It was two weeks ago, Monday. I knew the deadline for my next post at UVenus was coming up. I thought I would write about the office space and how we academics have our own ways of designing and decorating our offices. I was moving my office on the same day so it felt all the more relevant. I did not have to look for any other topic; spontaneously, simultaneously with what was going on in my life, I would write my piece during the week.
However, something changed my plan of writing about this topic that seemed to come naturally…
While my new office was full of boxes, waiting for me to empty them, at midday I was notified that my aunt had passed away. My aunt was 85 years old and had not been well for the past few weeks. Everyone in the family tried to console one another, especially through arguments that she was old, that she did not have to suffer for a long time, etc. I was able to console myself through these arguments for a while. But… in a few days, I had to admit to myself that losing my aunt had shaken me more than I thought it did. I also realized that there was a cumulative effect in my feeling: I had lost my grandmother, my father and my aunt within a time-span of 21 months. I was feeling as if one after another, familiar doors were being shut, and the rest of the family, we were being left outside.
The next few days, I was busy with the funeral and being with my family and forgot about the office blog topic. Ultimately, not knowing how to deal with the successive losses in the family, I found myself thinking about what I got from all these years of education and maybe more so, contrary to a more ordinary line of thinking, the things that I did not get from that education.
I have two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. Yet, it was all the more clear to me now more than ever that there was no academic degree that would teach you how to deal with such losses. Apparently, living a quality life and surviving the challenges in our lifetimes requires more skills than academic degrees could offer. Apparently, this is not something that a good education can achieve on its own. Apparently, there are limits to a good education.
Through higher education, we can take young people and at the end of what we would call “university years” we can turn them into doctors, lawyers, engineers, musicians, chemists, historians, psychologists and the like. Through presenting them role models and inspirations during the university years and hoping that they will adopt the best of what they have seen for themselves, we can also expect them to be good at their professions and maybe even good people. Yet we cannot guarantee that they will really be good at what they are doing, let alone that they will be good people, that they will be successful, that they will be happy.
Education is an important priority in life. But it should be regarded as a means and not as an end in itself. Education is a medium that helps us lead better lives and increases our quality of life, by getting each of us a job and letting us earn a living, by gaining social status and by making our lives more meaningful. However, its usefulness is limited. There are things which we do not and cannot learn through education: how to handle losses of loved ones, how to manage the money we make or the time we have, how to be good at our relations, how to make good decisions and the list goes on.
Parents, students, educators - we should be all aware of these limitations. While this argument should not be used to underrate the importance of a good education, we should not overrate it either and we should all be aware of the fact that the quality of one’s education does not guarantee one’s quality of life.
It actually takes more than just a good education to have a good life.
Itir is a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.
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