The world at once reveals itself in all its plenitude to one who is willing to open his mind to the abundant amount of information and ideas available to him — yet not so open that one’s brain spills over in the process. The pursuit of learning new ideas has a powerful currency, the value of which is worth more than gold in the modern age. Novel ways of thinking are printed on paper and are thus read by a lot of people from across different countries around the world.
Some of the ideas popular in the past are being reprinted and read again. But most books nowadays contain fresh ways of seeing things. If one were so bold enough to connect the changes in our society to the advent of mass production of books and ideas, he might be able to say that revolution happens page by page. Likewise, the internet have advanced our ways of thinking and improved the methods of sharing these ideas at such a pace that what once took years now only takes days and months to go around.
But how does one pick out the great ideas among the huge, indeterminate pile? Similarly, how will he know for certain that the things he exposes his mind to are exactly those impressed with quality and merit and not the bad ones he must avoid? A sporadic and aimless thinker, much more the average college student, who exposes himself to every belief and idea, likewise absorbing them without making any distinctions at all between the instructive and the useless, are prone to make the mistake of reading and learning themselves to ruin.
On the other hand, if the person refuses to learn new ideas inasmuch as these run contrary to his personal beliefs and convictions, are in danger of growing up an ignoramus. Certainly, too much of adherence to one side would lead to harmful results. One needs to strike the balance, although by no means exact and perfect, in order that he may fully enjoy learning and education. In terms of drafting the right syllabus for learning, college students have it easy. The professor does all the work of preparing a ready-made list of books and materials to read.
Discussion in class would allow the ideas contained in the materials to be threshed out completely inside the classroom. In this perfect scenario students are exposed to a plethora of ideas. From time to time students add on to the discussion by presenting their own side of the issue. This makes for a healthy exchange of ideas beneficial to both the students and the professor. However, there are instances that the syllabus is not that aligned to the pursuit of higher learning.
In some cases, the professor uses his position and authority to proselytize the students in a singe brand of thinking — his very own. Most of the time, the professor breaks in ideas that have been filtered and chosen by his predecessors, handed down semester after semester on the same subject. What happens then is that the approved curriculum becomes merely a mass production of cut-and-dried thinking to be, thereafter, imparted to the students in a mechanical manner and so on. Plato reminds us that often in our ignorance and conceit we invariably mistake shadows for reality (Plato 34).
The commonly held notions of the superficial crystallize to the point that no one may question its validity. Under strict tutelage, the situation worsens because those who have the power to influence impressionable minds usually propound the same ready-made opinion and ideas over and over. There is this and that fact when in truth there are no such things. The student who does not know any better perfunctorily commit to heart these very tenets. In effect, ideas do not grow but are just passed on to different people.
The worst part of it is that those who do well in this exercise are rewarded with good merit and praise. Exposition to a motley discourse is harmful only when it becomes merely an exercise of sending and receiving ideas without question. In the same vein, Peggy McIntosh eschews the unspoken tradition of the disparate treatments of class and gender. She argues that in order to destroy myths about the total eradication of discrimination, one must dig into a knapsack of ideas that remained untouched for years (2-6).
By this very spirit of unpacking a baggage within the areas of society which are otherwise considered forbidden territory, a person will discover just how many automatic gestures and subconscious mechanical processes occur in our day to day dealings with our peers. We are hardly aware of the fact the same thing happens in education. Perhaps by rethinking the type of list of books that the students shall be exposed, a substantial amount of unpacking is indeed in order. Take for instance the ideas presented in Lakoff’s and Johnson’s “Metaphors We Live By”.
The thoughts and ideas we pass to other people, through words and phrases, contain identifiable peculiarities worthy of study. All at once a whole new province of though is opened insofar as the things we take for granted everyday become interesting by means of exposition of ideas is concerned. In other words, what were then considered as insignificant metaphors in our speech, suddenly breathed life as provocative realizations and discoveries are being made line after line. A complete education is such kind where extant belief systems are constantly being rehashed, re-examined and critically analyzed.
To be well-educated is not just to be exposed to myriad ideas, but it is also to unpack/unlearn one’s personal beliefs and lay it in the fore so that its truth and validity can be measured by how strongly it stands against contrary or opposing opinions. It is foolhardy to possess a certain talismanic attachment to an idea or kind of thinking. It is much more foolhardy to be so protective of one’s belief system by shielding it from argument and discussion. Academic-wise, nothing good ever came out of being a miser of belief and cautious of new ideas. For one, his growth is stunted and worse, he denies himself the opportunity to learn.