The Value Of Knowledge And College Educationaccording To Philosophy

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Knowledge is a powerful tool for achieving goals. Each person requires a different type of knowledge in order to do the things they want to do in life. Does knowledge have intrinsic value, or does it have to have a practical use to be worth something? The answer to this question depends on the situation. For example, an aspiring medical doctor and an aspiring mechanic would not find each other’s job knowledge useful. A doctor does not need to know how a transmission works and a mechanic does not need to know about diabetes. When answering the question of whether or not knowledge is valuable without a practical purpose, we can look at that example from a different angle. Just because a doctor does not need to know about transmissions at work, does not mean he would not find the information valuable outside of his job. The same can be said for the aspiring mechanic whenever it comes to knowledge about diabetes. Education is valuable, knowledge is powerful, and both are useful.

Gary Gutting, a philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame, discusses the importance of education and how the way you experience earning that education can affect the overall outcome of the knowledge you receive. Mr. Gutting explains this in an article he wrote for The New York Times called, ‘What is College For?’ In reference to a discussion made by Anthony Grafton, an employee with the New York Review of Books, he states, ‘…there are serious concerns about the quality of this [college] experience.  In particular, the university curriculum leaves students disengaged from the material they are supposed to be learning (Gutting, NYTimes 4).’ The material being taught is not being taught in a way that makes students desire the material or want to learn it. This is cause for concern, because the value of an education when it comes to achieving that student’s dream job or goals in life has been found to be worth the effort and time put in towards a college degree.  

The value of knowledge and the use of a college degree go hand-in-hand. The amount of value and the use of that education change drastically from person to person. The argument of whether or not a college education is just as valuable for every person is not a one-sided discussion. From a philosophical point of view, we must point out the differences and weigh out the positives and negatives in order to come up with the right decision for each individual. The key to straightening out this argument is to remember that each individual has his/her own goals in mind. Every person comes from a different background. For some, their background could make getting an education easier than others. Weighing out the positives and negatives of a college education and discussing the way that accrued knowledge can affect people is very important. In doing this, we are able to help people decide which path would be most beneficial and valuable for them in life. There are a couple of philosophers that discuss the value of education. Two of these philosophers are Paulo Freire and Socrates. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ‘ Paulo Freire was one of the most influential philosophers of education of the twentieth century… Freire’s goal was to eradicate illiteracy among people from previously colonized countries and continents (Paulo Freire, IEP).’ An article called ‘The Value of Knowledge’ listed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that, ‘In Plato’s Meno, Socrates raises the question of why knowledge is more valuable than mere true belief (The Value of Knowledge, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).’

Paulo Freire wanted to make life easier for people through education. His goal wasn’t to simply hand someone a degree or make them take classes that did not help them better themselves in life. Instead, he wanted to help people learn to read. Freire wanted to give people knowledge; not a title. In life, we sometimes have a desire to earn a title in order to seem more impressive to our peers. We try to achieve things in hopes that others will think highly of us, instead of focusing on how those achievements will benefit our lives and maybe even those around us.

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Socrates questioned the value of knowledge as a whole. He wanted to know why knowledge held more value than true belief. An example for this could be religion. Many religions are faith based. Sin is considered sin because people believe it to be so, and not because it can be proven. The Bible refers to rights and wrongs in this life, but it would have no meaning to someone who doesn’t believe the Bible to be real or true.

So, if we go back to our main question, and look at things from Freire and Socrates perspective, we are left with the basic idea that the value of something is left up to each individual. People find value in things and ideas based on how those specific things and ideas affect them and their life. Margit, Sutrop talks about where values come from and whether or not they have an impact on education in her article titled, ‘Can Values Be Taught? The myth of value-free education.’ Sutrop mentions, ‘ The main aim of this article is to show that values permeate every aspect of education and that value-free education is impossible (Sutrop, Trames).’  Values make up a huge part of whether or not knowledge is important or not to the individual receiving it.

We can assume that every person has a desire to be knowledgeable about something. That something could be anything from sports to law and either way, the knowledge of what they desire most will have have the most value to them. We can tie this all together by simply realizing that knowledge can have value without a practical purpose and that value is determined by each individual. Knowledge is useful whether it is learned in a college classroom or passed down through generations by a family member. Education holds importance in all walks of life. Learning is part of life and what we learn and how we learn it varies greatly.

Education is valuable, knowledge is powerful, and both are useful. The value of a specific kind of knowledge is not for one person decide. We are all individuals walking different paths in life and we must respect each other. We have to realize that what is seen as useless to one person may be everything to another. If we all had the same values, life would be boring, and we would all be forced to educate ourselves about things we have no interest in. Referencing the example in the first paragraph, the mechanic should be thankful for the doctor and vice versa. They help each other in life with situations that the other may find confusing or miserable, even though they do not have much in common. It is because of education and knowledge that we are able to achieve things in life. It is because of our different values towards education and knowledge that we are able to fully appreciate the things we love.

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