Ben Crowder / Blog

Mere information

I’ve been reading Arthur Henry King’s book The Abundance of the Heart, and something C. Terry Warner wrote in the introduction (pages 3–4) has stuck with me:

We can reflect again on our contemporary conception of the truth as mere information. This conception is not only false; it is dangerous. It leads us to suppose that we can pass bits of the truth conveniently to one another, as if they were coins. We are encouraged to regard the mind as a kind of purse in which we can collect and even hoard these coins. We believe we can buy, sell, and barter for them; we treat them as if they have exchange value. As far as we are concerned, evil people can get hold of them, as well as good people. Sinister men can control the world by acquiring these truths and withholding them from others. All of this is false. The idea that truth is information is, ultimately, a menacing economic metaphor.

Just how menacing this idea is can be seen in our approach to education. Because we have taken the economic metaphor seriously, we have come to think that learning is completely independent of morality. We have made it competitive rather than cooperative. We have turned our universities into vocational schools. Certain kinds of training have become not just occupationally but socially advantageous. We have made the most successful information-mongers among us into snobs. Learning, so called, has become a divisive social instrument that reinforces class distinctions. It is not possible to calculate the devastating effects of these disasters.

Teaching is not a form of commerce. It is more like the radiance or influence of a resonant soul as it is felt by other souls. The teacher of the truth does not convey to the student valuable bits of anything, but by his presence and commitment he points away from himself to something higher than himself, to which the student can have independent access. “And also trust no one to be your teacher…, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments” (Mosiah 23:14).