I’ve felt ambiguous and conflicted about education for a long time, because it inspires while it stifles. But here are two ways it has always resonated with me.
One is learning for learning’s sake. Now looking back, and without sounding nauseatingly cheesy, there is something pure and unadulterated in the joy of soaking in the world. I was never a science person. But I still remember in Grade 11, the excitement I felt bubbling from my belly, when trying to explain to my mom the idea of atmospheric pressure and rain formation and somehow likening it to the pan on the stove that was steaming our vegetables for dinner.
But I am also diabolically practical. So this form of learning left me feeling somewhat indulgent. Coming from a family where money was never something to be taken for granted, I always felt slightly guilty if what I was putting in my brains was somehow not contributing to the process of attainment that would eventually be responsible for putting food on the table.
The second source of turn-on is the sometimes masochistic pleasure of having to perform under pressure. Yes, I am perfectly aware of what that sentence sounded like. But the truth is, when overwhelmed to just the right degree, education has contributed greatly in honing my “getting-things-done” skills.
For me, education hit the right spot in high school. It was broad enough to sample from, yet challenging in its particularities to stimulate quite a bit of brain activities. But university, not unlike technical colleges, tends to churn out specialists, whether in the fields of art history, chemical engineering, or accountants.
The often repetitive and dogmatic field of business studies made me more cautious, practical, and cynical about the institutional delivery of education. It also iterated the value of an education by continually flashing dollars signs in front of students in the forms of sponsored conferences, prized internships, and the ultimate plushy fruit – a prestigious, high-paying job.