Every so often another attack against free public education comes our way. They seem to be started by people who have already benefited from the system and want to work out their own school anger issues by making sure that the next generation gets tortured just as badly as they were. This illustrates the fact that many people just don’t seem to understand the benefit of a free, inclusive, public educational system on a society.
Well, the other day, I was watching The Game of Thrones (In truth, I didn’t actually watch the show, I watched excerpts of the show, so correct me if I’m wrong,) and as I watched the body count rise, I found myself nodding my head and saying, “This is what happens when education is not valued in a society. CHAOS ENSUES!”
“What does this have to do with public education in our time?” You say. Well, let’s just take a look at the state of education in Westeros, shall we?
First, let me show you what a teacher looks like in the show.
This is Fennez. He was hired by a rich family to educate their children. He was a slave. He was freed, but he begs to go back into slavery because he has no security in his old age. The young steal food from the old in the communal houses, and he has no purpose. I would like to say that in our era, we don’t have such problems, but if you look around young, wild politicians are often looking to steal from teacher’s pensions. They trade years of loyal service for poverty. You can almost understand why Fennez prefers living a slave’s life to being free. At least in the noble’s house he has a protected pension plan.
And what is this about youth running wild and stealing from old people? Didn’t anyone train them right? No, no one trained them because they have no school system and no teachers for most people out there. When children are in school learning, they aren’t out stealing, but in Westeros everyone runs wild in the streets. The strong dominate the weak, and everyone is stupid because (wait for it) they never got an education!
There is an institution of higher learning, the order of Maesters, and the rich can afford teachers like Fennez, so someone benefits from their Education, right? Yes, but only for a select few, and even for those nobles it seems that most formal education comes in only two subjects, Reading and Swordsmanship.
This is extremely basic education. It mostly seems to be enough to kill people and send notes to allies so that they can help them kill people. Oh, and to record long family histories to remember all of the people who have been killed.
Now for those at the very top (the king I mean) there are occasional philosophical discussions of what makes a good king, and there are more histories of the wealthy families to read. Other than that… I can’t see much education at all (although Northern Magic Training may be better, but we haven’t got all the details on that yet).
The state of sex education is abysmmal. Basically, it’s girls chatting in a locker room. We see Margaery talking to Sansa about sex. She asks, “Did you learn that from your mother?” Margaery gives her a pitying glare and then says, “Yes, I learned it from my mother.” (lies!)
Menstruation is something to hide, because the moment you start is the moment that someone can sell you off to another house as a wife. What else is a woman good for? They want the kids popping out babies as soon as possible. First, because a baby is proof of an alliance, and second because the body count of the show is so high that you need replacements.
So what is it like for most people in a world where only few are educated? For the most part, it’s bloody awful. Technology is minimal and advances can be wiped out permanently with the proper application of a sword. People farm when they can. Have their sons pressed into military service or killed. Their daughters raped and killed. Creativity is discouraged. Technology is limited to military spending. The common people have minimal culture, and no security.
Now all is not so dire. Although advancement in society is rare, there is sign of adult education. Davos Seaworth advanced from humble birth in a poor area to the assistant to the head of a leading family. He is being taught to read by a young princess which can only enhance his position. This kind of education, however, is rare. Most people never learn to read.
I look at this and think of how much better it is for society when most people can read, write, and think for themselves. When adults in situations that are uncomfortable and unchallenging can go back to school and reeducate themselves. When creativity is encouraged, and technology in areas of peace can advance because the benefits of knowledge are not kept in the hands of the few.
Free, creative, public educational systems make happier people. People who have choices. People who can create things that help people live longer more fruitful lives. So support public education and prevent our world from turning into Westeros.