Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Education: A Bitter Rant

Sometimes I think having a PhD just means that you've spent four years taking quotes from other people and describing what you think about them. If I'm honest the two most clarifying moments I've had over my educational career are when I realized during my undergrad that I didn't want to become a teacher (I literally left the school where I was tutoring a stubborn 8th grader and drove across town to my boyfriend at the time and jumped on his bed to wake him up with the news of my epiphany) and when I was out of school for the first time in my life, realizing that I didn't want to go back... and that I didn't have to.

Education is like money to me. It is valuable because society believes it is valuable. Society believes that you are a more valuable person if you've paid thousands of dollars to sit in classrooms, attend seminars, residencies, and internships, and written academic papers in professional formatting that you and I could never even begin to comprehend, Blog. I found my diploma and transcripts from my undergrad the other day and looking at the piece of paper that bore my name with the signatures of others (who I don't know personally) granting upon me a Bachelor of Arts in English, I realized I had paid $40,000 for what I was holding and no one has ever asked me to show it to them. I don't have it framed, but keep it in the envelope in which my alma mater sent it to me, tucked away in a cabinet. The only reference I've ever made to it in a professional realm is on my resume.

I have to remind myself that what I really paid that $40,000 for is the good friends I made during those years. The experience I had living in what I thought at the time was a city. I had opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. I was able to be in a classroom setting that gave more independence to the students that resided in it and learn from the responsibility that was bestowed upon us. I was able to make decisions for myself, that affected my life, and take ownership of the consequences. None of this can be taught in a classroom, and none of it was. I looked over my official transcripts that came with my diploma, and there were classes on there that I have absolutely no recollection of taking, let alone of what I "learned" in them. But for some reason I now have the right to "boast" (if that's what you want to call it) about my distinction of having a Bachelors degree in English; a language that I and everyone I know speaks. Wow.

Working in the education industry has made me hate it. I honestly was never a fan of it to begin with, but now when I see people forcing themselves to pay thousands of dollars only to be miserable for years, inundated by homework and the stress of keeping up with grades and assignments, I am just thankful that I had the clarity to know that I don't want to and I don't have to go on for another degree.

The other thing I hate about it is that if I reveal to those I advise that I don't have a masters degree myself, I as a person and the advice I give become less qualified to those with whom I am speaking. I hate lying to people and telling them I have a masters just so they'll take me seriously. So what? I don't have a masters. That doesn' t mean I'm not qualified to talk to you about why you're failing your courses. About how you can find a support system to help you move forward. About what classes to pair up and not to pair up. The way I see it, the only difference between me at a bachelors level as opposed to a masters is more to pay back in student loans every month.

And you know what? Just because I'm not in school doesn't mean I'm not capable of learning new things or growing as a person. I do that every day. And I get paid for it. Sure I won't end up with a degree distinction after 2 or 3 years of this, but I'm more than ok with that. Society may not place value on me, but I still will, and I think that's the most important thing in the end because if you don't value yourself whether you're at the Bachelors, Masters or PhD level, how do you think others will?

In the words of the great G.K. Chesterton, "No man who worships education has got the best out of education... Without a gentle contempt for education no man's education is complete."

I think G.K. (whoever the hell that is) is onto something. I can't help but agree. You have to question the value and validity of all experiences, even those within a realm like education where you are taught, assessed, and hell, even judged by others who are of a "higher" ranking than yourself. Otherwise, what do you get out of it? 

Maybe you get a PhD now that some smart dude has been quoted and original thoughts have been articulated based on said quote. Just sayin'.

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