When did it originate?
Education is about freedom and making man a free individual

Karl Popper

Karl Popper

Liberation of man from many bondages like customs, beliefs, traditions, not the least from the modern day political oppressions and recent times violence, terrorism and irrationalism of various kinds! Only education can free man from these man-made oppressions. I am not a philosopher or a historian. So, I can’t answer these questions. But to say like this is also a sort of hypocrisy. Why?

Karl Popper, the great philosopher (who died not long ago), the author of the famous political philosophical classic, “The Open Society and its Enemies”, says all men and women are philosophers. If they are not conscious of having philosophical problem, they have, at any rate philosophical prejudices (Karl Popper, In Search of a Better World, Lectures and Essays from Thirty Years, 1994). For the current Indian readers who might not have heard of this great man, I have to say that he was one of the really great philosophers of our times and he, a born Austrian-German, born in the Austro-Hungarian empire days. When Hitler came to power he was exiled, rather he was driven out is the right expression and he didn’t get the right country to live and only late in life, England gave him some asylum of sorts and his true genius found the outlet.

Along with others like Friedrich Hayek and Wittgenstein got world recognition. Some of these men, their books went into many editions and they are still sought after by learned men and women. Education originated when men and women sought knowledge. When men wanted to know why certain things happened. Even evolution, as we know, we found out only when Darwin went out into the world and sought to know the natural world and he suddenly struck by the thought as to why nature and plants and finally humans evolved. Today, you can see how our idea of evolution has changed. How evolution is impacting our own evolution into different perceptions of ourselves.

If you only read the latest books by evolutionary scientists like Richard Dawkins we must be really frightened by the prospects of man in the future. ‘The Selfish Gene’ must give you some idea of how we would become as a society or a world community and beyond.
So, in a way this is education and pursuit of knowledge. So, says Popper that we need philosophers and that since philosophy was born on the island of Miletus, there was always someone to ask questions and some others to answer them. So, this is education. Man became a thinking animal, besides being a political animal. Says Popper coming to nearer our times that any society (like the ones he has in mind like England, Germany and France, may be also the USA) must have a set of professional philosophers.

Education is in my view is all about knowledge. It is about, ultimately, creating and shaping of individuals. I am constrained somewhat in not being able to switch from an academic language to a common man’s tongue. So, I would remain constrained here for the rest of the space. Education creates and only education, in my firm view, can create a free individual. This very brief phrase contains tonnes of wisdom, another potent concept. Only education can create an open society too.

These brief statements or expressions are an invitation for the readers to pursue the matter further. Without education what is freedom? No freedom is possible without man realizing his potential for what is best for him. So, education is not simply textbooks and exams nor getting degrees and jobs. So, education only can give man his inherent powers of fuller realization of his potential. To ask questions like: what is truth? How I can realize truth in my life? What is good? What is right and wrong?

So, ultimately, as Popper says we are all philosophers so long as we have an urge to ask questions. Only philosophy started the man’s quest. Popper again comes to our rescue. He says that sciences too originated from the man first asking the philosophical questions. Philosophy also came along with religion and asked hard questions. As sciences and philosophies sought to give asnwers, religion further retreated and religions themselves occupied the minds of men with metaphysical questions of the universe and God or Gods! History is another great area. So too other knowledge fields.

Only a systematic study of history and history of knowledge can give us a balanced view of the world we live in. That is why you can see the Encyclopedia Britannica has some one hundred pages on the section on education. Such is the vast field of education.

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