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Captive to Education: The Negative Side of Academic Learning

Updated on July 13, 2015


Education prevents people from attaining complete freedom since education reveals to people limitations of thought. For instance, Frederick Douglass learning of his lifelong unjustified servitude to whites prevents him from thinking otherwise. Additionally, education teaches conformity by forcing convergent thinking onto people. Furthermore, education stunts the growth of divergent thinking and without education possibilities are endless in one’s mind. Similarly, education restrains people from innovative freedom by restricting people to conform to the culture they live in. Nonetheless, people believe education breeds freedom by allowing them to profit in society. On the contrary, education destroys freedom by forcing societal norms on people.

Frederick Douglass: Captivity of Knowledge

Frederick Douglass’ education made him captive in his cell of knowledge. For example, Douglass when referring to learning how to read states, “It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy." In other words, Douglass’s education has shown him that he is a slave, without the possibility of escaping from slavery. Additionally, Douglass even “envied [his] fellow-slaves for their stupidity,” because Douglass knew he was trapped in his education, while the other slaves were ironically free. Douglass’s education merely showed him the boundaries he lived in, further enslaving Douglass by revealing to him that he is a slave. To put it another way, all slaves who do not know of their condition could believe in any happy cockamamie idea about their condition, thus having more freedom than Douglass, who knows the truth because of his education and is tormented by it.

The Death of Thinking Outside the Box

Indeed, possibilities are endless without an education, because education destroys divergent thinking, nailing people to one answer, which is convergent thinking. “Convergent thinking is oriented towards deriving the single best (or correct) answer to a clearly defined question” (Fielding), while divergent thinking is oriented towards finding as many answers as possible to a question. Education targets convergent thinking, and with only one answer there is no room for flexibility or creativity. Studies even show that divergent thinking is strong in kids who have not yet been educated, but kids who have been educated lose their sense of divergent thinking as they learn more and more (RSA Animate). This is because in education, an answer is either right or wrong. However, mankind does not and cannot know the answer to every question, so the use of only convergent thinking in education is ridiculous. On the other hand, divergent thinking leads to unlimited possibilities, freeing people to make any choice, or believe anything they desire. Nevertheless, education still persists and succeeds in making people conform to one answer. Conformity is not what people should be seeking; instead, people should be seeking innovation to succeed with their own creative minds.

Education Reinforces Conformity

Furthermore, conformity, as the result of education, is necessary for a society to function. Consequently, citizens must be limited to certain views and thoughts in order to be a part of a society, which corrodes freedom. Likewise, John F. Kennedy stated, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” This is true because conformity repels conformists from thinking for themselves; therefore, leaving conformists subservient to whomever commands them or their master, relinquishing their personal freedom. In order for people to think entirely for themselves they must deny education. In contrast, some may argue that education allows people to think for themselves; however, education simply forces people to accept information, thus conforming to the information and limiting their own thoughts. For instance, a history teacher tells his class that the Declaration of Independence was created in 1776 by the Founders of the United States. No proof can be offered to the class that the document was created in that time period or by the Founders. Nonetheless, the class must conform to this information, while taking a test in order to get a good grade, so the class can benefit in American society. This example of conformity in education reveals that citizens must conform to benefit in society, thus surrendering their freedom to the society to which citizens belong.

Success is Slavery

However, some citizens earnestly believe education breeds freedom simply because education fosters success, but these citizens are mistaken because they do not realize that success in society requires conformity. George Washington Carver as one of those citizens, stated, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” On the contrary, education slams shut the door of freedom as it does with people’s minds, because education rots the brain by forcing it into conformity with societal norms. For example, if an American man killed his entire family and then himself, citizens in America would unquestionably be horrified and disgusted with the man for committing such a gruesome felony. This is because these citizens have been taught that killing is wrong and an awful taboo; but they did not open their minds to the idea of killing others and this denies citizens the complete freedom of thought. Although, if every citizen was open to the idea of killing and not taught these rules and regulations that prevent them from creating chaos and anarchy, our society could not possibly function at all. Since society relies on social contracts between people (Locke), agreements are necessary for society to exist, and since contracts always have restrictions it follows that citizens must be restricted in order to be a part of society, denying them complete freedom. Consequently, if citizens do not follow the social contracts society has set forth, then those citizens would not be able to succeed in society. In fact citizens would fail entirely in society. So, in order to succeed in society, citizens must at least follow the restrictions their society has, which ultimately takes away their freedom. Additionally, these boundaries are forced into these citizens’ minds with education. Likewise, citizens are constantly taught conformity is beneficial with both positive and negative reinforcement, keeping citizens in line and preventing them from breaking rules. Ultimately, since education teaches conformity and the restriction of society by making these rules a part of citizen’s conscious, Carver is wrong for teaching “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”


Education, locks people out of “the golden door of freedom” by only teaching people of limitations, thus shortening instead of broadening thought. We need to follow the advice of Socrates and accept that nothing can be known. When we do this, all the limitations melt away and we find that we are finally free in the most pure sense. To put it another way, education only teaches us lies that are crafted into truths.


Carver, George. "George Washington Carver Quotes." BrainyQuote. BookRags Media Network, n.d.. Web. 10 Oct 2011.

Douglass, Frederick. "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave." 1997. SunSITE. Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE, n.d. Web. 28 Sept 2011.

Fielding, Robert. "Convergent and divergent thinking ." Encouraging creativity in education. Encouraging creativity in education, 19 April 2009. Web. 2 Oct 2011.

Kennedy, John. “John F. Kennedy Quotes.” BrainyQuote. BookRags Media Network, n.d.. Web. 10 Oct 2011.

Leeson, Susan, Margaret Branson, Scott Casper, and Charles Quigley. We the People The Citizens & The Constitutions. 1st. 1. Calabasas: Center for Civic Education, 2009. 16-18. Print.

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms . Dir. theRSAorg. theRSAorg, 2010. Web. 2 Oct 2011.


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    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 2 years ago

      Very good points you make here. There is a down side to everything.