The freedom of truth

By Greg Ellis

“Only the educated are free.”

– Epictetus

Our campus reverberates with the energy of an educational institution–an environment that fosters self-improvement through learning. The aphorism that the truth will set you free seems to sit comfortably in the realm of education. If the truth is attained via learning or at least endeavored towards then an education would increase one’s perceived liberty. In some ways, though, education is like religion. I can barely remember a time when I was a faithful person. Sitting in church to blindly observe the teachings of someone else, repeating phrases, mantras of control under a subtext of fear. We seemed to be cramming for the finals, a formal passing of judgement on the sum of our goods and evils. Sitting in class as the semester began the parallel emerged, a parallel that drew into doubt a system analogous to the operation of one I left abandoned many years ago. It seemed that education was but a robust form of indoctrination.

Rebellion and questioning of authority in education systems long disappeared with the wind of dissent for those who pursue post-secondary. There is a contrived compliance in our classrooms, one that in the process of breeding apathy acts as the petri dish for the successful transfer of information from host to client, professor to student. The derision enjoyed by our teachers from grade school seems to have dissipated–their comical tendencies sewn carefully into a time when we challenged what was put before us. An Orwellian prophecy was occurring right before my eyes:I had become guilty of adopting before questioning, unequivocally repeating without verifying and assuming that everything in official form bound in an authoritative manner held a level of veracity that would allow it to be repeated in good conscience to friends. Those were crucial ideas and facts being passed on as the indisputable truth.

Sitting in class last week staring at the professor who lectured us on a relevant topic we desired to study, I began to feel as if I was at church again. The professor became the priest, my classmates the congregation, the subtext of fear the midterm examination or grades. I didn’t feel much more free as I became more educated. I myself knew that the indoctrination of education had fully taken a stranglehold on me–consistently witnessing myself parroting the opinions of professors and plagiarizing them as my own. Paraphrasing their ideas in conversation, each time they were repeated they had a voice outside of that classroom, a voice that resembled those who approach your house in black suits with the message of the lord in one hand and the goal of proselytization in the other.

Purported in education is a selling feature of opportunities, the educated are more free as they are eligible for opportunities the uneducated are not. Freedom can be loosely associated with happiness, yet it is more true today than ever before that ignorance is bliss.


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