About Textbooks

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
Marie Curie Skodlowska

When I was in high school in Lebanon, I was not interested in all the topics that I had to study. Just like any other student, there were subjects I enjoyed considerably more than others. This is why we have something called specialization. At least this exists in Lebanon.

By the time you reach your senior year, you will be asked to follow a particular path in order to prepare yourself for that baccalaureat section. It can range from specializing in General Sciences (where Math and Physics are the subjects with the highest coefficients), Life Sciences (Biology and Chemistry), Social Economics (the title is self-explanatory), or Literature and Humanities (Languages and Philosophy). In general, the curriculum is still made of the same components in all of those fields. The only difference lies in the dosage of the importance of the importance to each of those subjects. This system tends to make it easier for students to figure out the path they want to undertake once they graduate and apply for universities. In general, General Science students end up going into engineering, Life Sciences undergo biology and medical studies, business and economics attract those who have specialized in Social Economics, and finally law and psychology are some quite common routes for Literature and Humanities. Of course, there is no general rule, meaning that it does not have to necessarily be this way.

There have been different cases where a General Sciences student ends up going into business, or a Literature and Humanities one choosing to undergo engineering studies. In both cases, what tends to happen is that the students in question will be at a slight disadvantage in comparison to the rest of the class during at least the first semester. This is due to the fact that during their senior year in high school, their focus was towards subjects and notions  different from the ones elaborated in university.

However, the current educational system does present a long term problem in today’s society. Through the concept of specialization and giving more importance to certain subjects over others, students will disregard the ones that they do not like under the argument that they “will never use those notions in life”. The theory of multiple intelligences helps support this phenomenon since every human being has their own learning method and strong suits when it comes to intelligence. Some people react better to mathematics, others do so through music or sports, and so on. Although this helped society understand that there are various ways of measuring intelligence, it has also constituted a barrier to the knowledge we decide to develop.

When I was in high school, teachers and principals would often tell us that the most important product we can take from all our learning is the development of a critical thought process. The concept of critical thinking means that we do not just take the information as it is, but instead we try to break it down and understand it from all angles in order for us to form our own judgement as well and be well informed about it. Such a thought process prevents us from being subject to brainwashing and actually doing our research before we form any type of opinion on a given topic. The improvements in technology and the easy access to information on the Internet facilitates this even more in this day and age. Unfortunately, quantity is not always a good thing.

With the immense flow of information and data generated on a daily basis, the quality and accuracy is rarely guaranteed. Combined with the development of social media platforms, columns in newspapers and online blogs, suddenly any random person in the world with a computer, tablet or even a smartphone can pretend to become an expert in any given field. It can range from journalism and religion to medicine and psychology. In spite of all the information we have access to, we barely take the time to conduct the minimum research required in order to be sufficiently informed, allowing us to construct an objective and educated opinion based on facts. Instead, we are prompted to quote any famous person just because someone shared something they said on social media for the sole purpose of confirming our views, even if they have been disproved over time. This is the danger of confirmation bias. Our research is no longer based on understanding the truth, instead it focuses on proving that we are right.

“Nonsense is nonsense even when spoken by world-famous scientists”.
John Lennox

Just because a famous person said something, it does not mean that it is 100% accurate and flawless. This is why critical thinking is important, otherwise we become sheep to the sayings of people of authority just because they said so. Over the last ten years of my life – although I am confident that this has been going on for a lot longer -, I have witnessed strong waves of criticism towards religious institutions for brainwashing people into blindly believing what the priest, rabbi or imam is telling them. However, it is interesting how similar the situation is when it comes to topics like economics, politics, and so on. The root of this problem comes from our lack of knowledge in those particular fields, despite having loads of information on the Internet about it. Sure, you can hide behind the argument that you do not have the time to research what Friedrich Nietzsche meant when he said that “God is dead”, though you would be willing to spend 10 to 15 minutes on a quiz in order to know which type of potato character you are. The reason we find ourselves in such situations is because when we were in high school, we did not give enough attention to these notions because we thought that we would never use them in real life once we graduate from high school. We would do the strict minimum in order to pass the class.

There is something wrong with our educational system today. There is a general presumption that we are learning to develop critical minds, when in reality we often tend to remain within the thought frames of the society surrounding us and the pressures applied. This continues on with the influence of the media that tend to spread misinformation which they know less than 20% of their readers will click on to read more about it, out of which less than 1% will conduct further research in order to verify its credibility. Even when the claims are disproven, media platforms and news agencies are never properly held accountable for their mistakes (if we can even call them mistakes at times).

The most amazing thing my sister taught me was to always Google something whenever I would doubt and/or question it. It became easier for me to at least understand various topics that are definitely not part of my field of expertise. There is no point in having questions on any subject and not pursuing them to at least form an educated opinion about it.

It is part of human nature to want to feel like we are not following the masses.
In order to do that, we need to remember that education does not stop at high school.
It does not stop at a university bachelor’s degree.
It does not stop at a masters’ degree.
It does not stop at a PhD.
Education is for life. We could live a thousand lifetimes and still not learn 10% of everything the universe has to offer.

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