Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The effect of education, I suppose

I got to thinking about moms and education the other day. Sometimes when moms get together, we all laugh about how we studied something or other in college but we don't remember a thing now.

First, I don't think that's true. I think most of us do remember quite a bit about what we learned, whether in our major/minor, or in general education classes. I had a nine-year gap between my BA in Linguistics, and my first MA class, Linguistics for ESL Teachers. I was amazed at how much I remembered without even realizing it.

BUT. Second, my point is that it's not the point of education to have us be able to recall the minutiae of certain subjects, ten years (or five years or one year...) after we graduate. Rather, the effect of education ten years on should be that we ask different questions, and think more critically, and see the world in a different way than we might have.

Anyway, just something that's been on my mind for some reason. Possibly because girls here sometimes get a bad rap because they come to this prestigious university, study for four years, graduate...and then get married and stay home and have kids. (Depending on your personal cultural context, this may sound very, very familiar.)

The implication is that their education is "wasted," or somehow has less value than the education of someone who, I don't know, gets a job in their field after graduation? I guess?

And sometimes we hear the platitude that well, even if you don't get a job in your field, and you stay home to tend your children instead, you will still totally use your education, all those things that you spent all that time learning. Wasn't there a BYU Magazine feature series to that effect a few years ago? I think that's great. But, to come full circle: I don't think that's the point.

Education changes the way we think and the decisions we make and the questions we ask about the world around us. I think that's so much more valuable than any specific content we may remember from x college course.

Do you agree?


Shannon said...

I totally agree. Brigham Young is reported to have said that the purpose of education is to help us better enjoy life. That has definitely been true for me. However, I think my case is somewhat unusual, because I've been a full-time mom while using my degree (English) professionally (copy editing). However, all these years I've always debated whether doing both simultaneously has unfairly fragmented both experiences. If I had to choose (and I think I will, later this year), hands down, being a mother is much more valuable than pursuing a career.

Liz Johnson said...

YES. YES YES YES. Education should you to think critically, to question assumptions, and to value education as a whole.

I like to think that my degree has helped me do those things, even though the closest I get to using my International Development degree these days is when I log into my Kiva account.

Kathy Haynie said...

Amen, sister. In my case, I am grateful that most of my college education came after I turned 35. I was able to appreciate it more than I would have at 18, I think. I had reached a point in my own life where I wanted/needed to question some of the assumptions I was living (unhappily) with. The critical thinking and alternative world views I encountered in my education helped me to see the world, and more importantly, myself and the options that were actually open to me, in an entirely different way. Truly life changing.

Speaking of education and world views, this is good: http://utahhoneypot.com/2013/04/19/the-tolerance-trap-is-there-any-hope-for-escape/

ridgewayaway said...

I went "all the way" and have an MFA in creative writing. I haven't written a poem in 5 years, and sometimes that makes me sad. But I'm raising two wonderful girls, and I teach one class/semester. It isn't poetry or late 19th C American Lit but basic paragraph writing to inner-city community college students. There are all sorts of ways that we can not technically "use" our training yet still make all the difference in the world with our skills and education. - Jenn

Susanne said...

" Possibly because girls here sometimes get a bad rap because they come to this prestigious university, study for four years, graduate...and then get married and stay home and have kids." Bad rap from?

And, yes, I agree.

Jennifer said...

Isn't there some statistic out there about likelihood of children going to college is directly related to the level of education of the mother? I suppose I could just make one up...

I feel like my educational experience really taught me how to do hard things. I feel like I can do anything because of what I overcame while getting my degrees.

Craig said...

Hey, I'm a male, and went right to work in engineering after my degree. Still, I confess that the great majority of what I have done in my long career has drawn little on the specifics I learned in school, and much more on the critical thinking and problem solving skills that were nourished. And not just in the technical arena, but also in the "general education" space.

Jeanerbee said...


Jen said...

I'll echo the other thoughts--my college education has taught me more about how to THINK WELL than about, say, the shrinking of the Aral Sea (I studied geography). Being able to look at something critically and find a solution is applicable across a broad spectrum of your life's path.

Also, for ME, my university experience was also about goal-setting and finishing what I start. (I'm sure most people get to college and have that skill already...but I was basically inept in that regard.) The process of starting something and seeing it through to the end was probably the single-most valuable academic benefit of college. "Stick to your task 'til it sticks to you; Beginners are many, but enders are few."

(President Monson quoted that in general conference at some point...and my cousin--who has worked incredibly hard to earn a nursing degree--wrote about how that quote got her through some very difficult semesters.)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

You're so right. Education develops and sharpens our brains, hones our critical thinking skills, fills our minds with ideas and concepts that we might never have considered. Even though I've been a SAHM since my graduation back in the day, my life has been enhanced daily by my education. And the benefits have passed on to my family as well.

Liz Johnson said...

Oddly enough, a friend just posted this on Facebook:


Stacie Perkins Palmer said...

I just read an article today where the author harps on women who pursue prestigious degrees and then don't "use" them:


I could write an entire article of rebuttal on this one. But, in a nutshell, I say that any women or man who earns the opportunity to study at a prestigious institution also earns the choice of how to put that learning to use. Who is anyone to judge what is "wasted" education? Gender aside.

On a separate but related note, my parents encouraged me and all of my eight siblings to pursue as much education as possible. Church leadership also counseled women to seek education and a vocation in a chosen field. However, the justification for my and my sisters’ educational endeavors was that women ought to “prepare for any eventuality,” with examples of widows or divorcees being left as sole provider for their families. The notion that women should be educated and prepared “just in case” something happened to the provider did not sit well with me during my growing-up years. I still find it offensive and hope that we have advanced enough now that these stories will sound quaint to our own daughters. Education for the sake of bettering oneself and viewing the world through a wider lens? A thousand times, yes.

Bridget said...

Western staff/faculty at this university. I'll leave it at that.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I agree witih Stacie's statement " education for the sake of bettering oneself ..." etc. Some of my female peers (say, age 55-60) did not finish their education and came to regret it, because they unexpectedly found themselves having to support their families. And that meant going back to school with a young family at home, to finish a degree that could have been behind them already. The ones I'm thinking of managed to do it, and I applaud them for it.

I suppose there's a positive side to earning a degree later on, and that is that your children would be active participants and the value of higher education would be heavily impressed upon them.

Susanne said...

Yes, that makes sense. I didn't think Arabs would say that.


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