Saturday, April 5, 2014

E: Education--Acquiring an Education vs. Getting a Degree #BloggingAtoZ

"If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the alter of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams." --Yann Martel, Life of Pi.
On April 2, 2014 my brilliant friend Stephanie Lauritzen, who teaches English and Debate at Coeur d'Alene High School in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, posted a brilliant "rant" on Facebook. With her permission, I am reposting it in this space.

This will be an educational rant (pun intended) that has been brewing for sometime. I have been reading many an article about how a college education is not worth it, how particular degrees won't pay for themselves. I read one recently about a cost benefit analysis of certain colleges and universities where the average student will never recoup their money (or some similar conclusion). I need to say first that I do not think that college is for everyone and that everyone needs to find a way to make a living. That being said, when did education become "how much many can I make" or "what job can I get?" Education is about . . . (wait for it) . . . being educated. . . about life, the world, humanity, past and present. If all one is looking for is a job, there are few that need a college degree. There are faster and cheaper ways than any 4 year degree (I will save my rant on online classes and dual enrollment for another time). I am so tired of a culture that denigrates the concept of getting an education for its own intrinsic worth. There is nothing quantifiable about what I learned during my undergraduate years. I learned as much about myself, my beliefs and values as I did about economics, philosophy, history, music, science, etc. But all of that is part of my education. And it has never stopped. Granted I am in the field of education, but being trained for a job is only part of an education; it is a secondary result. Otherwise, we are going to end up with a very well trained work force (who saved a lot of money) but hasn't learned anything of value.

It's really no surprise that a country devoted to resurrecting the Gilded Age devalues the arts as not pragmatic enough for young people to value. In our world of reductionist thinking, the cha-ching factor matters more than the intrinsic, unmeasurable value of education. 

An April 5, 2014 article Forbes ("Higher Education: Is College Worth It?) addresses the question by presenting an analysis of earning power among 900 colleges and universities via a PayScale analysis. 

We are at grave risk of selling our collective soul to the highest bidder. I can't help but wander how our world might be more of a utopia than a dystopia had more people taken a Renaissance view of education, one similar to that of Leonardo Da Vinci. 

  • Would we have as much political corruption if we had more artists?
  • Would we have a stock market corrupted so extensively (see Michael Lewis's Flash Boys) if we had more artists?
  • Would we have as much abuse if we had more artists?
  • How would our world look if we encouraged students to make a life by acquiring the kind of education Stephanie writes about rather than prodding them to make a living by getting a degree? 
In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink argues for education that focuses on the critical thinking and problem solving skills developed through creativity. 

As Paul Taylor of Pew Research says, "In today's knowledge-based economy, the only thing more expensive than getting a college education is not getting one."

A Sixteenth Century depiction of children being educated in runelore. via wikimages


  1. I speak as one who went to college later than normal and did my internship, hated it and returned to my 'love', childcare. Learned my lesson on 'education' the hard way. Thanks for the great post!

  2. Great rant! Couldn't agree with your friend more. Was it Oscar Wilde who said that we "know the price of everything and the value of nothing"? Thanks for sharing the words.
    Best wishes,

    1. I'd forgotten about the Oscar Wilde quote. Thanks for reminding me!

  3. LOVE THIS POST!!! Education is important, for everyone, but the *how* and *level* should be individualized. And the arts…so important. One of the programs that I collaborate brings music education back into Title I schools. The classrooms, representing the poorest of the poor schools, gave students no opportunities for creativity. It was math and science, math and science. Important, yes, but not important enough to stand alone. When that happened several years ago, vandalism, bullying, and other inappropriate behavior skyrocketed…from sweet little elementary school children. But bringing the arts back into these pilot schools has decreased illegal behavior, decreased classroom behavioral problems, greatly decreased truancy, and caused participating students to excel in their core academics. Reading case after case of similar instances, I struggle to see why arts aren't appreciated more at such a critical developmental phase. Without the arts and humanities, which give us outlets to be creative and express ourselves responsibly and bring joy and fulfillment into our lives, what is all the muck we endure for?

  4. I couldn't agree more. I wrote my honours thesis (years ago) on the lack of Arts in primary education in Australia. It's the same in high school and university though. As you said, it shouldn't be all about the chi-ching!
    Visiting from the A-Z Challenge.