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What does "educated" really mean?

Griffin Foster
one person's passion is another person's future
・5 min read

In the time of COVID-19, or Coronavirus, we as humans enter uncharted territory and are left to ourselves at home with only the hope that things would get better someday soon. It was that very situation that had planted the seed in my mind that kept growing and growing no matter how much I wanted to uproot it, like a hostile weed in a garden that keeps growing and growing as if your many efforts to cut it down are all for nothing.
As we were all thrust into this new reality, college education was quick to adopt the online teaching style with services we are surely all far too familiar with (Zoom among others). This new online style is not so different from learning on our own. Everyday I would wake up in my own house, in my own bed, knowing that my family was just down the hallway. For some, this was a great opportunity to be reunited with those we love; for others, this may have ripped bandages off of old wounds. However, no matter who you are or where you are from, the looming question that everyone had asked themselves was: "When is this going to end?" Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, neither I nor anyone else really knows for sure what lies ahead of us. This interesting time has however forced us all to make difficult decisions, be in difficult situations, and hope only that it all will end tomorrow.
Amidst all of the chaos, I sit here in my chair with one question that I continue to try to answer: What is education? To be more specific, I am talking about what we as a society consider education and how do we determine whether people are "educated". We live in a society where, to be recognized as "educated", we must spend thousands and thousands of dollars to attend a university, only to be promised that a career awaits us at the end. Companies all over the world today stand waiting behind the door at the end of the road that can only be unlocked by this key: a diploma.
The point of this is not to make a claim that one shouldn't attend school. What I am saying is that for years and years the only way to educate oneself has been to attend an expensive university that housed an abundance of knowledge in books and lectures, but that is no longer the case. The internet is an incredible gift that continues to grow and change every single day, offering new opportunities to explore our curiosities and become educated. Unfortunately, this new depthless well of knowledge is not yet seen as an alternative to thousand dollar universities. My first year as a college student is almost over and has been fun indeed, and I would not take back the time if I could. However, it has also made me realize that the main, if not only, reason I am attending a university is because I have always been told that it is the only way to get a good job when I grow up. Whether you agree with this or not, I ask you to consider the following: every single day I wake up to the sound of my alarm reminding me that I have to attend class so that I can graduate and get that job that's waiting for me.
I woke up this morning with excitement because it had not even been a day since my friendly argument with my dad about why one should or shouldn't need to go to college before getting a job, and I was already going to prove him wrong. Unfortunately, my confidence in the recruiter rescending the offer after knowing I didn't have a diploma proved accurate. After a quick greeting on the phone, the recruiter asked if I had already graduated from college. After telling him that I was a freshman and would be graduating in 2023, the immediate change in tone foreshadowed his response that followed. What could have been a great conversation was cut short in that very moment because I did not have a college degree. To be sure of this, I calmly and respectfully added that "if it were to change your mind, I have been working as a freelance full-stack web developer for the past 6+ years and have handled many different calibers of client projects." This did not seem to have any impact on his answer and he confirmed my confidence by ending the conversation. The candidate criteria was simple, "UI engineers, UX designers, or front end developers," and my lack of a diploma disqualified me.
Over the past few years I have developed a genuine passion for something that I found to be incredibly fun, interesting, and rewarding. Even from the start my passion for web development was not about getting paid, instead it came from the satisfaction found in building new things, being able to solve problems for myself and others, and even discovering my love for creation. I am but a small fish in a big ocean of people who find something they love and grow a passion that drives them to keep pursuing it. This is the story of many who realize their passion and develop a real skill that is valuable but lack the costly diploma that enables their dream to become reality. A person's passion for something is invaluable and can't be bought, yet it is almost never seen to be comparable to a diploma. Unlike a diploma, a passion drives us to learn and discover new things far beyond the knowledge that our college major would require.
The power to change this lies in the hands of the many employers who decide everyday what qualifies someone as adequately "educated" for a job. It is important to note that some of the most impactful discoveries and innovations in the recent years have come from people who develop a passion for something. These noteworthy individuals like Henry Ford (Ford), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), James Cameron (Filmmaker), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Michael Dell (Dell), and Walt Disney (Disney) to name a few, all have one thing in common. Each one of them dropped out of college to pursue what they believed in which was taking an indescribably large risk. I think that perhaps one of the biggest problems today is the fact that it is a daunting risk to pursue one's passion and follow the road of curiosity. I do realize that more and more companies (i.e. Apple, Google, Tesla, Netflix, etc.) have recently begun to take steps towards unhinging this door that excludes passionate individuals who have enormous potential for great things from pursuing their dreams as a professional. If these companies that lead our industries today are making these changes, why can't the rest.

I want to conclude by re-emphasizing that my intentions are to draw attention to this subject and discuss an interesting topic that is becoming increasingly relevant in our evolving society. I am not by any means trying to say that I should have gotten the job offer, or to point fingers at people for making subjectively bad decisions. I only hope to inspire others to consider this more because, even though I am but 1 person of the 7,000,000,000+ on this world, it is the actions of few that can effect positive change for the many.

Thanks for reading, and please leave your thoughts or commons below!

  • Griffin

Discussion (3)

leob profile image

THE most important role education has to play is to raise well-informed and mature citizens who "grok" the world in which we live; are aware of humanity's important achievements - in the areas of culture, science, art, history; have a clue about "the great thoughts" of scientists, naturalists, philosophers, economists, politicians and historians; and are able to make conscious and well balanced choices in life.

A well educated person is not naive or gullible; is not readily brainwashed; is not easily misled by hoaxes, cyber criminals, "fake news" or political propaganda; and is able to tell conspiracy theories and fairy tales apart from science and fact-based investigative journalism.

The purpose of education is also to make societies resilient, aware and emancipated and to reduce or eliminate inequalities based on race, class, gender or any other aspect which is unrelated to a person's innate talents.

The purpose of education is, in my opinion, NOT to raise artificial barriers (for instance financially) or to function as a "gatekeeper" to shield 'incumbents' from talented people who want to enter the job market.

griffinfoster profile image
Griffin Foster Author

leob, thank you for reading! Also, what a well-crafted comment.

leob profile image
leob • Edited

Thank you! and thanks for writing a thought-provoking blog article.

I could go on a bit if I may.

Great education provides a sense of awe at the beauty of our natural and cultural world. It awakes an eagerness to know more, and to explore. Great education does not however consist of rote memorization, drilling or boring facts.

Great education also provides "tools" to survive and thrive in our modern society - call it literacy (linguistic, mathematic, social, digital, financial/fiscal).

But above all education teaches about empathy and respect - no matter how different we are, how different we look, think, behave or act. This is the foundation for a healthy and peaceful society which is able to control and deal with undesired phenomena like bullying, crime and abuse. Individually we are nothing, collectively we can do miracles (as Covid-19 shows).

(I do realize that I might be a tad over-ambitious here, and over-optimistic at the actual possibilities, especially when you look at how understaffed many schools are, and how underpaid their teachers)