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Naom Chomsky

Noam Chomsky: Education vs. Indoctrination

The famous American linguist gives a brilliant lecture on the true spirit of education.


83-year-old Noam Chomsky continues to be one of the greatest voices of American thought. At the conference “Learning Without Frontiers”, which was held in London, the linguist gave a brilliant lecture on what he considers to be the true meaning of education. “The greatest goal in life is to question and create”, he said.

The purpose of education, with this in mind, is only to help people learn how to think for themselves. It’s the you who learns, who is going to accomplish something in the class and it depends on you whether or not you’re going to use and perfect what you’ve learned.

For Chomsky, indoctrination is the opposite of education: “People have the idea that, from childhood, young people have to be placed into a framework where they’re going to follow orders. This is often quite explicit.” Again, the MIT Linguistics Professor undeniably takes a Socratic position that prioritizes individual thinking and the questioning of authority. The question might seem overused, but it seems necessary to repeat it every once in a while: Do we want to create automatons or individuals? Or put another way: Do we want to teach people to pass exams or to posit creative questions?

As if that weren’t enough, he argues that the current education model generates “a debt which traps students, young people, into a life of conformity. That’s the exact opposite of what traditionally comes out of the Enlightenment.”

Technology was one of the other central topics he addressed in this conference. In reference to it, he stated the following:

It’s like a hammer. It doesn’t care if you use it to build a house or crush someone’s skull. The Web is valuable if you know what you’re looking for, if you have a framework of understanding. But you always have to be willing to question whether your framework is the right one. Exploring the Internet can just be picking up random factoids that don’t mean anything. The person who won the Nobel Prize in biology isn’t the person who read the most journals. It was the person who knew what to look for.


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