Two years ago, I attended my elementary reunion where I was able to meet some of my former classmates. Two cases, however, interested me. The first case is of a student who emerged the first in that year’s final examination. In our class, she was the hardworking student who used to read and write all the given assignments and teachers’ notes. However, she could not read any other material outside classwork especially newspapers and magazines.
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After elementary school, she joined the best high school, her brilliance in class continued to shine, and now she was a renowned pediatrician. Nevertheless, one thing I was quick to note is that she could not take part in any conversation on the world’s economy and the influence that the U.S. has on the same.
The second case was of an average performer who did not memorize all the information in his textbooks and exercise books but was well conversant with most of the world history, current affairs, and sports among others. He passed with a grade slightly above average and joined a less prestigious high school. Now he is a publisher with one of the best publishing companies in America and can discuss any topic, from science through politics and economics to childcare.
These two cases left me in a dilemma of deciding who between the two passes for a well-educated person. If I were to decide that the first case is the best illustration of a well-educated person, then being well educated would mean a person who lacks anything else in life but can perform the best in what she set her/his goals to achieve through education. This description matches that of Kohn where he describes his wife and asks himself,” Or does she offer an invitation to rethink what it means to be well-educated since what she lacks hasn’t prevented her from being a deep-thinking, high-functioning, multiply credentialed, a professionally successful individual?”(Kohn, 2003, p. 345).
What becomes of you after acquiring an education reflects whether you are well educated or not. Being the best engineer can be used to classify you as a well-educated person even though you do not have the slightest idea of the basics of correct grammar. The second case illustrates a knowledgeable person in diverse fields of study. He did not score the highest grades in his school life but he can contribute wisely to any topic that arises.
If the earlier criterion were used to rank a well-educated person, does it mean that he would not fit in this group? The definition of a well-educated person cannot be universal. I tend to think that it should not follow certain protocols such as passing all the standard tests or attending the schools that rank best in your country or even in the world. Instead, should conform to that what comes up with an all-rounded person.
Poor judgment has led us to the conclusion that a well-educated person is that who is intellectually equipped. This is wrong because good education and poor education should be based on intellectual, physical, and emotional foundations among others (Mohanan, 2005, p. 43). The bias on the understanding of this concept leans so much on the intellectual side that all other values that a well-educated person escapes the mind.
For instance, if Mother Teresa could not write even the simplest algebra, should we say that she was a poorly educated person? Our minds focus mainly on the intellectuality side that the other core values such as morality remain passive in any judgment. In Muller’s book, To the Point: Reading and Writing Short Arguments, Ellen Goodman is angry with educators and authors who do not include religious teaching in their work (Muller, 1995, p. 199).
Goodman understands the value of religion in people’s life but this is not the case with educators and authors. People are evaluated depending on the number of the papers and qualifications that they hold rather than on the values that have made them great achievers in life. Many would look down on a cleaner because of his/her dusty dustcoat but they would not stop and appreciate the bright mind that that person possesses. On the other hand, they would hang on to every word a professor utters on discovery without realizing that out of the whole speech he/she has made grammatical mistakes in every sentence.
A well-educated person should be that person who knows the purpose of education, not the person who holds as many degrees as allowed by the programmed education system. The purpose of education is to give a person satisfactory information to make him/her productive, be it economically, socially, and even morally. He/she can convert the acquired knowledge to a business idea that gives very good profits.
He/she can also be of great assistance when it comes to dealing with political, moral, and even emotional matters. Having this in mind, we should embark on changing society’s perception and create a society that not only values intellectual development, but also moral, emotional, and physical development. By so doing, cases of students cheating in school or a mechanic passing for a poor-educated person would slowly die from people’s minds.
The focus should change from the type of school one attends to the type of schooling taking place in our schools. This would stop the evaluation of people’s level of education by the grades scored in a test but judge them according to their smartness to the core values of development. It would stop the setting of rules and guidelines that define a well-educated person. This is in terms of educational background and skills acquired about the assigned job that alienates a certain group of people. The world should be without these rules and guidelines that have subjected many to intellectual slavery. Instead, the core values of development that hinge on intellectual, moral, emotional, and physical development should be the underlying factors guiding the world.
I would compare education with the many tribes of the world with their different colors and languages. We cannot conclude that Indians are the most prominent of all or that whites rank the lowest. Just as we appreciate diversity in humanity, we should also agree that we could never come to a consensus on the definition of a well-educated person or a poor-educated person. We should not judge them with the certificates they hold or their prowess in their careers just as we do not rank people based on their skin color and their language.
Educated people cannot have standardized skills and values. Smartness should be an individual premise based on the current situation not on what we have been holding since time immemorial that revolves on standardized protocols of judgment depending on one’s academic papers.
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Kohn, A. (2003). What does it mean to be educated? Principal Leadership, 20 (4), 345.
Mohanan, P. (2005). Who is an educated person? Ingredients of Educated-ness. Centre For Development of Teaching and Learning, 8 (7), 43.
Muller, G. (1995). To the point: Reading and writing short arguments. Harvard: Harvard University Press.