As we all know, over the past twenty years the internet has radically changed the availability of information. Much of it may be unsound but it always was and a major gain is that comparing one source with another is much easier than it was.
To my mind the overall effect of this has been to raise the bar for anyone wishing to be reasonably well-informed. Such people need to read more widely, select more carefully and analyse more critically. That raises the bar.
An important corollary is that it also lowers the bar for anyone wishing to seem reasonably well-informed without the effort of reading more widely, selecting more carefully and analysing more critically. My impression may well be wrong, but we seem to have reached a phase where educated but somewhat idle people are being left behind. There are more and more ready-made answers out there. It lowers the bar.
Both effects seem to be creating a strange social divide where education is even less important than it once was. As if self-education is the coming thing. This isn’t new of course. Samuel Johnson was self-educated but he grew up in his father’s bookshop. Eventually lending libraries and cheap mass-produced books such as Everyman's Library brought self-education to the masses. Cinema, television and biased news media catered for everyone else.
In which case maybe the trend is an old one and we should expect to see it continue. Maybe we should even expect to see it accelerate under the influence of the internet. In which case, sooner or later we may need a serious debate about education. I don’t think we’ll get it.