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Entry 20 – What is “liberal” education, and how do I keep it away from my kids?

December 13, 2009

We are quickly coming to a close on all the topics I wanted to cover with that lunch last year with my family (see Entries 1 and 2).  There is just really one more thing I wanted to address that came up at that lunch.  Some in my family have speculated that I must have been “corrupted” during my undergraduate and graduate school years from “liberal professors”.  Some even go so far to say that they are glad that they and their children never went off to college and got “poisoned” by these said professors.  I’m not really sure they quite understand just how insulting that kind of sentiment is to me, and I would imagine anyone else who has ever decided to go to college for additional education. 

Granted, people can abuse the privilege of getting a college degree.  They can not take the experience seriously.  They can waste all of their four years on fraternity parties and alcohol, and not give a second thought to how incredibly important it is to understand history, science, mathematics, art, literature, and the entire human experience.  And also granted that it doesn’t require someone to get that knowledge from within the confines of a university or college.  One can just as easily go to their local library and do the exact same thing free of charge.  It’s just that in our society, we have set aside the cultural norm of letting 18 to 24 year olds (or thereabouts) spend about 4 years of their lives involved in intensive study of the things that we as a society deem important (i.e. the same list above, history, science, mathematics, and the like).  

Insinuating though that people who go off to college simply lose their faith in the supernatural because a professor professes “liberal” ideas is really quite a disingenous and unreasoned argument.  It also completely discounts a human being’s ability to think and reason in the first place.  If I took everything I heard from my professors as “the truth” I would be doing a disservice to myself and society.  The point of college, and really any kind of education anywhere, in my humble opinion, is to help the student think on their own, critically analyze ideas, and see if the ideas work or don’t work.

Sure, there are facts and figures to learn, but at the end of the day, if you can read a newspaper, watch a television show, have a conversation with someone, and know how to find out for yourself if things you’ve read or heard are correct, then you are pretty much well on your way to being a completely self-sufficient, self-correcting, self-actualized human being.  And, I might add, a productive part of any society. 

I didn’t have very good critical thinking skills going into my undergraduate education, and even today, I still feel as if I have a long way to go to becoming gifted in terms of thinking critically.  But I believe the process has started for me, and the journey of learning is one of the most amazing journeys I’ve been able to make. 

Again, going off to college and graduate school do not automatically qualify you for obtaining said critical thinking skills.  Those are hard fought, so to speak, by the individual, and a four year institution piece of paper does not guarantee that that kind of learning took place.  What does guarantee the learning process took place is if the person can use reason and logic in the defense of their beliefs about the world in everyday conversation at the workplace and at home.     

 Now I have family members that believe in the supernatural wholeheartedly, and are incredibly financially successful at what they do.  Some have started businesses from the ground up, literally.  Some have kids and grandkids that are just an absolute joy to be around.  These same family members have other family members that love them back and care deeply about them (myself included).  Some of these family members never went to college, but are just as smart, and in many cases, much smarter than someone who did.  Some have even studied many different aspects of the human experience and come away richer, in both senses of the word, for it. 

I would hope that you, my fellow family members, who are still reading these entries could at the very least respect me for my ability to think on my own, and not automatically label me as a drone of the “liberal professors” who dole out their “liberal poison” to unsuspecting minds. 

My mind is not unsuspecting.  It has suspected for a long time that good ideas are difficult to come by, and incredibly precious once they have “arrived”.  I don’t criticize my supernaturally believing family members in their ways of thinking about life, or their choices as to how they’ve educated themselves.  I respect them.  I hope they can respect me.

Next time, my concluding comments on the “lunch” and a branch off to other topics that I find interesting. 

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bear permalink
    February 16, 2011 5:59 pm

    Poisoned by knowledge? Just like eating the fruit of a certain tree. To me, the fable of the Garden of Eden is a great myth for an atheist. Its message is quite clear:

    Paradise = Ignorance

    Once you are in the know, it is impossible for you to remain.

    I’m terribly sorry about the chasm this has placed between you and your religious family. It is unfortunate they are not able to be as loving and accepting as the ideals of their faith recommend.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      February 20, 2011 9:36 pm

      I appreciate it, Bear. Yeah, I truly do feel sorry for my family members that share this very close minded view of education in general, and acquiring scientific knowledge in particular. Will keep hoping that the ‘seeds’ planted take root and root out this kind of intellectual poison.

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