It is hard for me to understand the thought process of a person who feels that an education is not immensely valuable, if not the most valuable gift you can give yourself.
To me, a person who has invested their time (and often, their money) to the pursuit of an education has invested in the most important thing: their minds.
An education has the ability to open doors in a way that nearly nothing else can.
An education is an expansion of the mind, and by that token, an expansion of the world.
An education is what has spurred and birthed all of humanity’s greatest achievements.
An education gives us the ability to think beyond our selves, beyond our one, limited role in place and time.
Do not mistake me for making a fervid call to arms that every individual on this earth pursue a college education.
Yes, going to college, working towards a Bachelors, a Masters, a Doctorate—that is undoubtedly an education.
But that is not the only way in which to be educated, and maybe it’s not the best way either.
A true education, in the traditional sense of the word, isn’t learning a list of marketable skills that look nice on a resume. An education isn’t simply a means for which to land that well-paying office job. While this is the modern take on what education means, it is a hollow view.
The riches potentially earned from a lifetime of rote memorization of facts, of information passing in one ear and out the other—sticking around long enough only to aid in the completion of a multiple-choice test you barely care about—those riches are mere pebbles, valueless and common, compared to riches of a true, passionate, engaged education.
I am making a call to arms for people to be autodidactic—meaning, for people to embrace the possibilities of self-education.
This doesn’t require debt, or the pursuit of a degree.
This only requires an alert, open mind that wants to understand the world; a mind that recognizes how little we all know and how much there is to learn.
This self-education can take many forms.
For most, it will mean the pursuit of knowledge through extensive reading and listening.
Spending time each day devoted to learning something new means that no day in your life has gone wasted.
What you choose to focus on is essentially limitless.
For some, this might mean reading the works of some of the world’s greatest authors — Joyce, Plath, Morrison, Shakespeare, Marquez, Hemingway—to enrich their lives with stories that chronical the human condition. Such reading will imbue any reader with an emotional intelligence that can be carried over from their intellectual life into their social life.
Readers of this kind are often highly skilled at understanding people. They are often more empathetic, more kind and giving to those around them. Surely, those are the kinds of people that we want filling our world.
Others may balance such reading by spending time devoted to the study of history, or science. There are vast libraries of knowledge waiting to be explored by curious minds. The best scholars and scientists throughout the course of humanity—people who have devoted their lives to the exploration of a certain subject—have given all of us the invaluable gift of writing that knowledge down.
To not take advantage of such knowledge seems almost an affront to the hard work of the people that have come before us.
Frankly, we owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to future generations, to continue forever-on in our pursuit of knowledge and education.
I believe, with a strength and ferocity that is difficult to put into words, that a person who devotes themselves to the life-long study of the world and the people in it is a better, more attuned person.
I also believe that people who continually self-educate are more interesting people.
By involving yourself in an education, you are exposing yourself to different or new ideas. You are exposing yourself to perspectives, cultures, and lives that may not, in any way, resemble your own. This is important. It is easy to isolate yourself in your own experiences.
The people around you are often an echo-chamber of your single perspective. By always pushing yourself in an education, you are breaking free from that self-interested mindset.
An education has the ability to turn you into a person of the world.
The cause for education makes itself. As humans, it is our greatest calling. Whether your education comes from the traditional halls of an academic institution, or from the shelves of your local library, remain steadfast in your pursuit of it.
An education is not an experience that has a beginning and an end; it simply has a beginning and continues on, a force of its own, informing and shaping you throughout your entire life.