3.7. The Problem with “More Education”

We need to be suspicious of any approach that leads to stubborn, self-righteous grandstanding—or an excuse not to invest real effort.

As we wrack our brains for how we can resolve our differences and reach a consensus on how to solve our problems…there’s a suggestion that keeps popping up again and again:

“We need more education.

“We need to educate people about [this or that issue].”

I’m not saying there aren’t issues that need to be better publicized. And I’m not saying there isn’t a ton of misinformation and spin out there.

But the way this suggestion is used—as a way to put all the blame on some group of people, and then either assume some phony noble burden to condescendingly lecture everyone about your beliefs…or throw up your hands and go watch Netflix because there’s nothing you can do until those people get “educated”—is thoroughly unhelpful.

It’s a step up from believing the people you’ve decided to blame are inherently evil or irredeemable…but it’s still a long way from treating them like real, thoughtful, goodhearted human beings, with their own complex ideas and beliefs.

We need to be suspicious of any argument that encourages us to treat people like passive, one-dimensional dupes—instead of the active, multifaceted agents they really are.

We need to be suspicious of any approach that leads to stubborn, self-righteous grandstanding—or an excuse not to invest real effort, real engagement, and real reflection.

And we especially need to be suspicious of any position that more or less insists that we uniquely possess the truth, that we already believe and do what we should, that we’re right and they’re wrong—and no progress is going to be made until they totally upend their false belief systems and convert to our side.

In this way, the clamor for more “education” is pretty much the secular equivalent of religious folks insisting that you have to convert to their religion—because you can’t possibly have the right beliefs or morals or “values” unless you do.

I don’t believe any human belief system—even if you want to say it originates from an infallible God, or the scientific method—is infallible. Because we humans are fallible. And our thinking, as we try to make sense of this world, is riddled with omissions, oversimplifications, distortions, deceptions—and even flat-out hallucinations.

We don’t ever grasp the truth directly. We only have these crude, fallible mental shortcuts that we clumsily stitch together—in hopes that they can guide us through our crazy, complicated lives.

But our ideologies and institutions want very much to convince you that they really do possess the whole truth.

It’s an appealing argument—because we’d like to think we can just do what some simple system of beliefs tells us to do, and always end up doing the right thing.

But deep down, we know things are more complicated than that.

We know people who give their whole brains over to one belief system become narrowminded, stubborn, and impossible to work with.

Don’t be one of those people!

Have some humility. Have conversations with others to genuinely engage—not to assert dominance, demand orthodoxy, or talk to them like children.

Treat yourself and others as thoughtful, well-intentioned, fallible people doing our best to figure this stuff out—and maybe, even if we don’t all believe the same things, we can still reach some agreements, and work together for the common good.


This is the 51st in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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