Education and the Enlightenment


All men, by nature, desire to know.
Aristotle

"The Age of Enlightenment, also called the “Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine, is generally thought to have started in the 17th century. It developed from a number of sources of “new” ideas, such as challenges to the dogma and authority of the Catholic Church by Martin Luther and other religious leaders and by increasing interest in the ideas of science, in scientific methods and in philosophy, which called into question traditional ways of thinking...

"Education was once considered a privilege for only the upper class. However, during the 17th and 18th century centuries, “education, literacy and learning” were gradually provided to “rich and poor alike”.[4] The literacy rate in Europe from the 17th century to the 18th century grew significantly...

"The system of public libraries was a product of the Enlightenment. The public libraries were funded by the state and were accessible to everyone for free.

"Prior to the Enlightenment, libraries in Europe were restricted mostly to academies and the private collections of aristocrats and other wealthy individuals. With the beginning of state funded institutions, public libraries became places where the general public could study topics of interest and educate themselves...

Above are from Education in the Age of Enlightenment Wikipedia, accessed 6/11/14.


"The thinkers of the Enlightenment were men (and some women) of all European nations: Britain, Germany, France, Poland, and Italy. They achieved fame in various fields: there were poets, playwrights, political thinkers, non- fiction writers, scientists, novelists, philosophers, and economists. They were collectively known as philosophes—a French word that can perhaps best be translated as “critical thinkers.” What united the philosophes as one group was this critical way of thinking—the habit of applying the same reasoning process to the problems and questions of their age...

"The philosophes believed that reasoning and knowledge could solve the problems of society, if properly applied. They believed that a world of peace, prosperity, and earthly happiness could truly be achieved. Their ideas about political theory were based on notions of individual liberty, which they and their followers expressed in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the American Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights."

Above is from The Enlightenment - The Age of Reason by Stephanie Muntone — McGraw-Hill Professional, Updated on Feb 3, 2012. Accessed 6/11/14.


"Diderot and his colleagues saw themselves as pedagogues, and their task was the emancipation of mankind. To educate the people, they believed, one had to start by educating its youth. Beginning with Erasmus, scholars and theologians had published advice books for parents and teachers, but in the eighteenth century pedagogy developed as a science in its own right. Modern pedagogy was an invention of the Enlightenment; as an anonymous author wrote in 1788, "Today we live in an age in which book after book is written or translated about education." This stream of publications sprang from two sources, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau..."

Above from The Enlightenment from Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. Accessed 6/11/14.


"The Enlightenment did not originate in the 18th century: it owed much to Antiquity, to the Middle Ages, to the Renaissance and to the seismic shifts of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. It was therefore largely concerned with absorption, with the taking on board of views that had been in conflict, with a rediscovery and reinterpretation of Classical Antiquity, with the reception of what was ancient and modern and with abstractions (such as ideas of what constituted freedom and equality)...

"Even more importantly, it gathered together a vast amount of knowledge, and attempted to apply it to the real world of the time. It encouraged total freedom to study, question, criticise and challenge dogma: it attempted to free human beings from the tyranny of authority that was religious in character...

"Those old adversaries of the Enlightenment (arbitrary authority, fanaticism and obscurantism) are all rampant, not least in the first state born of Enlightenment principles, the United States of America, where some 39 per cent of the population, we gather, think the Bible was directly dictated by God and should be taken literally...

"All contemporary Western societies are now under attack from fundamentalism, and not only the Christian brand: the fact that politicians and the media are terrified of even mentioning this, despite the evidence that it is an obvious and very real danger, says much about cowardice, stupidity and contemporary society's betrayal of the ideals of an Enlightenment to which we owe so much...

Above from book review In Defense of the Enlightenment by Tzvetan Todorov.


"The philosophical and political principles of the European Enlightenment provide the philosophical foundation of American academic and public libraries. The values of the Enlightenment should seem very familiar to Americans. The Enlightenment belief that scientific investigation of nature and society leads to improvements and progress has been a constant American refrain since the early republic. American political rights are numerous: individual human rights, liberty, democracy, equality, the freedom to believe what you like, behave how you want as long as others are not harmed, study what you want, share your beliefs or insights freely with the world. These rights are commonplaces of American identity. Also derived from the Enlightenment is the belief in the necessity of education in a democratic republic and the obligation of the state to improve the lives of all its citizens, not just the lives of the rich and powerful...

"The belief that humans should pursue knowledge for its own sake, subject that knowledge to criticism based on reason and evidence, scientifically investigate nature and culture, and freely publish the results of those investigations provided the impetus to found modern research universities and along with them the academic libraries necessary for their operation...

Above from Libraries and the Enlightenment by Wayne Bivens-Tatum. Library Juice Press. Accessed 6/11/14.


"In a recent article, Dr. Henry Giroux argued that we may be witnessing the dismantling of democracy (Giroux, 2013). He pointed to the neoliberal assault on public education and the transformation of public education into workforce training for the global economy at the hands of state and federal law makers (Giroux, 2013). Giroux’s remarks are sobering. They may actually be more telling than even he realized. Perhaps the neoliberal assault on education is not the destruction of democracy, but rather something much more profound; it may be the end of the Enlightenment.

While it is impossible to put exact definitive markers on historical events, historians argue that the Enlightenment began roughly at the end of the seventeenth century. Enlightenment thinkers such as Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Marquis Condorcet, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Jefferson and later Georg Hegel all wrote of the power of a progressive and liberal education grounded in history and the liberal arts; they wrote about civic duty, public service and the infallibility of true democracy. While their thoughts are varied, and at times contradictory, they all demanded equality, freedom, justice, the rule of reason and the suppression of superstition. Their writings are imbued with a sense of optimism; those social problems such as hunger, poverty and war can and would be solved with human effort. Jefferson in particular wrote that an educated citizenry has to be the foundation of any true republican government. Further, he wrote citizens need to be taught history because only with a historical education could they truly hold their leaders accountable (Jefferson, 1962)...

"Yet, by the 1980s, neoliberals had begun their assault on public education and in a larger sense the values of the Enlightenment. Newfield argued that one of the main intents behind the assault on public education has been driven by a recognition by conservatives of the power of a liberal and progressive education. After the events that higher education helped to inspire in the 1960s, conservatives began an assault on public K-12 and higher education. The weapon they used was the market; they claim that public education is not efficient; it does not prepare students for the marketplace and workplace (Newfield, 2008)...

"The ruling regimes police our minds and regulate the flow of information through the media, government and education. While forces of opposition may be brewing, the forces of repression are still dominant... If students no longer learn how to think critically, or how to judge their leaders and societal institutions, they can no longer participate in their democracy...

Standardized testing companies and educational technology companies, which have grown into billion dollar entities and do billions of dollars of world trade, have lobbied the US government and other governments across the world to hold education accountable. They claim teaching quality has declined, students are not prepared for the workforce, public education is failing. They have created a crisis — and the means to fix the crisis (Klein, 2007). The solution: standardized tests to accurately measure student learning and teacher efficiency and educational technology to enhance learning. Companies such a Pearson, Houghton-Milfflin and Harcourt Brace bend Congress’ ear. The greatest example of this was the passage of the ‘No Child Left Behind’ act in 2002. Not one teacher was consulted in the writing of that policy. Instead it was largely left to “educational experts” from right-wing think tanks, standardized testing companies’ representatives and others hostile to traditional education (Fowler, 2009)...

Countless other policies which are supposed to hold educators at both K-12 and higher education accountable have been passed through state legislatures in the US. A notable example is performance based funding (Zumeta, 2011). Performance based funding sets up definable goals for higher education institutions to meet, such as graduation rates, graduation of STEM graduates, use of data etc (Zumeta, 2011). A portion of a university’s funding is tied to the meeting of these goals — if an institution does not meet the goals, they are penalized and do not get the portion of their funding. Currently 12 US states have performance based funding policies and four other states are in the process of implementing them. Yet they seem to be the wave of the future (Zumeta, 2011). Like ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB), these accountability measures are written, passed and enforced with little to no input from faculty. Instead, they are creations of corporate lobbyists who argue that K-12 and higher education is in a state of crisis and they have the methods to fix it. And those methods are extremely profitable for them...

More than just greed (which it is), there is an ideological element to performance based funding policies and NCLB. These policies espouse and promote a certain view of education. Education is cast as a tool of the global market. Nowhere in any of the policies is there a mention of social justice, citizenship or other goals necessary for a democracy...

"Education is the most powerful weapon mankind has ever devised. In the hands of radicals this weapon is used for social justice, in the hands of conservatives it is used a way to prop up the status quo...

"Giroux and many others have argued that pedagogy must be synonymous with democracy. Through the process of critical pedagogy, students are transformed into citizens who then can participate in their democracy, just as Jefferson intended. The Enlightenment is based on the notion of criticism and humanism, both of which are not valued in American public education...

"In a much wider sense for K-12 education, multiple choice tests (and even many standardized essay questions) transmit the idea that there is a right answer, and that an authority figure has it. Students cram to remember all the “right answers” without ever learning how to question the answers and the authorities that supply them. And questioning authority is the foundation of democracy... In addition, collaboration between students and students, and students and teacher, is discouraged and not rewarded. Instead, each student is a solitary island, classified according to their mark on an arbitrary test. They no longer see their classmates as fellow citizens, but just as other consumers (Giroux, 2011; Janesick, 2007)...

"The situation in higher education is no different. Institutions become obsessed with meeting their performance targets. As a result they compete with each other, they lower academic standards and eliminate programs that are seen as unproductive, such as history and literary classes. In Texas, North Carolina and Florida, the republican governors have all taken aim at the humanities (Kiley, 2013). They argue that these disciplines do not help students compete in the global economy, and further that these disciplines do not lead to high paying jobs... The point is that history, literary criticism and politics are all fundamental facets of the Enlightenment. And as stressed earlier, the Enlightenment was a movement to free humanity from its bondage to superstition, tyranny and oppression (Habermas, 1990). However, it may be very likely that students in the future will not have the same access to classes which can teach them to think this way because those classes are not deemed “efficient.” Students who do not have history, political science, philosophy and literary criticism classes may never talk about the serious issues that face American society. Instead they may simply want to pursue a career and make money and say forget about social justice and society...

This website is one avenue of resistance. Individuals have the power to change their world, even if one microsystem at a time but they must be made conscious of it and of the levers of change. The macro-, exo-, meso- and microsytems of an individual can all be sites of contestation, where the individual can battle the oppressive social order, push for change and resuscitate the Enlightenment. According to Hedges, this is already happening (Hedges, 2013). Small victories by many people will begin to add up over time."

Above from END OF ENLIGHTENMENT? NOT IF WE FIGHT FOR IT by Angelo J. Letizia. 11/19/13. Accessed 6/11/14.


The Ayn-Rand Loving Billionaires and Vast Right-Wing Machine Behind David Brat: David Brat's "surprise" win over Eric Cantor was in the works for years. by Thom Hartmann. "Both he and his victory have dark money written all over them...

"According to The Street, during his time as CEO of BB&T, Allison regularly used the BB&T Charitable Foundation, “to provide grants to schools that agree to create courses on capitalism that feature the study of ‘Atlas Shrugged.’”

"Meanwhile, according to New York Magazine, Allison gave $500,000 to Randolph-Macon College to hire Dave Brat, so that he too could teach the Ayn Rand libertarian philosophy as an economics professor.

"Shortly after BB&T accepted $3.1 billion government bailout from the Bush Administration, Allison resigned as CEO, and was picked up by Charles Koch, to become the new president of the Cato Institute, formerly known as the Charles Koch Foundation, and to keep spreading the work of Rand.

"Much like the BB&T Charitable Foundation, Koch-allied groups like The Cato Institute have spent millions of dollars, putting college professors in economics departments across the country, so that they can spread the good word of Ayn Rand.

"Similarly, Koch-backed groups have given money to a number of other universities, including West Virginia University, George Mason University, Clemson University, and even the Ivy-League Brown University.

"Basically, the Kochtopus is spending millions and millions of dollars, placing college professors in economics departments across the country, so that they can promote Ayn Rand and the libertarian philosophy to future generations of Americans.

"So, Dave Brat is far more than just a college professor who beat Eric Cantor in a fluke of a primary.

He is a complete shill for Ayn Rand-loving libertarians and the Koch Brothers.


Korais, Adamantios (27 April 1748 – 6 April 1833) was a Greek humanist scholar credited with laying the foundations of Modern Greek literature and a major figure in the Greek Enlightenment. His activities paved the way for the Greek War of Independence and the emergence of a purified form of the Greek language, known as Katharevousa. Encyclopædia Britannica asserts that "his influence on the modern Greek language and culture has been compared to that of Dante on Italian and Martin Luther on German"
The Linguist Method

"Language is power" -Steve Kaufmann

Memrise Science under each of the three principles, click on "Learn more"

Have you ever wondered “Why learn a foreign language?” LANGUAGES HELP YOU CONNECT WITH A CULTURE--language and culture are intertwined. By studying a language you gain a deeper understandings of a culture and it’s people.

..discover words which don't exist in my language, make friends all over the world, have the pleasure of cursing in other languages...

YOU HAVE A LOVE FOR LANGUAGES AND AN URGE TO STUDY THEM--For a lot of you, your studies are motivated by a deep love for learning languages. You just enjoy the whole process of studying and learning how other people communicate... Life is too short to speak one language.

KNOWING A NEW LANGUAGE CAN ENHANCE YOUR ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS--

STUDYING A LANGUAGE HELPS YOU CONNECT WITH FAMILY AND RELATIVES--Some of you have a pretty diverse background! And naturally, with family members or ancestors from all over the world, the desire to know where you come from can create a strong impulse to study their language. It’s a great way to better understand your cultural roots.

LANGUAGE LEARNING HELPS YOU MAKE FRIENDS--The best way to learn to speak a language is to just speak the language and naturally you need native speakers to help with that. Learning a language and meeting people who speak that language are two things that go hand-in-hand.

LANGUAGES MAKE TRAVELING THE WORLD AND LIVING ABROAD MORE PLEASURABLE--Exploring the world and it’s cultures is the whole reason I study languages in the first place.

STUDYING LANGUAGES CAN EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN--Besides the many benefits listed in that post, such as being better at math, improved test scores, improved studying skills and increased creativity, studies at the University of Edinburgh show that studying languages improves the “elasticity” of your brain and keeps it young!

LANGUAGES HELP YOU EXPLORE YOUR HOBBIES AND HAVE FUN--For many of you, studying new languages helps you dive even deeper into your hobbies and interests.

LANGUAGES SUPPORT YOUR EDUCATION AND ENHANCE YOUR CAREER--

LANGUAGES HELP YOU BECOME AN INTERNATIONAL PERSON OF MYSTERY--I think this was my favourite category of answers. Apparently we have a lot of burgeoning international spies in our midsts! A surprising number of you looked at languages as a way of hiding or gathering information from the people around you.

I had my own experiences blending into the local environment in Egypt so I definitely know where you’re coming from. Whether you want to blend in like a local, or you want to know what the native speakers are saying without their knowledge, studying a language can help you enhance your covert skills.


Colby Glass, MLIS