Random 411: Thoughts on higher education

Three years ago I had this overwhelming desire to go back to school to pursue a degree in something. I decided I wanted to pursue a liberal arts degree over a trade degree because I wanted to train my mind to think a certain way so I can be adaptable, and hopefully a valuable asset, no matter what career I chose. Ten years of professional work had already given me a particular skill set, but I wanted to complement that with a higher learning education.

Three years later I’m receiving confirmation that this was a good choice. I’m a sophomore pursuing a degree in European History. I’m starting to get into the heart of my program, having completed almost all but one class of General Education. I’m in the middle of a course on Research Methods in History and I am loving every minute of. Learning how to take better research notes, how to organize those research notes, and then how to apply those research notes in academic writing had given me more than just the skills to write a good history paper. It’s teaching me how to key into specific topics and/or ideas. It’s teaching me to ask better questions. It’s giving me the confidence to ask those questions. The confidence to ask questions prior to going to school was very rare for me in a professional setting. I always feared I’d be laughed at or not taken seriously. And while that fear still remains and the possibility that I may get laughed at hasn’t changed, I know it’s worth asking than not asking at all.

I don’t think we take higher learning seriously enough, especially in a world where you can become a gazillionaire without it. I believe becoming a billionaire because you invented some computer program is possible, however, it’s the exception and not the standard. We still should consider higher learning. Most times higher learning doesn’t give us earth-shattering and instantaneous measurable results like inventing a social media platform that catches like fire. The results of higher education can be as subtle as learning to focus your mind, learning how to organize your thoughts, or learning that asking questions isn’t ridiculous and actually can gain you respect. And while there are other ways to learn this skill set, learning it an academic setting has the benefit of encouragement because you’re given the benefit of the doubt. In an academic setting, mistakes are expected therefore fostering learning. You don’t always get that kind of support when you’re up against the real world.

Again, there are always exceptions.

But I am concerned with some of the comments I hear, such as “I don’t see the benefit of going to college nowadays” or “I can just do it this way instead of paying all that money to go to school.” Higher education is valuable, is beneficial, and should be considered.


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