James Baldwin/1: The Paradox of Education

“The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions […] But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it – at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only way societies change”

James Arthur Baldwin (2 August 1924 – 1987) American writer.

“Il paradosso dell’istruzione è proprio questo: quando si diventa consapevoli si comincia a esaminare la società nella quale si riceve l’istruzione. Lo scopo finale dell’educazione è formare in una persona la capacità di vedere il mondo individualmente, di prendere le proprie decisioni […] Ma nessuna società desidera davvero avere in giro questo tipo di persona. Quello che le società vogliono davvero, idealmente, è una cittadinanza che semplicemente obbedisca alle regole della società. Se una società ci riesce, è vicina al deterioramento. L’obbligo di chi si considera responsabile è di esaminare la società e di cercare di cambiarla e combatterla – a tutti i costi. Questa è l’unica speranza che ha la società. Questo è l’unico modo in cui le società cambiano.”

James Arthur Baldwin (2 agosto 1924 – 1987), scrittore statunitense.

107 thoughts on “James Baldwin/1: The Paradox of Education

    1. You know that I post many of these quotes because on a given day it is the anniversary of the author’s birth or death.
      Sometimes I’m the first to wonder how they fit perfectly into the situation at that moment❤️

      Liked by 3 people

    1. We should be very careful, Joanna, but in Italy, there are two months to go until the elections, the political groupings talk a lot about how they want to share the seats and little about their programs ( and it is not certain that they will be maintained.)

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Purtroppo più andiamo avanti e sempre viene a meno la collettività intesa come bene comune, non si riesce più a distinguere il bene dal male e anzi, spesse volte veniaml incanalare in una forma di pensiero comune e per niente rivolta al nostro bene…. Buon pomeriggio cara Luisa 😘

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  2. I certainly agree with his first part of the quote –
    “The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions”

    I also think he is mostly right in the second part. –
    “But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society”.

    I’m not so sure he is right in the third part though –
    “If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it – at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only way societies change”

    He’s correct if he’s talking about societies that are controlled, but where they aren’t, society is changing at a rapid speed, and not necessarily for the better. More and more people are able to voice their opinion in so many different ways that the free world is beginning to implode and the people who are controlling the rest of the world know it. Surely this isn’t the hope that James Baldwin was looking for, especially if we get taken over by those in control. I’m eagerly awaiting part 2 Luisa.

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    1. Heartfelt thanks for your reflection, dear Malc.
      The second part will mention only a few other quotes that I found interesting, also because Baldwin is not well known here, even if he died nearby, in France, and I don’t want to talk nonsense.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Luisa ! Whatever James Baldwin told about the education is absolutely right/correct. But I am going to tell today is that education is not a tool/skill to create something , but the objective of education is to create a perfect man , so that he could cede/wipe out the hidden elements/instincts of animal in himself . Had education be not there , the man would have been as ferocious as a lion or a tiger or even more than either of them as such . So , the sole purpose of education is to wipe out that ferocity from the mind of a man . But our education now-a-days is such that man has become a material . Apart from that man has become ferocious to that extent that he is ready to fight with other man any moment . Modern wars are fought by the educated man/men only . So , where does our education stand ? Imagine . Thanks !

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Your reflection is very valuable and I agree with you, without education man would be a ferocious and savage animal, but I think Baldwin was referring to the education system in a country, when its objective is not to make people reason with their own brains, but to standardize the way of thinking

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Dear Luisa and Arbind,

        Indeed, without proper education, the overall situation and trajectory of democracy and humanity seem to be rather bleak, and even science and politics can provide little comfort in reducing the severity and frequency of some of those outstanding issues, for there are two major Achilles’ heels: Viral Falsity and Paleolithic Emotions. In addition, my own multidisciplinary perspective proposes that four of the most insidious and corrosive conditions have exacerbated these issues dramatically:

        (1) The prevailing anti-intellectualism
        (2) The cult of anti-expertise sentiment
        (3) The politicization of science
        (4) The prevalent manifestation of populism

        You are welcome to find out much more about these four conditions at my extensive and analytical post entitled “Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic: Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity“, which has been revamped and which you can easily locate from the Home page of my blog. The post deals with untruth-oriented epistemology, social epistemology, the media landscape and information ecosystem, as well as a large series of detailed discussions and analyses (distributed over twelve sections, each of which is instantly accessible via a navigational menu) in the domains of Behavioural Science, Cognitive Science, Critical Thinking, Cultural Studies, Environmentalism, Epistemology, Ethics, Evolutionary Biology, Evolutionary Psychology, History, Human Nature, Information Science, Journalism, Logic, Media Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Social Media and Social Science. I welcome your feedback there, as I am certainly very keen and curious about what you will make of my said post.

        Gathering all the diverse and important strands together in the grand finale of the said post, I have attempted to sum up and reflect deeply the state of affairs with hard truths, especially in the twelfth and last section named “Denouement: Democracy, Education, Legislation & Sustainability“, which even gives a very dire warning of what humanity is heading towards if there is still no concerted, meaningful and large-scale change for the better.

        Now, regarding the aforementioned Paleolithic Emotions, it pertains to one of the most important and crucial life lessons involving the awareness of and willingness in availing oneself to explore and understand as much as possible the complex issues that We have Paleolithic Emotions; Medieval Institutions; and God-like Technology, as discussed in great detail in my other expansive post available at

        http://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2021/12/31/we-have-paleolithic-emotions-medieval-institutions-and-god-like-technology/#top

        I welcome your input and feedback there. Please enjoy!

        Once again, thank you for sharing your concerns about the paradox of education.

        Yours sincerely,
        SoundEagle

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you very much for your thorough comment. i was really delighted to have you visit
        I have just read your post on Paleolithic Emotions, etc… and I’ve found that like all of your articles, it features a lot of material to seriously ponder. I really enjoyed it and the story of a writer who made profound contributions to both science and the humanities. Thanks for letting me know
        PS I’m going to read “Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic” very soon, when I have more time

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. What a beautiful thought! This is really inspiring. James Baldwin has hit the bulls eye by pointing out the exact problem ailing our so-called civilised human society.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. A great quote to be sure. All too often, people open their mouths and close their ears when trying to persuade others to see it there way. Life and society require civil discussion of issues, rather than fighting to make your point. Have a great day Luisa. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Purtroppo la situazione attuale è perfettamente descritta in queste parole. Ci vorrebbe tutti come dei soldatini obbedienti e pronti a dire “sissignore”, incurante che ci sono persone che non la pensano in questo modo e che ci mettono impegno e tutte le loro forze per rendere questa società un luogo migliore in cui vivere. E queste persone che giustamente cercando di rendere la società un posto migliore non lo fanno solo per sé stessi o per la generazione attuale ma anche e soprattutto per le generazioni future, di modo da dare loro un luogo in cui si possa vivere in piena armonia.

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      1. Quanto hai ragione cara Luisa. Queste persone non riescono a vedere più in là del proprio naso e si credono furbi ma in realtà meriterebbero solo una totale indifferenza, la stessa che loro usano nei confronti delle persone.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. The tighter the governance which rules a population – the weaker the entire country becomes. And governance begins with schooling and extends into adulthood – it is only when we become aware of how weak and ineffectual, corrupt and sometimes immoral our government officials are that we become cynical and wary of their orders and rules. I cannot even read the paper anymore for the frustration and anger it provokes. I know that is not an answer or solution, but I feel quite stymied and I know many people do also.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I cannot connect with the electronic format of the newspaper – it seems even more dire for the fact that the news is trapped behind glass (I admit that probably is weird) at least with a physical newspaper (which we buy on week-ends) I can burn it in the fireplace for fuel and see just how relevant these passing dramas are – a page curling in flame. Next week the same – and I’ll burn that too.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Ciao Luisa, perfetta analisi quella di Baldwin, riferita alla società occidentale, anche se quella di molti paesi orientali (non tutti) potrebbe essere ancora più drammatica.
    Io so comunque, e di questo ne sono certa, che c’è una realtà diversa fatta di donne e uomini giovani e diversamente giovani, ☺️ me compresa che, pur fra tante difficoltà, cercano di opporsi al “destino” imposto dall’alto, (politica o religione/i varie che siano). Studiano, pensano, riflettono, si confrontano, trasformano il loro modo di pensare per il bene di sé stessi e per gli altri, come ho letto anche in un bel commento qui. Viviamo in una realtà che fa veramente accapponare la pelle, basta vedere quello che è successo solo in questo ultimo mese/mese e mezzo!
    Ci vuole veramente una resistenza enorme per non far morire la speranza in mondo migliore. Forse vale sempre il discorso che ognuno deve cercare di realizzarlo nella propria realtà, senza scoraggiarsi mai, forse questa è anche la vera “politica” quella che viene dal basso e che si spera, col tempo, ritorni anche in Parlamento portata da persone più “sane” che rimettano al centro l’interesse per gli esseri umani, non il potere e i soldi. Sarà molto dura, penso per parecchie generazioni ancora, ma noi non possiamo ne dobbiamo scoraggiarci, e tantomeno adaggiarci in un pensiero pessimista.
    Tu che traduci sempre splendide poesie e racconti, sei già una traghettatrice di speranza. ❤️🌹 Scusami per la lunghezza di questo commento. 😘

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Io ti sono infinitamente grata . Rosalba, per questo prezioso commento da cui trarre un po’ di speranza per il futuro.
      … e ti ringrazio anche per l’apprezzamento al mio blog che. provenendo da te, mi è particolarmente caro💞

      Liked by 1 person

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