I think it is neither a right or a privilege. Literacy is a necessity. Like air, food, and water are essential for a living individual, so are literacy and education for for a living society. Without these basic essentials, civilization withers back to, at best, an agrarian existence, people spending all day in the fields, hoping that disaster stays far enough away to let them live another day. Just as a minimal amount of air, food, and water can sustain a living thing, a minimal education would allow a group of people to muddle along and continue as they are into the future.
But, given enough food to have all the best nutrition, enough water to use extra for sanitation, a safe place to sleep at night, an individual, relieved of the stress of mere survival, can thrive and grow, and pass along that benefit to other individuals. A healthy mother has healthy children.
Just the same, a society, given a good education, full literacy, and an ability to reason and think critically, think beyond immediate needs of survival, can grow. A healthy mind has a healthy culture. Given an opportunity to cultivate new ideas, ideas that stretch far beyond merely moving from cradle to grave while birthing offspring in the middle. Maybe some people would rather live merely as small village farmers or nomadic gatherers, as most people once did, but we have come so much farther. And we have much farther to go. I believe the only way out is through, and the key to the door is education.
"As people invented new tools for new ways of living, they simultaneously created new realms of ignorance; if everyone had insisted on, say, mastering the principles of metalworking before picking up a knife, the Bronze Age wouldn’t have amounted to much. When it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering.
Where it gets us into trouble, according to Sloman and Fernbach, is in the political domain. It’s one thing for me to flush a toilet without knowing how it operates, and another for me to favor (or oppose) an immigration ban without knowing what I’m talking about."
This article is a fairly long read, but well worth your time. We humans are not nearly as good at reasoning as we think we are. It's up to each of us to constantly ask ourselves "why do I think what I think, why do I think I know what is true". It's not easy, but it's a skill that is perhaps more essential to learn than any other as we move further into the 21st century.
Give it a look, Mr. Bridges makes interesting points and a compelling case. I think it's essential for our progress and survival to heed the call for level-headedness. As I occasionally give in to reading comments on posts or what people who share news items say about what they share, I am struck by the raw and violent hate I see coming from all sides of an argument. Every disagreement seems to immediately escalate into all out war. If that can't be stopped, we may as well take up arms now and get our next civil war over with.
I do have one point of disagreement with Bridges. From his closing: "We don't know what's right and wrong, you know, completely, it's our opinion." In matters of personal judgment I agree, but where science and scientific consensus can more completely inform our judgments, I think there is much less room for opinion. And that perhaps is one area that is now causing so much of the hate. I think many people are not comfortable being confronted with the idea that science can invalidate their opinions. As a theme this year, the need to communicate scientific consensus better than we do is ongoing. I'm still not sure what the answer is, but someone once told me sometimes all you can do is live as a good example, and don't sink into the mud with the arguing and hate. I think The Dude would abide.
Growing up I thought my generation would be more open than the previous one, but there is so much raw, gut-level hate flying about in our public forums this year I begin to doubt my feelings. Are less people racist, and the ones who still are, are just a lot louder than they've ever been? Or is the situation worse than it was before Obama took office? They call him muslim, foreigner, socialist, communist, dictator, liar, fascist, even anti-christ… all because they cannot openly call him nigger. His election did not end the discussion about racism, it opened the final book on the subject we were afraid to open, and 50 years after Dr. King marched on Selma, there is still a long way to go.
In 1995 Walmart pulled t-shirts from its stores that said "Someday a woman will be president" for fear of offending. A whopping ONE complaint was actually received. The store claimed the short was counter to it's family values. Mother, wife, caretaker, live giver, lover, it's all good as long as she stays in the kitchen.
It saddens me to think that 100 years from now, gay people will still be attacked for holding hands in public. I don't know what the answer is. At one time I thought hate would just die out when it was no longer codified by law, but now I think I'm wrong. For civilization to thrive and survive, we have to be better today than we were yesterday.
It's really pretty simple. Be human to each other.
There's been a lot of horrible things happening in the world lately. There have always been bad times and good. Right now it's hard to hope. The world seems ever closer to a crisis which we might not be able to turn away from. Carl Sagan said it best years ago and I'll let him say it again.
Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar", every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
- Carl Sagan