Higher education is held in high esteem. And why not? In college and graduate school, students spend their time studying the great thinkers in human history. They learn popular theories and explore the philosophy behind their discipline. They get exposed to peers with diverse backgrounds and become more learned in the process.
Meanwhile, those who don’t spend time in graduate school, or even skip college all together, usually enter right into the workforce. Many will get a job somewhere, while others may start their own business.
There is a belief among many of the educated that because of their exposure to the ideas taught in our universities, they are smarter than those who didn’t attend. They believe they are more sophisticated and nuanced. Because of their education, they should be placed in positions of power – maybe within local, state and national government where they can decide what’s best for society.
Many of those educated people believe that the people who went right to work and didn’t get a graduate degree are unqualified to make such decisions because they’re uneducated. They haven’t experienced the great debates. They didn’t have the exposure to the brilliance of the tenured faculty. In essence, they look down on those who don’t have graduate level educations.
Some self-described liberals like to point out that, according to most surveys, liberals “have a higher,” or “are better” educated than conservatives. Education, in this case, defined by under-graduate and graduate college degrees.
Surveys show what I’ve observed in my personal life; those who think they’re smarter than the rest, due to their education – the kinds of people who sneer at and mock NASCAR, the Red States, and conservatives, in general – are mostly liberals.
One of the popular criticisms of Rush Limbaugh, over the years, is that he didn’t even graduate from college, and yet he’s leading a movement. Somehow, because he only went to college for one year, anything he’s observed, experienced, read or been taught by someone other than a tenured professor doesn’t count. It’s not real education.
In 1983, Howard Gardner proposed his Theory of Multiple Intelligences. (It’s worth noting, I learned about this well after college – proving that one can educate oneself after University.) It’s quite obvious and intuitive, really. It states that someone who’s bad in math isn’t necessarily stupid. They may be great at design or some other skill. The concepts in a book could be brilliant, but if the book is full of typos, some would conclude it must be stupid.
I always thought that Hillary Clinton, believed by some to be very smart, was exceptional at learning and retaining facts. But her interpretive skills leave something to be desired. People can learn a lot of facts in college and get good grades, but if they don’t understand the context of those facts or how they can be applied, then the facts don’t really do them much good.
When I went to college, I couldn’t wait to get out, become self sufficient, and start experiencing the highs and lows of real life. I craved the education that comes with the experience of tackling the problems that present themselves in their day-to-day lives.
It’s the experience of balancing your personal home budget and navigating the myriad of taxes the government places in your way that teaches us that the right thing to do is make sure you save some money and don’t spend more than you make.
But it’s the teachings of the university – Keynesian Economics, to be specific – that teaches Democrat politicians that being in debt and over spending is the way to stoke an economy, for it’s only in a university that an idea so inherently wrong could make any sense.
My own experience in college was that people with no real world experience taught me a lot of theories about how things are supposed to work, but there was very little real experience shared. In my work life, I’ve gotten a far better MBA education from my years of experience solving the real business and marketing challenges that were thrown my way.
Some think higher education makes people smarter, and some believe better, than those who didn’t attend. But you can get a great education without getting a formal degree, and when it comes to business, you can usually get a better education by experiencing, firsthand, the challenges of the workplace.
If we truly appreciate diverse opinions, we could all acknowledge there’s a place at the table for both.