Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The value of education?

I recently read something by the well-known magician and sceptic, James Randi, that got me thinking about the whole issue of whether "educated" people are really better off than "less educated" ones.

Randi wrote :
Education only provides a student with a framework for discovering the facts, but it does not force the student to use that framework. An education only makes you educated, it doesn’t necessarily make you smart; you have to get that way on your own. By “smart,” I mean “able to apply knowledge to the real world.” Give me a kid from the slums as a survival assistant in a disaster, rather than a half-dozen PhDs. The academics would still be writing a paper on how to find some food, while we two survivors were already digesting our meal.

I had a friend at school whose brother was diagnosed as "learning disabled" and went to the school whose pupils were the butt of everyone else's jokes. Jason ended up getting trained as a hairdresser and went on to become a successful young businessman. In the meantime his sister, who had been getting top marks all the way at school, went off the rails, experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol.

An education can be a wonderful tool, a stepping stone to a fulfilling, successful life. However I think that there is so much value placed on getting an education that it becomes a means to an end. Parents are so often devastated when their children opt out of the ideal path they had envisioned them following, instead of asking whether the new path is a better one for their child than the old one.

Sitting and memorising facts and practising drills might be useful for some types of jobs but in general I don't feel that it prepares one for life. In many cases "getting an education" can be a cover for emotional lack of security or feelings of inadequacy. Someone I know recently moved out of the communal house he had been sharing with some other supposedly like-minded individuals. One of the things that frustrated him was that a bunch of intellectuals living under one roof were incapable of getting on with each other. It seems that many people who regard themselves as high on knowledge and intelligence are pretty short on commonsense and general life skills.

Update : Here's an article called Five Reasons to Skip College. I just love number three. I got the link from Chris O'Donnell's blog. I'm busy scouring it to find that I don't link to homeschoolblogger.com graphic, but I'm just getting sidetracked the whole time.

Another Update : Via Henry Cate, mother of eight, Sherry, discusses whether college is the right decision for everyone.

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