Higher Education vs Real Education

(Cross-posted @ The Lyceum)

Lealaps recounts his experience as an undergrad:

Indeed, for a number of years I “went to college” but I wasn’t really getting much of an education, which is probably my own fault for my general lack of enthusiasm. I’m sure there are many people who had good undergraduate experiences where they came in contact with a great professor or took a course that changed the way they thought. For me, outside of a few paleo and anthro courses, most of what I learned has been from reading papers and books. I wouldn’t really say that me education really started until I got a good appetite for the scientific literature and started hastily devouring it, although it would greatly reduce my frustration if what I was reading on my own time more closely matched my coursework.

I can fully relate to what Lealaps is saying. I’m a returning, ‘older’ (30), student. Before coming back for my Mathematics degree, I had to spend years relearning what it meant to learn.

I bombed out of college the first time around. And I did it several times! I didn’t have a passion for sitting in class, doing homework, or any of the rest of it. And, quite frankly, determination just isn’t enough. If you are going to actually get something out of your degree beyond a pretty piece of paper, then you have to love the process. I didn’t. But, I do now.

Why the shift? During the 5 years I took away from Higher Ed I took learning into my own hands. I devoured books on every subject I could get my hands on, reading up to 5 or 6 books a week. That’s around 250 – 300 books a year for 5 years. Of course, I didn’t retain all of that either. I wish! But, it rekindled in me a love of learning for its’ own sake.

The first time I was in college, I was a music major. And believe it or not, I chose that for practical reasons. All my life, everyone around me always told me I was going to be an artist – a musician. And I was convinced that that was who I was. And in many respects, it is.

But, when I left college I was determined only to go back if I found something I could study just for the sake of studying it. No agenda.

After a few years, I found it: Mathematics. I know it seems strange to switch from Music to Math, because I felt that Music was too practical. But, that is exactly what I did.

Now I love going to school everyday. I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong. It’s harder than hell. We are still talking about Mathematics. But, it’s fun. Learning is fun again.

I had to teach myself how to be taught. We all do. You have to be interested first. Then you’ll be willing to put in the work. If all you do is put in the work out of obligation, then you’ll never really retain any of it. You’ll get your slip of paper. But, in the end, it will be worthless.

Have fun, learn for fun.

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2 responses to “Higher Education vs Real Education

  1. Pingback: Higher Ed: Are You Actually Learning Anything? « The Lyceum Mathematikoi

  2. i think it’s amazing that you took the initiative to find a passion for learning! so many of us seem to drift through life, and i think a lot of us know that’s what we’re doing and we just don’t care enough to change

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