General Question

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

People often scoff at education citing how 'life has taught me this and that, screw your degrees' - that's all good and all but is there something you did gain from school?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38942points) May 25th, 2009

there are many young people out there looking for inspiration from us older people who went to college, who went to grad school, who did gain from an education and obviously life will always be life and will teach you lessons and so will school, though…even if we don’t remember Calc II or physics or whatever…it’s made me who I am, someone able to be critical, someone functional, someone proud of what she does for a career..

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47 Answers

shilolo's avatar

Well, I am one to wholeheartedly disagree with the concept of life lessons being more valuable than education. I’ve learned how to be a successful scientist through education, and how to be a doctor to boot. Can’t say I would have learned that “on the street”. I am able to make much more of a contribution to society this way.

Aethelwine's avatar

I gained confidence. I went to school with a 1 and 3 year old at home and received a 4.0.

I also gained a massive amount of debt with student loans. I guess travel agents aren’t needed as much with the Internet now.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

An unbridled hatred for APA style writing.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I did learn how to be a critical thinker. This is the absolute most important thing I learned that I find hard to learn from “real life”.
I also learned about community involvement.
I learned that activism can make a difference.

Having said that I think the near-elitist value put on getting an education is a bit off. And the idea that you will get a better job and make more money is a bit off as well.

@jonsblond Me too. Sigh.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@RedPowerLady well in some cases the money is worth the job (doctors, lawyers) and in some cases it’s not (teachers and nurses should be paid more) – this is a whole other issue, lots stemming from sexism…but I will always remain a supporter of education from pre-school through grad school as at least something a person should try before quitting

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Why grad school? Why not just getting a B.S./B.A. Is that not a form of elitism? The majority of our country does not have the money to attend graduate school even with student loans and the possibility of a scholarship. This is one thing I have yet to understand. When I first started college it seemed enough to get a Bachelor’s Degree. Now it isn’t “enough” in many circles. Perhaps a bit of a rant but a legitimate question nonetheless.

mammal's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir i have always found Doctors to be indifferent, detached and over paid, and probably ditto for lawyers, generally, but you are thinking more of Human rights lawyers probably and humanitarian Doctors.

Bobbydavid's avatar

I thought I gained nothing from school but am returning in September at 35!
What does that say?

wundayatta's avatar

The reason why people talk about life lessons is that, while it is almost universally accepted that education prepares you for some career or another, life experience is seen more as a joke than something to be valued. So life lessons folk have to defend the value and, more importantly, the utility of what life has taught them.

Education does not need to be defended. The numbers speak for themselves. The more you know, or the more you can certify that you know, the more money you make, and the more versatile you become. If you are able to cope with a wider variety of life situations, you are generally better able to achieve the things you want for yourself, be they material or spiritual.

Of course, the truth is that after kindergarten, school doesn’t have much to teach us. ;-)

Grisaille's avatar

Many things.

In addition, going to a very strict Catholic high school for two years helped discipline me. It will help (a VERY small amount, I know) when I join the United States Marine Corps.

As for general education, of course it helps in the long term. The very short time I spent in college has helped my writing, for example.

Just personally, I got a project management/estimation position almost right after high school – nothing taught in school prepared me for that. It’s subjective, I suppose.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

as daloon said, those of us who never went to college seem to have to defend our education gained through experience, since many (but not all) people who have been to college assume that someone with no college education is somehow less intelligent. A degree will get you a better paying job no doubt, but make you smarter? No, it won’t do that. It will introduce you to concepts and ideas you may not find with life experiences, but then, I’ve learned things through experience that no school could ever teach me, and I don’t have any student loans hanging over my head to boot.

I don’t begrudge anyone their college education; that is, unless they want to lord it over me. Then I have a problem with the ‘college-edumacated eggheads’. I would have loved the experience of college, but alas, it wasn’t in the cards. Maybe in my next life.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

College was great, I went in young and was welcomed to mix with all ages. I didn’t graduate but gained a greater sense of feeling part of the human whole.

Some of the people who scoff at education may actually be scoffing at the educated people who don’t apply or share their knowledge. I personally have known several splendidly educated people who had little common sense and their educations were pretty much wasted, nothing ever grew or flourished from it.

jackfright's avatar

Sure, there’s a lot you gain in school, but i see it as two different skill sets.

Growing up on the ‘streets’ to become a self made entrepreneur gives you another set of skills. I do think, however, that the latter is harder to achieve, and that is why i respect people of the latter category more despite being a vanilla university graduate myself.

i have also met many people (by virtue of my work) with impressive academic qualifications that never attained much success outside of academia. for example; your local PhD, who make take home a nice salary every month, vs a runaway success dropout. i always respect the latter more.

Lupin's avatar

I went to an engineering school and studied the hard sciences: physics, chemistry, electrical engineering. When I graduated, I was ready to work at an extremely technical job. All they had to do was show me my desk, the lab, and where the bathroom was located and I was ready to go. I remained current by studying, attending conferences and accepting challenging jobs. College gave me the base I needed.
On the other hand, I know people who majored in sociology and 18th Century English literature and are still looking for a “real” job.
Last time I checked, there were no Sociology factories opening up in my town.

Judi's avatar

I didn’t finish college and it took me 30 years to earn what most graduates earn right out of college. Be cool. Stay in school.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@RedPowerLady yes, I understand that these days one has to have a masters in order to pull the same money or whatever but to me, it’s not about money (I’m in debt way over my head and public health doesn’t pay, heh)...maybe I’m nostalgic or old-fashioned (just in this one field of life) but graduate school is about gaining more autonomy, researching interesting subjects ( I know that Ivy League institutions are as white boys club as they come and many academics are removed from life but NYU, where I went, isn’t like that, not completely) and learning more than you could in college – not many people choose grad school, not grad school that’s difficult anyway and I’d like to think they do it for the right reasons and not to increase how much they make…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@daloon as I mentioned to @RedPowerLady I don’t think of it in terms of money (although now, in my life, that’s always on my mind as we don’t have any); I think of it in terms of the many benefits it can bring to a person…were it not for a NYC school like NYU, my mind would never be opened in the same way if I were just to live ‘life’ in Brooklyn…I learned of activism, of social justice, of movements, of sociology/anthropology…I literally absorbed progressivism and am such a better person for it…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra I don’t really care if you did or didn’t to college just like you don’t care the same about me – just as you don’t want to hear about what degrees may mean in terms of intelligence (maybe for some people there is something to that and for some there isn’t), I don’t want to hear how my 6 years of hardcore learning and research and traveling to other schools all over the world means nothing in ‘the real world’...it is this dichotomy that I have a problem with…this kind of you academics and us ‘people on the street’..it’s not always like that and many of us, as part of our education, learn how to bridge the two

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@jackfright in my mind, getting a PhD (maybe I’m naive) is hard work, still and in the people that have done it it led to great things

EmpressPixie's avatar

@daloon: Except that recently, especially in the last presidential election, college education is and was a choice that needed to be defended. Suddenly, the trappings of higher education meant “elitism”. In the previous administration, there was a systematic attack on the value of science. It’s not something that the public takes as automatically worthwhile any more.
@RedPowerLady: I find what you say about grad school a bit confusing. Even with loans and a scholarship people can’t afford grad school? Why is that? I’ve recently been admitted to grad school. I’m hoping to get a few more offers but I already know from the first that I can afford it. Yes, I’ll have to take out the maximum in loans, but I’ve got a fellowship that covers the rest. So I can rest easy knowing that I’ve got it covered. And I’m going to business school—one of the most expensive forms of grad school. I could also talk about my college roommate who is getting her PhD in Sociology by scraping by and worrying about funding, but not taking out loans. And not because she can afford it on her own at all. The funding is there. You just have to be willing to go where the money is and work to keep it.

Lupin's avatar

My education and resulting career gave me the opportunity to enjoy life experiences that would not have been possible had I not graduated. In some cases the piece of paper can be considered the price of admission. In others, it is legal proof of mastering a certain skill set.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@RedPowerLady hey I was just in the bathroom thinking of your original response and I realized that i wanted to add that the reason why some need to go to graduate school is because in many fields majors don’t exist relating to what we do, in our careers…for example, there are very few Public Health majors out there in college and you can only get a Masters in Public Health and I think that’s good because college should be more about a broad education rather than something specific and then you go to graduate school to do something more related to your career

Judi's avatar

On the other hand, plenty of dropouts HAVE done pretty darn well for themselves,
Including Paul Allen, Irving Berlin, Andrew Carnegie, Winston Churchill, and I only scanned through the “C’s.”

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Lupin People think I’m being a show-off when I hang my two diplomas in my bedroom (like anyone sees them there) but I put them there to remind me that when I’m mothering 2 babies under 3 I am also someone who went to school for many many years and loved it and would like to go back and those diplomas to me means something, they really do

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Judi exceptions to the rule, I believe

Judi's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir ; Go to the link. The list is really really long.

Judi's avatar

Sharon Daniels, author, The World of Truth. “Eventually I came to conclude that I could not find real knowledge in academic life, only hierarchies of knowledge that led, ultimately, to more hierarchies, not to more knowledge. I began to see university learning as limited, human, and relative. What was seen as absolutely up-to-date did not consider the infinite and timeless.”
(from the link above.)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Judi I see now, thanks
I don’t know, again I didn’t want this to be about money
I know that as a PhD person later, my career will be limited
and there won’t be more money, necessarily
it’s all about the field you’re in
but I’d much rather ‘waste’ money on another couple of masters than waste a couple of years living same old same old…I like to combine life w/an ongoing education

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Judi in some ways I agree, but the real kicker is in understanding that academics isn’t god but that neither god is god and coming to a postmodern understanding of all life as some sort of pattern – because ‘real life’ is even more of a trap than a university

Judi's avatar

Some brilliant people thrive in an academic setting and some stagnate. The key is to figure out where you will flourish and go for it with all you’ve got.

wundayatta's avatar

@EmpressPixie That was the rhetoric of the Republicans, but it was merely a cynical political ploy, and it didn’t work. I think most people understand that education is how you get ahead. Certainly, when you seek employment, that’s what employers seem to be interested in.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I agree. It’s not about money for me, either. It was about learning about labor unions (my Masters degree). I had already learned an awful lot about social movements and politics and a variety of other things, through experience, and I wanted to prepare myself to work within the labor movement. If you know anything about union pay scales, you know that’s not about the money.

I had a professor in grad school who said an interesting thing. He said that grad school degrees weren’t about learning new stuff, although you did learn new stuff; it is a signal to employers that you are ready to earn more for what you have already learned. In other words, life experience gave you what you needed, but employers needed some sheepskin in order to justify paying you what you’re worth. It made sense to me at the time. Still does, but not quite as much.

I now work in academia, and I work with graduate students all the time. I have a much greater understanding of what they go through and what they learn. A lot of times things that academia studies is a “duh” to folks outside academia. Still, scientists have to prove things that are obvious to others. Sometimes the obvious turns out to be untrue.

Academics often care a great deal about the world, and are involved in many policy decisions and in politics and in their communities. They have skills that others do not, and these skills can be very useful. They can also stretch your mind, and help you think about whatever it is you want to think about. In my experience, mind stretching usually becomes valuable in a more practical way sooner or later. It’s nice to know that your obscure interests can easily be important, even though people made fun of you for them.

Clair's avatar

even though i have not yet attended college and this has nothing to do with this question, i am somehow inspired that all of you see something positive in your experiences, even if they’re not what you would have hoped. lurve all around, especially for simone_de_beauvoir because those diplomas will always mean something.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@EmpressPixie Even with loans and a scholarship people can’t afford grad school? Why is that?

And possibility of a scholarship. The fact is that most people do not get scholarships. And that loans allow people to get through school but some people just cannot afford to pay them off once they graduate and thus choose not to take those on. So the reality is that, for many people, it just isn’t a financial possibility. I’m glad that you can afford it. That’s great. I never said that no-one could afford it, I simply said that many cannot.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Let me correct something. I was in academia for years. I even worked at the University for awhile. I live in a college town. I completely understand why people attend Graduate school. What I am hinting towards is the idea that the level of education necessary to be considered ‘a contributing or intellegent citizen’ is raising and that it is forming a type of unnecessary elitism. I don’t think there is anything wrong with going to Grad school. That would be, well just plain ignorant. What I am saying is that it isn’t necessarily right to assume that going to Graduate school is better than not going. Or that everyone has the possibility of going to Graduate school. Or that people who go to Graduate school are better off than those who don’t (in some areas perhaps but it is a cost vs. benefit thing going on here). All I am suggesting is that it is a more complex issue than it appears. Now just so you know I did earn a term of straight As from Graduate school before not being able to finish the program due to non-academic reasons. I was on the path. And now that I have been sidetracked I see just how valuable not going to Grad. school can be. That is my main point in all of this.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Judi Fantastic Quote.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir because ‘real life’ is even more of a trap than a university

Interesting comment. How so? (i have no opinion yet just thought it was interesting)

but I’d much rather ‘waste’ money on another couple of masters than waste a couple of years living same old same old…I like to combine life w/an ongoing education

I also think that you might consider that one can be a life-learner without continually pursing degrees. For example I go to University seminars (i just attended two cultural seminars at the University, one put on by the Law school and the other by the students). I also just attended a training on Suicide Prevention from the local Counseling Center (the training was targeted for Counselors). I did those three things and a bit more during the last month. It is still continuing my education. No?

EmpressPixie's avatar

@RedPowerLady: I suppose I did not get my point across clearly enough: For most grad programs (business school and law school aside as they are expected to be very expensive and for you to take out lots of loans), unless you can get funding you don’t do it. Because if you are good enough to get in, you should be able to get some funding somewhere. And if you can’t, then you were really just barely making acceptance and they don’t expect you to say “yes”.

This is what I’ve always heard and what my friends and colleagues have practiced.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@EmpressPixie Because if you are good enough to get in, you should be able to get some funding somewhere
Not true in many circumstances. I suppose we are just living in two different worlds.

And if you can’t, then you were really just barely making acceptance and they don’t expect you to say “yes”.

This is absolutely not true. Most Graduate programs have 100’s of applicants and about 20 they accept. If you are accepted you didn’t “just barely make acceptance”. You beat out 100’s of students (perhaps in some cases you beat less than 100s but still you beat quite a few).

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@RedPowerLady I know it’s certainly not easy for people to afford or even consider graduate school and this kind shouldn’t prevent people from being employed – there I agree with you

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@RedPowerLady I meant with that comment that in a university setting, one can learn concepts that one doesn’t always learn through life – you can live in a community all your life without ever understanding what traps are put on you (I always compare the Brooklyn people with the Manhattan people in that we all went to the same high school, by my house, but there is a VERY distinct mentality between those of us who went to the city, i often say, escaped to the city, to go to NYU and the like and those who stayed back, especially in the Russian Community, where they see my LGBT activism and feminism as ‘school stuff/rhetoric’ which isn’t true and it’s put a gulf between us)...and of course if you take courses, degrees don’t matter…I just want people to always learn

shilolo's avatar

@Judi I think your link quoted here sends a very mixed message, and one I would strongly disagree with. So, a handful of people who weren’t classically educated were successful. Big deal. Where is the list of age-matched “controls” who weren’t so successful? I imagine it would be much, much larger. It’s as if I posted a list of lottery winners in history. Yes, I could identify hundreds of winners including some multimillionaires, but the list of people who bought lottery tickets and lost would be significantly longer. My point is that when comparing populations, it is much more meaningful to compare the means. Is the average college-educated (or beyond) person more successful than the average “dropout”? I’m sure we could all agree that the answer is an emphatic YES.

That isn’t to suggest that intelligent people without the means should resign themselves to menial jobs. Everyone should be ambitious and strive to be successful to the best of their ability. But, when advising people, there is no doubt in my mind that pursuing a modern, advanced education is the best thing someone can do for themselves.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@RedPowerLady:
Re: funding, my entire undergraduate career, I was told that we would either get funding somewhere or shouldn’t do it. The same goes for what my cousin was told. I went to a small, private liberal arts college and she went to a large state school. This was in regards to furthering something in the humanities. I’m not saying we should all expect a full ride, but some form of funding or financial help.

Also, I’m not saying you aren’t great when you get accepted. I realize you beat out tons of other applicants. But from all the statistics I’ve looked at (admittedly in business schools), about half of the accepted students usually attend. So if they want 20, they’d take 40. If they want 10, they’d take 20. This kind of information is usually available to other graduate programs as well. I know it is in psychology.

Beyond that, the people they admit last are usually those who don’t quite match the program well enough. They are, in fact, just barely admitted. Sure, they were still admitted over others, but they also didn’t get top marks from the first reader, second reader, interviewer, etc or whatever the process is at that school. These just barely admitted people are the least likely to receive offers of scholarship, fellowship, etc.

But in the end, the people they most want in the program get some sort of funding. It may not be a lot, but it exists.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I meant with that comment that in a university setting, one can learn concepts that one doesn’t always learn through life – you can live in a community all your life without ever understanding what traps are put on you

I certainly agree.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Anyhow we apparently seem to be coming from two different worlds as we both have experience that states the opposite of each other (in both the funding and the admission criteria, ps I was in psych. grad school and it wasn’t true for the program i was in). I suppose it doesn’t really matter because the point was that only certain people can even get into graduate school whether it be because of funding or because of high admission criteria. And the fact that only certain people can get in (regardless if you meet the standards) creates a type of unnecessary hierarchy, in my opinion.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Yes, true. I think a lot of it is a crapshoot. Especially after watching a few friends work in admissions departments.

I would not be so argumentative on this issue, were I not waiting to hear back from my number one. Nervously.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@EmpressPixie I would not be so argumentative on this issue, were I not waiting to hear back from my number one. Nervously.

I hope you get in! Sending good thoughts your way.

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