Thoughts on my saying “education is nothing but learning the repertoire of the modern world” – some myths and conflicts of knowledge

Recently, I made this statement:

“Education is nothing but learning the repertoire of the modern world.”

One could go on to say that this is true for any condition where there is a “power” that one must follow:  a “power-that-be”.  Since any condition contains a form of “power-that-be” it requires a person to learn its “repertoire” in order to be able to live in it  (the “repertoire” is really the knowledge that surrounds the “powers-that-be”).  If one lives in a specific country, for example, one must learn the “repertoire” of its ways and knowledge to live in it, if one gets a job one must learn its “repertoire” to maintain it, and so on.  In other words, any “power-that-be” develops a “repertoire” that must be followed.  This becomes important as one benefits from the “power-that-be” by following its particular “repertoire”.  Education, or the learning of its “repertoire”, is not about gaining “truth”, in actuality, but in gaining the power and benefit of the “power-that-be”.  As a result, each time a new “power-that-be” appears the “truth” changes to conform to it. 

In the modern world, for example, a person must learn the ways of the modern world (its “repertoire”) in order to live in it and benefit from it.  This “repertoire” now consists of a whole mess full of information and facts which a person must “learn” to survive (and it takes years to learn its “repertoire”!).  What do you think schooling is about?  What do you think education is?  Do you think its to discover some great Divine truth, the great mystery of life?  Its only to gain benefits from the “powers-that-be” by following its dictates, its “repertoire”.  This is not because the “repertoire” knowledge is “right” by its nature, but only in the fact that the modern world is the current “powers-that-be”.  As a result, a person is, in some respects, forced to learn it whether they want to or not, whether they believe it or not.

We could then revise the statement as:

“Education is nothing but learning the repertoire of the powers-that-be.”

This fact is revealing about the nature, and myth, of knowledge.  The most important aspect of this is that it shows that the “powers-that-be” make knowledge “right”.  To put it another way, education is a form of gaining power, not of seeking “truth” or “right”.  This power is achieved by following the “repertoire” of the “powers-that-be”.  Following it helps you gain its power.  This gaining of power has the effect of making its knowledge “right”.  It gains power in a number of ways, such as:

  • It makes knowledge valuable.
  • It makes knowledge useful.
  • It gives knowledge power.
  • It creates a unifying effect.

In some respects, the “powers-that-be” lay the foundation for all these to function.  It becomes the platform, so to speak, that all these are built upon.  As a result, the stronger the “powers-that-be” the “stronger” the power and, accordingly, the knowledge . . . but only within the “powers-that-be”.

This strength, though, is often confused with “right”:  the “power/right confusion”.  Another expression of this confusion is “might is right”.  The problem, of course, is that “might is not always right” but power gets things done, making it seem right.  This really shows a basic inherent problem with power and its deceptive nature.  Because power accomplishes and gets things done it tends to give the illusion that this is because it is “right”.

Knowledge (that is, knowing its “repertoire”) creates the means for gaining the power of the “powers-that-be”.  Learning the “repertoire” of the “powers-that-be” gives one advantages, such as:

  • It allows a person an “in” with the “powers-that-be”.
  • It gives one power or the benefits of the powers that the “powers-that-be” contain.
  • It gives a person advantage over other people who do not know the “repertoire”.
  • It allows one to fit in to the “powers-that-be” power structure.

Knowing, then, is not this “great knowing of truth”, as is often supposed.  There is nothing Divine, mystical, or magical about it . . . its just a means for power.  In addition, it does not make people “better”, sophisticated, “educated”, etc.  That’s just a reflection of the power it gives and how that power affects people by giving them advantage.  One can see that it is really nothing but a conforming to the “powers-that-be” by using its “repertoire”.  In this way, “right” really means “gain by conforming”, in actuality.  This discrepancy between the power of the “powers-that-be” and real “truth” has caused a great myth and misunderstanding about knowledge and education, in my opinion.


The influence of the “powers-that-be” show that it is a social power.  In other words, its a “social-based knowledge”.  The main benefit of this form of knowledge is its social consequences.  Since society has a great impact on a person this often becomes a dominant form of knowledge (in some cases, it becomes “the” knowledge, the “accepted” knowledge).  As a result, knowing its repertoire is critical in social situations.  This seems particularly prevalent in large societies and, especially, “advanced” civilizations such as the modern world.  This is because these societies are so large that social institutions, ways, associations, etc. become a basis of ones life.  It sets the pattern for how life is lived.  The social repertoire, then, becomes critical.

Because its social-based, one effect that the learning of its “repertoire” can make is that it makes one “appealing” in the society as one reflects the social ideals.  In other words, it can make a person “stand out” and “be favored”.  This isn’t necessarily because they are better than other people but because they are catering to the ways of the “powers-that-be”.  In this way, it shows how powerful the “repertoire” can be and that it can give one great social power and influence and meaning in society.

But life is not all social.  There is the deeper personal and individual “knowledge”.  This can be described as “personal-based knowledge”.  Typically, this viewpoint is developed as a matter of living and experience.  It often contains what can be described as ‘inherent truth’ (see my article “Thoughts on ‘inherent truth’“).  This ‘inherent truth’ usually does not require an external or social power to make it relevant.  It is a truth coming from within a person.  As a result, it is not a result of conforming to an external power.  This point of view is seen a lot in smaller societies where the control of society does not play a strong part in life and in conditions where the act of the individual person is more critical.  In some sense, we could say that it is a manifestation of a “personal power”.

Knowledge that is social or personal-based tends to have advantages and disadvantages.  “Social-based knowledge” is based in ones social conditions which force people to have to conform to social conditions, neglecting their personal qualities.  In this way, “social-based knowledge” tends to have an alienating quality . . . it develops social standing but on the person.  “Personal-based knowledge”, on the other hand, tends to have a tendency for self-growth, being more focused on “personal power” and the person.  But this is at the expense of society . . . it develops the person but not social standing.  These tend to give these a contrariness or opposition quality.  In other words, they are not compatible.  In this way, “personal-based knowledge” tends to alienate ones self from society and “social-based knowledge” tends to alienate ones self from ones self.  This shows that there is an irreconcilable tendency between these two forms of knowledge.  Its no surprise, then, that there is a great history of the conflict between “social-based knowledge” and “personal-based knowledge”. 


This conflict between the “social-based knowledge” and “personal-based knowledge” appears in ways like these:

  • Confusion – the two forms of knowledge are equated and treated as the same when they actually are not.
  • Incompatible – the two forms of knowledge simply don’t work together.

These forms of conflict can appear a number of ways:

  • As a social conflict
  • As a private conflict

Social conflict can cause things such as war, divisions, disputes, different theories, and such.  When there is a serious dispute between two forms of knowledge, and an actual conflict occurs (such as war), the “winner” tends to view their truth as “right”.  As a result, a lot of truths are not a result of them really being “right”, inherently, but that they, for whatever reason, happened to of won.  This is “right-as-a-result-of-winning truth”.  In actuality, this has determined a lot of “truth” in the world which has, accordingly, created a lot of popular opinions and points of views. What many people think is “right” is often because, somewhere in the past, that point of view happen to of won against another point of view.  Not because it is actually “right”, as is often supposed.  Had it not of won their whole point of view would be different.  What this means is that a lot of the “right” of truth is actually based on historical circumstance. 

Mass society also creates “right-as-a-result-of-trend truth”.  In other words, because it is a trend, or popular, it makes it “right”.  My experience, though, is that there is no correlation between trend, and being popular, with what is “right”.  As a result, popular opinion is not something to be relied upon.  This particular point of view seems particularly popular with people in large cities (that is, live in mass societies) and females (who tend to be imitative and so rely on things like trend to determine how to behave).  There are even some people who feel that it has been given a “validity” in democracy as there is a mistaken notion that trend and popular opinion represent the “will of the people”.

Private conflict can appear in a number of forms, such as:

  • Passive – Many people will hold the two different forms of knowledge (social and person) as separate in their minds.  Their “social mind” will reflect “social-based knowledge”.  Their “private mind” will reflect “personal-based knowledge”.  In this way, many people actually develop a “multiple truths orientation”.  As a result of this, “truth” will change depending on their state of mind.  Sometimes, these truths can even contradict each other.  This usually does not create any problems as the two minds, with its two truths, are kept separate and, as a result, never conflict.  Its not uncommon that, in a mass society, people often develop a strong “personal-based knowledge” because society is just too big and varied (this is common in modern society).   The society basically offers no solutions or answers.  This forces people to have to rely on their personal truths as a basis of life.  Since these personal truths are typically different from the popular social views they develop a “multiple truths orientation” and, in some cases, almost have two separate lives as a result, a social and private life, each with their own separate truths.
  • Active – For some people, they cannot keep the two truths separate.  As a result, “social-based knowledge” conflicts with “personal-based knowledge” creating great crisis and pain.  It can cause great inner turmoil as well.  In this form of conflict they cannot reconcile the two and they fight it out in their mind.  They often will end up taking one point of view and then go against the other point of view (sort of like an “either/or” situation) to reconcile the conflict.  This can turn into an extremism (favoring ones point of view) or a rebellion (going against the other point of view).  If one does not do one of these it can even turn into a great questioning of ones self and a questioning of life causing great confusion, and despair.  This can even turn into apathy, depression, and giving up on life.  We see, then, that the conflict between the two forms of knowledge (social and personal) can have great impact on a person.

So we see that the conflict of these two forms of knowledge causes great despair on all levels of human life, social to private.  In fact, much of history is often nothing but this conflict of knowledge (social versus personal).  Many wars, political conflict, social disputes, religious wars, etc. have origin here.


But human cultures often do develop a reconciling of the two.  In some respects, this reconciling is one of the traits of a stable culture.  It does this by putting the different truths in their respective place in society.  In other words, they allow both truths to exist and give them a place, in society, for those truths to be manifested.  By giving them a place these different truths are given things such as:

  • A place to be so that they can grow and develop.
  • They are separate from each other, avoiding conflict.

What often ends up happening is something like a spectrum of “knowledge” in the society.  A good example is the ecclesiastical order of the Catholic church where there is something like a spectrum in the theology (from social to personal orientation):

  • University theology.  This is the “formal” knowledge of the church and tends to be impersonal.
  • Monastic Priest theology.  This is “applied University theology” applied to monks.  It has to be modified to fit the monastic life but tends to still retain much of the “formal” knowledge of University theology.
  • Secular Priest theology.  This is “applied University theology” directed to the population.  Here it has to begins to change (often dramatically) to fit the individual and personal situations of the people.
  • Lay Monk theology.  This is theology applied to the lay monk (non-priest) and tends to lack a lot of the “formal” qualities of University theology. 
  • Hermit Monk theology.  This is so personal that each hermit monk develops their own specific form (which can even conflict with “formal” University theology).

Though they are all part of Catholic theology each is different with different characteristics.  They may even contradict each other (and have, in fact, created problems in the past).  What works for one may not work for another but each is given a place separate from the other.  In this way, they as if develop on their own, often oblivious of the other.

But most societies don’t develop such formal organizations.  Many societies, though, develop conditions where a spectrum can reside, though unorganized and informal.  This spectrum would go something like this:

  • Social  – “accepted”.  This is what’s formally “accepted” by the society as a whole.  Often, this is dogmatic and formal.
  • Social – “useful”.  This is practical knowledge the society accepts as a whole.  This is usually the knowledge finds “what works”.  It often appears like the “accepted” form but is, in actuality, modified to make it “useful”.
  • Combination.  This is a combination of the social and personal forms (see two entries below) that works for both.  It is the “median line” where both are used but modified so that they work together.
  • Personal – “useful”.  This is personal knowledge that one uses in day-to-day living.  It often consists of how a person does things and what a person must do.
  • Personal – “private”.  This is personal knowledge that one uses for ones self and no one really knows.  These include things like personal belief.  This can be so “private” that a person may not even realize they believe it.

Most people live on many levels of this spectrum, though they tend to favor one particular spot.  Often, people will bounce around, going from one to the other depending on the circumstances.  This shows that many people practice many “truths” and cater to different forms of “knowledge”, which can even be contradictory.  In this way, it shows that life isn’t as “single-minded” as it may seem.  Often, all a person has to do is watch ones self, what one does, and how one thinks to see the different levels one lives on.  It can be quite surprising.

Finding out where one is on the spectrum can, I feel, have a great impact on ones quality of life.  In other words, a person should try to find the “spot” where ones orientation best lie and try to put themselves in that “spot” in life.  A person can do this by finding a correlation between:

  • Ones character traits.  That is, is one social or personal in orientation.  It refers to ones natural tendencies.  In my opinion, a person is happiest when they are following natural tendencies.  As a result, its critical to learn what ones natural tendencies are.
  • The conditions one lives under.  For example, does one live in a very social orientation which forces one to be social in orientation?

Both of these requires that a person must know themselves and be aware of their surroundings in order to determine the situation.  What one wants to do is to put ones self in the conditions that match ones character traits.  For example, a personal oriented person should avoid strong social conditions, a strong social oriented person should try to put themselves in strong social conditions, etc.

In finding ones “spot”, though, a person must keep several things in mind:

  • An awareness that there are many forms of truths.
  • That your truth isn’t the same as everyone else’s.
  • That one should not equate ones truth with everyone else’s.
  • That each truth has its place and form.

In the more personal orientation, though, a person must often create their conditions.  This is often an easy thing as a personal orientation tends to conflict with the social orientation, particularly of modern society.  In other words, the preference for “personal-based knowledge” can force people into a solitude and isolation from society.  Sometimes this can be forced upon a person causing great conflict.


In the modern world, with its more social orientation, there is a tendency to think that there is only one truth and knowledge.  There is a tendency where people will try to conform themselves, and their truths, to the “accepted” truth causing all sorts of problems for themselves.  In many ways, a lot of personal problems in people in the modern world are manifestations of this tendency.  Much of this is rooting in having to learn the “repertoire” of the modern world, the primary “power-that-be” of today.  In other words, education causes a lot of problems for people by deceiving people into thinking that its “repertoire”, which is the socially “accepted” truth, is everything and what life is about.  

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Education and learning, Modern life and society, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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