Articles

Publish at August 22 2011 Updated August 16 2022

From Ignorance to Knowledge: A Policy for Freedom from Obscurantism

At the root of an educational policy

Everyone can easily recognize to what extent knowledge, information, and knowledge in general are a pledge of autonomy and their absence an open door to dependence and submission in all its forms.  That leaders jealous of their authority take almost systematic care to limit access to knowledge gives us an indication of its liberating power.

The Romans killed the oldest people of the conquered peoples: the Celts, Germans, and Gauls paid the price. In an oral tradition, killing an old man is like burning the libraries, to paraphrase the words of Amadou Hampâté Bâ. The Romans were not the only ones; the colonists also applied this kind of policy in Africa and Asia to populations of the same oral tradition. PolPot killed all those who were educated. Salazar in Portugal, Stalin in Poland and Ukraine and many other tyrants enslaved their people with minimal education.
Any exploitative political system whether religious, social or economic offers an unquestionable superstitious mythology to keep a part or the majority of its population in ignorance and submission. Knowledge is necessarily seditious in the face of a power based on ignorance. Many even associate superstition and underdevelopment. Our societies are not exempt from this.

By what manipulation of the minds do we manage to justify the "fatality" of poverty and the maintenance or even the enlargement of the income gap (of the order of 100,000!) between the very rich and the poor? Propaganda, misleading publicity, biased studies, public discrediting of opponents, censorship, lawsuits, various systemic manipulations, the number of techniques used is limited only by human inventiveness. What is certain is that, faced with a problem that is growing instead of being solved, we are certainly dealing with maintained ignorance.

"The law of the market" is taught as a political dogma, almost a superstition, in many countries. The phenomenon of hyperactive children is presented as a disease, just like depression or "pathological" gambling without the industries that profit from it being worried! Corruption and abuse only thrive in lies, secrecy and ignorance.

The reclaiming of one's freedom

When Franklin demonstrated the electrical nature of lightning in 1750 and proposed the lightning rod in 1752, his invention went around the world in less than two years: from China to South Africa, from Europe to Australia, from India to Argentina a great many high buildings, including churches, were equipped with lightning rods.  The gods had just lost some of their ascendancy over humans.

When, around 1860, Pasteur demonstrated more and more clearly the falsity of "spontaneous generation" ("life could appear from nothing, and microbes be generated spontaneously."), all of humanity began to free itself from the calamity of microbial diseases.  Prayers, sacrifices and incantations suddenly became less effective.

At every level, every insight into our world and our relationships brings knowledge, increases our abilities and our power to influence. It is not so much a matter of accumulating, learning or recording more and more knowledge but of developing our capacities of observation, measurement, comparison (making connections) and confrontation: no field is left to fate (fatum: destiny). Coming to master more knowledge, more abilities, and more responsibilities ultimately means more freedom and choice of action.

In practice

Thot Cursus was born from the idea of facilitating access to knowledge; our policy and actions are essentially to "draw attention to," "increase abilities to," and "organize data in order to."

The first condition for learning is interest, "focused attention to."  If many teachers still manage to instill some concepts in disinterested students, it is by drawing their attention to them over and over again, day after day. In distance learning, the challenge is the same, only the means change. Thot Cursus addresses topics and draws attention to them by broadcasting via email, the site, social networks, RSS, etc.

Not all of us learn with the same ease or in all areas. We can be very skilled in math and yet suck when it comes to learning a sport or a skill like sewing. You can be very knowledgeable and still be a bore when it comes to communicating your knowledge. One can be a skilled practitioner but completely inept at doing research or creating original work. One can be an excellent teacher but easily overwhelmed by administrative or organizational tasks... In short, a gain in ability is always beneficial and we will continue to encourage the development of technical and didactic abilities.

Finally, faced with an ever-increasing amount of information, the role of organizing data, of prescribing, seems more relevant than ever. Around themes, directories and dossiers, Thot Cursus will continue to shed light on subjects from different angles, even controversial ones.

But how should our policy differ from that of a Ministry of Education or an educational institution?  The ultimate goal of the school is to increase the abilities of its students, not to limit them. It does this by drawing their attention to subjects, organizing knowledge around these subjects and making them use it.

Controlling the choice of subjects is an eminently political activity, these choices are ideally discussed in the public square but beyond that, the principle of empowerment, of increasing the capacities to perform, is fundamental to any society that aspires to more freedom. The defense of this principle, whether globally or for minority groups, is the action to be taken.

Then we can enjoy life peacefully without fear of either our neighbor or tomorrow.

As one flies through the educational literature, one can be both reassured and concerned: all are for virtue, but many defend the primacy of a certain idea of the state over the freedom to learn something else.


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