Knowledge is the power to be free |

Knowledge is the power to be free

As a young kid, I remember a lesson that “School House Rock” tried to teach me, but it is not until now that I am beginning to understand its meaning.

The program always ended by telling us, “Knowledge is power.” So what “power” do we gain from knowledge? I used to think that gaining knowledge would give me the power to go to college, get a job, and make enough money to live comfortably. But the message behind this statement is much too profound to be reduced to such a shallow explanation.

I believe that knowledge gives you the power to be free. We are truly free when we make decisions and choices based on our own knowledge, when we formulate our own opinions based on our own reasoning through the facts. Without knowledge, we have no basis for our reasoning, and our opinions are not necessarily our own. As a result we often form opinions and make decisions that we may have not made had we known the full story.

The best example I can give of this is the “fact” the majority of Americans believed Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. In fact, 19 members of al-Qaida were responsible ” 15 of whom were of Saudi Arabian citizenship, none whom were of Iraqi decent.

Unfortunately, I can only partly blame our administration and the media for this widespread ignorance (lack of knowledge). While the administration and the media can manipulate the information they give us, they have neither the time nor the space to tell us the whole story of everything they cover. It is up to us to seek the rest of the story through alternative sources of media (i.e. books, magazines, the Internet). It is only with this knowledge we can take ownership of our opinions and decisions.

With knowledge, we can base our opinions on more than sound bites and headlines. With knowledge, we may learn that the “Healthy Forests Initiative” has more to do with deregulating the oversight of the timber industry and opening our national forests to special interests than with making our forests healthy and fire safe.

With knowledge, we may discover that “The Clear Skies Act” has little to do with clearing our skies of pollution. Instead it uses tax breaks as an incentive for companies to voluntarily reduce pollution. Under this system, Texas has become one of the most-polluted states in the union.

With knowledge, we may enlighten ourselves with the understanding that the USA Patriot Act has nothing to do with patriotism. Conversely, it infringes upon the very freedoms upon which this country was founded ” the very freedoms our country is now at war promoting.

With knowledge, we may discover that maybe the Iraq war was not really about the “imminent danger” of Saddam Hussein and his WMDs. Perhaps it was about securing the world’s second-largest oil reserve. Perhaps it was about the business opportunities in rebuilding Iraq. Perhaps there was more to it than simply “fighting terror.”

With knowledge, we may be disappointed to discover that this administration, many Democrats included, has exploited the 9/11 tragedy and our patriotism in order to push an agenda.

It is only with knowledge that we may realize that the people we often call names, are often the most knowledgeable people in the field. The “environmental quacks” are usually the ones that have dedicated much of their time studying the effects of public policy on the environment. The “junk scientists” are the people that have spent the majority of their lives studying the affects of pollution on the global climate and our health. The “anti-Americans” that denounce the Patriot Act are some of the few Americans that have actually read and researched its wording (“Silencing Political Dissent” by Nancy Chang is a great resource). The “traitors” that oppose the Iraq war are usually the ones that have done the most research concerning its invalidity.

Some of us may still hold on the belief ignorance is bliss, but ignorance is only bliss until it comes back to bite you. One day we will wake up and realize we allowed our skies to be polluted, our health to be jeopardized, and our natural resources to be depleted. We stood by as our freedoms eroded and cheered as our country invaded a sovereign nation without justification.

“School House Rock” only had it partly right. Knowledge is more than just power. Knowledge is freedom.


Shane Valdez is a resident of Grass Valley. His Web site is

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