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  • Writer's pictureKaren Divya Shekar

The Arrogance of An Education

Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues. ~Confucius

I come from a family of self-made educators and doctors.

My maternal grandparents were both teachers, my grandfather on my father’s side was a teacher, my mother was a full-time high school teacher, and my father enjoyed a stint as a teacher at an institution, but worked full-time as an engineer. The rest of my family are doctors - one uncle and three aunts. In the present generation of my family, my sister works as a scientist and I work as an SEO content writer. Education has served my family very well indeed and enabled us to earn good paychecks, feed and clothe ourselves well and provide a roof over our heads to shelter us from the elements.

This present state of affairs would never have been possible had it not been for a good and sound education.

Both my grandfathers can be credited with turning around the trajectory of the lives of their offspring. My maternal grandfather was a poor man from a very low Indian caste called Nadar. Through sheer hard work and perseverance, he raised his children, who were informally educated till the ages of 8 and 9 respectively – one a teacher and the other a doctor – and gave them a good life of no want. He came from very little, but he managed to build wealth over time and through the help of the educated people in his life.

My paternal grandfather, too, was no different. He also worked his way up thanks to an education and raised his three children to be the best in their fields. My parents too raised us in the same way, little by little, bit by bit. My mother pressured my sister and me to study and work hard at school. She motivated us and helped us. She supported us and was there for us, helping us navigate the challenges of higher education till she was able.

This is probably the story of countless Indians, like myself, who owe it all to the changing times and availability of education. We were given an opportunity. We saw it and seized it. Some of us became very successful and changed forever the destiny of our families and the lives of generations to come.

Then why would a person like me, someone who owes everything to a good education, wake up one day and decide to write about the arrogance that education fosters in the minds of the educated?

There are just a few points I’d like to discuss. One of them is the obvious.

The obvious idea is that having been through a rigorous and difficult education system and coming out on top or successfully completing it, does give you a bit of an air of superiority, whether you care to admit it or not. You have, after all, trampled on various challenges, spent hours of your precious time revising and revising, and stretched your brain to maximum capacity, obviously that’s something that you should be proud of. Yes, be proud of yourself for going through that multi-disciplinary obstacle course, but never look down on those who weren’t able to complete that course the same as you.

You will be tempted to. You’ll feel proud of yourself and something inside you will say that having made it to the top 30% of the people in the world, you’re something, your opinion is something, your presence matters, and you matter – a little more than those who didn’t do as well as you.

But is that true?

I am tempted to remember the words of the wisest king in the world – King Solomon of Israel. This man had everything and nothing at the same time. He was satiated to the point of cloying. Solomon did say that we are no better than beasts, going to die the same as them. Then what will all that education count for, if all that’s going to happen to us is a dusty grave? We leave it behind for the next generation to make of it what they will - love or leave out.

Even though an education elevates us from bestiality to manliness, mankind and animals see the same unconquerable end – Death.

It’s going to come, whether you like it or not, seek it actively or not, are afraid of it or not. Death comes to all of us and when it does, that degree can’t save you. It can and has extended your life up to a point, but it doesn’t give you life forever. So, why look down on those who don’t have the same degree or educational background as you?

No amount of faith in science, education, and yourself can help you escape the Grim Reaper.

Ah! Death the Great Leveller.

Why does the education system give us the illusion of control? Why does the education system lead us to believe that the more we educate ourselves, the more infallible we are?

They say knowledge is power, but human beings have never been so knowledgeable as to predict the future, or better, control it. If we could, we could then promise our young on good faith that dreams do come true.

Schools do teach us cause and effect. Work hard and you’ll be successful. But will all that success ever take away the existential crisis that looms over your head?

If a very successful and better-educated person and I suffer from the same existential angst – for instance, what are we here for, why are we living, why were we born – what’s the difference between us, really?

Are the educated immune to the problems in life or better able to handle the angst than an uneducated person? I don’t believe they are. Yet, with glaring confidence, they act as though they were “masters of their fate” and “commanders of their destiny”.

No. We have never been able to correctly predict the future, whether using science, or worse, the occult. Our education does not give us the right to pretend to predict stock market trends, economic trends, or geopolitical trends accurately. We can’t say anything deterministic about the future, one way or another.

In fact, it gives us only the right to suppose and any man who walks on the basis of this supposition is heeding the advice of guesswork, conjecture and – more supposition.

I find the whole nature of predicting the course of mankind to be the arrogance of an education. Education may teach us cause and effect, very cleverly, but it has blinded our eyes to what Greek scholars called Fortune and Destiny.

These are by far the two most powerful forces working in our world today. Neither do we study these forces, nor do we believe in them, fearing that we will become a lazy race, blaming everything on what we can’t control.

We can’t control anything, sometimes not even the functioning of our own minds. Then why do educated people pretend like they do?

What triggered this piece was watching a video of Rishi Sunak saying that men are men and women are women, that’s common sense. Of course, I agree with him. It’s just mind-boggling how so many people do not. What kind of pseudo-intellectuality have we succumbed to that we cannot see and speak out about the obvious and simple things in life? We’ve been designed male and female.

What kind of education have the people in different parts of the world received, where they fail to see this one thing, that we are not a cat or a dog intrinsically?

This is a topsy-turvy world. Everything good has been thrown out. The good is called bad and the bad is called good. Our education and knowledge base have been warped by those in the power of it to push their agendas and personal fetishes.

If there is one thing that the education system of the day doesn’t teach us that is the virtue of being humble. I believe that it is an unteachable lesson, something that life itself will teach you sooner or later, should you choose to forget it.

If you aren't humble, whatever empathy you claim is false and probably results from some arrogance or the desire to control. But true empathy is rooted in humility and the understanding that there are many people with as much to contribute in life as you. ~ Anand Mahindra

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

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