Spotting the knowledge in the opinion sea

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It becomes harder and harder to collect real knowledge, writes Kristof Fellegi. The available information is ever expanding.
 

Growing up in a post-socialist country, I have been educated according to the Prussian education system. Living locally and surrounding myself with similar people I didn’t even realize any other way of thinking. It only occurred to me in my mid-twenties, when I started my master’s in Utrecht, that something is not right. It felt like I am struggling, while my classmates, educated according to the Anglo-Saxon education system, can ace any course effortless.

First I began to doubt myself. I thought I would have to accept that I am less intelligent or smart. But then as we went into philosophical debates or mathematical riddles I didn’t feel less, in fact I was very confident and competitive. This is of course very subjective. If I were more into the humanities, the differences would be manifested otherwise. What I want to say is that there are clearly definable differences between the two education systems. They are based on different principles, aim for different goals and thus result in people with different mindsets.

My first idea was to compare the two systems and draw conclusions. What are the advantages and disadvantages of them and how do they prevail in the resulted knowledge of people? This proved to be a bit too extensive study to conclude in a blog post. I started to talk with students, young professionals, more experienced professionals and I decided to pivot. Although the type of education system matters considerably in someone's knowledge and mindset, my major finding is that the individual factor is even more significant. Enthusiasm and ambition can outweigh the characteristics of the education system. Furthermore, the emphasis is on how one integrates the knowledge. I realized it is true in general, but it is crucial in today’s information age.

It was always challenging to collect and maintain the available knowledge. Before - it was due to the lack of technology, today - it is because of the overwhelming stream of information. The available collective knowledge is ever expanding and it becomes harder and harder to find, filter and integrate the pursued piece of information. Different lobbies take advantage of this and weave their thoughts into articles, posts, tweets and vlogs. One can say that’s fine, it has always been like this, which is true. The problem is that people find it harder and harder to distinguish opinions from facts. But what do these new types of media have to do with education? Isn’t it the case that students learn from reviewed school books and highly skilled teachers? Let’s suppose that’s true. What’s also true is that today’s leading ideology in the western world is individualism, where people from an early age are taught to be critical, listen to their guts and trust in themselves. That means students are aware and constantly being reminded that they should question whatever they hear. But how feasible is that in the information age?

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