by Laura Potts

Schools stand as institutions of education, aiming to enhance and aid growth in various forms. Children growing through the school system will eventually leave as adults. However, in my generation, there is a trend away from exploring a key part of adulthood: continued self education.

Education and knowledge of social and political situations amongst the young is decreasing. This has detrimental effects on the democratic system, as voters are not fully informed on how and why their vote will make a difference. The same is true of all choices we make as individuals in society. While many of us are largely unaware of the implications of our actions, we are unlikely to progress toward a society that does not prioritise individualising and capitalising above all else.

For a younger generation over saturated with information from many inputs, it is increasingly difficult to extract that which is important and true. The system we live within is built to breed wilful blindness and consumer based capitalism, and individuals are not solely to blame for their own absence of understanding. Nor are they to blame for the inability to process the masses of information presented to them. The effect of this information overload is often to turn away and ignore it. So often it is just too much to deal with. Coping in a world filled with information is becoming increasingly overwhelming; “there is a spike in the number of calls to ChildLine during major world events”.

educating ourselves at our own paces in our own communities can bring a greater sense of security and belonging in our world

However, there are steps we can take as individuals to further understand the situation we find ourselves in, locally, nationally and internationally. And this understanding may help bring comfort amongst global worry and distress are concerned.

So where to start?

Reading is a very good starting point. There are many books and publications focused on educating those who feel overwhelmed by current happenings, from the turmoil of Brexit to the alarming antics of the current US president. Naomi Klein is a good example of an author dedicated to researching and writing around issues such as the environmental and social impact of corporate governments. These books offer a sense of hope to the reader as she admits the unpleasantness of the truth while encouraging hope that individual action can alter this. Her 2014 manual to modern life, ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate’, has a relentless insight into how and why the agenda of globalisation is allowing so many disastrous projects to remain overlooked by major political figures. The greedy power structure created within our society stalls attempts at real solutions, seemingly setting us on course toward a self-fulfilling prophecy of disaster. But Klein is resolute in her commitment to the possibility for individual and combined action to change this, continually encouraging the “birth of a new consciousness” that sees the potential of our growing connectivity to do good.


Naomi Klein’s newest book, No Is Not Enough, was published this year. Credit: Naomi Klein

Besides reading, there are other tools we can use to enhance our understanding and social knowledge. Attending local events or joining groups is a good way to immerse yourself in new information. Conversation is one of the oldest tools to learn from each other. It helps discover others’ views of situations you care about, and gives rise to new ways of developing resistance to an the forces in our world that drive us apart.

Although so much of the information we encounter is worrying, upsetting or frightening, educating ourselves at our own paces in our own communities can bring a greater sense of security and belonging in our world, troubled as it is. As the saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’. The growth of knowledge does not have to end when we leave school. When we involve ourselves in our ever complicated world, we gain power over our own free thought, and take steps toward re-establishing social consciousness and resistance against regressive ideologies.

Featured image credit: Leah Kelley

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