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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” These words of Nelson Mandela set the idea that with an education you can alter society for the better. Education is usually thought of as a tool to help you learn to get a great career, but it is more than just that. Education is the solution for many of the world’s problems as well as internal problems. Most of history’s philosophers would agree with Nelson Mandela. They would say that you can change with education.
The Confucian philosopher Hsün Tzu would argue that with education you can change your innate behavior to become a “gentleman.” Whereas the famous American orator Frederick Douglass would say that with education you can free yourself. Hsün Tzu was born around the 6th century BCE China. Which at that time it was the period of the warring states in China. States were fighting against each other and beginning wars with each other. Hsün Tzu grew up around the time of war and fighting which has likely influenced his philosophy and views on human nature. Hsün Tzu believes that humans are evil by nature and that if they do not try to change they will continue to be evil. Tzu says that we should always try to change to make ourselves better people.
In Encouraging Learning, Hsün Tzu states, “If wood is pressed against a straightening board, it can be made straight; if metal is put to the grindstone, it can be sharpened; and if the gentleman studies widely and each day examines himself, his wisdom will become clear and his conduct be without fault.”Here Hsün Tzu is saying that if you study and learn you can change your natural instincts. You need to become virtuous and to do that you need strict training and you need to be devoted. It will not come effortlessly as said in his quote comparing education to wood. Education is learning and Hsün Tzu believed that learning will never stop and that you should never stop. You are always learning and you can always change yourself through hard work, through discipline.
Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in the 1800’s. Douglass experienced harsh mistreatment and as a slave, he learned to read and write under secrecy. He went from a slave to an orator and a statesman. Douglass does not believe that people are naturally evil like Hsün Tzu believes to be so. He knew that not all people were born wicked such as his master’s mistress who was the one who taught him to read. His experiences and upbringing impact his philosophy and he believes that there are certain actions that do make someone cruel such as slavery. While Frederick Douglass may also agree with Hsün Tzu that with an education you can better yourself Douglass also believes that with an education you can set yourself free from oppression. In Learning to Read, Douglass says, “In this dialogue, the whole argument in behalf of slavery was brought forward by the master, all of which was disposed of by the slave. The slave was made to say some very smart as well as impressive things in reply to his master–things which had the desired though unexpected effect; for the conversation resulted in the voluntary emancipation of the slave on the part of the master.” This suggests that Frederick Douglass believes that through education you can be set free from oppression and in his case bondage.
Education is very powerful as demonstrated in the quote above. Through knowledge, the slave was set free because if you have the knowledge you have the power to help you to stand up and fight back against those who oppress you. Hsün Tzu believes that the purpose of education is to become virtuous like the “gentleman.” Frederick Douglass believes that the purpose of education is to set you free. They think differently about what the purpose of education is because they have different philosophical ideas and came about in different circumstances. Hsün Tzu’s philosophical views play a major part in his decision of what to consider to be the purpose of education. Tzu believes that we are all born the same no different. We are all equally evil, but we can overcome it because every human has the power to do so. It will not be fast and you will need to start little by little to change as he suggests in Encouraging Learning, “Unless you pile up tiny streams, you can never make a river or sea.” He says that over time those little deeds that you do pile up and become into something big. You can make small changes but over time you will be different and be a better person.
Frederick Douglass believed that civilization progresses and that the progress of man would bring truth and justice to slavery which was a step back. Douglass strongly believed that education is the way to step forward in society. When Frederick Douglass continued to learn he realized for himself that he was not meant for slavery. As he kept on reading from The Columbian Orator, he got angry at the world for slavery and held resentment as said in Learning to Read, “As I writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out.” Learning how to read opened Douglass’s eyes to fight back against slavery. It angered him when he read about the nation’s history. As Douglass continued to read he familiarized himself with this country’s founding principles of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence. It made Frederick Douglass want to fight. He had this strong desire for freedom and for justice. He continued to learn because he knew that continuing his education would be the best way possible to liberate himself. Nelson Mandela was correct when he said that education is the most powerful weapon to use for change.
Education will lead you far in every aspect of life. It can open many doors for you and you can change politics on a global scale or on a personal level help you get a career to support yourself and get money that you can use to better your life and to better the lives of those around you. But the purpose of education is not just for jobs and money. It is also as Hsün Tzu and Frederick Douglass believe it to be. The purpose of education is to better your situation and to better oneself. Education is to help you become a righteous and virtuous being and to help liberate yourself from the injustices that you face.
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