans that are weak in spirit and it will suppress the strong ones. He claimed that evil arose out of the negative emotions of hate, jealousy and envy. Ignorance is often used as an excuse for evil deeds or behaviour which causes harm without justification. This excuse depends on the assumption that we are not responsible for our ignorance. Some would argue that evil is actually ignorance that is generated as a result of self-deception.
I would argue that the only way to reduce threat posed by this ‘social bomb’ is to educate people in order to reduce ignorance and self-deception.
I am worried about the next generation. Society must tackle the extreme inequalities between the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated and the increase in racism.
Children of affluent or upper-middle class families do not have the necessary and expected motivation to learn. Sometimes they display a reckless disregard for education whilst also neglecting their physical appearance and health. Increasing consumption of junk food and lack of physical exercise will lead to significant health problems in the future. We are already seeing rises in obesity, use of alcohol and drugs and other health problems in young people. These and related consumption behaviours will have an impact on global warming and the extent to which the earth is subject to a greenhouse effect. We must educate the next generation so that they have the multidisciplinary understanding needed to save our planet, earth, which is essential to our future survival.
We also have to improve our interpersonal relationships and accept the different and the unusual. Respect and tolerate all humans and living creatures: Love Thy Neighbour.