I strongly agree that by studying any particular academic discipline we alter the way we perceive the world. As intellectual neophytes we tend to polarize what we see as either right or wrong, or as either good or bad. We also tend to interpret what we see by way of our emotions. Once educated, we gain the capacity to see a broader spectrum of opinion and perspective, and to see our own culture and even ourselves as a tapestry-like product of history. Through the earnest pursuit of knowledge--particularly in history and literature--we reveal to ourselves the flaws and foibles of other humans whose lives we study and read about. History teaches us, for example, that demagogues whom society places on pedestals often fall under the weight of their own prejudices, jealousies, and other character flaws. And, any serious student of Shakespeare comes away from reading King Lear and Hamlet with a heightened awareness of the tragically flawed ironic hero, and of the arbitrariness by which we distinguish our heroes from our villains.
Through education we begin to see flaws not only in people but also in ideologies that we had previously embraced on pure faith. A student of government and public policy learns that many of the so-called "solutions" which our legislatures and jurists hand down to us from atop their pedestals are actually Band-Aid comprises designed to appease opponents and pander to the electorate. A philosophy student learns to recognize logical fallacies of popular ideas and the rhetoric of our political parties, religious denominations, and social extremists. And, a law student learns that our system of laws is not a monolithic set of truths but rather an 97
ever-changing reflection of whatever the society's current mores, values, and attitudes happen to be.
While education helps us see the flawed nature of our previously cherished ideas, paradoxically it also helps us see ideas we previously rejected out of hand in a different light--as having some...