What does it mean to be truly educated?
Education is one of the most vital aspects of our society. It serves as the foundation for global productivity and success. Though often associated with traditional classroom style learning, education is and should be something beyond the four walls of a classroom. Education is an element we take with us wherever we go, however we chose to leave our mark in this world. Education is truly the foundation of problem solving today.
The majority of us are educated in a school system. In a school system we learn the basics of how to read, write, and perform standard math computations. These skills we acquire are continuously assessed through assessments of all nature; standardized tests, projects, as well as in class quizzes and tests. In a way our learning becomes fabricated with many simply memorizing information covered on the test. We learn how to solve for x in an algebraic expression, the dates of all major wars, and of course, that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. This is not to say that education in school is entirely based off of these mundane and seemingly useless bits of information, but it seems that the true purpose of education has deviated over the years. Modern education is widely based off the need for high assessment scores, but there are some positive benefits of the system currently in place. High standards lead to a competitive nature in school, but they also cause students to be more invested in their education. Students feel the need to receive good grades and to do so they must take thorough notes, complete homework, and study for any graded assessments. Multiple skills are attained in this process, primarily skills involving work ethic, collaboration, and time management. These are critical to success beyond school, but simply completing school does not entail that you are truly educated and prepared to take on complex tasks.
It is often said that life is the greatest test of all. I find this saying very true in our world today. Although a classroom can prepare you, being faced with obstacles in real life can lead to the most personal growth. When out in the real world, an individual is fully responsible for their decisions and path. Though family and friends can help, it is your responsibility to create a stable living environment with the ability to support yourself and others. When faced with a challenge, there is not always a clear answer that you can simply learn from a lecture or read in a textbook. Most problems involve creativity, quick decision making, and resourcefulness.
For someone to be truly considered educated, an individual must be able to respond thoughtfully to challenges, but they must also be aware of the world around them. Awareness is one of the most important qualities to contain. Awareness leads to understanding, and understanding is particularly important in such a diverse and rapidly changing world. Every single person is so different, so it is critical to acknowledge other perspectives. Educated human beings are able to accept differences and make clear interpretations about complex issues within society. They are able to synthesize information to articulate significant ideas.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have always admired my dad, who has served as a very influential figure in my life. My dad grew up in a small town in Poland. As most immigrants, his family was poor and growing up he faced challenges everyday. He attended school but was never a stellar student in the classroom. He got through year to year, and never attended college due to his immigration to the United States in his early twenties. His story is truly remarkable because he came to an entirely new country with a different language and culture at such a young age. His time in the U.S. has not been easy. Regardless of education level, he was able to accomplish the equivalent, if not more than what most people do during their lifetimes. He took on some of the worst physical jobs, that were relatively low paying and undesirable, however, he saw these jobs as opportunities. He saved money, made critical decisions when they needed to be made, and eventually allowed for the immigration of several other family members to the U.S. If he had told someone earlier on that he would be the owner of a large, colonial home in a wealthy, suburban area, most would have laughed. He made his dreams, or the American Dream a reality without the aid of a diploma. What he had learned over the course of his life proved more valuable than just a classroom education. Looking back at all his experiences today, he has told me that he does not feel that he was ever at a large disadvantage intellectually due to his lack of a university level education.
Building off of my father’s experiences, I feel that education in deeply rooted within the world, most importantly, in the world beyond where one lives. Understanding the world and other cultures is as critical today as it has ever been. Relationships are built on culture and the connections people are able to formulate based on interests, curiosities, etc. The more we are able to truly connect, the more educated I believe we will be as a population. Our world should be concentrated on constant improvement, but in order to improve we must be open to new ideas and we must question everything around us, no matter its importance. To be truly educated, you must be able to acknowledge that everything matters in one way or another. Our actions directly or indirectly affect not only ourselves but the people around us. An educated individual is mindful but also willing to compromise in the face of hardship. Success in school does matter today as school plays a large role in our futures, but school does not entirely define education. School contributes to education, but education is truly how you define it yourself. What you take away and are able to contribute are key components in what it means to be educated in our world today. Education is important, not solely for the sake of having a degree or well-paying job, but it helps us define our identities.