‘Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil’. – C.S Lewis

Maheen, 15, from Bury Grammar School, writes about a quote from C.S. Lewis's "Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil". Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

In order to fully evaluate this statement, it is necessary to break it down to its core elements. Education, by itself, provides many benefits.  It is easy to see that without education, the opportunities available to you in life are limited and that there is a correlation between the standard of education and one’s standing in society.  We see time and time again that the majority of the world’s leaders, whether they possess values or not, have a good education in common.  Education gives you a vehicle through which power can be obtained.  It is very rarely the most brilliant minds in this world that assume positions of great power, but instead those of good aptitude and an ability to apply the skills which they have honed during their education, rhetoric being as important today as it was in classical times.  Through enlightened and a liberal education, people learn of the wants and needs of others and in doing so, gain a level of empathy and understanding that actually leads to objectivity.  People who are well educated in some way elevate themselves above the masses. When we talk of the masses, we mean the general public with an average level of education and learning for that country.  These are the people who, rightly or wrongly, just simply get on with their lives in the best manner possible, occasionally complaining, but never really having the vision or, more importantly, the power to change things.  The well-educated mind, therefore, sees their niche as being in a high position of leadership.  Here, one would argue, we come on to the subject of values.

It could be said that those educated people with universal values of honesty, justice and compassion will go on to do good in the world, attempting through their power to be an agent for change.  But that is seemingly not the case, with corruption being an essential part of power that not even the ostensibly best-intentioned people can avoid.  Take, for example, religious leaders, who surely should have the best values of us all.  They mostly have a good standard of education and an ability to appeal to the people.  But nobody can deny the scandal that stalks the Vatican or even the Church of England.  It seems as though education, no matter whether it is combined with values can not overcome the trappings of power.

Naturally, those who are educated and without values are much more likely to intentionally abuse any power which they may have.  Indeed, those who do not have values, but have education may deliberately use this to manipulate others in their personal relationships, using their education as a claim to superiority.  But then, even those with values can look upon themselves as superior or, at least, use their education as an excuse to patronize others.  It is difficult for those without education to challenge those with it, for they are up against people who either want to exploit them or people who believe that it is for the greater good that they make the decisions.  An educated person has so much more in their armoury than an uneducated one.  They can think for themselves, they can draw upon their knowledge for help and they can use any skills which they have acquired to further themselves.  Therein lies a great problem: uneducated people are thought by most educated people to need protecting, maybe even controlling.  They need to be fed, to be clothed, to be entertained.  However, if uneducated people did not exist, who would the educated people have control over?  How would the educated people be distinguishable from each other?  Perhaps this is a major factor in why there is such a great difference in levels of erudition between groups of people.  It is the basic need of the educated to have that quality as something which makes them special – if everybody is equally well educated, what makes people better than others?  It is clear to see that even in a modern democracy many do not get given a decent education and even when it is offered to them, they do not take it.  In countries where a decent education for many is hard to come by, most appear to understand the merits of one.  In a country like the UK, where education is provided to all, although not everybody will be offered a sufficient one, those who are do not necessarily appreciate its worth.  There is a social attitude, existent in wider culture that it is not really a good thing to be clever.  People are labelled as ‘geeks’ and ‘nerds’ and, in the UK, 17% of children would be embarrassed if their friend saw them with a book.  This attitude must have been brought about by something and there appears to be one major factor which has caused it.  This is the media, which is there to entertain.  Instead of the mass media seeking to elevate the general public’s intellect, it appears almost to push it down to a level of such banality that it has popularized the image of being unintelligent.  We must then look at the controllers of the media.  An example is Danny Cohen, the current controller of BBC One.  His alma mater is Lady Margaret Hall College at the University of Oxford.  Between May 2007 and October 2010, he was the controller of BBC Three, a channel that is aimed primarily at teenagers and young adults.  A channel such as this is key in popularizing attitudes as it targets the generation who will soon be responsible for the future of the UK.  Whilst this channel does have its fair share of documentaries, a number having been commissioned by Cohen himself, these always tend to be presented in such a format as to make them seem ‘cool’ i.e. not too intellectual.  This can be seen in the type of presenters they choose (young, confident sorts who claim ignorance when faced with even the most basic of facts) and the subject matter of the documentaries, which does not include the arts or books – important aspects of education.  Only the educated are free and so through the media, unwitting subjects are oppressed and controlled, without even realising it.  The controllers of the media are educated, but although much educating and important cultural material is presented through the media, it is always perceived as ‘uncool’ or only for a select few and is pushed away into less mainstream avenues, which is probably exactly what the controllers would like.  These controllers may be perfectly decent people, who may give to charity and fund projects to help the disadvantaged, but there always remains a subconscious desire in the educated to feel as though they belong to some elite group, whether they have values or no values.  In this way, they do no pass on the greatest gift of education on by using the media which they have at their disposal to even try to create a shift in social attitudes.  It therefore makes no difference whether these people have values for they still do not take steps to give the ultimate liberator to the people – education.  They remain just as devilish as those who do not have values, perhaps more so, for those without values oppress and everybody realises it.  Those with values subtly oppress and even they are not aware of it.  Those in power do nothing about it, for an uneducated public is much easier to control than an educated one.

This brings us to our final point.  There will, in this world, always be people without values.  It is true to say that with education, those people can inflict terror and pain on millions.  Yet it is also true to say that with education, values can be learnt.  Education gives you the power to rationalise and this allows you to form your own values, and not harbour those that society impresses upon you.  Then, naturally, there may be those who are educated and who use their education, due to lack of values, for their own, often destructive, means, but if the rest of the people have education and consequently the values that education itself can bring, then these oppressive persons stand much less chance of achieving their will.  The problem is not that people without values are educated, but that a self-enhancing education is not universal.  Consequently not enough people can adeptly challenge the valueless educated and so tyranny prevails.  It is necessary for those in possession of values and an education to impart to others the importance of learning so that the harmful disparity, which Aristotle likened to that between the living and the dead, existing between groups of people caused by levels of education can be eradicated.

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