Education – Does it Matter?

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My son is in the middle of his university mid-terms. As I watch him study, his brows drawn in concentration, I am reminded that learning is a complex and multi-dimensional activity that demands our full and unequivocal involvement.  Even the most brilliant have moments of doubt and uncertainty.  Memorizing and repetitive training may generate a “good mark” which provides a small measure of comfort, even arrogance in some cases.  Yet, integrating learning into our thoughts, goals, desires and life strategies, takes creativity, ingenuity and intuitive imagination.  This week will spotlight education from the perspective of individual effort and life-long learning. Who better to start off the discussion than Benjamin Franklin and Alvin Toffler – two men from different centuries, who saw the future with clear and steadfast eyes.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Benjamin Franklin

“The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read.  It will be the person who does not know how to learn.”

Alvin Toffler

12 thoughts on “Education – Does it Matter?

  1. There’s some fantastic writing, quotes, and wisdom here. I’m a teacher in Korea, and far too many of my students see learning as a very short term thing. Study hard, take the test, finish, go. Next class, next subject, next test. Repeat. I constantly remind my classes that learning English, or any language, is a lifelong thing. It takes time, patience, repetition, and review. Anyhow, I look forward to reading more of your posts on education!

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    • Thank you for sharing your insights and for joining the discussion – your comments mean a great deal. I agree with you wholeheartedly. We are seeing the emergence and escalation of short term learning objectives. It is becoming a universal phenomena. I can’t help but wonder if we have created a reward system that favours short term learning. A top mark grants many more opportunities: respect of friends and family, an external validation of achievement (which equals personal value in our minds) and even better job offers. Schools are being monitored by tests and the teachers are under pressure to produce excellent results. In Canada, we have think tanks that rate high-schools and universities. While it is difficult to change a reward system so firmly entrenched, I think that we can start at the individual level. I know from painful experience that momentary gain does not equal long term success…

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  2. oh my! This is a doozie! First pebble in the pond: education is wasted on the young… – a classic misquote of George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Youth is wasted on the young’. I’m a flag-waving advocate of life-long learning, particularly given my own experience, and the immense value I got out of my first and second degrees by taking them later in life.

    Second pebble: back to Lao Tzu: ‘give up sainthood, renounce wisdom…it is more important to see the simplicity’.

    And as for the UK education system? The quest for unversal access to higher degrees for all has led to a glut of graduates who can’t get jobs, universities having to increase the standards for entry tests in the first place, and students staying on for Masters and PhDs because there is no point leaving to enter the job market…. It’s a funny old world and it’s going to be another great week following your blog as usual!!!

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    • You are singing my song – I hear a choir in the background echoing our concerns. I love to hear your pebbles hit the water and create circles that extend into calm waters. I think that we are reaching a tipping point, where many of our young people are leaving university simply because the costs and student loans will keep them shackled for years to come. I agree – simplicity begets a kinder, yet stricter way of acquiring knowledge. Systemic transitions start small yet there is always potential for exponential growth. We DO live in a funny world where the unexpected is always possible. I am looking forward to more pebbles.

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  3. I believe schools at all levels should have a most important goal–to excite and encourage their students with the prospect of knowledge. Students need to perceive learning as an every day occupation–learning just by positive living–looking for something new that they see or read, seeing something exciting to add to their storehouse of knowledge. I had a teacher like that, I will never forget her.

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    • I agree with you wholeheartedly. I remember the names and faces of those wonderful teachers that gave me the excitement of learning something new. Perhaps the most rewarding was that they taught me to learn how to learn.

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  4. “Schools are being monitored by tests and the teachers are under pressure to produce excellent results. In Canada, we have think tanks that rate high-schools and universities. ”
    You could be writing about New Zealand and the education debate here with standardised testing and ratings. I am not sure where I stand in this debate. I think the home environment can be the main determinant in life long learning or knowing how to learn. If I think about my own family – my grandparents, my parents, myself and my children, all had very different educations. Yet, despite the different levels and types of education for each generation,all were ,or are, life long learners.

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    • I think that you have centred on the heart of the dialogue. Life-long learning connects with resiliency. If the family or community supports life-long learning where there is joy in discovery and curiosity is rewarded, I think we have extraordinary outcomes. We learn to learn and are unafraid of making the necessary mistakes along the way. Your family encouraged the learning process – what a wonderful legacy!!! Thank you so very much for adding your profound insight to the discussion.

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  5. Dear Rebecca, you touched my soul, again !
    “The Third Wave” and “Future Shock” were very important for my student period and for my development. Education matter for what we become in life !!!

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    • I agree – Alvin Toffler created a tipping point where we all started to realize that change was about to grow exponentially. It wasn’t long before we dived headlong into the future!!

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