The Influence of Education and Technology

Reference & Education

  • Author Kidus Melake
  • Published March 29, 2021
  • Word count 2,497

By: Kidus Melake

“In our dream we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand. The present educational conventions fade from our minds; and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or of science. We are not to raise up among them authors, orators, poets, or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians. Nor will we cherish even the humbler ambition to raise up from among them lawyers, doctors, preachers, statesmen, of whom we now have ample supply." - Rev. Frederick T. Gates

Gates, F. T. (1913). The Country School of To-morrow. pg 6. doi:https://archive.org/details/countryschooloft00gates/page/n5/mode/2up

The undermining of education for the populace, along with the discrepancies with the information that is available to us, the combination of these two factors have brought us to the scenario we see in front of us today. Whereas the "bent of the genius" able to be found in children has been drained out and replaced with a cookie cutter curriculum, along with a disturbing manner of receiving our information, I feel has led us to become subjects of our ignorance. Being coerced into subliminally having our beliefs morphed into predisposed ideals, which inevitably creates a population that can easily be indoctrinated and motivated to live by a meticulously curated and destabilizing philosophy.

Plato had a very good view on how education should be, he believed that children shouldn't be taught "by force or harshness; but direct them to [learn] by what amuses their minds, so that they may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius [in themselves]."- Plato. I agree with this perspective, since the only time I've ever been invested into my work is when a genuine interest for that topic is already within me or if my interest for that topic starts to flourish.

Plato on Education

The philosopher's mind shouldn't be moving to and fro from one school of thought to the next, Plato believed that a philosophical mind is a mind that is content in learning the eternal nature of reality, he believed that there will be no rightly ordered life if there is no true knowledge. Just like the story of the men in the cave, you can link many shadows to one fire but you can't say there is one fire per shadow. In reality you can link many observations to one idea but that one idea can't be solely linked to that one observation. A sunset can be called beautiful, likewise that same person can turn and call his wife beautiful. Plato believed that the eternal nature of reality is the link that all ideas have to the divine. All ideas are linked to the divine but a singular idea isn't solely linked to the divine.

Plato was adamant in having government funded schooling. Although it was only intended for Greek citizens, he believed in a dialogical method of educating, where arguments between friends and foes are the path which leads to enlightenment. A full education, and the use of dialogical discourse allows people to overcome their own desires and ambitions for the pursuit of truth. Since the pursuit of truth is the end goal, the young should be taught mythological stories. Truth, goodness, morals, and other intangible characteristics of reality are the personification of the divine's ideals. When considering Plato's view on mandatory education and comparing it to our own there is a significant difference. A change that started taking place in the western world as far back as the late 19th and early 20th century, where "both school and college curricula [has been changed] to the point where they sometimes denied the principles underlying the American way of life. Financing experiments designed to determine the most effective means by which education could be pressed into service of a political nature" (Dodd, N. 1954, pg.7).

School has become an ideal place to indoctrinate the youth, breeding blind obedience and herd mentality. With quick changes in culture, the disintegration of morals and values in the school curriculum along with the decrease of dialogical interactions about pressing and exhaustive topics, today's schools (mostly post secondary schools) and technology made the mindset of the masses to seem as if its a mentality of either being with them or against them. Building identity as a collective is not only emotionally draining but it also makes you less empathetic towards other groups and perspectives.

Plato on Politics

Plato believes politicians should prove that they are fit to rule, they need to be morally and intellectually excellent. Since a ruler that lusts after personal accomplishments with no regard for the eternal nature of reality and the wellbeing of the citizens will not adequately fulfill the duties of the state, which in Plato's eyes was to have a just society working in harmony for the greater good of all. The state as Plato envisioned it was based on an aristocratical model. It has three classes, the guardians which was the ruling class, the auxiliaries which were the soldiers/police, and the producers which were the laborers. These three classes represent the three virtues a person and a nation should have in order to obtain the forth virtue which is justice, wisdom being represented by the guardians, courage being represented by the auxiliaries, and self-control being represented by the producers. The combination of these three virtues will induce what Plato thought to be the true drive for justice, justice being the most important virtue of them all. With the drive for true justice being the main objective, "one of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you will end up being governed by your inferiors."- Plato.

The conclusion we came to earlier is that in order to be enlightened with the truth we need to have dialogical discourse, we also came to the conclusion that today there is a significant lack of said discourse. Regardless of how well the population of today may be educated, it doesn't align with the type of education Plato had in mind. The politics of Plato's optimal world required the type of education that invoked the minds of the leaders and citizens to be free thinkers, the lack of individual originality makes his statement "being governed by your inferiors" or in other words, the ignorant, truer than it has ever been before.

The Effect of Modern Technology on Democracy

“In spite of this dispute within his own ranks, the social scientist is gradually becoming dignified by the title "Social Engineer". This title implies that the objective viewpoint of the pure scientist is about to become obsolete in favor of techniques of control. It also suggests that our traditional concept of freedom as the function of natural and constitutional law has already been abandoned” - Norman Dodd

Dodd, N. (1954). The DODD REPORT to the Reece Committee on Foundations. The Long House INC, pg.12.doi:https://ia800304.us.archive.org/19/items/DoddReportToTheReeceCommitteeOnFoundations-1954-RobberBaron/Dodd-Report-to-the-Reece-Committee-on-Foundations-1954.pdf

The reality of the twenty-first century is that we are at a point in time where social media's power of emotional manipulation, lack of fact checking, and favoritism in our search engine results have an undetectable and subliminal effect on our daily decision making (which once every 4 years is election day). Josh Ginsberg, CEO of Zignal Labs, said, "Although there's no question the media is essential to democracy..." the lack of people speculating about the legitimacy of what they see online is significant. Out of 2000 people 18 years old and up, 86% said they don't check if what they are viewing on social media is factual. Along with that 27% of those people said they share those articles that they have not fact checked, also the news feed we view on our social media platforms is curated to our own liking. Decreasing the likelihood of something that will challenge our views being displayed.

Even if we disregard the lack of fact checking, the manipulation of the posts we see can fabricate a positive or a negative emotion, it can also be interpreted as liking or disliking the targeted political candidate. By filtering the flow of videos, comments, pictures, and anything that may appear on the news feed, the emotions of the user can be manipulated to the manipulator's liking while the user is completely unaware of it. This was done to the Facebook news feed of 689,000 users without their formal consent, the researchers claim that changing the news feed is "consistent with Facebook's data use policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research".(PNAS 2014). At the end of the study they came to the conclusion that "emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence of the massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks."(PNAS 2014). Since we've acknowledged the effects manipulating our news feed has on our mood and agreed to its manipulation when creating our account, who's to say that it hasn't been manipulated in the last election? or it won't happen in the coming election?

One of the more frightening aspects of the internet is Google and what's referred to as the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME). SEME can be used to induce many things, one of them being partisan ranking bias. Partisan ranking bias is when candidate A is ranked higher than candidate B in the search results, and therefore receiving more clicks. Since our mind has already become accustomed to trusting the first couple of links when looking up more mundane things, during election season or when making any other important decision SEME has a significant impact on what our course of action may be. Even more disturbing is that SEME is virtually undetectable. In 2014 an experiment was done during the Lok Sabha Election in India where 99.5% of the participants showed no awareness of the bias search rankings, while effecting anywhere between 20% - 60% of the undecided voters opinions on who to elect depending on the demographic. I believe if this was done over an extended period of time it may have a much more intrusive impact on any democratic election outcome. SEME has the ability to change the outcome of elections with winning margin as high as 2%, and when considering that 25% of the elections in the world are won by a margin under 3%, along with the fact that Google is used by 90% of the world as of 2017 shows that Google has an international outreach over all things that which is yet to be properly regulated.

The Undermining's and Discrepancies

The undermining of education by tax exempt foundations, and the discrepancies in the way we receive our information caused the population to have a lack of dialogical interactions about pressing and exhaustive topics. Purposefully induced ignorance of the population towards topics like politics and other important issues through the effect SEME and social media has on our mood and choices inclines the worldview of the majority to be curated for them with the utmost ease.

When looking at Plato's philosophy, our reality is not congruent. He envisioned an educated population teeming with individuals that transcended ignorance with the passionate desire to understand the eternal nature of reality, an education system with a foundation on morals and values rather than the schooling of today which is memorization and standardized testing with no room for individuality and engaging questions about reality. Plato envisioned a political system where politicians had to prove they were fit to rule before they were given the opportunity to have power over the state, where personal desires were not the driving force for these politicians but rather the drive of true justice being their desire. Coupled with a society that did not trust the government but perpetually expected the government to prove to them why they should be trusted, has now been replaced with a population that may not trust what politicians claim but can still get duped into conforming with the intended perspective by "operations and ideas [that] are so complex as to be beyond public understanding or control" (Dodd, N. 1954, pg.12).

Once we reevaluate the perspective we have on the world around us by understanding the issues in the modern way of living, we can easily evade the consequences that come with being unaware of how our method of educating and technology affects us. Although I can't say how we can implement this on a national or even a local scale, by constantly screening our philosophy through Plato's we can determine whether we are in pursuit of the eternal nature of reality or if we are caught up in our own pride and willful ignorance. The use of the three virtues will induce the fourth virtue which is justice and implementing it into the daily life of the individual I feel has the possibility of propelling that person into a more fulfilling life motivated not by pride but by truth.

Citations

Why shouldn't the government be involved in education. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://schoolandstate.com/?page_id=58

Manney, P. (2015, June 30). Is technology Destroying Empathy? (op-ed). Retrieved, from https://www.livescience.com/51392-will-tech-bring-humanity-together-or-tear-it-apart.html

Dodd, N. (1954). The DODD REPORT to the Reece Committee on Foundations. The Long House INC, pg.7.doi:https://ia800304.us.archive.org/19/items/DoddReportToTheReeceCommitteeOnFoundations-1954-RobberBaron/Dodd-Report-to-the-Reece-Committee-on-Foundations-1954.pdf

Dodd, N. (1954). The DODD REPORT to the Reece Committee on Foundations. The Long House INC, pg.12.doi:https://ia800304.us.archive.org/19/items/DoddReportToTheReeceCommitteeOnFoundations-1954-RobberBaron/Dodd-Report-to-the-Reece-Committee-on-Foundations-1954.pdf

Kotinsky, R. (2013, January 07). Plato on education. Retrieved from https://infed.org/mobi/plato-on-education/

Mystie. (2020, September 13). Plato's education philosophy theory. Retrieved from https://www.scholesisters.com/plato-education-philosophy/

Tanwar, S. Plato’s Theories: Theory of Justice, Education and Communism. Retrieved from www.politicalsciencenotes.com/plato/platos-theories-theory-of-justice-education-and-communism/84

Messerly, J. (2019, November 08). A summary of PLATO'S political theory and American POLITICS 2016. Retrieved from https://reasonandmeaning.com/2016/10/24/a-summary-of-platos-political-theory-and-american-politics-2016/

Brown, E. (2017, May 10). 9 out of 10 Americans don't fact-check information they read on social media. Retrieved from https://www.zdnet.com/article/nine-out-of-ten-americans-dont-fact-check-information-they-read-on-social-media/

Kramer, A., Guillory, J., & Hancock, J. (2014, June 17). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Retrieved from https://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788.full

Booth, R. (2014, June 29). Facebook reveals news feed experiment to control emotions. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/29/facebook-users-emotions-news-feeds

Robertson, R. (2019, December 18). Google's Search-Ranking manipulation is Affecting Elections. Retrieved from https://www.good.is/articles/election-primaries-google-search-ranking-manipulation

Epstein, R., & Robertson, R. (2015, August 18). The search engine manipulation effect (SEME) and its possible impact on the outcomes of elections. Retrieved from https://www.pnas.org/content/112/33/E4512

Epstein, R. (2021, March 08). How the Internet Flips elections and alters our thoughts –: Aeon essays. Retrieved from https://aeon.co/essays/how-the-internet-flips-elections-and-alters-our-thoughts

Odrozek, K. (2018, May 04). More than 90% of the world uses Google search. Retrieved from https://internethealthreport.org/2018/90-of-the-world-uses-google-search/

Hello, thank you for taking the time to read the article. I hope you found it to be edifying. If you want to contact me here is my email Kidus133melake@gmail.com.

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37 · 3 months ago
Great job bud. You should continue to write.

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37 · 3 months ago
You should write more! Looking forward to seeing what’s next from you. Great job bud.

Emad
Emad · 3 months ago
I enjoyed this

Mahlet
Mahlet · 4 months ago
Thank you for showing us your views. It's articulated very nicely!

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