The Ultimate Life-Long Learner?
Eye-popping story today about a man up north who has earned 29 college degrees and is still going strong. He’s only 71 after all …
The count: one bachelor’s degree, two associate’s degrees, 22 master’s degrees, three specialist degrees and one doctoral degree, with a master’s in criminal justice in the cooker as we read. No honorary or “non-traditional” degrees and he does not do online courses. Apparently student loans are not an issue – if I understand the article, he paid his own way all the way.
If nothing else, this guy must really enjoy the school environment and learning.
Related work experience – apparently none. The guy is retired, but worked menial jobs throughout his life as a life-long learner. He has yet to actually use his accumulated knowledge to work at something, other than the obvious work of earning a college degree.
As a side-note, his wife has seven degrees.
“I would like to get to 33 or 34. I’m almost there,” he said. “When I complete that, I’ll feel like I’ve completed my basic education. After that, if I’m still alive — that would take me to 80 or 81 — I would then be free to pursue any type of degree.”
As a life-long learner and the holder of several college degrees, my initial reaction was one of awe that he was so far ahead of me …
Then my brain and my own education kicked in. Some important questions here:
1) Are education and learning goals in and of themselves?
Education purely for the love of knowledge is not a bad thing in and of itself, but I’m not sure this should be the only goal. I love to learn, but I also love to use what I learn.
2) Does learning not used benefit others? Is this important?
As a teacher and helper, my goal has always been to learn things in order to share that knowledge with others. What does it say when one learns only for themselves. Does enjoying the classics on a more educated level provide an acceptable motivation to learn?
3) What does this say about the value of education to an individual, beyond the obvious “Value is in the eye of the beholder”?
The main has a right to spend his time and money however he wants. No harm befalls anyone else through his eternal quest for more learning. I just are not sure that this is a value to which I would be able to ascribe.
So tell me:
Am I just engaging in sour grapes because I question the value of this approach to education and learning?
Does any of this ring true for you or am I just jealous because he apparently has more time and money to pursue learning than I do?
Wondering how many degrees I could pile up over the next few years in the Heartland ….
“63% of the jobs in 2018 will require a college education.”
If you follow the link, you will find a great deal of interesting data about the past, present, and future of jobs in our country.
The one part that caught my eye was the section where they forecast that 63% of the jobs in 2018 will require a college education.
6 out of every ten jobs in a little over five years … that’s a lot of folks in a pretty short time.
The Census Bureau estimates 30% of us have a 4-year college degree. That’s a lot of people, but still only half-way to what they say we will need.
Some things to consider before we jump on the “Get A College Education” bandwagon:
1) All college degrees are not equal. Do we need associate degrees, baccalaureate degrees, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees?
2) The sources of learning vary. Will this renew the debate about the relative value of private versus public education, non-profit versus for-profit, and Ivies versus everyone else? Does the source of the learning matter?
2) A college education provides something, but not all things. Are we identifying a college education as necessary for a job because that job truly requires critical thinking, analysis, learning, and content area knowledge that a college education provides? Positions are advertised now which show a college education as a requirement, which do not seem to actually relate to any college degree program.
3) Alternatives exist. What about post-degree certificates or other short-term educational programs? What other type of education might provide the expertise we need?
4) Cost matters. The cost of higher education continues to go up. Is the return on investment enough to justify the higher cost of that education? Many recent graduates and a fair number of unemployed older workers might give you an argument on this one.
As usual, more questions than answers. I just want you to think about the complexity of this issue. It’s not just College versus Not College.
Full Disclosure: I have degrees at the baccalaureate and masters level from a public institution, a second master’s from a private institution, and doctoral work from a public institution. I have also worked in higher education at the junior college, 4-year, and graduate institution level. I have worked for non-profit schools and now work for a for-profit institution.
I have a great respect for learning and education. However I do not think it the panacea for all our economic ills, at least not in its current state.
Wondering about how I might value the education I have received in the Heartland ….
Related articles from a variety of viewpoints:
- More in US See College As Bad Investment (abcnews.go.com)
- How the Great Recession Proved, Beyond a Doubt, the Value of a College Degree (theatlantic.com)
- Solutions to the Excessive Cost of a Higher Education (healthymemory.wordpress.com)
- Private firm gets rights to run degree college (morningstaronline.co.uk)
- Five Things To Consider Before Investing in College (cashnetusa.com)
- Workers Without A College Degree Have Lost More Than 5 Million Jobs Since The Great Recession (thinkprogress.org)
- Study: College Degree Holds Its Value (npr.org)
- America May Have Too Many College Graduates (theatlantic.com)
- Community colleges should offer four-year degrees (utsandiego.com)
Charles Kettering in Mechanical engineering: Volume 66 (1944)
When I entered college the first time, I actually knew a few things and thought I had the world pretty well in control …
By my sophomore year (which would be the one when I almost flunked out of school), I was revising my thinking.
Decades and degrees later, I have a better idea of just how little I know in comparison to all there is to know. Here’s what I did not know the first time around:
1) Information Changes
Information is not static and knowledge is constantly being discovered. I use theories and models today which were not yet thought of when I entered college and I use technology to keep track of all that information which was not dreamed of by the average person then.
2) Applications Change
What we use information for changes as well as does the raw data. Who thought that a program developed to help the military cope with national security needs would become so important to everyday commerce? Not even Al Gore understood all the uses of the Internet at one point:).
3) We Change
I ain’t the same callow youth who started this journey as a college freshman those years ago. My abilities, interests, and even values have morphed and shifted with events both personal and public. Getting married, becoming a parent, getting fired … mix the personal in with 9/11, the rise of partisan politics, and personal computers.
Nothing stays the same . . . nothing.
So what does this tell us about education? Does value still reside in formal education or would we better invest our time, money, and energy in something else.
Well, the things I learned then have formed the bedrock upon which my learning has gone forward. Information and uses may change, but I am better able to understand and adjust because I know what was. I have perspective and context.
What I knew then helps me understand what I know now …
Don’t take the details of education so seriously, because they will change, but do not ignore the need to learn and know.
At the end of Kingdom of Heaven (an under-appreciated film), Balian, the defender of Jerusalem, has just surrendered the city to Saladin in exchange for the safety of all the defenders and inhabitants. On the battlefield covered with Christian and Muslim dead and wounded, Balian asks Saladin this question: “What is Jerusalem worth?”
“Nothing” … a long pause … “Everything!”
Maybe that’s the answer when we ask about education as well …
Trying to learn how to learn in the Heartland ….
“In an increasingly divided nation, reasoned argument is becoming a lost art, Kuhn says. Rather than assigning piles of writing, her research shows, teachers would do well to step back and foster some debate. Students must learn, Kuhn adds, that opinions have reasons, that some reasons are better than others, and that nothing is as simple as it seems.”
Deanna Kuhn, professor of psychology and education at Columbia University
In my opinion, one of the more destructive trends of recent times has been the unquestioned application of the concept that everyone’s opinions and values matter equally. This very democratic and fair-sounding position has resulted in political candidates who dismiss scientific fact, use all manner of cognitive distortion and faulty reasoning to deflect discussion from important issues, and generally has darn near killed the idea of intelligent debate of ideas.
At the risk of sounding like an intellectual elitist, I believe that attitudes, opinions, and positions are only as valuable as the thinking which produced them. Everyone’s ideas are not equally valid.
We need to reintroduce the skills of critical thinking and civil discourse, and the earlier we start, the better. I mean “earlier” both in the sense of immediacy and in when young people learn how to use these skills.
You know, teach people to build thought-out positions based on evidence, take turns speaking and listening, consider other viewpoints, offer support for their positions and beliefs, reflect on issues objectively, and generally discuss ideas and differences with respect.
Deanna Kuhn, professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, is one smart person and I am not talking about academic credentials. She presents a reasoned, yet passionate argument in favor of reducing the emphasis on research papers and reintroducing the elements of critical thinking back into the classroom at the elementary level. She even uses research findings to support her position:)
Read the interview with Kuhn at NO DEBATE: KIDS LEARN BETTER BY ARGUING.
Thinking critically but collaboratively in the Heartland ….