Knowledge is Power?

I’ve been told a million times that “Knowledge is Power.”

This simple saying seemed to be plastered all over the walls of my elementary, middle, and high school. Yet, when I consider these concepts, they seem to be on two different planes, two opposite concepts—in two different spectrums of thinking.

Hear me out.

Let’s consider power. In doing this, the first thing I think about is all the good leaders my history teachers always discussed. I’m talking about Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Franklin D. Roosevelt (my personal favorite). Then I think about the polar opposite: the bad leaders. Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong Un (and perhaps more recently Putin, but you didn’t hear it from me). Those considered “bad” are so because they went against the bounds of their power—they did not respect the integrity of power.

Then let’s consider knowledge.  In doing this, I consider the ambiguous nature of knowledge, the constantly changing and evolving human information bank. I think of the constant state of information we get, through media, social networking, and books that fill our days, especially as college students.

But if the age-old saying is true—if “Knowledge is Power”—then there must be some sort of ethical weight paired with this information. As intellectuals, scholars, professors, college students, and anyone else who knows anything—what is the obligation of this power we have? What do we owe the world, especially coming from one of the best universities in the world? And this spirals into the concept of what should I contribute to society, what the purpose of my existence is, and then I almost die of hyperventilation because I’m just a first-year and honestly making it through my German and Chemistry is the goal of my existence right now.

So here are my thoughts on the obligation of knowledge. As people who know things, we have to hold our leaders accountable for spreading accurate knowledge (Cough, Kellyanne Conway, Cough). I think we have to be willing to shift our knowledge as science and society evolves, but while still accepting differences in opinions and beliefs. And I suppose we should all contribute to knowledge in some way throughout our lives; but beyond that, this discussion seems like another topic for another day.