This post is a guest post from my husband. I hope you enjoy his musings about education. You can find more of his posts here.
At what point can someone claim to be “educated” or to have “received an education”?
We are led to believe that children must go to school to receive their education. So is it when you’ve finished school? Finished university? Is it only after all formal education has been completed and that has been complemented with “real-life” experiences?
There is a host of assumptions here and so many different ways to insult those who may not fit the normal criteria for an educated individual. For instance, you don’t need to go to university to become a mechanic or an electrician; and many individuals grow their career through life experience and taking the opportunities in front of them…does this mean they are uneducated?
Let’s break this down. If someone has finished school with consistently high marks, does this make them more or less educated than someone who finishes school with consistently average marks? If they have both completed the minimal requirements to satisfy the curriculum, then I’d argue they are equally educated. So if I am right, does that mean a high aptitude during your schooling years is not a requirement for an education?
Now let’s look at university. Does receiving an undergraduate degree from a prestigious university make someone more educated than someone who receives the same degree from a lesser known institution? Can you only claim to have received a full education once the school/university combination has been achieved? Where do TAFE or other professional development options sit?
As someone who has applied for numerous jobs, and as someone who is now an employer, I know that “real-life” experiences and on-the-job development are just as, if not more, important than formal education. In my line of work – event management/live entertainment – I see many graduates of event management degrees leaving university in search of Event Manager, Senior Event Manager, and Event Strategist roles in our industry; and none of them will ever be successful in landing those roles straight out of university. They may be text book smart, but I can assure you that events are not planned, executed, and debriefed based on learnings from Chapters 1 – 20 of Event Management 101. I look for people who have attended numerous events; I look for people who are already working at the cold-face as lowly ushers, ticket scanners, F&B attendants and admin assistants; I look for people who understand that event management is not as sexy as it sounds, in fact they need to both accept and revel in the understanding that weekends no longer exist, the salaries are ridiculously small, and you never get to meet anyone famous unless you own the venue. But they don’t pitch that to new undergrads at university…
So does this now make me educated on the event industry? I finished school with above average marks, I completed two undergraduate degrees at a prestigious university, and now I have over 10 years of experience in my chosen field. I guess I could claim to be “formally educated”, except that I can’t remember anything I learnt at school and I would argue very little of it was relevant to my career now. The few skills that I did pick up through formal education weren’t worth the time and expense of that channel, when the same could have been achieved in a more constructive fashion. I guess choosing university degrees and a career at 17 doesn’t make much sense in hindsight.
So this brings me back to my initial question – at what point can you claim to be educated? If indeed education, or learning, is a life-long pursuit then at no point can one claim to have achieved it; otherwise you will have nothing left to learn. If education is individual and never-ending, then how can we accept that a standardized school/university pathway is the way to achieve that? School/University has a place for many people who are looking for more formal learning experiences, and for many professions it’s a requirement rather than an option. By the same token though, school/university offers a learning platform that cannot compete with getting out and getting your hands dirty, which in many professions is preferable to a formal education.
Looking at the schooling system there are some obvious questions; who decided that school is best started at 5 years of age? Who decided that an “education has been achieved” when 12 years was successfully completed? Who decided what the pass mark is, and moreover who decided that everyone needed to pass the same style of test in order to achieve that mark? Why is school Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm? Why not 2 days or 3 days, or 7 days a week? When you really sit down to think about it, the concept of school is strange when the ultimate goal is for a person to have been given the tools to follow their own interests and ambitions, and to have had their eyes opened to all the world can offer. I’m not sure school and the structure it employs can properly equip students for what comes after their 12 years of schooling. Who decided that this was ‘education’?
I consider my kids extremely lucky to be unschooled; to have the luxury of time for their learning; to be tested by the never-ending stream of information or things-unknown rather than a question on a piece of paper; to chase knowledge in any capacity they see fit; and to learn how to develop their own interests, opinions, and passions at any pace they wish. They will get to decide for themselves what their education looks like.
Education isn’t limited to school, or a graduation certificate, or a degree, or anyone else’s arbitrary requirements. It is not up to someone else to tell you when you are ‘educated’. My kids will always know that education is limitless.