Education, as a means by way of which we imbibe the knowledge and wisdom of the ages, is the path that enables us to surpass our natural and society induced limitations in understanding reality.
Prison is a confined space where one is put. It limits the capacity of a person to do his daily activities by depriving him of certain things that he would have enjoyed if he were outside. Imprisoning a person is limiting his capacity to live the way he wants by limiting his choices. It limits one’s negative freedom: to deter others from intervening in one’s life, and positive freedom: his right to have what he needs. Prison is an intervention in the freedom of an individual. And freedom is an ability to make free choices, deter the intervention of others in one’s life and be able to fulfill one’s own potential. This essay argues that ignorance is a prison in the sense that it deters an individual’s freedom.
The punitive effect of physical prison can be surpassed by learning to adjust one’s mind to accept its requirements because its punitive nature rests in its inculcating a feeling of guilty, isolation and deprivation of one’s desires, all of which can be transcended by adjusting one’s thinking. The imprisoning nature of ignorance however does not rest in feelings that it creates in our minds but in the impropriety of the actions that we take and hence the adverse effects it has in our very lives; therefore it can be said that ignorance is the ultimate prison.
The prison of ignorance arises from our human and social circumstances. Our natural state of being is by itself confining. We evolved in such a way that we can see a limited portion of reality. Our evolutionary history has so much an impact up on our perceptive capacity that we can see and hear only a limited portion of the light spectrum and frequency of sound respectively. We lack a capacity to see and hear not only due to a light or sound frequencies being too low but also because of its being too high. We fail to hear for example the ultrasonic sounds created by a bat. A bat however can hear this ultrasonic sounds. I have brought this example to show that nature has chosen for us what we might know; the same as in the case of prison where what an inmate would do is determined by others. And education is the process by which we fight against and break free from this prison, by learning the ways which humanity has developed in its long history of trial and error to surpass its confining nature.
Ignorance just like a prison, limits your choices: you see the world in a limited and most probably distorted way. An ignorant person chooses either randomly or based on his conception of the world which is uninformed. To choose randomly is not to be free. One who, in day light, sees and chooses what he finds to be better is freer than that who gropes in darkness and randomly chooses.
If you choose a certain way because it is the only option you know, you can’t claim to have chosen freely. Ignorance pushes you to act in the only way you believe to be true either because it is what is generally accepted to be true or because you happened to have accepted it. You might be made to choose what you might not have chosen if you had enough knowledge: which shows that ignorance is a prison in that it forces a person to act in a way that he would have avoided if he were free from its clutches.
Whether a person chose freely must be assessed considering what he would have chosen had he the capacity to evaluate all the alternatives; which is possible only after deliberation and investigation. Social indoctrination and natural limitation are the prisons that one should break free from in order to be able to clearly decide what is better. An individual can do better by thinking about his action before doing it. But he can be limited by the limitation of his mind and the time and place he lives in. Therefore the best way is to try to take the knowledge that the greatest minds in the history of humanity have provided, through the process of education.
Education, by showing us that the limits that our common sense imposes up on us are meaningless, frees our imagination from its confinements. It frees a person from the confinements of his local beliefs which determine the limit and content of his thinking and imagination. Education is like a canal that links a small lake, that is imprisoned by the land surrounding it, to an ocean; it leads an individual from his local confinements to the universal ocean of imagination.
Being limited to a portion of the gamut of imagination in things about which you can’t have an objective knowledge, like being subjective about that about which you can have an objective knowledge, is a limitation. Education is a path that leads to the oceans of imagination in the former case and to the only reality in the latter. It is a means which, giving access to the products of the greatest minds in history, saves us from the repercussions of our natural and social limitations. It frees us from our limitations in space and time in which we live and the limits of the capacities of our minds. Indeed, “He who opens a school door closes a prison.”