Monday, February 12, 2007


"You know," a co-worker -- secular, worldly, well-educated -- causally said to me recently, "you really should enroll in an institution of higher learning and get a degree. "It seems like an excellent -- and well suited -- opportunity for you."

I was taken aback. Has he read my mind? To the best of my recollection, I've never mentioned to him my burning desire to get a higher education. That thought has been occupying a large part of my sub-conscious lately, an uninvited nuisance which took up permanent residence in some dark nether-region of my mind, popping up periodically to harass me and beg for attention like a too-cute squirrel popping out of an attic to beg for food from the other side of the window. Something you vigorously try to shoo away in the daytime while busy with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but in the stillness and quiet of a lonely winter night secretly wish would keep coming back to beg and pester, just so you know you're still alive.

"To what end?" you may ask. I wonder about that myself. Will an education bring any practical benefits, at this point? Is it worth pursuing just for the sake of it, for the pure sake of gathering knowledge? Should I indulge just because I want to?

Certainly, there must be an element of rebelliousness in that desire. An irrational but human need to stick it to The Man, to a system that, while providing a solid religious education, quite deliberately and perniciously tries to keep us ignorant of all secular human knowledge and progress in the past couple of centuries. The system fears knowledge, and inculcates in its followers an absurd arrogance about the correctness of its worldview and the folly of the idiot "scientists," a word mentioned with the same derision and scorn that "communist" used to illicit in mainstream America in the McCarthy era. All the while, social pressures assure that very few are educated enough to question that world view. If you mention that you believe the world is older than 6,000 years you will literally be laughed at, and if you persist, people will wonder if you have a screw loose for believing in such a bizarre notion.

It is remarkable to observe the baseless haughtiness of the uneducated, extremely ignorant of their own extreme ignorance. That is what an education -- and, arguably, an effective brainwashing -- grounded in anti-rational polemics will do. I've often wondered, doesn't anybody else wonder why we are so afraid of the free exchange of ideas? Can our worldview not withstand the scrutiny of differing ideas and opinions? Of course, the true answer is that it cannot -- at least not in its current form, as history has shown. And the leaders and policy makers instinctively know and understand that! Yet, I believe they -- and most everyone else within the community -- are genuinely and deeply convinced that they are the sole bearers of the ultimate Truth. Self-reflection is apparently not a human strong point.

With the advent of new technologies, this prison of enforced ignorance may be breaking down. Anyone with knowledge of the English language (itself kept to a minimum within the community), a basic post-high school secular education (What??? totally unheard of!), and enough perseverance (okay, so we've got one out of three) can now take most courses offered at MIT, totally free! Just click here to get started. This in itself isn't enough to get someone who is starting from scratch educated, but eventually technology and educational goodwill will progress far enough to put all the necessities of a basic education online, and the mighty chains whose links are forged of nothing but illiteracy will crumble into dust. At least, here's to hoping.

And so, I ponder the questions: Should I get my GED, apply to college, and pursue a post-secondary degree in mathematics, biology, or physics? Perhaps try for a doctorate? Is it possible to pull this off while providing for a family with more than a few children? If I find a way, will this be the beginning of the unraveling of my two-faced existence? If it won't, will I -- and more importantly, my family -- be able to withstand the inevitable tongue-wagging of the community busybodies? Will it be another cautionary tale of the terrible destruction the evil Internet has wrought? Should I simply do it?

Maybe I should. And, maybe I will.