A guest blog article by Brian H. (student, world citizen)
Knowledge is power.
A sentence only three words in length contains enough information for people across the ages to try to attain the most knowledge possible so they can maintain a status in the most powerful class in their societies. This is how it has always worked and will continue to work, unless it does not. If the system truly worked this way, there would not be nearly as many problems in society as there are. There is a piece of the puzzle that is missing, but the problem is not that it has not been found, it is that it is repeatedly ignored by the ruling class in order to keep the “un-powerful” from taking the first step to change the world. Knowledge may be powerful, but wisdom is the key to using that power for the benefit of all instead of the benefit of self. Because the emphasis has been placed on knowledge instead of wisdom in the educating systems in society, the blind truly are leading the blind.
Becky Beal conducted a study of skateboarders in Colorado. She studied the mindset of the skaters and also noted the involvement of female skaters, or lack thereof. When interviewing the skaters, she asked some of the boys about how they felt about the female skaters. “ . . . I commented on the lack of female participation and asked their opinion about why it occurred. Most males were taken aback and they spent time reflecting on it (as if they had not given it much thought before), and their explanations ranged from describing ‘natural’ differences to social preferences of males and females” (Beal 67). Skateboarding, as a subculture, is not taught in school, so presumably it is learned by watching and doing what others before have done. Through learned behavior, the male skateboarders of today have not seen how their behavior about and towards women has affected the women who have come to enjoy skating. In this blindness of self, the behavior is not only acted out by those who have learned, it is also taught to a whole new generation of younger skaters starting out.
In the movie Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Katherine Watson moves to Massachusetts to teach at Wellesley College. The students she faces are all products of the society they were raised in. Students such as Betty Warren and Joan Brandwyn have already decided that they are going to finish school, get their degrees, and be happily married instead of pursuing careers. The society they grew up in (especially represented by Mrs. Warren’s pressure on Betty to stay in the marriage) does not see the role they play in pushing these roles on their daughters. “Inside a marriage a man and woman may experience personal troubles, but when the divorce rate during the first four years of marriage is 250 out of every 1,000 attempts, this is an indication of a structural issue having to do with the institutions of marriage and the family and other institutions that bear upon them” (Mills 6). Through posing many questions and challenging her students to open their eyes beyond what they believed before, many of them experience personal growth. Even though Joan still got married, she made her own choice instead of fulfilling an obligation to her given societal role. Betty left her marriage to build her own life for herself.
When the blind are leading the blind, it can be almost impossible to break the cycle to create true growth. It is not that people are incapable of realizing wisdom from their knowledge and applying it, they just need to remember to always maintain the insight and clarity of mind to not get stuck in a rut where they are merely comfortable and too afraid to improve not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone else. It has been shown repeatedly over time that history does repeat itself, so it is time to stop living in denial and figure out that something society is doing is not working. Knowing that all great journeys start with a single step is knowledge, but wisdom is knowing that the first one to step out will walk alone until others see the way.
Mills, C. Wright. 2000 (1959). The Sociological Imagination: 40th Anniversary Edition. Oxford University Press.
Beal, Becky. 1996. “Alternative masculinity and its effect on gender relations in the subculture of skateboarding.” Journal of Sport Behavior.