“I never let my schooling get in the way of my education” — Mark Twain
Academic institutions tell half the story, sometimes not even half but only a fraction of the whole story. Regardless of the subject, information that they share with their students and even faculty is often limited and selective. This is because of practical limitations as well as systemic flaws but it is also because of institutional bias. Academics are not as objective and as neutral as we think they are. They teach and publish what aligns with their philosophy and what serves their interests. Knowledge that threatens their core ideology is often filtered out. Because of this we get a very limited and bias exposure to the overall body of knowledge which leads to superficial understanding even of the concepts that they teach let alone concepts that they don’t teach. Thus we miss a whole lot of knowledge that is out there in the world waiting to be explored.
On top of it, our academic qualifications give us a sense of pride which prevents us from questioning what is being taught to us by those institutes. As a result we become more and more rigid in our views and we rarely explore other venues of knowledge. And even if we do, we do not entertain counter narratives that shake our core “beliefs” because when we do, it leads to an epistemological crisis, which is perhaps the the first step towards intellectual freedom.
“There is no neutral education. Education is either for domestication or for freedom.” — Joao Coutinho
Since formal schooling is a widely accepted concept in contemporary society, we often confuse education with schooling. Education is basically a process of giving or receiving knowledge, doesn’t matter if it is formal or informal, doesn’t matter if it is through an academic institute or not. Whereas schooling is the institutionalization of that process so that knowledge can be transferred in a systematic way. Also since there is a hype of “academic qualifications”, we think those who do not have “academic qualification” cannot have knowledge, which is not true. In reality, not having academic qualification doesn’t mean one can not have knowledge of a subject, similarly having academic qualification is not a guarantee of having knowledge of a particular subject.
So focus should be on the “acquisition of knowledge” not on acquisition of “academic qualification”. Our opinions should be based upon our “knowledge” and not upon what kind of “academic qualification” we have. If we don’t have enough knowledge on a subject we should not form opinion on it even if we have academic qualification in it and if we do have adequate knowledge then we should not stop ourselves from forming an opinion just because we don’t have a formal qualification.
“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” — Isaac Asimov
Acquisition of knowledge is a very personal endeavor. We cannot and should not outsource it to anyone specially not to academic institutions who have their own limitations and biases. So have the courage to go out in the “world of ideas” on your own. Explore knowledge that is waiting out there for you. It would be a tough journey, perhaps the toughest one you will ever have. But it’s worth taking because it’s the only path to freedom. Good luck for your journey!