We’ve been hearing this a lot recently: “Let me educate you,” “You need to educate yourself on ____,” “I don’t have to do the emotional labor of educating you,” and so on. When someone disagrees with us, we find it our responsibility to correct them, to set them on the righteous path of being a good educated “free” thinker untethered by our lesser educated and “bigoted” adversaries. Here’s my problem with this toxic culture of “let me educate you”:
We assume that we know more/better than those who disagree with us. We go to college, take our humanities classes, surround ourselves with certain people, consume media with a certain agenda, and off we go into the real world assuming we are now the authority on certain issues. Real life is not college. We now have to coexist with others who may have received a different type of education which may or may not have been acquired at a university. If it was true that “better educated” people thought the exact same way as you, then there wouldn’t be conservative professors or doctors or politicians.
By positioning ourselves in an educator’s position, we set a dynamic where we are the teachers and our opponents the students. We force an unbalanced power dynamic tilted towards our favor even before discourse begins. By doing this, we are arguing from authority, not by logic.
We assume that those who disagree with us are morally inferior. We like to make ourselves feel better by putting others down. We inflate our own egos and sense of self by convincing ourselves that only we are morally pure. We judge others by standards we have created for ourselves instead of letting others live their truth. We preach tolerance and understanding but only for views we find acceptable. Leave people be. They have their own beliefs shaped by their own experiences which we are not privy to.
We assume everyone should be as passionate about issues we are passionate about. With all the hurt going on in the world, it is impossible to care about everything equally and at the same time and at the same intensity. You may be passionate about your issues, but just because others are not doesn’t make them heartless or immoral. They just care about other things.
We are dominating, not contributing. We have lived our whole lives being taught to “sit down, be humble,” or “watch and learn.” Of course, we’ll be excited to finally contribute. But “educating” and forcing our opinions on others is not contributing; it is dominating. Acknowledge others’ lived experiences as much as you want yours to be acknowledged. No one is any better for believing one thing over the other. Foster discourse and walk away with a richer outside perspective. You cannot change others, but you can provide them with an outside perspective. In the end, that’s all we can do.
In the quest for justice and equality, we have become the monster we sought to destroy. We have become oppressive, intolerant, divisive, and destructive. We can do better.