Earning a Degree is NOT the Same as Getting Educated
Earlier today I was having a chat with Kanaka Prasad. The issue of education (adult and kids) came up in our discussion. A bit later I went to a recruiting event organized by our University, where I talked a bit about degree requirements in our program etc. I came back to my office and checked a few things on the blogosphere I follow. I came across a piece by Karl Denninger on education. I just couldn’t resist the urge to say these few words on education.
Degree is (almost) essential for making a living. The current education system in most countries, including India and the United States helps you get a degree and make a living. What about education? Perhaps, a better question is, “What is education?” Education is accumulation of knowledge. I don’t think that the education system I am used to encourages knowledge accumulation.
I follow Karl Denninger for his insights on financial markets and economic outlook. I have a few areas of disagreements with him. However, as an educator, I couldn’t agree more on the basic premise of his latest piece on Education (Our Educational System’s Primary Failure). It’s all about being curious and learning things on our own! Excerpts:
To succeed a young person needs to be able to do three things – read, write, and understand mathematics. The fourth ingredient is that the innate desire to learn must not be destroyed in their first few years of school.
All children start life wanting to learn. Ever watch a baby? It’s a curious being, is it not? It reaches, it fondles, it touches, it experiments. We put plastic caps in our electrical outlets because one of the experiments a significant number of babies and toddlers will perform is inserting a kitchen fork into said outlet, with bad results.
So how do we go from that to a surly vegetative kid at the age of 9, 10 or 12?
We do it by failing in the essential purpose of education – giving our children the foundational understanding they need, and then getting the hell out of their way!
We want to mold educational experience. To teach “as we want them to learn”, instead of “as they wish to synthesize.”
We’re fools. You, I, our school systems. All of us.
I have one piece of advise to parents with young children. Encourage your children to be curious and learn things on their own, and to pursue what they are passionate about. Don’t force your wishes on to them. To demonstrate to you that I know what I am talking about, I will give you one personal example. In February 2003, when space shuttle Columbia blew-up in the atmosphere during reentry, I was watching TV with my son. I said a couple of things I knew about the space shuttle. He picked up from there and said a whole lot more about the space shuttles – how they are made, launched into orbit, docked in space, re-enter earth, transported from California to Florida as a piggy-back ride on Boeing 747 etc etc. I was not aware of a lot of details he said.
Even though I am a proud father, I do not want to take credit for his knowledge, which he gained on his own. However, some credit is due to my wife and myself, for, we clearly did some things right. When all this happened, none of that stuff about space shuttles was in any of his classes. My son was just 9 year old.
If this sounds like I am bragging about my son, ABSOLUTELY! [I am sure he or his sister will give me a hard time when he sees this. That’s OK.]
I also have one advise to those of you who are young and open minded enough to take and use a good piece of advise. Be on continuous quest for knowledge. Knowledge is vast and almost infinite. How much knowledge you can accumulate and about what? My answer: as much as you can and about the things that interest you and you are passionate about. Some of those things that SHOULD interest you is about yourself, your family, your past and your heritage. i.e. history!
Seeking knowledge is like going to a huge lake with a bucket. The maximum you can get is what the bucket can hold. The practical maximum is what you can carry. What is shameful is, returning with an empty bucket from a trip you only get to take once! That’s why they say, the mind is a terrible thing to waste.