Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Education Is Not a Commodity I

So many times this semester, it has been hammered home to me that education is viewed as a commodity to be purchased. That disheartens me somewhat, but I am not entirely discouraged. The reason is this: You are all young. Ideas that have been scored into your life-assumptions can still be modified, corrected, or removed.

You are used to the idea that when you go to a store you purchase an item you want; when you go to a restaurant you pay for the food you want; when you hire a person to do a service, such as auto repair or house-painting, the result is what you have paid for and if it is not to your satisfaction you complain.

So your assumption is that school is the same way. You pay for it, and at the end you receive a diploma, which is a chit to be cashed in in the form of better employment. Along the way to the diploma, you are given grades, which are more valuable if higher.

Ah. And there's the rub. You have to work for the item you want to purchase. And it is not easy.

Getting an education is difficult. Going to the store is not! But education is difficult. You have to read--which so many of you have done too little of, to now--and you have to write, and you have to pass tests. The writing is easy if you are texting to friends. But college weights it down with far more demanding requirements than you are used to. A higher quality of expression, a deeper understanding of what you write about, a larger body of information retained. And you don't have the background to slip into it natively. You are not used to such laborious expenditure, particularly for an end that is distant and...really...the benefit unseen.

So, for many students, the response is to resent the work and those who assign it.

But education is NOT a commodity. It is a task that you should take on yourself, and it should be a duty for your lifetime--learning should never stop. Writing well is a wonderful skill. Reading well is another. Apart from math, these are the two most important skills that you might develop, because all other learning and opportunity might arise from them. And--this should not be overlooked--a great deal of pleasure and personal enrichment.

I have repeatedly made a plea to both classes this semester: Read. Please. From the end of the semester, when your work is finished, to the beginning of the next...read. Eschew television and social media escapes. Think of reading as brushing and mental floss and weight-training all in one for the brain.

Reading is a skill. It will improve with increased use. Don't short-change yourself! An unaccustomed intensive excursion into the life of the mind will stand you in good stead when the next semester starts. You will read with more ease, and your reading comprehension will be more fluent and deft.

Try it.

You will see.

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