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Posted - 16 Jan 2009 :  15:56:40  

This is a reply to the blogpost www.ellopos.com/blog/?p=764

On this particular subject, I would like to restate my premise, because I realize it may not have been clear enough. It is not that education itself, nor the lack thereof, in previous centuries and up to the 20th century, was the reason for the failure and demise of the European societies, through the advent of a particular form of colonialism and political economy, but rather, I would suggest, that this very education was either misinterpreted or subsumed by other and different interests of the class that learnt it.

If we look at the American form of government, for example, no one will deny the influence of a solid education, in Roman politics especially--it is the only government among the Western democracies that has remained stable and unchanged for 200 years, which shows the benefit of education, even in a secular environment.

Yet, for all that, even this did not prevent the very persons who constructed it from sowing the seeds of its own failure: perhaps nowhere in the world are politics and society more entangled with profit and materialism than in the United States.
Should we then blame education, or something else? We are justified to blame education if knowledge of the ancient authors, for instance, served as the basis for the racial colonial conquest that characterized the 'civilizing mission' of the Europeans.

Yet, we must remember that the classical type of education was revived in the West in the Renaissance, and that it became a part of Western identity, but that it also took different forms and priorities through those five centuries.

The monarchies arched back at the Greco-Roman past as a way to describe their identity: there is a statue showing Louis XIV in a Roman emperor's garb. But the revolutions and republics of the 19th and 20th centuries equally sought to see themselves in ideal Greco-Roman terms. Proponents and opponents of colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries both invoked this past to argue their positions.

The problem that education suffered is precisely this, that it was constantly invoked to JUSTIFY all sorts of policy, even the most terrible ones. Education was a way for a class to distinguish itself, it was used to justify atrocities in the colonies, it did not prevent our nations to fall into limitless capitalism...

In this sense, then, you are right, we suffer from a different disease: that of greed and individualism, etc. But education was not the cause of this failure. It could not prevent it, because it was from the beginning placed under the authority of different goals and 'ideals:' elitism, endless conquest, etc. And it had become so because the men who promoted it failed to see its essence, that education only succeeds if it improves the soul. When even this education disappeared from schools and universities and became understood as a mere technical and professional training, there now remains little for us to receive a real education.


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