The Essence of A Real Education
By Olanrewaju Odesomi
The Serenghetti in East Africa is one of the Earth’s most stunning landscapes, and as well, is home to one of nature’s really enduring beauties – the Wildebeests. The sight of its unabashed and untamed beauty, which the darkly tone Wildebeest epitomises call to many, myself inclusive.
The Wildebeest, or shy beast as some love to call them is as much of the Serenghetti as its fiery sun and open landscape and their migration every year is one of the world’s true moving wonders; a testament to tradition and never changing mindset. The migration in search of grass and water has become a yearly phenomenon now extensively covered by the media.
What amazes me more than the graceful magnetism with which they move and how their movement of purpose and sheer quantity glisten against the smiling sun, is their lack of collective preservation. Every year, the Lions await them – hiding behind tall grasses, patiently waiting. And every year, the Lions employ the same tactics of divide and conquer – where they suddenly charge at the Wildebeests, mainly to destabilize them and in the process, look for the weakest, or the youngest to attack. And every year, like clock work, it works, as the strong, and fast, leave the young, and/or the slow to the guts of the Lions, even though they easily outnumber the Lions, sometimes by ten thousand to ten.
All Animals by default, are born with a survivor instincts, or are made by default to operate under ‘natural selection’, where the strongest feeds on the weakest, and everyone is for himself, and learning from history is a strange proposition. Humans, like other animals, are born of a default setting that starts with I, and ends with ME.
Iwant so, so, and so. Everyone is against ME…No one gets ME, and we then act from a subconscious, myopic angle, where we fail to see beyond our noses but see ourselves and perspective as the singular most important, revealing thing in the world. But what has separated us from animals, and took us from the caves to the edge of space has been our collective learning, and education, and the idea that what happens to one, is a disservice to many.
Education, to me, is everything you learn besides that which is taught in class. It is what you remember and what shapes you when everything else you’ve learnt is long gone and forgotten. It is how knowledge reshapes your life lessons, and coordinates your mantra. It is that which teaches you what the most important thing in life is.
Our default setting is destructive, selfish, and prejudiced and what it does is, it makes us see ourselves; family and friends; tribe, religion, and belief system as the peak of human intelligence, endeavors, ability and comprehension. We are wired to act subconsciously in such manner.
So, the essence of a real education is to help us stay aware and conscious of our biases and default settings, and if possible, help us get rid of these beliefs. What education should do is wither away at our inborn prejudices, replacing them with curiosity and consciousness.
Education, as much as it is learning, is also unlearning: unlearning our default system and prejudices, while learning to be aware and conscious. David Foster Wallas in his now legendary commencement address: “This is Water,” said
“…the value of a real education…has nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real, and essential…”
It is not the quantity, but rather, the quality of our knowledge that makes us conscious. And being conscious arms us with the ability to know what is important in life.
In as much as I don’t know why we are here, or the meaning of life, but I align, and strongly too, with Charles Bustoski words that “…we are here for different reasons, and yet the same reasons…”, and enlightenment is what helps us understand we are all united in our differences, and each every one of us, may be different in age, look, race, education, and skill, are all here to share the same human experience.
The value of any education should be to help us see alternatives, and make us aware that reality is not limited to that which we can see currently, but rather, to help us “imagine immensities”, and realize that there can be, and should be better alternatives.
Areal education should open our eyes to new ways of perceiving things. It should also help us know that we know not everything. It takes a certain kind of education to make us understand that certain things should, and are allowed to be different.
A lot of us make the mistake of thinking formal education was meant to elevate the holder in a class system, and we couldn’t be more wrong.
Instead, what education should do is enlighten and stretch us continuously to the point of awareness, and help us see the importance of each individual in the world, whether schooled or not. But unfortunately, many of us belief formal education caps us the right to lord over, or look down on anyone without it, or without the level of ours, and see them as inferiors.
In reality, any human, alone, no matter his level of skill, intellectual sagacity and knowledge is infinitely small and limited, especially when taken into account the universe and cosmos.
Senecasaid “The most important knowledge is that which guides the way you lead your life…”
An individual has little to go on, alone, except through the channel of our common identity, and inter-connectivity. And here, l’m not against creative independency. No. Infact, I ensue its values, and place as one of the concrete pillars holding human development. But even that depends on what Albert Einstein called “Social Cohesion”.
Scientist, and one of the 20th century ardent thinkers, Carl Sagan, extols more light on it when he said
“…i think if we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are, and where we came from, we will have failed…if we know only one kind of life, then we are extremely limited in our understanding, even of that kind of life. If we know only one kind of intelligence, then we are extremely limited, knowing even that kind of intelligence…but seeking our counterparts elsewhere, broadening our perspective, even if we do not find what we are looking for gives us a framework in which to understand ourselves far better…”
The essence of getting any sort of education, in my opinion, is curiosity, and open mindedness. Education never should make us sure of our understanding, nor should it make us grossly skeptical, as even the later indicates an operation from a default setting of old ideas, where nothing new has gotten to us. Education should remind us of that which we don’t know, as every creation started from a place of ignorance and belief in alternatives.
Ignorance, accompanied by curiosity, and the ability to visualize immensities are the ingredients that cooks up discovery. So, any education, no matter the type or length, that leaves us with certainty, either of our superior knowledge, or of what reality really is, is somewhat limited in its scope, and dangerous too.
Getting a real education leads to human freedom – either mentally, or physically. And it also helps us to choose our attitude in any given scenario, whether in an argument, or especially when life happens. We can either beg to differ respectively, or resort to name calling, or the gang up mob mentality now pervasive on social media. Human freedom, as it is the ability to make up your mind, is also the ability to change your mind. That said, we also need humility to make us understand we can’t be right all the time.
A real education should leave us with the ability to respect everyone’s opinion, agreeing to disagree, without chopping off one another’s dignity, or going out of our way to blind the other’s sunshine. Awareness, and staying in consciousness helps us stop pretending our harsh words does not have impact on others and instead makes us increase our empathy, and shared existence, putting us on our way to being ‘someone that does not offend by superiority’.
Only small, ‘uneducated men’, stop others from standing tall. One of the redeeming factors of education is to teach us better ways of solving matters, besides the use of brawn. You cant shake with a hand, and at the same time use it to give a blow.
The real essence of an education can be likened to an Artist working on a log of wood – with a chisel, meticulously scrapping away at the edges, until, finally, a beautiful bird leaps out. So too does education – it quietly cuts away at our default settings, and subdues the prejudiced mind, while improving the heart. Are you still a log of wood occupying space, or is the essence of your being about taking flight? – That is the question a good education asks.