Educating the “Educated”

“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”
-C.S. Lewis

Education is more than going to school, or going to college, or saying that you have a degree. Education is about actually learning something from those places. However, learning cannot be taught, learning can only be applied, and it can only be applied and built upon by the student. Knowledge can be taught, but even it is dictated by the source.

Education is crucial in a child’s development. It is also crucial in the development of a child’s sense of discipline, responsibility, and punctuality. It is important to remember that when you went to (or go to) school, you are not there to get indoctrinated, despite constant attempts to the contrary.

You are there to be engaged and to gain new knowledge about the world around you. You are there to learn how to participate and interact with other students. You are there to learn responsibility and realize the consequences of not meeting expectations, be them grades or assignments themselves. You are there to learn discipline, not to become a sheep ordered by a shepard with an iron fist, but a sense of respect for others, and those who are hired to teach you. You are ther to learn punctuality, when and where to be when it is requested of you, and again to realize the consequences of not meeting your part of the bargain.

You’re there to learn, not be given the answers.

Good is Good Enough

I saw an excellent quote on Google+ just yesterday that summed this up perfectly. I’ll paraphrase below:

Question: A logger sells a load of wood for $100, his operating costs were 4/5s of that total. How much profit did he make, if any?

Question: A logger sells a load of wood for $100, his operating costs were 4/5s or $80. How much profit did he make?

Question: A logger sells a load of wood for $100, his operating costs were 4/5s or $80. Did he make a profit? Yes or No

Question: A logger sells a load of wood for $100, his operating costs were 4/5s, or $80. This leaves $20 in profit. Underline the $20.

Question: A logger sells a load of wood for $100, ignoring the environmental effects on surrounding wildlife and future effects on growth. It cost him 4/5s of that total, or $80 to do this, so all this destruction was for a measly $20. We will have a class discussion on the answer. (If you feel like crying, go ahead, it is ok.)

The last one may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is still made.  Education has only evolved in a technical aspect, new tools, new information, and new methods. The content, however, has been dumbed down. The mentality, that “everyone is a winner,” and that there are “no wrong answers,” has slowly crept its way into our educational systems.  This only artificially helps with graduation numbers, and looks great on paper. However, the number who graduate are less educated than those before them.

What this has led to is a plethora of “graduates” who have been given a diploma, not for success, or achievement, but for “trying.” These same students are then released onto an unsuspecting world, having been told “they are ready.” What exacerbates this problem, is that this happens not only at the grade school level, but into higher education as well.

We’ll get a little into my personal story here. I graduated high school, from a public school (having gone to public schools all my life), with honors, and had earned a scholarship to a local college. I had also been raised to push to be not only my best, but the best at what I do. It lead me to being disappointed in getting B’s on my report card, knowing good and well that a B was “good enough.” However, good enough, was not good enough for me.

This leads to the next problem that I see in today’s educational system. Parents.

Where teaching begins

Despite the fact that I may not agree with Ron Paul all that often, this quote really does make a lot of sense.

“Under the United States Constitution, the federal government has no authority to hold states “accountable” for their education performance…In the free society envisioned by the founders, schools are held accountable to parents, not federal bureaucrats.”
– Ron Paul

Home, it’s where the heart is. Not just the heart of the family, but the heart of morals, and the heart of learning. More and more, the education of children is moving towards that of the teacher and the school, and not with the parents. The responsibility has shifted from the home to the classroom. I’m not suggesting that all kids be homeschooled, but instead that when they come home from school the learning does not stop. I’m also not suggesting setting up lesson plans for the moment the kids get in the door, but for parents to actually become a part of their kids education, instead of just being the “parent or guardian” on a piece of paper alone.

My parents both worked full time while my brothers and I were in school.  In fact my dad was out of town a lot due to his job, but they were both involved with us, whether they had the time or not.  They also helped us set and stick to goals. Some goals may have seemed too high to achieve, but ever since I first read this quote, I have agreed with it.

“It’s better to aim high and miss, then to aim low and make it.”

When parent(s) start to get back into their kids lives, and not rely on the schools to do the work, we will have a more educated populace, no matter what policies go into place. There is a limit, however, to how involved a parent should get. I believe that even though kids may be young, and “easily molded,” they’re not stupid. I know that when I was a kid, I could often see through a lot of things. But a parent should be there as a foundation and someone that a student can come to with questions. They should also be there to encourage excellence, and ambition, as well as support there kids in case of failure. However, you learn from your mistakes and failures, and if you never had any, you have learned nothing at all.

The College Fallacy

College, that bastion of knowledge and learning…. pffffttt, hahaha, right.  I think Frank Zappa said it best:

“If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.”
– Frank Zappa

What was once a place for continued learning and a sanctuary to hone the concepts of critical thinking, is more often then not little more than “high school + more beer.” Unless you have a plan for your future, or even an inkling as to what  you want to do with your life, there isn’t a whole lot of reason for college. The general populace has been pulled into the illusion that a college education is this grand thing to have. To some extent, it is true if the plan is specialized and career-based, with a goal and future in mind. On the same hand, a discipline and focus on critical thinking, with less preaching and more teaching, would be beneficial via a college education.

However, on the other hand, book-smarts != smarts. Knowledge of a subject, and application of a subject are two completely different things. For example, I have yet to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, I’m about 3 or 4 classes away. So far, I have learned nothing more than what I had already learned on my own. I have actually helped teach one of the classes that I had, because I knew more, or at least as much, as the teacher did. Now, I’m not trying to brag, I am no genius, far from it, but when you put your focus into something, there are no excuses.

My current job is a perfect example of this. I do not yet have a degree, yet went from a third shift help desk call center position to a second level programming position, within 9 months. Why? Because I was willing to step out of my comfort zone and learn something on my own, and let my experience speak for me. I learned the program language being used over the course of about a month, on my own, with no college courses.

This leads to what I have seen a lot of in the workplace as of late.  Companies have slowly been indoctrinated into the same mentality that the populace has; that a degree is important, no matter the experience. I see former students, who have graduated with “Computer Science” degrees, filling programming and engineering positions, who know little more than how to make a webpage. Again leading to the comparison between knowledge and application.

In the end, there are pros and cons with a college education. Even those pros and cons have their own pros and cons associated with them. Maybe I’m jaded, but I feel that unless you actually have a plan for your future, or even a sketch of a blueprint, college is not going to help you.

I hope to go a little deeper into this subject in a later article, including the rising student debt bubble, and how it got to where it is.

I’ll conclude with this. Education is important, and an educated populace is the only defense against any enemy, be it internal or external. Ignorance is bliss, but only to those who don’t want to make something of themselves.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”
– Michel Legrand