What does it mean to be truly educated?

As June third marks the one-year marker of my grandfather’s death, this assignment seems perfectly timed as he taught me what “being educated” can truly mean. Throughout his life, his success was immeasurable. Not only seen through his work, but in his family and his character as well. Doc was kind, patient, happy, curious, and highly intelligent even as his brain deteriorated in front of us all. When Doc fell down the stairs 14 years ago, I was just two years old. I never knew my grandfather for who he truly was, and as angry as that makes me, it also has made me value more in my life. It has taught me what is really important in life, and what leads you to success and happiness. Life is not just about excelling in just one subject. There is a difference between being knowledgeable, and being educated. To be educated is to be a good person, to live a good life. One must be able to communicate, to adapt, to seek opportunity. Finding compatible people with whom you share a connection with will lead to happiness. Finding a job that you love doing will lead to happiness. Making the right choices for you as an individual is what leads to happiness and success.

A formal education can only take one so far. Developing mathematical and analytical skills are important and necessary. That being said, they are not the only skills that are essential to achieving success. About two years ago, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety. This has seriously affected how I look at situations in school and in my social life. As I look at others who have issues with learning or within their social lives, I can see their strengths as well as their weaknesses. My anxiety, although manageable, has lead me to realize that overcoming this obstacle taught me more than I could have imagined. I learned how to adjust to my surroundings, and how to learn in the best way for me. I wanted to have the same experience as my peers, both in and out of school. I had to work to overcome the testing anxiety and the uneasiness in being confined for periods of time. Math has always been the subject I struggle the most in, with a stressful learning environment and it being so dependent on time. Last year, my teacher worked with me to find ways of taking tests that would make them less daunting of a task. I found that taking them one page at a time, without looking at the rest of the test and panicking, was helpful. This year, my math teacher was more strict and less understanding, and expected me to take the tests in the same periods of time as the other students, as it was an AP course preparing me for the end of the year exam. The grades in this course reflect that the projects and the shorter progress checks and quizzes proved my understanding, but the larger unit tests did not. My consistently bad grades tore at my self esteem, and I dreaded going to class and studying became a daunting task as it did not seem to help. Plans with my teacher, my counselor, my parents and my tutor seemed to be useless. After a while, I began to accept that calculus just really was not my thing. I focused on my other classes I enjoyed and did well in. I realized that not doing well in one subject does not mean that you will not succeed in others, or do well in general. Being educated is different for each person. The concept that success comes from intelligence and education is not always accurate. Successful people have grit, and are conscientious. They have leadership and motivation. Success is not necessarily measured in numbers, like schools so prominently convey.

Through observing my peers, I have noticed the different types of students they all are. Each student learns differently; one’s learning style can be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. At my lunch table, I will see some studying with headphones in and others drawing, or frantically writing equations. My AP classes consist of a few vocal students, and many quiet students taking notes and fully involving themselves in smaller conversations and essays. Others thrive in projects and presentations. Another one of my classes consists of many different types of students, ranging in “intelligence.” These students are still the same way; some prefer watching videos and drawing diagrams and others prefer strict note taking or reading the information. Going through a school day, I look forward to my art and music classes. For one, they provide a break from the vigor of the rest of my classes. For another, they actually teach something that can be applied to life. Music and art are two of the most important things in my life. They are not stressed in school however, and many do not understand the significance of these subjects or hobbies.

Not only do music and art have an effect on the community, but they are also highly beneficial for students. According to the National Association for Music Education, students that participate in music will master the skill of memorization, develop reasoning and language, increase their coordination, be taught discipline, develop recognition of patterns, and develop emotionally and socially as well. Though there are many more benefits, this provides an idea of the effect music can have on a student.

Music and art given me the means to affect and influence others. I can proudly say that my art which is displayed in the community is helping to improve a day. This summer, I am participating in a program whose goal is to beautify the community with art. Painting murals, beautifying gardens and cleaning up the community will actually make a difference. Whether improving just someone’s day, or week, or even a certain view, we have the opportunity to change someone’s perspective on the world. As important as learning how to differentiate an equation is, it is hard to find a purpose for it personally. I continually ask why I am learning. If there is not a reason, my motivation for completing the task, or paying attention, is much lower. Being educated does not have to mean that you can find the mass of an isotope. It does not mean that you succeed in one subject. People are educated in different ways. Some work to design planes and houses, requiring mathematical functions. Others work to save lives, requiring extensive knowledge in biology. Others want to just make a day better, requiring practice in music, art, writing or reading. All of these subjects and purposes are just as important and crucial to our society. Each of these subjects should be equally taught and open to students.

The purpose of an education is a concept that has agitated scholars since the system began. Is it to prepare a student for the future? To develop one fully? To create a literate society? Is it to make human beings? All of these are answers defined since 1934 according to the ASCD. None of these could truly be accurate if we really look at our school systems and then our society today.

If a school system’s purpose was to develop each individual to their full potential, then why are art and music not stressed as much as mathematics?

Artists Big Sean, Kanye West and John Lennon have a song entitled One Man Can Change the World. One of the biggest things that I realized this year is how small one’s world can be. Changing the world does not have to be curing cancer, or finding a solution to global warming. It can be changing the mindset of one person, or providing art or happiness to a community. It may not change the whole world, but it does change theirs. Education provides the foundation and the skills for a student to be able to achieve this, and passion provides the purpose in doing so. This- being able to change someone’s world, or maybe just their day- is what it means to be educated.

Mathematical and analytical skills are just as important for some students. However, by not giving students the equal opportunity of learning the way that they feel most confident succeeding in, makes one feel disheartened and inferior. An education should provide students with the skills of thinking critically, listening, creativity, reasoning, curiosity, to question and to answer. These are acquired and shown in various ways, and that is one of the most important things a scholar should recognize about an education.

My take on education has developed throughout high school, and especially this year. My classes have challenged me and taken a lot of time and effort. The range of my classes provided me with the foundation for learning. Had I gone through the system and taken the notes and simply passed the tests and written the essays, I would have been fine. I would have maintained a strong GPA and my mom would have remained content. But simply going through the steps in high school has proven not to be enough. Classes require investment in order to fully understand the material and the significance of the curriculum. A school system is built to provide the classroom, as well as a social atmosphere This year, I learned how to best cope with an extremely difficult class, and how to maintain self-esteem. I learned that music and art can serve as more than just an outlet for stress, although that is a good reason to participate in them. I learned that my grandfather had it right all along. He knew that there was more to life than living in a big house and owning multiple cars. He married my grandmother for happiness, and was a surgeon because he loved to help and connect with people. He stayed happy on his worst days, when the world around him was falling apart. He knew the difference between being knowledgeable and being educated. He knew how to tell a captivating story, yet could also cure someone of cancer. He was the rock for the family I am fortunate enough to have today. He was an educated man.