One of the great tragedies of the American educational system is the way that it compartmentalizes learning. Learning and education, so it suggests, can only happen in a specific place and in a specific way. Thus, students must be in a classroom with books and a teacher in order for learning to happen. The problem is not so much the standardized format of instruction, but rather the subtle message that it sends.
Children grow to resent school and refuse most academic work outside of the classroom. Parents struggle to get their children to complete their homework. Breaks, especially summer break, turn into mostly inert periods of time with no scholarly work or exploration. Returning from break, faculty must work to help students “re-learn” what they’ve forgotten. It’s a frustrating cycle that is self-perpetuating. We spend all of our time modeling what we believe education looks like while neglecting to inform students that formal education is only part of what it means to be human.
Any person, at any time, can grow their intellect and advance beyond the knowledge required to attain any credentialed degree. One does not need a degree in order to be smart, nor does having a degree make one intelligent. The fact remains that the world is our oyster, and we can explore it as we wish. Our brains are ready to grow, to accept new information, and to explore new pathways.
After completing formal schooling, many Americans no longer engage in academic pursuits, few even take the time to crack open a book. If they do, odds are that it’s junk material on inconsequential topics. This is truly a waste.
We all have interests and things that we’d like to know more about. Be bold enough to engage in new material, think new thoughts, and expand your horizons. If you want to gain knowledge and grow as a person, learn, read, and explore. You don’t need to pay for it, just pick up a book.
The mind is a terrible thing to waste. Reject the myth that education has to look a certain way and happen in a certain place. The world is waiting for you to explore and humanity is waiting for your intellectual contributions. So make one.