Inordinate Ordnance: The Real Value of Education

Monday, December 16, 2013


Written by Chris Carr


The value of education is something we all—as students—need to reconcile at some point. Whether that’s before you apply to post-secondary or after your tenure at the institution, right before you make that first OSAP payment. However, I don’t speak of the monetary consequences, but rather, the value it adds to your character.

Aristotle said that it was the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it. Meaning, as educated people, we can discuss that which we do not adhere to. A socialist should be able to entertain the tenets of the capitalist, the religious with the atheist, the Star Trek with the Star wars fans, and so on.

Sounds great, but when we consider the institution we spend so much money on in order to free our minds, entertaining foreign thoughts doesn’t exactly align whole-sale.

We learn doctrines, largely, from people before us, to teach to people after us. We learn ideas that are correct along side ideas that are not correct. We learn hard facts more than unsubstantiated theories, because there is certainly more knowledge to be gained from that which we can prove, verify and repeat ad infinitum. 

However, not a single one of the things we learn at university will grant us the moniker of an educated mind. It is the culmination of knowledge that creates in us good conversations, interesting anecdotes and jeopardy scholars. Right?

While I am sure many students leave university with a lexicon of grand facts, this is merely a collection of knowledgeable facts. This is, I believe, not a substantial enough education. Any fact can be sought out with a simple Google search, so to simply be a repository for general inquiry isn’t good enough to consider yourself “educated”.

Education is not knowledge, and this is where I think the mistake is most made. Education in actuality is one’s capability to understand and be aware. Awareness is a much more useful tool for our characters than simply knowing who the actual Franz Ferdinand was. Awareness, as separate from knowledge, is the real value of reading all those books, writing those exams and cultivating a general curiosity for the fabric of life.

This is what Aristotle meant, I believe, as an educated mind is merely more aware of phenomenon than an ignorant one. The educated mind sees something it doesn’t understand and hold a light to it, where the alternative mind may willingly try to forget the same phenomenon.

The aware mind understands that there are people inside those cars trapping you in traffic. The aware mind understands that its ideas may not be the best ones. Finally the aware mind is aware that it doesn’t really have knowledge of anything, truly and is merely along for the ride.

Knowledge is only as useful as it pertains to understanding of the world we inhabit. The awareness then comes from our beings being inescapably tethers to that life. Knowledge of the events of the Civil War, while certainly adding to an overall understanding of the quantum of existence, does little to add value to life. This is the core principle of quality of quantity.

Awareness, through the lens of education, adds understanding, value and enlightenment beyond all the confines of the daily minutia that may create angst and depression in our lives. It combats all that sucks and leaves us with an understanding of the trials of human existence—this creates in the educated mind an open landscape, capable of accepting alternative ideas, while simultaneously granting the capacity to discredit that which is unimportant.

The value of education is the freedom to choose how you think, not what you think. This type of thinking frees the mind, which in turn, frees the mind to accept truth over conjecture, conversation over rhetoric and happiness over confusion.

And that’s the point to all of this, isn’t 

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