Ill-informed societies make ill-informed decisions. The importance of well-functioning educational institutions is undisputed. Students are formed by what they are taught, so it naturally follows that educators have a responsibility to inform their students, and to inform them of the truth.

Yet, I wonder how seriously this responsibility is taken. Many lecturers appear more concerned about protecting and promoting their own ideas rather than the truth.

There is a kind of academic tribalism that reigns, fostered by lecturers who have pledged loyalty to their ideology over truth, and regard others as outcasts to browbeat or ridicule.

There is a tendency among some to completely ignore ideas that conflict with their own. Many students are oblivious to other reasonable opinions that exist on a given topic. It’s is not uncommon for lecturers to deride or disregard these perspectives out of hand.

One lecturer went as far to say the Republican Party was a “party of white supremacy”. That same lecturer decried the ‘evils’ of capitalism while he uncritically praised the welfare state. This kind of ‘education’ is more about marking boundaries of acceptable thought than engaging with different ideas.

Bad ideas exist, but students must be encouraged to engage with them critically and make judgements for themselves. We learn when we speak with people who hold different opinions. Being uncomfortable encourages us to pursue truth. It either strengthens our position or encourages us to re-evaluate our understanding.

For all the rhetoric I hear on campus of ‘boundary pushing’ and ‘questioning everything’ I rarely meet students who think differently from the lecturer. Many students just ‘go along to get along’ with what they hear. It’s the path of least resistance and requires no extra work; it protects their grade and ensures their social standing remains unmarred. In this way, a good many lecturers implicitly teach their students a lack of critical engagement.

Thankfully there is a solution to ignorance, wilful or otherwise: the pursuit of truth at all costs.

This pursuit must begin in our places of learning. Education is not simply something we are given, but an attitude of openness and hunger for the truth. It begins with a humility that we could actually be wrong in some of our thinking. When truth is prized above all else, we realise that some things are more important than good grades and social acceptance. Yet, this shouldn’t be the cost of pursuing truth, which is why we need to talk about the state of education in our country. Until then, students must be willing to pay any price for that which is priceless.

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Josiah Brown

Josiah Brown has recently completed a Bachelor of Arts degree (History & Communications) at the University of Auckland. He worked as a communications intern for the Vodafone Warriors during his final semester and is looking for similar work now that he’s graduated. Josiah is passionate about history and would love to do further study if given the opportunity.