Growth through education 3 August 2009Posted by MOZAFFAR in Misc.
I used to be of the opinion that a liberal education was the key to growth and self-awareness. But I have not only gone through a full liberal education, I have also taught liberal education. And, I was wrong. I have noticed that there are many people whose horizons expand greatly because of the experience of a liberal education. But, for every person I have met who has thus grown in this manner, I have met another person whose views — through liberal education — have only reified. If s/he was a racist bigot before experiencing the liberal education, so too will s/he be a racist bigot after, with the difference being that s/he can now quote some dead thinkers to support the point.
I am still startled, repeatedly, by the great degree of bigotry we find in highly educated people, especially graduates of intensive, prestigious liberal education programs. I am still startled, repeatedly, by the degree of naivete we find among these people, watching them consume the cheap stereotypes against a particular culture.
So, my point is that a liberal education is hit or miss. Education does not free a person. Education gives a person a set of tools through which to navigate the environment. Those tools each have their own limits. The more tools you have, with which to navigate your world, the more options you have with which to understand.
But, the benefit or weakness of liberal education may not be where we think it is. It may not be in the books and ideas. Of far more benefit, in my experience, is suhba (companionship). You are the company you keep, which means that you become the company you keep. For you to receive benefit from such schooling, you must be in the company of such people who will — by virtue of their own personalities — expand your horizons. Those people must be people whose views differ than your own.
The first result will be that you will see the humanity of that person. Then, beyond that, you will hopefully benefit extensively from that person’s outlook, and s/he from yours.
Now, if you combine that outlook with most any educational system, then the benefits will be immense.
To do the same with a set of books, however, you must make the author of the text your companion. You must immerse yourself in the author’s works. Read many of them, or all of them if you can.
If you read samples, quickly, you will most likely reify your opinions, because you will usually notice what you already believe. Still, there are those moments where your mind will expand.
But, the true benefit is suhba. With your teacher, classmate, and the author.
And Allah knows best.