One of the astonishing things about cultural evolution is the ways in which the meanings of words mutate. Sometimes, like Blinky the three-eyed fish, words shift subtly.
And sometimes, words come to mean the exact opposite of what they originally meant. Nowhere is that clearer than in the meaning of the word education.
If you research the origins of the word at The Online Etymological Dictionary, you will find that it derives from the Latin educare–to lead out. Education is supposed to be about drawing your thoughts out of you so that you can think for yourself. And anyone who has read some of the books from our Book List knows that education is astonishing.
But was that your experience of school? Probably not. In fact, most students’ experience of school is so far from being encouraged and guided to think for themselves that the word education now leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths. The word has come to have the same sort of taste to it as broccoli.
Many children feeeeeeeeeeel that school is DISGUSTING.
The issue though isn’t the broccoli. It’s the way we feed the broccoli. We could make eating the broccoli into a game for kids by pretending that the spoon is an airpline flying into their mouths. Or we could add some cheese sauce. It’s suddenly awesome. The basic problem isn’t what kids are learning in school. It’s the form of delivery. They’re being force-fed, and no one likes that. It’s coercive. This isn’t real education.
There’s another word for it: indoctrination. Rather than leading students out, we put a doctrine in.
Many people have shitty feelings around school because someone tried to shove information down their throats. That’s what Fundamentalists and Dictators do. They tell people what to think, and their followers blindly repeat what they say as gospel. And that, despite how it’s often presented, is not something you need to be religious to fall into doing. Doctrine can be communist, capitalist, atheist, social justice, Islamic, Christian, American, or Chinese. And like any abusive relationship, it can become comfortable because you know where you stand and you know what to expect.
Just as we can get stuck in abusive and coercive romantic relationships, we can get stuck in abusive and coercive intellectual relationships. These sorts of relationships are not only bad for those involved; they lock up people’s potential in the modern sense of the word inmate: “one confined to an institution.” The internet offers people the tools to break out, but many of us lack the intellectual confidence to access that information and break it down, and many of us seek to dominate others and assert our intellectual superiority–to put a doctrine in rather than be lead out and help to lead others out.
Mixed Mental Arts offers that education in the original sense of the word. Our goal is not to put any doctrine in. Our goal is to create a community where we all help to lead each other out of our limited ways of thinking.