According to the Oxford English Dictionary one of the definitions of the word “education” is: “The systematic instruction, schooling or training given to the young in preparation for the work of life; by extension, similar instruction or training obtained in adult age. Also, the whole course of scholastic instruction which a person has received. Often with limiting words denoting the nature of the predominant subject of the instruction or kind of life it prepares, as classical, legal, medical, technical, commercial, art education.” Although this is an accurate description of what an actual education may be, there is a great deal more to the process of becoming educated than the actual instruction and schooling one may receive.

If you asked a person in high school or college exactly why he is in school his response would probably have something to do with “getting an education.” Is that really why he is there? The next question you may ask is “what are you going to do with your education?” The response would undoubtedly include something about “getting a good job” or perhaps “to make a lot of money.” Most of the people in the United States have been brainwashed to think that unless one has at least a high school diploma there is no future anywhere for him. This is completely untrue. There is no guarantee that getting a high school “education” is going to get you anywhere. A student may spend eight years between high school and college getting an “education.” He can graduate from college with A’s in every class, but still, this “education” means nothing. For example, suppose this “Straight A” student goes for a job interview. Obviously one of the first things to be looked at is the college diploma. Good grades, which by today’s standards are an indication of an educated individual, are usually very helpful in getting a good job. But alone, good grades are a completely unfair indication of how a person will perform under the pressures of the real world. Instead of looking at a person’s grades during a job interview and deciding whether that person is eligible for a particular position, why not try something realistic? To determine a particular person’s “education” why not allow the individual to apply what he knows to his position in the workplace. This is the true test of what an education is. The application of knowledge acquired is a much better determinant of true education than whether or not a person got an A in Wood Shop or World History.

A good percentage of people in the United States graduated from high school. A smaller percentage of people graduated from college. Are these graduates educated? Knowing when the Civil War began does not make a person “educated.” Where is the real world application of this fact? For someone who is a History major it may prove to be an invaluable nugget of information. For others it will not do them a bit of good anywhere in a lifetime. A high school diploma or a college degree does not necessarily mean that an individual has an understanding of the real world. What it does mean, in fact, is that the holder of the degree or certificate has an understanding of the facts learned in school. Is being able to regurgitate information verbatim considered an education?  By the above definition, yes. It will give you a high school diploma.  But that does not really help a person in life. There is a lot more to it than that.

Take for example a high school English class. Every high school student has learned that when writing a list of things, everything in the list should be separated by a comma. This is true even before the words “or” and “and.” Now, take the aforementioned definition of the word “education.” You may notice that there is no comma after the word “schooling.” This is inconsistent with what is taught in high school. This missing comma, however, is intentional. The definition was copied exactly out of the Dictionary. From what was learned in high school English classes there should be a comma after the word “schooling.” Being able to recognize this missing comma is a good example of education; taking what was learned in high school or college and applying it to a real life situation can often prove to be extremely useful. The application of understood knowledge is much more of an education than is the meaningless regurgitation of dates, facts, authors, and other skills.

Take another definition provided for “education” in the Oxford English Dictionary: “The process of ‘bringing up’ (young persons); the manner in which a person has been ‘brought up’ with reference to social situation, kind of manners and habits acquired, calling or employment prepared for, etc.” This definition seems to make more sense. High school and college are not absolutely necessary in becoming educated. The skills acquired while being “brought up” can often prove much more useful in real life than can twenty years of gaining knowledge in a high school or college situation.

Education for most people should begin outside of the classroom. What is learned in school should not be considered an education. A better word one should consider is knowledge, or perhaps knowledge of information. Knowledge is gained in school. And knowledge is not an education in itself. Once a person can take his nuggets of information and apply them to everyday things then that person can consider himself educated. Until then, a high school or college education is as good as a book of facts. It is useful if you need to know something but worthless unless the information within is relative to the situation.

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