Education more than a degree

If you’re a part of a university, you have the ability to change the future. Theoretically, that’s why you’re here. The jobs don’t pay as much as other jobs requiring comparable amounts of training and qualifications. There are other uses for $40,000, such as a car or a down payment on a house. Instead, we’re here. The question is, why?

Sure, we all have our off days; we all have our desire to sleep in and not make the 8 a.m. class, but we mostly schlep ourselves in and get caught up in the daily grind, particularly around the halfway mark in the semester – a month away from Thanksgiving and a chunk of time away from the last holiday. We forget to look at what we’re really committing to by being a part of the institution.

Higher education used to be a discrete value, but is one that has somewhat waned in favor of a more vocational version of education. It may be a factor of the class divide, but the idea of education for education’s sake has become less prized.

Nevertheless, this is an important aspect of a research institution. Not all progress can be charted immediately. Not all discoveries and new modes of thought will end up with price tags and marketing packages. Some of it will be intangible, hard to quantify. Some will be controversial, and even more will fill the interstitial bits of foundation integral to monumental breakthroughs. Unsung heroes populate the world, and theoretical work done well is the cornerstone of all the splashy, shiny things we take for granted every day.

Still, we are left with the question of what we’re doing here. Why are we at a university? Why are we taking the whole nine yards versus just what we need to do our jobs later? Why is it important to have a well-rounded education? Why is it important to commit a career to making that happen in a safe and challenging way? The specific reasons are as varied as we are. However, there is a thread that ties us together – the understanding that wisdom is better than ignorance and there is not "enough" when it comes to knowledge. We are here because we question. Somewhere deep inside all of us, there is a creature that needs to know why, and although we can’t always answer the question, we can find better ways to figure out the answers.

At some point, we will need these skills to be better people, a much more difficult skillset than just being a better worker. Being better people involves understanding, critical-thinking skills, the ability to decode conversation and understand that just because the fast-food commercial looks amazing, it’s still a bad idea to feed the kids burgers three nights out of the week. And that it’s not cheaper in the long or the short run to do so.

If you are just here for a vocational degree or punching a time clock, you’re wasting your money and your time. There are lots of other places to do that. A university is something different. It’s a community, an organic shifting machine of ideas and personalities geared toward the asking of questions and a greater understanding of the world. If you’re not bringing your personal revolution and the fire in your belly, then you’re missing the point.

Mohammed, an anthropology freshman, can be reached via [email protected]

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