The Problem With Getting An Education
We have this obsession, usually rightly so, with organized, accredited education. In an era when economic disparity and the income gap is at its widest, getting a “proper education” isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.
Which is something most of us agree on, plus the fact that a proper education is defined as not simply completing high school, but obtaining a college degree, at minimum. I think I’m on pretty safe ground when I say that.
But from there, the views diverge. In our zeal to become “accredited”, to be seen as having the best credentials, the highest honors, we believe more is better.
Not only should I take AP courses in high school, I should take as many as possible. Or, that a Bachelors isn’t enough, I really should get a Masters as well. Or perhaps that somebody with two Masters degrees is automatically a better choice for a job than someone with ‘only’ one.
In my own field, there’s a perception among many, that if you’re going to do business, it’s absolutely essential to have an MBA. Or that an offline, full time education is far superior to an online, part time one. You know, more is better.
The reality, of course, is that it depends. And maybe not always. And many times, it isn’t necessary.
The problem is that in our quest for more, we’ve confused learning, knowledge and credibility with degrees, diplomas and doctorates. We think taking as many AP’s in high school is an essential ingredient for our children’s eventual success.
It’s become a race, a competition for more. The casualty is a real education.
We don’t really spend time learning or, often, thinking. Instead, we’re racing. We want to do just enough to get the grade, to earn extra credit, to make the transcript more appealing.
We don’t consider that perhaps if we didn’t take that extra AP course, we could devote more time to that extracurricular activity that we’re passionate about and that might teach us more about our own humanity. Or whether taking on that second major will allow us to develop more depth in our initial major, allowing us to think beyond the textbooks, to dive into the practical. We don’t factor in the value of the extra experience we’d gain if we decided not to get that MBA, but instead focused on our core discipline and went even deeper into it in a practical setting.
Of course, there are some fields where the Masters is essential. Or that extra certification is a necessary qualification. But not always. Not every time. (Sorry, you don’t always need the MBA.)
Let’s not get carried away and forget that there is a such a thing as getting a real education.
One that teaches us, prepares us, and one that cannot always be quantified in terms of grades, diplomas and degrees.
One that actually teaches us something.
(There was an interesting opinion piece in the NY Times today on just this topic: Do Not Double Major. It’s worth a read.)