The arrogant ignorance of the ‘well-educated’

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A post from a less educated individual about the more educated, and the opinion of how economic discrimination sadly still prevails over who gets the golden tickets to success. These are, of course, my own personal experiences and views that may change over time, and the further along I get with my own education.

It is true I started from nothing; baker’s daughter born into an immigrant family who starting over in Canada after the Hungarian revolution. My dad grew up with little, and had the stigma in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s as being a refugee. Dad then imported his wife, had two kids, and raised them as European. Although we grew up in a multicultural society and were heavily influenced by liberal views, we were not part of the elite, nor had connections to university or thought the ‘American dream’ applied to us. We were told to work hard and save, and if we were lucky we would get good jobs to support ourselves. That was the best we could hope for. And that is what I did.

Education was out of reach. Not because we did not want to go, but because society told us we were not worthy, that immigrants were lucky to be welcome inside another country at all. And inplace, work we did. We started young too; family business, then through junior and high school fast food joints to help the family with the bills. Straight into full time employment by graduation. It was never because we weren’t smart, just told over and over again that university was too expensive for the likes of us. That those people who could afford it were the wealthy upper class society that ran the country. Those were the rules, and I sadly believed them. I had no one encouraging me to go further or telling me otherwise.

Now we cross paths with many different types of people as life goes on, and there are different types of educated people or at least that I have seen…

  • Those who are comfortable with their level of education
  • Those who are uncomfortable, and try to hide that fact

You may think I am one of the second, but miraculously my lack of formal education never really bothered me. It mostly bothers other people, those on the same pay scale as myself holding master degrees, but personally while they went to college, I saved for my first home, then my second, I travelled the world, I learned languages; so who was actually getting an education and getting ahead of the game actually depends on your point of view. Not to mention there are those with astronomical student loans whose parents could not or would not help their children get an education. 19 Billion in Canada in total, but the average person starts life with $40,000 in debt after uni which starts to increase if you do not start to pay it back immediately once in your field. When starting to work and trying to survive on an entry level position and an added cost of $150/month on loans can mean eating or not.

The second group tends to display a bit more arrogance, as they are fearful of letting the cat out of the bag. Typically human behaviour shows us that we act out when we feel threatened. There are many people who build their entire foundation solely based on their skill-set, and have a deep rooted need to keep their place at work and thus their imaginary fixed place in society.

I have recently witnessed many such ‘well-educated’ people expressing what they believe to be their superiority. I use the term educated loosely here because isn’t life an education, the school of hard knocks, the choices we make and the work we do. We are constantly absorbing from each other in different situation, learning as we go, and developing ourselves. However, some hide behind their degree, pointing out the faults of others trying to make themselves feel a little bit better about themselves; usually when someone who is less educated comes along who can do their job just a little bit better. That uncomfortable feeling sets in. The security they think they earned, worked for or created is not as safe as they had anticipated.

So many people truck along coasting in their jobs; they become comfortable, complacent and stop being creative or evolve with the times. A fresh new person comes along full of ideas, bright eyed and bushy tailed, younger or yes sometimes even fresh out of university and when they shine the senior employees feel exposed. I think this is a natural feeling as we get older. Time is not on our side, and the younger employees are now born with technology in hand, smarter as they go, and offer different skills to the workplace.

I understand society is partly to blame. It often reaffirms that we must go through due process to get the things we want. It lets us believe that it is enough. Many think that education is the only way to get to our goals, to gain respect and to secure our position in life. Some believe that going to university makes them better than others in many ways. Afterall, we pay large amounts of money to go, but we also give up large amounts of time in our lives to finish, so why not tag on a sizeable ego to go along with that diploma.

The question becomes, is our time well spent at university? There must be more effective ways to transfer information than to sit idle in a large room full of people listening lethargically to a professor at the head of the class; papers handed out, computer downloads and sheets to fill for a 3-5 year duration. Is this really still the norm? In Montpellier many classes are empty as the students are downloading their class and watching it at a more convenient time, or they use the time for prep classes to increase their grades inplace of those recorded classes. People are changing with the exposure to vast amounts of information, so why are the institutions not changing as well.

As some of you may know, I am currently heading to the other side, by getting my BA in Education through The Open University; it’s online. Many believe it is all hogwash, a second rate education degree compared to the traditional brick and mortar variety, but the world ratings state a very different story. Truthfully, if I am to make an educated guess (with my lack of education) I would say that this is the future of learning, something everyone can access from anywhere, and at a fraction of the price too. No prerequisites to start, however the learning curve rises quickly. They teach you how to succeed, how to write an effective essay, and gives the support you need along the way. Making education accessible to all seems like the right thing to do; we are going in the right direction to even out the playing field across the world. Sorry elite, the average person will be soon at your heels!

How can a piece of paper miraculously travels through time, and continue to define who we are? Are we not more than just one thing? Why do we hold the most value on academic intelligence when other abilities are proving to be very valuable these days? Or further a mixture of a variety of abilities. In fact the newest trend is hiring people with a general education degree; people who have basic knowledge in a multitude of fields paired with skill based training. With rapid changes in technology, plus the rising costs of education, the latest trends have made our traditional higher-education system an increasingly anachronistic and risky path.

Different kinds of intelligence rarely measured or acknowledged.

And what about those naturally smart people that just seem to understand material, their place in the world, the people in it, and the connections between. The jack of all trades! There are those among us who naturally fit into occupations without ever going to school? There are also those with eclectic education, mixed degrees, or vast amounts of experience, yet so many employers are stuck in the mode that the degrees on the CV holds the most value. Do we not admire the ones that break the mould, go against the status quo and stand apart? Because those are the free thinkers that will bring change and innovation to our world in the future; a future that is not yet defined. It will be those who can connect the dots in their learning that we will need, not those who are good at memorizing facts and figures; in essence the good student will be outdated. Won’t we need good teachers that make you think, communicators that can clarify concepts, resourceful people like MacGyver that can make stuff out of nothing, and people good at bringing people together excited about creation? Working in teams, sharing knowledge, and getting alone are very important factors for our not so distant future.

Does everyone need a teacher to learn? Did Confucius or Aristotle? And what stops us from reading everything we can find to get the information we need to be good at something we are interested in without getting a degree? Shouldn’t the education system keep up with the Internet, and those kids born with devices in their hands? Who will be teaching them? Me? You? Who is going to teach our teachers how to teach them? But then again how will the institutions of education make all that money off students if education were different or free, and not verified by the completion of a degree, or further validated by that piece of paper at the end? Do we need a new way to measure ourselves against one another? Whatever happened to skill based competencies?

It is funny, the more education I receive, and the more I learn about the education systems of the world, the more I think they are broken. It just seems we are doing a very ineffective job at teaching people the essential skills needed to interact with one another like problem solving skills, human empathy, how to deal with differences, positive and constructive feedback, how to be tolerant of strangers… Further is seems we are slowing down the learning process to an unbearable crawl to occupy as much time and space in our youth as possible; stretching out highschool and then after these ‘degrees’. It also seems that education is a highly for-profit business structure that eliminates any freethinking or innovation to much extent. I heard university would be different than high school or vocational schools. It still uses a very old and outdated model. Think about it; how much has a university education really changed since my grandfather was young? And as of lately, I read that the old establishments like Oxford and Cambridge are swinging back the pendulum to make it even more elitist offering seats regionally based on upper class income earners and old school ties. Mr Lammy from the BBC News article said he was “appalled to discover” Oxbridge is actually moving backwards in terms of elitism. Unveiling the data, he described the universities as the “last bastion of the old school tie” and highlighted stark regional divisions. So no, not much has changed.

Now of course there are many people who are educated that are lovely; well-rounded, well-balanced and well-developed. I have the privilege of knowing many. But the ones who stand out in a negative way are the ones who are openingly belittling of others with less education. I always try to understand their viewpoint as well, but maybe they haven’t much going on in their lives outside of work, and with so much time on their hands… Is there not an expression about the devil that goes here?

My rant is now over. Let’s get on with the thinking part of our program…

Here is some food for thought.

What makes a good student? The ability to sit in one place, listening and absorbing the ideas of others and regurgitating them back in the structured format an instructor wishes. If you pay for your education on time, show-up when asked and have the luxury to give up 3-4 years of your young adult life (most likely with support from your parents); then it really is not about your level of intelligence but patience and your ability to withstand the monotony of being ‘taught’ in school. You will most certainly pop out the other side with that piece of paper stating you have been duly processed. Because the process of educating people itself is not to create unique innovative thinkers. It is to recreate the same ones over and over again. Am I right?

More rich and delicious food for thought…

In the Forbes list of 400 richest people in the world, non-college graduates are worth an average of 1 billion dollars more than the college graduates.  The average net worth of billionaires who dropped out of college, $9.4 billion, is approximately triple that of billionaires with Ph.D.’s, $3.2 billion. Even if one removes Bill Gates, who left Harvard University and is now worth $66.0 billion, college dropouts are worth $5.3 billion on average, compared to those who finished only bachelor’s degrees, who are worth $2.9 billion. According to a recent report from Cambridge-based Forrester Research, 20% of America’s millionaires never attended college

There is something to be said about those who work their way through life striving fighting tooth and nail to learn when ‘education’ is out of reach. Some call it grit. There is an economic divide between the rich and poor and with that- arrogance sometimes immerges; as if poor people are lazy, something the ignorant like to say to make economic inequality justifiable. Money brings opportunity, connections and placement. If you can take any person and place them into the education system, will they strive? The difference between human capacity is small, and evolution hasn’t advanced us much in 3000 years. Those who still think the rich are rich because they are genetically smarter are sadly mistaken. If equality actually existed, then this would be proven again and again.

I have also watched educated people band together, patting each other on the back saying to one another how amazing they are. From the outside looking in, they are talking about some trivial nonsense that in reality really is an outward attempt at validating their intellect. Oh yes I spent 45 hours on this plan, and it is truly a work of art. It reminds me of the mad lady who was my dear friend who would write me letters and photocopy them; one for herself and one for me. She did this so she could keep a copy of her masterpieces. She honestly thought that every thought which came out of her mind was an original, insightful and valuable piece of information for the world to keep safe. To me they were just letters from a friend. Most were redundant blabber of insignificant detail. Some hold on to details trying to make others feel inferior. She was trying to pass on her knowledge. While others all they have are the details because they cannot see the bigger picture or their connections to the world around them.

What needs to happen…

In the future I see a world where degrees do not exist at all, a place where common sense resides and education is a fluid search for answers to the questions that arise. I see knowledge as a connectedness, a place to interact with others before we solve problems, to mix different experts with others to create new things and ideas. By separating knowledge we cannot evolve. By separating people and experience we cannot evolve.

What I find works is treating all people with value. Merit on who someone is as a person, not what degree(s) he or she has written on their CV. Are they respectful? Are they understanding? Do they enjoy what they are doing? Do they treat people well? There are far more efficient ways to measure a person than a piece of paper stating they completed their degree. And for those who have their degree only, I would start developing your character, because we are on to you.

I have read…

because plenty of people are single minded who believe at least one of several myths that are commonly insinuated; that a degree shows overall intelligence, that they believe the spoon-fed garbage that a degree equals success, that they get to stop learning, and that they are genius by association.

Actual smart people want to be challenged and bring new ideas to the table. They want to share their information, and learn from yours and keep that process growing in many different directions.

Image result for the Open University BA Education degree certificate

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