Is education over rated?

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Jaden Pinkett Smith shared his views on education recently. As a well educated and successful young man, his views are certainly worth considering by his peers, that is to say, all the other fourteen years olds with a net worth of eight million dollars who intend to live with their parents for the next thirty years. In other words, he could save his discussion for dinner.

He also stated that he would like to be “emancipated” for his fifteenth birthday (not legal). Again, not because he wants to leave home, because “everything at home is free”. Apparently his education has not provided him with the common definition of emancipation.

I have some level of admiration for Jaden’s father, Will Smith, and I choose to believe that Will is letting Jaden make an ass of himself as part of a larger lesson. Millions of parents are no doubt thankful to Will, for all the conversations they will have with their children which begin with “I don’t need to go to school, Jaden Smith said it’s mind control”.

After every election, I hear from the winning party how their members are better educated. Defined as “Well they voted for the winning (and therefore intellectually superior) candidate”, that statement is true. That’s not my definition of education, but then I’m not a politician. Somehow, Republicans were better educated in 2004, and Democrats were better educated in 2008. Yet the Democrats blame the Bush administration as being “anti-education”, so how did they become better educated during his terms?

By now you’ve figured out that it all depends on your definition of education. If you agree with me, you’re well educated, if you disagree you’re the product of inbreeding.

“Formal education” should be teaching students how to think. Unfortunately, the process has become bogged down in a results oriented society, and the measure of “education” became test results. How to think took second place to what to think. If you can pass the tests, you are deemed educated, when all you have done is memorize a list of test answers.

At the same time, these “educated” people are unable to actually “think”. Their education became less meaningful. Jobs that were previously performed by high school graduates now require a bachelors degree. “Experience” has been refined to mean “Have you done precisely these functions in the past” rather than “have you demonstrated flexibility in learning variations of your training?”. We have become, in many ways, a society of robots. A degree certifies that you invested money in a school, and attended classes. It does not indicate that you actually learned anything.

So in some ways, I agree with Jaden. Schools are not doing their jobs of educating people. But dropping out is not the answer. A little bit of knowledge is better than no knowledge at all.

Part of thinking is knowing that you do not know everything. Jaden has failed there. He is not alone. Knowing that nobody knows everything, that you should evaluate and compare information, as well as knowing how to evaluate information, is the basis of actually thinking. As I said earlier, education no longer teaches thinking, it teaches memorizing. So in the sense that we still believe that accomplishment of higher education creates higher intelligence, formal education is indeed over rated.

The truly educated never “graduate”. Education never ends, survival requires adaptation, which requires constant learning.


3 comments on “Is education over rated?

  1. Mari Collier says:

    I’m in total agreement about today’s schools. I attended a one-room country school in Iowa. I knew in a metropolitan high school that my elementary education was superior, but that was reinforced a couple of years ago when our Literary Society selected a college text book for reading poetry and short fiction. It was appalling to see the vocabulary words the lessons in the book choose for “learning.” Those were words that I had encountered in the seventh and eighth grades.


  2. The Danish education system is very different, first of all it’s free for everybody. From the outside looking in it appears that kids are way behind in literacy skills, but by the time they’re 15 almost all of them are bilingual, very few subjects have formal exams and rote learning is not encouraged, but thinking and expressing yourself is.(although there are some things that need to be remembered, like I before E except after C but not in the word their). The truly educated never graduate, education never ends…. brilliant quote.


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