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Exploration is the essence of education

Reader comment on item: Redeeming the Wayward University [through Engagement by Outsiders]

Submitted by Stephen Connor (United States), Dec 3, 2006 at 10:40

It is preposterous to suggest that the University is an institution that has gone astray. Even if they propound a perspective that is out of the mainstream that is their function not their disfunction. We in society largely follow the dual paths of pragmatism and realism. We are driven by the exigencies of economy and polity.

However, during the formative years of our education, we should be encouraged to explore the edges of possibility and probability. To educate from the mainstream is to narrow the mind rather than to open it. We will have but a few years to explore and be idealistic. When later we buckle down to the grindstone of the proverbial salt mine, our idealism will be burned away in life's cruel crucible. While we mat be better for losing the majority of unrealistic idealism, we will be worse for never having had it..

Oddly, the bad thing about disillusionment is the loss of a cherished illusion. The good thing about disillusionment is the loss of mistaken perceptions. Objectively they are the same thing and yet disillusionment is perhaps the most powerful learning tool in our arsenal. To say that it is better to have known the truth all along rather than to learn it eventually is specious because no one has known it all along. The mainstream is full of time honored ideas but not new ones.

Unfortunately many of us send our children to school to learn the same things we learned ourselves rather than find new things. We could continue to operate the world today based on mainstream Newtonian physics but not with computers and space travel and cellphones and fiberoptics, etc. Why do so many of us conservatives have difficulty allowing our children to explore the periphery of their world and don't have the faith that they will find a truth as valid as the one we ourselves found?

Stephen Connor

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