>The value of an education

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Education! Ah! Sweet education. The parents’ legacy, the duty that every parent owes to their offspring, the difference between civilized men and savages…education.

Inthe middle ages, once a man had received any measure of an education, even apprenticeship at the hands of a skilled craftsman in metal working, weaving, painting, any of these things was enough to change his family fortunes from the lot of peasants – little better than slaves- to something vaguely human.

Even in our villages as recently as the mid to late 20th century, education was highly sought after. With education came respect, power and the opportunity to vastly improve the lot of one’s family and people. Indeed, entire villages would boast of the son/daughter of “Mama Chukwudi” or “Mama Tope” and such as being an educated person from the village. Such an individual would be hoisted and held up on a pedestal for all others to see, envy and aspire to. In many situations, an education was one way to guarantee an instant chieftaincy title. Those were the days…

Today, education counts for little. Money is now god. Nobody cares about what you know; only who you know and how much money you have. The evidence of this is abundantly clear. Pity that…because contrary to popular skeptical belief there is still something to be said for the value of an education (a proper one anyway) far beyond anything money can buy. But that’s not my point today. I’m more concerned about the feeling of apathy toward education that I’ve sensed, felt, seen and which seems to prevail among many young adults today.

Personally I couldn’t care less about what Webster, oxford or any other learned fellow defines as ‘education’, I have my own views and seeing as how this is my blog and all, I will proceed to impose them upon you my victims…err..erm..…readers. In my opinion, an education is not the ability to reproduce industrial quantities of equations off hand or recite entire passages of the constitution by heart. An education is not the ability to write lengthy, terminally boring epistles on “the role of segregated mutant turtles in post world war 2 cotton industry economic recovery” or some other such obscure, uninteresting rubbish which modern day academics seem to churn out endless quantities of every year. To me, an education is receiving instruction in the ways that a civilized person in a chosen craft should think. It is being taught the basics of a “discipline”, the things required in order to understand, question and utilize the basics and knowledge from this discipline in whichever way is most beneficial according to your riches in intellect.

What I’m saying is: The purpose of an education is not to tell you why and how but to make you question why and how, to inspire you. Case in point: the first Universities in ancient Greece were simply places where intellectuals gathered to discuss. ‘Students’ were those that gathered to listen and learn and QUESTION and thus be inspired. That is the most important part of the entire exercise. This little piece of wisdom has somehow gotten lost in translation over the past few millennia.

The reason so many of us do not enjoy education anymore is because that piece is missing. The desire for knowledge, the inspiration, because if you truly desire to know, nothing can stop you once you have been inspired.

Having studied for my undergraduate degree in a Nigerian federal university – Obafemi Awolowo University (The Not-so-Great Ife) I can safely tell you I was not spoon-fed knowledge. There were many courses where instruction was nonexistent and some of my lecturers must have been Ninjas because they were allegedly teaching us but somehow I never saw them or heard from them. Still… for some courses…I taught myself, I found books, practiced questions, debated and argued with my classmates. I even used to watch some lectures online from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and attempt their questions (most of the time I failed miserably. If you like be there saying Olodo, as if your IQ is up to a two digit number, silly fellow). Even now at Imperial College London, I find things to be much the same. Except now the lecturers can ignore you with better technology (sorry to break it to those of you that keep blaming the Nigerian education system for everything, but it’s not necessarily better on the outside). Some of the lecturers are great, but still, if you don’t ask, or investigate, you will not know.

This desire, the fire is what’s missing. And it’s what we need good teachers for. A good teacher not only teaches you the mechanics of what to do, but why you should do it and also what is wrong with it and why you should want to know more. And this starts at the basic and earliest school level. It is only at this stage that the natural childish inquisitiveness can be harnessed and channeled towards ‘wanting to know’.

Seeing as how the education system constantly and consistently fails to do this, I guess it’s up to us, the parents of the future to do this for our children. It sad to still see parents in this day and age utter statements like…”You must be a doctor/lawyer/engineer!” why? Why must the child be any of these things? Because you couldn’t do them yourself? Because you want to be able to brag that your child is a doctor? So that what will happen? You will enter VIP section in heaven? Bullshit and Rubbish.

A parent’s job is to introduce the child to all the aspects of life. Show them possibility, expand their minds, then set them free to ask why and discover for themselves. Else you will simply breed a home of resentful children with low self-esteem, whom have been forced into doing things they do not wish to do and indeed some cannot do. It qualifies as rape. Rape of the mind. Then my friend you will have wasted all your time and money sending your children to school and you will have educated no one.

That is the worst part, people who have been to school and not been educated. There seems to be so many of them today. Filled with regret, anger, resentment and always wishing they had done something else; filled with the despair that only lost opportunities and murdered dreams can bring. They are majority of the ones who do not see the point in having gone to school and as a result do not see the value of an education.

For some brief moments in my life I have been one of those people. But every now and again I discover something that reignites that interest and passion that was originally planted in me by my parents and some of my teachers and lecturers, that thing that fascinates, amazes, makes me question whyand want to know…makes me realize why I want to be an engineer. I guess that is kind of why I wrote this. To remind us all that the value of an education is not so much in the details of what you have been taught but more in what you have been inspired to do. It may be in the same field or not, as long as someone, somewhere has made you wonder why, question, investigate, create…you have been educated…somewhat. What you do with that education is up to you.

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