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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Education- Want or Need?

With all the buzz going on in the comments section the past few days about college education or the lack-thereof,  I decided to tackle the topic of education, with a focus on advanced education.
So, without further ado: Education. Want or Need?

Learning vis a vis Educating



Learning begins from the moment we enter the world. From an infant picking up which cues will garner his caretaker's attention to a child figuring out that jumping off a high place will result in scrapes and bruises, learning is an intrinsic part of being human. Children's inquisitive minds implore them to constantly ask "Why" and to seek learning experiences as part of their every day interactions. Quantifying learning as a need is absurd, since it comes as naturally to us as breathing, but it is definitely needed for our existence. As long as someone has a functioning brain, learning occurs.

Learning takes many forms, one of which is via education. According to wikipedia, educating is "the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another."
Learning is a given in life but education is not, as education requires both intention and an "instructor", whether that instructor is a parent, a teacher, books, or any other educational resource such as the internet.
Education is a need, for without it, society cannot succeed. If one is never educated and has to figure out everything on his own, he'll be extremely disadvantaged in life because he cannot build on on the collective knowledge that has been passed down throughout the ages, but will need to reinvent the wheel (literally) himself.

All people, no matter where they live, educate their young, at least to an extent, but the problem is that for some the education stops before they've amassed enough knowledge to having a successful and fulfilling life. For this reason, formal education was instated in most societies as a way of ensuring that every child has the ability to learn enough to be productive, functioning members of society.
Basic education is definitely a need.

Formal schooling is not.

Many are dismissive of non school based learning, assuming that without sitting in a classroom having structured lessons, a child will not possibly learn enough to succeed. For those who view homeschooling as a viable alternative, they usually only see it that way when children are given formal schooling, with set learning hours and instruction, basically, a classroom at home.

People oftentimes forget that education need not be as formalized and rigid as the type of teaching that occurs in school. The world is filled with instructors, from older siblings to neighbors and people in the community as well as writers who transmit their knowledge via print medium, such as books and magazines. Life can be chock full of educational experiences, even without ever having attended formal school.


Well Rounded Education

Many I've spoken to about education idealize the concept of a "well rounded education", something so ambiguous that even Wikipedia has a hard time defining it.
In my opinion, a balanced education is important to an extent.
I want my children to be functioning members of society, to have an in depth knowledge of whatever subjects interest them or that would assist them in their career goals. In addition to that, I would like them to have learned enough to be able to live life relatively independently, and also be able to participate in society without sounding like a total airhead and being able to understand things that are general common knowledge.
How does that translate?

My Educational Goals For My Children

  • I want my children to be able to read well enough to understand advanced texts and have a decent reading comprehension. Without good critical reading skills, you are unable to further your education easily, even if you'd like to do so. Reading opens worlds of opportunity.
  • I want my children to be able to write well, spell well, and be able to get their point across clearly with the written word. Without being able to write well, you aren't usually taken seriously; even with a sharp mind, poor writers and spellers are usually viewed as incompetent and incapable.
  • I want my children to have a working knowledge of math, at least until basic trigonometry. Even without being an engineer or mathematician, geometry and trigonometry as well as algebra are often necessary in figuring out solutions to everyday situations.
  • I want my children to have learned at least the basics in various sciences, but especially chemistry, biology, and physics. This knowledge not only helps you appreciate the wonders of the world in which we live, but it also assists us in our day to day life. A basic knowledge of chemistry will help you in the kitchen and with other household tasks. The rules of physics play a huge role in doing many physical tasks, from building shelves around the house, dealing with electricity, solar cooking and even driving. Biology helps us take care of our bodies as well as plants and animals. Science is important.
  • I want my children to have an in depth knowledge of our religion as well as a basic knowledge of most of the world's religions, both past and present. Religion plays such a huge role in influencing the actions of the world, both past and present, that without understanding the basics of religions, even ones that aren't around anymore, its hard to understand the how's and why's of the world. 
  • I want my children to know history well, both that of our current country as well as world history, as those who do not know history are likely to repeat the mistakes of the past. History also influences today's actions, yet another reason it is important to learn it.
  • I want my children to have a basic knowledge of geography, and a basic knowledge of the great works of literature that influenced the world, because I don't want them to sound like total nincompoops when speaking to people, but more importantly, so they can fully understand relevant concepts that are based on geography and literature.
  • I want my children to have an in depth knowledge of how to use tools, both kitchen and household tools, so they can help themselves and not need to rely on others.
  • I want my children to have at least a basic knowledge of economics and the government, so that they can make sure no one takes advantage of them.
  • I want my children to know how to use a computer well, because decent computer skills allow you to help yourself and access information you haven't yet learned, as well as opens doors of opportunity.
Beyond that, well, it's up to them.
Perhaps this isn't as extensive of a list as you would like. Maybe its not as "well rounded" as you would like for your children, but in my opinion, thats all I'd require them to learn. 

College- Necessary or Not?

Some people think that a college education is necessary in order to be a well rounded person. I think that much of what people learn in college is a waste of time, because it doesn't actually get remembered. People remember both what interests them and what is used in their daily life, but most of what is learned in college doesn't fit into either of those categories.
In my one year stint in college, I learn Calculus 1 and 2, Chemistry 1 and 2, as well as Psychology, English, and Chem lab. How much of that do you think I remember?
English 101 and that's about it. 
Even though I did very well in all those other classes, simply because they didn't interest me and have no bearing on my day to day life, my brain just stored away that knowledge in the far recesses of my mind in a hidden and inaccessible place. If I forgot all that which I learned aside for the one subject that interested me, I wonder just how many of you actually remember most of what you learned in college that isn't connected to your current profession or interests. Do any of you actually remember college calc, or sociology or whatever other core classes you took that aren't related to your degree?
How does that "rounded education" actually benefit you today?

Others say that without a college degree, you can't get a good job. 
In a sense, you may be right. Many jobs require an advanced degree, such as different things related to the sciences, lawyers, and academics. 
But for most other subjects, degrees are often required by employers, but they're completely unnecessary. 

My friend is currently learning to be a medical secretary, a degree that in my not so humble opinion, is a complete waste of time. I've worked for years as a medical secretary, without any "higher education" and have done a mighty fine job. 
People simply create degrees to make money, and when degrees become commonplace, employers start demanding them, even if those degrees don't make the worker any more skilled or capable.

Other times, people get degrees, slave away in college in a major they find fascinating... only to find that their degree is completely useless in real life. 
My friend's husband got a degree in aeronautical sciences only to have his life circumstances change, and now he is not only not an astronaut, he is working as a general unskilled laborer in a feild in which his degree does him zero good.
Alternatively, you could be like my Mom who got a degree in genetic engineering, only to decide post degree that she can't stand working with test tubes and then went back to college to get a completely unrelated, new degree.
Then there's always the people that get a degree and wok in it, and end up loathing their profession, but don't want to switch after having invested so many years in that education. These people end up working for the rest of their lives in a field that they hate.

College degrees aren't "all that".

There are quite a few money making fields that only require technical training, which would entail going to trade school instead of college.
Then there are those self made men and women who started their own businesses with no college degree and have become quite professional. For example, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook and youngest billionaire is a college drop out.

College does not ascertain success in life, nor does lack of a college decree necessarily mean a life of poverty. Having learned a trade definitely does give you a leg up in the professional world, which is why I'd encourage my children to learn something, whether in college or in trade school. But is a college degree a need? No. Just a good thing.

Learn Out of College

I really value an education. That is, learning to increase your knowledge. Y'all might think that since I'm a "college dropout", I don't think an education is imperative. 
Au contrair.
Just because one might opt out of college doesn't make him be uneducated. There are millions of ways to learn, and most of them are not confined to a classroom. 
I, for example, have but one year of college behind me but I do consider myself to be a very educated person. Even though I have no degree, even after I got my high school diploma, I have learned for one year in a secular college and 2 years in a religious college and now I learn what interests me- the art of homemaking, traditional living, parenting psychology, educational psychology, how to be the best wife and mother possible, interpersonal skills, frugal strategies, internet marketing, web design, writing techniques and much, much more.

My "continuing education" isn't necessarily what you'd learn in college, but it is advancing my education and furthering my knowledge nonetheless. These topics may not be what you'd consider to be academic subjects, but thats only because that is what interests me at the moment. If I wanted to learn astrophysics, I could do that too, but I chose to learn the subjects that currently interest me.

My methods of increasing my knowledge are via experimenting via the scientific method, reading from books, apprenticing from professionals, researching on the internet, and going to lectures on various topics. There are also other methods of furthering your education via the internet, such as free-ed.net, or by seeing this list of free online college classes on lifehacker.

So to sum it all up for you:
Learning? Unavoidable.
Education? Vital.
Well-rounded education? Useful.
College education? Helpful. A need? Absolutely not, or at least it shouldn't be. If this is a "need" it is only because society made it be one, but in an ideal world, this would be completely unnecessary unless you're in a specialized field like a doctor or a professor.
Continuing your education even after high school? Pretty important, but you don't need college for that.

What do you think? In your opinion, is college a need? If you went to college, how much do you actually remember of what you learned? Have you continued your education in any way that doesn't involve formal schooling?
What do you think about a well rounded education- do you think my educational goals are extensive enough, or do you want your kids to be even more well rounded?


1 comment:

  1. Great site... thanks for sharing your ideas...

    ReplyDelete

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