My apologies to Mark Twain and Albert Einstein

Thisanjali Gangoda

In recent years I’ve been trying to purge myself of the deeply rooted impulse to ask someone whether he or she is in school. When I meet someone new, it’s the first thing I think of, the first judgment I make before knowing anything about his or her history or being.

As a child I was always under the impression that the only way to be a functioning part of the human race was to go to school and to somehow acquire a degree. Now that I am nearing the end of my college career, I can’t help but laugh at this – the idea that the only way to have an education is by going to school.

Being part of an institution like college in no way guarantees you an education, especially for all that it’s worth. True education is one that you forge on your own time, one that is driven by passion and curiosity. The education system that we insist on partaking in today seems to have lost sight of this, and yet we are so faithful to it.

We have stopped challenging the most fundamental ideas of human growth and development, forcing our youth into collecting mindless information to spit out to employers. We are fixated on the idea of schooling as a means of finding productive employment, not schooling as a means of betterment and self-sufficiency. So what does it means to have an education?

As the end of this semester looms over us with endless exams, term papers and projects, I can’t help but reflect on the fact that nearly everything I’ve learned in school has been of no thanks to this institution, but rather my own disciplines, the books I’ve read, and the guidance of a few brilliant and passionate professors. They’ve never patronized me with their doctorate degrees or years of experience, but rather pushed me to question the validity and promise of what I’ve learned.

And what I’ve learned most is that going to school isn’t the only way to enlighten myself to the realities of living. The confines of a classroom can’t possibly show me the ways of the world, as I must explore it in its entirety to understand it best. The only way to formulate a true education is by teaching yourself and learning from happenings outside of school.

As students, why are we asking ourselves about what grades we got instead of what are we learning? As teachers, why do we ask ourselves about job marketability instead of what we are teaching?

I’m tired of everyone asking me what my major is and what I plan on doing with it. The ever-so-glorious job and weekly paycheck shouldn’t be the only planned destination of learning. It’s about the journey of becoming a person capable of critical thought and analysis, someone to help build a better future for all of humanity. Unfortunately, every realm of society is beating the opposite message into our heads – that having a degree is equated to having a job, which in turn means making decent wages. Although this is a matter of concern, it isn’t the only material I wish to take away from my college education.

I want to remember every detail of the books I’ve read in my classes, the discussions we’ve had and everything I’ve learned. I want to keep it with me, not shove it into a job application or a resume. The knowledge I’ve gained isn’t limited to college or work – it’s every day that I’m learning. My apologies, Mark Twain and Albert Einstein. I’ve allowed school to interfere with my education.

Thisanjali Gangoda is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.Contact her at [email protected].