Why do Humanists encourage self-education?

Humanists are dedicated to self-education because we understand that education is the key to Auto-Liberation.

The Atlantic had a brilliant essay recently by Ta-Nehisi Coates called Being French.  The subtitle of the essay is: It’s hard to learn a new language. But it’s way harder to learn a new culture. (See: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/08/acting-french/375743/)

This brilliant essay is about the role education plays in both subjugation and liberation.  Subjugation results from the restriction of learning. The problem is that we can do this to ourselves when we restrict our own learning. Maybe we don’t want to learn.  The problem is that when we refuse to learn, we limit ourselves.

Liberation is not something that is given to us. It is something we have to learn and earn for ourselves.  This is why self-education is the key to auto-liberation.

Ta-Nehisi talks about his own journey to cosmopolitanism, which is an attitude of openness to other cultures.  Cosmopolitanism is important because it opens us up to learning.

Ta-Nehisi provides an ample example of this when he talks about the self-education of the Cherokee.  Settlers hope that by educating the Cherokee – they could control them. The opposite happened.  The Cherokee didn’t restrict their learning to what was provided for them. They took to self-education and the liberation that comes with it as if their lives depended on it – because it did.

To quote Ta-Nehsis “Openness to education did not make the Cherokee pliant to American power; it gave them tools to resist that power. Realizing this, the United States dropped the veneer of “culture” and “civilization” and resorted to “Indian Removal,” or The Trail of Tears.”

Restriction of learning is a tool of suppression. Control of education is power. If you want to have power and autonomy, you have to control your own learning. You have to make learning a priority for yourself and to actively seek out opportunities to learn.  This is why Humanists consider education so important.

Ta-Nehisi continues, “In our time, it is common to urge young black children toward education so that they may be respectable or impress the “right people.” But the “right people” remain unimpressed, and the credentials of black people, in a country rooted in white supremacy, must necessarily be less. That great powers are in the business of using "respectability" and "education" to ignore these discomfiting facts does not close the book. You can never fully know. But you can walk in the right direction.”

That right direction? Self-education and auto-liberation.

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