People are scared to learn. Or better, scared of an aspect of learning.

Most people are reasonably open to learn new stuff. More and more adults go back to school, or enrol in some corporate sponsored classes. Sites like Lynda.com are getting record new enrolments due to their quality video courses and channels like discovery and national geographic are performing admirably.

But what I mean is, people are scared to learn anything that challenges their current set of believes and knowledge. Because that would take them out of their comfort zone.

A grain of salt is always needed.

Apart from exact sciences like math, pretty much all subjects should be studied with a healthy dose of critique. I’ve worked with a lot of textbooks and even been involved in the creation of a few. And believe me when I say a lot of them are far from perfect.

The people writing them are just that: people. They have their own opinions, political views and religious or atheist/agnostic background. And those all have an influence on the content.

Not only that, but the content is also influenced by publishers, governments, schools and other power structures. And guess what, they also have an influence on the content.

We actually know this. We know sayings like “history is written by the victors” or “the truth is in the eye of the beholder”. We just mostly choose to ignore this. As long as those textbooks give us comfort and safety, as long as they provide knowledge we like.

Social media: the place where everyone knows best!

It shows at its worst on social media these days. When people have a different view they are automatically dubbed as “dumb”, “racist”, “right wing”, “left wing”, … Even though usually those views come from their knowledge base.

Now sometimes, a lot of times, people are actually just dumb, or stuck in their political view or dumb religious absolutes or whatever. I hate political correctness too much to say everyone is smart, that’s simply not the case.

Still, even smart people get caught up and use a curious reflex: they go looking for proof of their opinion. Only they do it while ignoring any material that might disprove or even challenge their point of view. And they will find some articles to support them, it’s the net after all.

A lot of time they won’t even find contradictory material due to their google strings. If your search string is “proof that Obama is a muslim”, your first few results will be sites that provide “proof”. Even though it’s clearly bullshit. I actually believe the man is a closet Atheist, but it’s 100 times easier to be elected as a black man in the states than as an atheist.

Notice I said “believe” in that last sentence. I’ve read a lot about him which gives me that opinion, but it’s only that: an opinion. I’ll certainly won’t tell anyone he’s an atheist for sure.

Getting all info takes guts!

People who really want to learn aren’t afraid to get all sides of the story. And are not afraid to challenge what they learn, even at school. If all religious zealots would challenge what their hate preachers told them instead of blindly following it, we would not have a lot of problems we have today. If economy professors would not have taught macro-economic theories as facts which have since been proven flawed, the economy would’ve probably had a little less bumps.

The few truly great teachers I had were the ones that actually encouraged their students to challenge them, and to look for other voices on the subject.

I certainly still to do. I’ve been known to be very critical about Islam, and in fact religion as a whole. But I’ll be the first to admit even organized religion did some good things as well. I believe they don’t outweigh the bad, but that’s a conclusion that took years to reach, and even now I will challenge it. I keep reading material from all kinds of sources. People I tend to agree with but also people who challenge my views.

It’s also why I have such a hard time voting, as most political party’s are very much guilty of the problem I’m writing about. I’m very left wing about some issues (pro gay marriage, pro gender equality, climate change), fairly right wing about others (Islam, crime, private gun ownership) and very ‘somewhere in between’ about a bunch of other issues. So every election I feel I have to choose the least of all evils.

I guess what I want to say is: show real courage and dare to challenge what you know and believe. If your ideas can withstand that, they will only strengthen in conviction. If not, at least you know more and became a better person because of it.

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