I think I can do no better about answering the question of what it means to be truly educated than to go back to some of the classic views on the subject. For example the views expressed by the founder of the modern higher education system, Wilhelm von Humboldt, leading humanist, a figure of the Enlightenment who wrote extensively on education and human development and argued, I think, kind of very plausibly, that the core principle and requirement of a fulfilled human being is the ability to inquire and create constructively independently without external controls. To move to a modern counterpart, a leading physicist who talked right here [at MIT], used to tell his classes it’s not important what we cover in the class, it’s important what you discover. To be truly educated from this point of view means to be in a position to inquire and to create on the basis of the resources available to you which you’ve come to appreciate and comprehend. To know where to look, to know how to formulate serious questions, to question a standard doctrine if that’s appropriate, to find your own way, to shape the questions that are worth pursuing, and to develop the path to pursue them. That means knowing, understanding many things but also, much more important than what you have stored in your mind, to know where to look, how to look, how to question, how to challenge, how to proceed independently, to deal with the challenges that the world presents to you and that you develop in the course of your self-education and inquiry and investigations, in cooperation and solidarity with others.That’s what an educational system should cultivate from kindergarten to graduate school, and in the best cases sometimes does, and that leads to people who are, at least by my standards, well educated.

To move to a modern counterpart, a leading physicist who talked right here [at MIT], used to tell his classes it’s not important what we cover in the class, it’s important what you discover. To be truly educated from this point of view means to be in a position to inquire and to create on the basis of the resources available to you which you’ve come to appreciate and comprehend. To know where to look, to know how to formulate serious questions, to question a standard doctrine if that’s appropriate, to find your own way, to shape the questions that are worth pursuing, and to develop the path to pursue them. That means knowing, understanding many things but also, much more important than what you have stored in your mind, to know where to look, how to look, how to question, how to challenge, how to proceed independently, to deal with the challenges that the world presents to you and that you develop in the course of your self-education and inquiry and investigations, in cooperation and solidarity with others.That’s what an educational system should cultivate from kindergarten to graduate school, and in the best cases sometimes does, and that leads to people who are, at least by my standards, well educated.

It’s a question of what you think work is. I mean, there is a point of view associated with capitalist systems that holds that work is a burden. If you weren’t driven to work, you’d prefer to vegetate. I don’t think that has anything to do with human beings. And in fact, it’s kind of striking that the people who hold this view, most of them come from the university or scientific backgrounds. You go into, say the university where I work, MIT, mainly a scientific university. And people are working hours a day, hours a week because they love their work and their work is under their own control. Of all the social institutions, especially science-based universities, are places you really do control your own work–I mean you’ve got to meet some conditions–but it’s pretty much controlled by participants, optimally and in fact often realistically. And under those conditions, people just want to work. Carpenters who love what they’re doing and can control it they work all the time. And, in fact, you know there’s an old tradition from the Enlightenment which grew into classical liberalism and finally anarchism which holds that work should be one of the highest ideals of life. Creative work under your own control. And I think most people know that that’s true. When you have an opportunity to do creative work under your own control, especially if it has some social purpose and so on, it’s the best thing to do. It’s a lot better than lying on a couch and watching a boring television program. So I just think it’s a concept of work that comes out of capitalist ideology which says people have to be driven to work.

Actually, it is very interesting to watch the debates about this. It’s debated in mainstream circles, not so much in these terms. But take a look at the debates about taxation of the wealthy. A standard argument against taxing the wealthy is: well, if you put higher taxes on the wealthy, they’re not going to do anything, and they’re the ones who invest and make things happen, and so on and so forth. Now the people who press this most are economists, and sometimes it’s almost comical. There was an article in one of the major journals by a well-known Harvard liberal economist. Greg Mankiw wrote the major texts, and he argued–he’s kind of a liberal–he says you can’t tax the rich because they’re not going to do anything. And there’s no economic theory behind it or any other theory, so he gives an example of himself. He says: well, if I didn’t have a high salary, I wouldn’t do anything. You’d never get anyone in the university saying that except from an economics department. And that’s because the ideology is so built-in they can’t think. They can’t look at the next office and see that the guy is in the lab all day because he loves what he’s doing. Of course, people want to want to do meaningful work, especially if they can run it themselves. That pay remuneration ought to be proportional to input. The harder you work, the more you should be paid, but I think that’s a very demeaning conception of not only what work is but what human beings are like. And I don’t think it’s true. In fact, they themselves work very hard they don’t get paid for it. So are they different from other people?

Considered the founder of modern linguistics, Noam Chomsky is one of the most cited scholars in modern history. Among his groundbreaking books are “Syntactic Structures”, “Language and Mind,” “Aspects of the Theory of Syntax,” and “The Minimalist Program,” each of which has made distinct contributions to the development of the field. He has received numerous awards, including the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, the Helmholtz Medal and the Ben Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science.

Chomsky introduced the Chomsky hierarchy, generative grammar and the concept of a universal grammar, which underlies all human speech and is based in the innate structure of the mind/brain. Chomsky has not only transformed the field of linguistics, his work has influenced fields such as cognitive science, philosophy, psychology, computer science, mathematics, childhood education, and anthropology.

Chomsky is also one of the most influential public intellectuals in the world. He has written more than 100 books, his most recent being “Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.”

Chomsky joined the UA in fall 2017, coming from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked since 1955 as professor of linguistics, then professor of linguistics, emeritus.