Having worked in education for the last 20 years, I have reached a conclusion. Well, to be fair, I have reached several, but this article is about only one of them. You will be treated to the others according to a schedule which I will share with you some other time.
Today’s revelation though, is that spending the last 20 years imparting knowledge has been an utter waste of time because, my friends, knowledge has no value. It is almost completely worthless.
This, of course, hasn’t always been the case. There was a time when a large personal wealth of knowledge would be of great value. Depending on the nature of that knowledge, one might become the go to person for any number of things.
If you want to know about goats, you need to speak to Sue. She’s your goat expert.
If you want to know about batteries, go and see Dave. He knows his batteries, does Dave.
Growing up, my street’s go to guy was my Uncle Reginald. He had a vast knowledge of electrical doodads and materials. It meant that he could fix just about anything, tell you what you needed to fix something, or tell you that something wasn’t worth fixing. Quite where his knowledge came from (I suspect just years of tinkering) wasn’t clear, but he was party to knowledge that the rest of us valued. It earned him respect, and I suppose, a little money to boot.
The other great oracle was a friend of my mum. She had been to university, so was considered by plebs like us to be a genius. She seemed to know everything. Looking back, she used to lecture undergraduate history, and simply steered every conversation round to her specialist subject. This must have passed at least my mother by, as the fact that every conversation anyone had with her seemed to relate in some way to the medieval monarchy and was conducted through a fog of Marlborough smoke and tears indicated that her knowledge was limited to a specific area and that her personal life was a disaster. The fact was though, that she was respected for her knowledge and knew how to leverage it to her advantage.
Looking back, I’m sure you can think of people who filled that role for you. They were revered for what they knew, and often slightly feared for the eccentricities that it would excuse.
Then came the internet.
When the internet first hit the scene, it brought with it a new hero. In its infancy, the internet championed the IT technician. As the internet worked its way across our campus computer networks, a great well of knowledge was opened up to us. The well would fill our buckets with all manner of new and interesting waters but would collapse on itself so frequently that we always needed our IT technician on hand to open it up again. He (Duncan, as I remember) held the golden shovel of computer knowledge. He was the gatekeeper. If the well closed up on Duncan’s day off, one had to go back to sipping out of the puddles in the library.
When the internet moved into homes, it was the privilege of a special few. It wasn’t cheap to get connected or to buy the kit with which to do so, and it still seemed that one needed to be some sort of specialist to get any sort of value from it. Those that had access were suddenly raised to the status of my Uncle Reginald, as it was they who held the key to the door of knowing.
If you want to know about Africa, you should ask Peter. He’s got that internet, you know.
As is only natural, things moved on and now almost everyone has the internet in their pocket. The devices that access it have been made affordable and intensely clever people have made them so simple to use that extremely dim people have no problem using them. The internet itself has grown beyond measure too. The upshot is that almost everyone has access to knowledge regarding almost everything almost constantly. So what’s the point in knowing things when you can just Google them? What’s the point in learning to do something when you can get a rough tutorial on YouTube?
What’s the point in asking Uncle Reginald when he’s only going to Google it anyway?
What’s the point in figuring anything out for yourself when you can get an acceptable answer online?
The result is that the majority of the population no longer value knowledge because it is so readily available. It just doesn’t seem special anymore. Putting the internet in everyone’s pocket is rather like giving everybody a machine that prints money. It would seem fantastic at first, but money would devalue so fast that very soon you’d be using it to wipe your bottom.
Free money would negate the value of work, so nothing new would be made.
In the same way, free knowledge negates the value of thought, so nothing new is imagined.
So next time little Suki isn’t interested in her history lesson, take solace in the notion that she is heading into a world of the best-informed imbeciles that the planet has ever seen.
She may though, if she turns herself around and studies hard, become one of the last humans on the planet respected for their knowledge. If she can push forward, and battle through the revulsion of dealing with physical objects, she may, one day, one glorious day learn how to replace the screen on a dropped iPhone.
Minister of Stuff.