Minority Report

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Summer’s over, it’s time for school again. “You must finish your school so you can get a good job and help your family.” And It’s true- if someone wants even the most minimal kind of job- pumping gasoline, sweeping office floors, even opening and closing doors in restaurants and hotels- they must have a college degree to display, or at least a two year college transcript to show, for any chance at all to be hired.

And so they go back to school, but without much enthusiasm- to memorize material of no interest to them, to obtain degrees in skills they may never use, to be qualified for jobs they don’t enjoy- that will barely feed them. Once in a thousand times it’s different.

Every once in a while, with no help from their parents or friends or the world around them, a boy or girl in school might make an astounding discovery: that learning and knowledge are valuable things in themselves; that to know what happened in the history of your world makes it a more interesting place to live in; that to be able to read and understand without effort most of what come your way, makes your life a daily pleasure.

This happens rarely. Curiosity, and even the desire for common reason and understanding are not encouraged in children here. Parents often answer their children’s questions of “why” and “what for” with silence or with nonsense. They complain if their children are “too talkative”.

Instead of showing children how to observe and reason about their lives, they teach them that the world is an irrational, supernatural design of rewards and punishments for every action, full of devils and ghosts and vampires, impossible to control. So why ask questions? Shut up and feed the chickens.

Under the circumstances, it’s not surprising that “education” is seen as nothing of value in itself- just another meaningless task that must be endured in obedience to parents, teachers, employers. Words on paper exist only to be memorized and played back later, and then forgotten.

But not always. This boy, for example. There’s always the possibility that he will see what’s written in front of him as something of interest and pleasure for him personally, something that can change his individual world permanently. He may discover that the object of learning is learning; that the object of knowledge is knowledge.

Let’s hope so.


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