Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Importance of a Good Education

Two things shaped my views of education while I was growing up.

1) I grew up with a father who was interested in everything. He never graduated from college, but he took classes the entire time I was growing up. He didn't always take those classes to increase his earning potential. Sometimes, he took them because he wanted to learn. Certainly, he figured out a way to get the fire department to pay for them, but if we're being completely honest, he was really just taking the classes because he wanted to take them.

And he liked to discuss things. Everything. We talked about all sorts of things when I was growing up, history, science, literature, politics, philosophy, current events, religion, you name it, we talked about it. I grew up in a family that valued education for education's sake.

2) I read a lot of Louis L'Amour when I was growing up. Two of his books had a huge impact on my educational philosophy, The Walking Drum and The Lonesome Gods. In both these books, the main character engages in providing himself with an education by reading, discussion, and debate. In fact, despite the fact that both these books are about warriors, education is a primary pursuit of the main characters. Louis L'Amour always made education part of his books, even if it was just an offhand mention of how a cowboy could only carry one book in his saddle bags, so books were valuable in the west.

Then, today, I heard someone on the radio say, "Why does an electrical engineer need to know the history of Europe." I almost ran off the road. I wanted to call that radio station and answer his question, but I couldn't because I was driving, so I'm going to answer it here.

You need to know the history of Europe because Europe is a part of this earth. We all need to know the history of the world we live in. The history of a people and culture shapes the society and the way the people in that society think to this very day. It is this knowledge that allows us to further our world in ways that can only benefit all of us.

But why, you ask, do I need to know this if I'm not going to be a diplomat? The answer is simple. We need an informed electorate. If we do not know our history, if we ignore science, if we sublimate our awareness of current events, if we do not care about our neighbors, be they local or on the other side of the world, we cannot make informed decisions about our elected representatives. And our world desperately needs us to make informed decisions.

I wish that we valued education for education's sake more. We have an entire culture built on the idea that the only thing worth pursuing is a career. We no longer pursue ideas, rather only money. We are living a life based on subsistence, never reaching beyond the mental stimulation needed to learn more. It is frustrating to me that I have to search far to find people who want to have those deep discussions. I am lucky that I have friends who are willing to learn, grow, and discuss. We need a people, and entire population passionate about the world around them. And that, my friend, is why we all of us need to know history, science, literature, current events, and philosophy. Keep learning. Keep growing, until you find something you can be passionate about. Then, come back and argue with me about it. Chances are, I'll be passionate with you.

1 comment:

Margi said...

I've been thinking about this a lot since I read your post. I think about things I want to know more about, or ways I'd rather spend my time than in a cube farm, then think "well, it's not going to make me any money." The most interesting people have all kinds of information stored in their brains and they can converse about so many things it's inspiring. I can talk about ... 4 things.

Thanks for making me think!

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