January 4, 2010

Issues With Authority


I've started reading Einstein by Walter Isaacson recently and one theme early in the book is Einstein's notorious problem with authority generally and specifically in the world of academia. I started thinking of other archetypal "Great People" that changed the world through their minds on a scale similar to Einstein's influence. Some names that come to mind:

Socrates:

Socrates is the archetypal philosopher. If you ever take any sort of general philosophy course he is always the first one you study and to me has always been one of the most fascinating. In seeking knowledge he went to philosophers, politicians and artisans and found that all of them really knew nothing. He concluded that he was in fact, the wisest man in the world simply because he was the only whom could admit that he knew nothing. Eventually he was executed for "corrupting the youth" and other bogus charges.

Jesus Christ:

The first man to believe love could conquer all famously argued with Rabbis at the temple in Jerusalem and chastised those making money off the believers on the temple grounds. His long hair (as portrayed in made up renderings) and his turn the other cheek philosophy made him the biggest hippy in history (despite any claims to the contrary by John Lennon). We all know the impact his teachings (and misinterpretation of) had on the world.

Other Notables:

Charles Darwin, Galileo, Nicolaus Copernicus, Moses, Napoleon Bonaparte, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Muhammad, Christopher Columbus, and countless others.

What do all of these people have in common? In one way or another they all put their stamp on history by challenging authority and turning common practices and ideas on their heads. Why is it that while liberal ideas have always been the reason for progress in the world conservatism is always taught and promoted in the educational system? When will the world ever take a chance on implementing wide-scale education that focuses on rewarding innovation over cramming for tests? All of the amazing progress made in the 20th century was made in spite of, not because of, an educational system that looks like its modeled more closely after a prison than a place that rewards individuality. What could the world have looked like if the Einstiens, Jesus Christs, and Galileos of the world had been encouraged rather than persecuted?

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