Human education opens the mind. If humankind has ever unanimously agreed on something then it is the power of education (no wonder when White supremacist, Nazi’s or any authoritarian regime wanted to come to power they first hacked and altered the education systems!).
The scenario today is that the world in 21st century has the most educated population and hence the most comfortable lifestyles that our predecessors could never imagine. Thanks, to the technological revolution and evolution, advanced degrees, deeper understanding of psychology and biotechnology. Over the last 65 years the global literacy rate increased by 4% every 5 years, from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015. In spite of this, we have a parallel degradation at a new level in our society. Every day brutal rape cases, sophisticated artificial intelligence attacks, ecological disruption (with fires and floods breaking out too often) clearly point in that direction.
To generalize the entire world population as uneducated literates would not be right. But the deluge of disinformation and the growing instability around the world – be it politics, economics, environment, physical and mental health, makes it imperative to address this turbulence by tracing it back to its root cause which is the human education system.
So, where are we going wrong? How are we a generation of uneducated literates?
Education vs. Literacy
Did you know Osama Bin Laden was a qualified civil engineer? And the famous American murderer Gary Gilmore had an IQ test score of 133? Yes that is true, but the more disturbing truth is that we as a generation fail to distinguish between education and literacy. Literacy is our ability to read and write. On the other hand education encompasses thinking, rationality, wisdom, ethics, sensibility and formation of good character. A degree in any field today is nothing more than the human mental faculties being engineered to read and write in a certain way. However, education is connoted with formal education more often than not. This blurs the line between the two which should have been kept distinct. Therefore, one can graduate as an ‘evil- genius’ but not ‘illiterate-moralist’. It is because the basis for having good grades is literacy and not education in its right sense, or even in accordance with its etymological meaning. And this has precisely become one of the founding reasons for the chaos in the 21st century world, as A.R. Upadhya puts, all literates are not educated and all illiterates are not uneducated.
Educated Literate or Prejudiced Literate
A literate person without a degree today is considered ‘uneducated’ even if the individual is an ethical, cultured, sophisticated, self reliant, well read and dignified being. While, a doctor who creates a ruckus by breaking traffic rules, a public officer who doesn’t mind a little pee on the roadside, or a professor who has no sense of basic etiquettes is considered ‘educated’. Are they educated literates in any way? Majority are not educated literates but prejudiced literates. Our notion of education has reduced its scope to mere literacy and learnedness, completely doing away with the concept of ethics and morality. It is all about flashing your degrees and universities. In fact, it is worth mentioning here that the glory that an educational institute gains because of the learning or brave achievement of some of the individuals (because of their own independent efforts) is trivialized because of the commercial mandates of these institutes that distribute a slice of that glory to all the lesser ones who have enough money to enter these institutes. This prejudiced behavior is highly problematic now than ever before because the 21st century educational institutes have produced too many individuals with shallow character and views that are now equipped with advanced knowledge. This approach becomes cradle to terrorism, red tapism and many other organized crimes. We need to redefine not just the education structure but more importantly our behavior and attitude to curb it.
One out of five sex offenders are university graduates amounting to 34.4%, and there are only 6% of them who have no academic background according to a recent survey. Who is really disoriented then – the uneducated or the educated? Education as we have come to use it now cannot be related to sanity. Never before did any generation so easily believe in conspiracy theories and was disillusioned to this extent (despite the fact that 89% of world population is literate now). Even today, a well educated refined army man or magistrate would have a mindset of having a line of daughters before a son pops out. We say women are at power with men but the number of female infanticide cases still has not reduced. What to do with such refinement and education then?
An alternate prism for why we still prefer to be uneducated literates is that it is easy to sit on a mountain than a needle, and morality is like a needle, it pricks you every time you go wrong. Hence our generation found it easier to ignore it. But where has it led us now. Behold the circus of the world then – where peaceful protests are ended with automatic gun fires in Nigeria, where American president Trump tells its citizens to drink disinfectant, when any political disagreement is considered anti national in India, when the royal house of Thailand thinks it is good time to regain authority by crushing democracy, thousands of Muslims are slaughtered in China, massive protests take over Brazil, a feminist artist is imprisoned for six years on trivial charges in Russia – highlighting only a few.
We are certainly a generation of uneducated literates who are in a crisis of confidence now. Good luck!