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Science, if you believe in science, tells us it’s natural for people to build on ideas we are comfortable with rather than seek out new ideas. We are attracted to information reinforcing what we already know, and that includes beliefs and concepts. Education is what exposes us to new ideas. Once a school teaches you the three R’s, its traditional role is to display all sides of important issues, to trick, bully, and seductively invite you, the student, into an alternate reality. One where you are forced to think objectively and critically. Learning is supposed to take us out of our comfort zone and confront us with contrary information.
One responsibility of elected leaders is to referee difficult arguments, to ensure both sides are explained, and in doing so build trust in our systems. However, too often politicians refuse to participate. Instead, they act as cheerleaders for whichever side offers them the most support in an effort to gain votes for future elections – even on occasions when this promotes havoc. It stems from the fact that our political systems are a popularity contest, and popularity favors those driven by ambition more than those who possess integrity and wisdom. As a result, when such people are elected their governments attempt to influence schools to promote the favoured ideology in an effort to solidify their popularity.
Educational institutions exist to display the importance of facts, even the ones we find repulsive. To show us the importance of truth, and how we recognize both objectivity and bias. If schools refuse to do this and only present one side of an argument, you are no longer being educated, you are being indoctrinated.
Some people complain that confronting controversial issues is hurtful and traumatic. These issues might “trigger” mental anguish, especially with young people. This may be true, but does avoiding the confrontation solve the problem? Can we guarantee these issues will never have to be faced? Who is going to protect these people for a lifetime and how will that “protection” impact their vision of reality? What, indeed, is maturity beyond gaining an understanding of reality? Trauma is the shock of exposure to brutal realities. A shock intensified when society has immersed itself in comforting lies. Too often our present-day educational institutions believe the way to defend against trauma is to better hide the realities and further deepen the lies.
To me, this is not just wrong-headed but an invasion of our freedom. Shielding people from information that could impact their future may lead to them making poor decisions. If enough people make poor decisions governments can justify stepping in and taking away their right to make those decisions. When leaders tell us they are reducing our freedoms for our own protection, be frightened. In the end what you may be left with is a life full of ignorance, anxiety, and fear.
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