What does education mean to you? Please answer

I have written at various times on the issue of college education and each time I get some comments that I think are really deserving of hearing independent of any post/rant that I have going on.

So I ask you the reader, what does it mean to have any education? What does it mean to be educated? What do you think of our current system of education in the United States?

Personally some of the most brightest and intelligent folks I have ever met never stepped foot inside of a college. At the same time, all but one of those people have struggled greatly in the world of work because we have a system that for better or worse only sees those pieces of paper otherwise known as degrees as being valid. The one person that I have known who has not struggled has white skin privilege along with the privilege of being male and coming from an upper middle class family.

So this individual whom I have known for almost 20 years has been able to work creatively outside the box and create his own destiny. Yet even he has pushed his offspring to not take the path he has because at times its been hard to make his way financially in this world having made the conscious choice to not go to college. It wasn’t money that made him decide against it because his family had the resources to send him to college. He just felt that his life was better served by not going but by living life.

I have known too many people though who have struggled without a degree, many  in my own family. My father being the prime example. My father is a true renaissance man yet middle management was the highest he was ever allowed to climb without benefit of the almighty piece of paper. At times it has made him bitter but he has tried to not let it get him down. Yet it’s hard to see a person elevated over you when they have less knowledge and the only thing they have you don’t have is a piece of paper.

 I had the pleasure of starting my own world of work experience sans any degrees and after years of working for less cash than colleagues who had degrees, and being denied advancement opportunities on the basis that I lacked a degree, it’s the only reason I went to college and later graduate school.

Personally for me college, especially attending as an adult was a true learning experience. I have always been a voracious reader but college really opened my eyes to different ways of seeing the world. That said, I see life and living as a way to learn, if we pay attention to the world around us we are constantly being opened up to new experiences from which we can glean information.

Enough though about me and my thoughts, tell me your thoughts on education.

11 thoughts on “What does education mean to you? Please answer

  1. It is my firm belief that education is the great equalizer in this country.

    That does not mean that people with less education are less worthy than those with more education.

    But it does mean that people who come from nothing can still be somebody, with the right amount of education.

    My education is important to me, but I don’t ever even consider looking down my nose at someone who doesn’t have as much education as me because some of the wisest people I know are my aunts and uncles (mom too) who have, some of them, no more than an 8th grade education; however, when THEY tell me I need to get as much education as I can, I know they know what they’re talking about and they wouldn’t say it if it didn’t have merit and didn’t come from their own experiences.

    I personally feel that people who discount college degrees/higher education by suggesting that they’re not necessary are individuals who have been made to feel less than because they lack them. I don’t think there’s any merit in suggesting education isn’t necessary (there’s only one Bill Gates; he is the exception and not the rule, by far) but there’s no reason to make someone feel bad because a degree is not something they’re striving for.

    I wrote a whole essay on what I think about the importance of education and I emphasized that education is more than sitting in a classroom; no one excels without knowing what they’re doing and you do that by learning. All degrees really prove is that you know how to learn. Great athletes have innate abilities, but they also know how to learn. Great mechanics may have intuitions that help them work on cars, but they also know how to learn.

    Knowing as much as you can is very important; knowing how to learn is more important.

  2. “All degrees really prove is that you know how to learn.”

    I disagree completely. All a degree shows is that you know how to check the expected boxes. I should know, I have a one. As does my husband.

    And I never argued that in the past, even right this minute, that having a degree isn’t advantageous, it probably is, (only because it opens doors, for wrong or right) but I did argue that I think that is changing. I think it’s changing rapidly and that by the time my kids are at the college age, it won’t be a have-to, but a maybe. Neither am I saying that my kids can’t go–we have a college fund and we will pay for their college should they decide to attend. My kids have never learned in the classroom, as they have been unschooled since birth, and no one could tell me that my two are uneducated. They have always been able to follow their passions and interests and I see no reason why that should end.

    I got my BA so that I’d have that piece of paper, so that if anything happened to my family (like it did to me when I was a child) I would not have someone tell me that I couldn’t have the full-time job, since I wasn’t supporting a family (this happened to my mother). I did it so we wouldn’t have to live in a car or go hungry for weeks. That said, my husband got his degrees and he works in a field that is completely unrelated to either. Why? Because he’s smart, creative and he followed his passion and he built his career around it so that now he’s an expert in his field.

    All great right? Yeah. Minus the fact that we are still paying off our college loans (for state university), that we were in debt up to our eyeballs the first 10 years of our marriage, that it affected our ability to oh, buy a car, house, or eat. So no, I don’t want that for my kids, not if they can do it better.

    1. Not everyone with a degree got it because they knew how to check a box.

      There may be some truth to what you’re saying — people can game any system — but you can’t get a degree just anywhere by checking boxes.

      I actually think the examples you provide, especially that your husband works in a career unrelated to the degree he got proves my point. He knows how to learn and can adapt.

  3. Good post sis.
    There is a difference between education and degrees
    As stated our father is a renaissance man, and I’d go so far as to call him an unrecognized genius.
    But the paper to some means he has no validity. I disagree!
    Education goes beyond the confines of checking boxes and writing papers.
    If you make your collegiate experience work for you then you got an education
    If you expect to get something because you got a degree then you dont have a education, you have a piece of paper and a sh$tload of debt!
    I myself, have a Bachelors and Masters and looking potentially at a new program as we speak

    After going through my bitterness phase, I may go back, NOT for a degree to get a better paying job but to strengthen my ability to make my personal brand of ME better. Will I leverage that into better money and better opportunity.. you damn skippy
    But that in itself had nothing to do with my education as so much as it does my interpersonal skills.

    There is no such thing as the corporate ladder in 2009
    Its about network and personal brand (Personal brand includes, education, skills, abilities and how you communicate them to provide a metric of measurable wealth).
    And if you fall into the dream of expecting that the matrix told you that taking the blue pill and going to school will lead you to Zion.. then you are sadly mistaken
    Its what you make of it!

    El Hefe

  4. What I most appreciate about a four year undergrad college is that after you get your degree requirements out of the way, you can take electives. These open your mind to new ideas. I loved my philosophy and sociology classes the best. Religion, sex, war, different cultures are all studies that helped train my mind to think outside of my bubble.

    The game has changed so much that a lot of great majors are “worthless” in terms of getting well-paying jobs. More often it’s the major with a specialty, usually in the technical field, medical or legal field that can find work.

    I have found that people who have a passion for something at an early age usually do quite well in their chosen field. I know of three people who knew they wanted to become doctors when they were in middle school – and did.

    I also know a guy who dropped out of high school. In his teens he got gigs in communications at small stations, which was his passion. By the time he was 25, his company was earning a six figures. He’s so damn smart that people assume he went to college. His IQ is over the top, and he learned from reading the newspaper. He’d have never gotten rich if he worked for other people and hadn’t ventured out on his own.

    Bill Gates, one of my favorite people, also dropped out of college. He had an idea that couldn’t wait.

    Eddie Murphy, the comedian, dropped out of high school. I read an interview years and years ago. If I recall correctly, his high school counselor told him that she never advised dropping out, but in his case, she did, because he was not only unusually talented, but had the drive and personality to succeed.

    There are probably more people in the entertainment industry without degrees than with.

    Which brings us to your son. I suspect this is not an idle question in your post on your part. Kids will fight you tooth and nail once they get an idea in their head. He wants to be an actor and doesn’t sound thrilled at the scholarships he received from two places.

    Personally I hope he commits to at least two years, because he’ll learn about all the avenues to those auditions he wants. He needs to learn how to follow the money trail and know who runs which companies and foundations, the names of producers for various shows, movies and plays, not to mention the music industry. He needs to know about and subscribe to the in-house magazines of anything related to his craft.

    He can best actor in the USA, but he needs to know who has the means to make – or break – his career.

    And I don’t how political he is, but the best thing he can do is keep his mouth shut even with his actor buddies and dorm roommate about anything involving world politics, especially the Middle East.

    For example, vh1 does all those reality shows. If you trace the money, the two producers of them sold their company to another company which is owned by the president of Italy, who is a right wing conservative.

    So if an actor auditioned for a reality show for exposure, made the cut, and on it, bad-mouth some Italian chick also on the show and her country’s govt – in casual conversation – that shit could bite him in the ass and he not have a clue why he can’t gigs anymore.

    Now they may not teach you that in college, but if reads everything they give him – and more – about whose doing what and where their money comes from, he’d have head’s up on where the landmines are.

    Each of us are only six degrees of separation apart, and probably much less in the entertainment field. Tell him to google for that if he doesn’t know it means. When he gets to college, and then in NY or LA, it will sink in even more that acting is only a small part of what he hopes for in his life. I truly wish him – and you – the best.

    (Sorry if this was too long, but I really like to see young folks succeed.)

  5. Kit, I sometimes go ahead and speak for my wife when she hasn’t already done so, just so I can give her an excuse to smack me. It’s about time for that again. ;-)

    I suspect this post has more to do with BGIM’s ruminations on her own education and was probably sparked by a comment Amy made regarding degrees on the “following your bliss” post recently. My wife is a seeking person, and so now she’s seeking to see what people think about those pieced of academic paper.

    As for her son (and my stepson), he doesn’t actually want to pursue acting in college (unless something changed recently). He wants to study political science and perhaps follow up with a law degree. The quandary is that he is a very good actor in high school and has caught the eye of a couple schools who would pay for him to attend their acting programs. My wife is torn between encouraging him to follow his desires (some of which involve very expensive universities) and urging him to take the free (or almost free) educations being offered so that he can get his basic degree/college education with minimal financial hardship, and then perhaps go on to study his “bliss” at the grad school level.

    Anyway, just wanted to clear that up.

  6. Hey Spousal Unit!

    Thank gawd for these email alerts to new comments… and for you clarifying, b/c I was left with a different impression (that he wanted to make acting a lifetime career, from an earlier post.

    Political Science vs. Acting School. That’s a heck of different kind of studies… You all have probably had that kitchen table discussion of “Honey, why not take the free $$$ and major in acting, but minor in Poli-sci.”

    I’m thinking that either undergrad degree won’t get him much mileage in corporate America, unless he gets that three year law degree afterwards – which he says he’s considering.

    This might get him in law school if he tells them he wants to go into Entertainment Law. He could go work for Diddy without sweatin’ on his reality show :)

    Now there’s a highly specialized field that pays really well, and might bring him a lot of satisfaction.

  7. LOL..Kit, yes indeed we have had those discussions but you know how kids are…he must make his own choices and I try to respect it within reason.

    A lot of lovely answers, I think ASmith’s first sentence is the thing that initially leaps out at me “Education is a great equalizer” I believe that myself. Only in American can the son of single Mama who at times was on food stamps end up as President, its where education truly levels the playing field.

    That said, I think when I speak of education there are multiple layers, there is the piece that allows us to become XYZ professionally but then there is educational experiences that feed the soul.

    Amy, I love having these dialogues because you always make me strive to think outside my box ;-) you stated that all a degree does “is show you know how to check the expected boxes”.

    I can honestly say that had my college experience been like that, I would have left. In fact having gone to college as an adult (already a Mama, divorced and working) I had first attempted college at a public institution that was simply about reguritating facts. It did not hold my attention.

    I later ended up in a private school with small class sizes and a focus on dialogue. In my undergraduate experience I only had one class that was about checking boxes, it was taught by a judge. LOL

    Instead I was in a program that allowed students to create their own “majors” which when students are allowed to be part of the educational process they are far more engaged in it. I had similiar experiences in graduate school though my program was not one that I could self design, it was taught with respect and expectation that we would not be passive learners.

    Hell, its because I learned that I am a learner that learns best by doing that I find the idea of homeschooling attractive though I may never take that plunge.

    1. You make a good point about differences in types of school.

      Everyone isn’t able to, but if you can at all attend a school that’s a “best fit” for you, I think you’re more likely to have the latter type of educational experience.

      I avoided even applying to my home state’s major flagship university because I knew it was going to be too big for me. Plenty of students love the huge nature of the school while others struggle to find an identity. I have friends who did attend the school and some loved it while some hated it. The latter group either didn’t really have a choice financially, or they followed their friends/significant others to the school.

      Student loans are nothing to balk at, and trying to keep educational costs down should be a priority, especially in our country’s current situation, but there are a lot of lesser known schools out there that are cheap and a great bang for your buck.

      Not everybody who goes to Harvard or Princeton or Yale or any of the other top universities get the best education possible because perhaps those schools weren’t a “best fit.”

  8. So I ask you the reader, what does it mean to have any education? What does it mean to be educated? What do you think of our current system of education in the United States?
    ________________________________________
    To be educated means , to me, the art of rhetoric. To express your ideas, opinion and facts eloquently and with accuracy.

    Being educated means many different things. For me, it means being able to use the things I’ve learned to propel myself farther in life. I can learn things for passion, and for practicality.

    I think the USA educational system is lopsided. Its good for those who can afford it, but liability to everyone else ( taxes ) . A crime in some respects. The poorest of the poor are not better off then if they were in a third world country. The private system for k-12 is VERY good. For college, its a scam. To much for too little in return.

    If I were a parent, I would consider educating my children elsewhere ( pending the US dollar is still a strong currency). I know one such couple who home schooled their children from k-5 then sent them to private school 6-12. They have one daughter who is top of her class and going to college in the UK. The son is on a similar path. They are both happy and healthy*.
    Watching them grow has been an amazing journey for me, and I can only hope to emulate that.

    *Then again, they are rich ( both have professional parents) , White , able bodied and affiliate with a Religious tradition ( catholic christian). They can afford a life most can’t, even with hardships.

  9. I have one main goal as a teacher in the twenty-first century. It is simple, save the children, how is the hard part. One of my favorite songs is Cat’s in the Cradle. It states, “A child arrived just the other day, he came to the world in the usual way, but there were bills to pay and planes to catch. He learned to walk while I was away.” Every day so many children are born. The minute they are born, they are born with all the potential and possibilities life has to offer. At that very minute, their life can be anything! As time goes on like the song says “there were bills to pay and planes to catch”. Our children are slowly put in a box and a label stamped on that box. Once this happens they start to believe the only life they have is in that box and the only person they can become is what the label says they can be.

    I want to rip open the box and peel off the label. We are taught not to judge. We are taught that judging others is a bad thing, but the people who tell us that are the people who are judging us without really knowing us. We should all cry for the children and give them a voice. I want any child that comes to my classroom to know they are not in a box and that any label on that box can be removed!

    Students today are faced with many challenges in the learning environment. They are learning at a time when information is constantly changing and developing all around them. I want to prepare students to be active participants in a lifelong journey of learning. This starts with me. I want to encourage students to be lifelong learners for themselves and no one else. They need to be taught that getting a primary education is just the beginning and that they need to take responsibility for their learning journey.

    As a teacher it is my job to spark the interest that lies within each student. I need to find out what motivates and makes each student productive every day and in every way. Once you know this you can develop and incorporate the core curriculum around what they feel is important in learning and their education. As they feel inspired and empowered they become self-assured and self-aware. The student will discover that learning is a never ending circle as one question is answered another one is on the horizon. The student’s self-esteem and confidence will grow dramatically. I want to teach the student to be open-minded and independent in their beliefs, values, and self worth, but in the end it comes down to nurturing children to become adults that will promote and embrace our changing world.

    It is my personal belief that I should seek to understand my students, parents, colleges, and administration at all times. If I do not ask why when looking at the actions of my student, of the parent, the administration, or people in general are doing or saying what they are expressing, then I have no barometer on my perception of reality. If you do not understand your students you cannot know what motivates them to learn or how best to teach them. I do not think it takes a village to raise a child, but I do believe it takes a circle. A circle in which the student is the center, the parents, teacher, and others involved with the student are the circle. In this safe circle the student can learn, grow, and explore.

    As a teacher my greatest contribution to mankind is to provide a classroom in which every student every day grows and feels like a real human being. It is my opinion that the greatest injustice a teacher can do to a student is to not nurture the student’s sense of self worth and accomplishment. Every accomplishment and every try must be acknowledged and praised so the student continues on their life-long journey of growth and learning. As a teacher may I never forget the power I have been given!

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