Not the same thing
“They say that we are better educated than our parents’ generation. What they mean is that we go to school longer. It is not the same thing.” — Richard Yates
“But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” — 1 Corinthians 8:1-2
It bothers me that formal education is becoming a status symbol, a commodity to be rated and sold as a means of achieving society’s wealth and adulation. Never mind that the world is kept running largely by people who are unable to go to the local community college, let alone Harvard. In the mutual admiration society that constitutes much of academia, this kind of reality doesn’t intrude until one’s plumbing goes awry, or the sanitation workers go on strike.
I’m guessing we all know many people who never got a college degree (and maybe never even a high school diploma) who were sources of unfailing wisdom, strength, humor, achievement and support. I feel safe in assuming that many of these people were of our parents’ generation, and went to high school during a time when there was no cottage industry that existed purely to increase SAT scores. They made their way in the world without benefit of AP courses or programs for the gifted, before anyone ever thought to talk about self-esteem.
Knowledge does not equal wisdom, and increasingly, formal education does not necessarily equal either wisdom or knowledge. I’m not knocking education; it’s a wonderful thing. Sometimes you can even get it from a school or a university.
But we learn the most practical and lasting lessons from life outside the classroom, through the person-to-person exchanges we have with each other, especially the ones that don’t involve grades, money, or other not-so-hidden agendas. None of us needed the Ivy League to teach us to cook, pay bills, cheer others on, fix what breaks or volunteer to lend a hand where needed. We learned those things by watching others, and most of the people we watched don’t have any impressive initials after their names.
Today, I hope you will remember fondly those lessons you learned from people who were teachers in the truest sense of the word. They may never be honored with formal titles or pomp and circumstance. But whatever good we have in our lives is directly connected to their unheralded faithfulness in showing up and keeping on.
One year ago today: