Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. Voltaire
I have re-read one of my favourite books of all time this week. Steven Pinker’s brilliant ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’ in which he explores the facts behind our history of violence and humanity.
We have evolved much in a relatively short period of time.
When you look at history it really is shocking what atrocities have been accepted at the highest levels:
Public floggings, hangings (up to 1964), drawing and quartering, whippings, keelhauling (a sailor being tied to a rope and pulled under the boat), burnings, beheading, slavery, rape within marriage (up to 1992), Superstitious killings, violence towards blasphemers… The list is VERY long. I can’t even begin to describe tortures used in medieval times and by the Spanish Inquisition. I find it interesting that as we became ‘more educated’ rather than get rid of torture and capital punishment, we found ways to make it quicker and more humane (justifying it for longer).
When I see the atrocities delivered around the world today, one thing comes to mind. How has education impacted upon those people doing it? What is the education system like there for them?
I believe that education is the greatest lever for good we have. I am proud when I look back at the history of England and see that we were the first major country to do away with judicial torture. But I am also aware that schools were very cruel places NOT that long ago. My father told me last week how he was once hit across the head from behind, in an RE lesson, so hard he cartwheeled over his desk to land on the floor in front of it. The Priest just continued to walk around the classroom in silence. It really does amaze me how far we have come… How good our education system is. Young children entering education this year have never been in safer hands… but with out investment everything deteriorates.
It is education that has helped evolve and establish Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Children’s Rights, Gay Rights, Animal Rights the list goes on. Schools have been central to a rise in empathy and a greater regard for life. The speed of development in science and technology is due to better education. Breakthroughs in medicine are not due to uneducated fools stumbling upon lucky finds. I would argue (just me?) that education has done more for humanity in the last 100 years than religion.
It is only through education that we can come together globally and continue to evolve as a species. Education is not just the expanse of our knowledge; it is the growth of our empathy and our understanding.
So, my point:
I find it unbelievable that we as an educated and evolved society can even think about spending over 100 Billion pounds on Trident nuclear weapons at the same time we are cutting funding in education. We obviously must have the money for Trident somewhere? I only just understand the impact of the cuts in my budget (another blog) but there is no doubt austerity is CUTTING IN, hard and fast. The impact of National Insurance rises (Tens of Thousands this year), real term rises in rates and simply having much less money means EDUCATION is going to be hit harder than a tactical strike this year. I will be really interested to see how many other schools (when the reality of what is coming through this year BITES) will be screaming out for help? Who will hear our cries?
Nuclear weapons, if used, would make the atrocities committed in the dark days simple footnotes within the terrible acts of history. I believe that the best deterrent for violence on small or large scales is education. 100 Billion pounds invested in our education system would do more in the long term for our country than four submarines playing hide and seek in the north Atlantic whilst the world changes. We are no longer living post World War 2…
Schools are weapons of Mass Education. Education is the greatest gift. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if many of our Politicians could spend a moment to use their education to realise that spending 100 Billion on something that is illegal (International Court of Justice ruled in 1996 the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law) and no longer as effective as it may have been decades ago is a total waste of money. Education is an investment in our futures.