5 Reasons You Should Learn Instead of Getting An Education

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You may think I’m debating semantics here, but actually, I see a wide gulf between the ideas of learning and education. I’m also going to go out on a limb and say, here and now, that with the absence of actual learning at so many “institutes of higher education” society as a whole is starting to realize the vast difference between learning and education. So, without further elaboration up front, here’s my list of five reasons why learning is better than getting an education.

1. Learning is self-motivated, education is other-motivated.

Learning, whether we’re talking about a language, a skill, or a new set of ideas, is always motivated by some desire to better ourselves, to achieve something new or to understand something in a new way. Education, by contrast, is imparted to you by someone else. Education is something someone else thinks you should have, and your role in education is passive.

2. Learning is broad and deep, education is just deep (and sometimes not even that!)

Learning encompasses the whole range of knowledge. Think of the great minds of the past: Very few of them were only good at one thing, or knowledgeable in one subject. By contrast, with the onset of the Industrial Age, deep, narrow education became prized, as technical skill took primacy of place away from breadth of knowledge. And now we can see, in our modern system of education, that even that depth is a fragile thing, with so much time being wasted NOT being educated in anything in particular.

3. Learning reflects a desire, education reflects a duty.

Because learning is self-motivated, nobody learns anything they don’t want to. Learning, and applying that knowledge, is rooted in a desire of some sort. Education, on the other hand, is usually not a result of desire at all. Education is a practical necessity (or so we think) in order to achieve something else. Which brings us to the fourth point:

4. Learning is never a means to an end, education always is.

Learning and education can happen simultaneously. It happens all the time. But, rarely, if ever, do we see learning and education ending in the same result. Education is always a means to an end. Obtaining a new skill, or degree, or whatever, is the means to getting a better job, or higher salary, or whatever the need is that isn’t being met. Learning is the end in and of itself. Those who learn do so because they want knowledge. The knowledge itself is the goal, the prize.

5. Learning is never a necessary evil. Education makes information meaningless.

When we prize learning merely as a means to an end, it becomes a duty, a chore, a task that must be completed. Earlier generations prized knowledge for its own sake, for the joy of understanding. Satisfaction as a result of comprehension was a much more common thing than it is today. The irony of this, of course, is that with the Internet, we now have the answer to literally any question we could ask right at our fingertips, but we don’t prize that information at all. The quest to discover the meaning behind something is gone when we can, with a few quick keystrokes, accomplish what used to take hours of research. The result of this, of course, is that the information which we as a society used to prize is now cheap and devoid of meaning.


To those of you reading this who are enrolled in earning a degree, good for you! Now, don’t let it stop you from learning! To those who feel like you’re wasting your time learning things that will never put another dollar in your pocket, don’t worry! The experience of learning, the passion that you bring to your search for knowledge will pay dividends in more ways than you can think. And, who knows, the knowledge you acquire, while it might not help your bottom line now, may literally pay off in the future.

In the end, the most valuable thing we as humans can do is to learn. Whatever we learn, we will be able to synthesize and apply much more effectively to our lives if we’ve made learning a regular practice. Like so many things, learning is a habit that we must cultivate. The mindset of learning is one that requires effort and practice to become natural. The reward for learning is knowledge, and in this rapidly changing world, the ability to quickly apply and synthesize knowledge is what determines success or failure. So, keep learning!

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