The Education Enigma

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, with B...
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When I was a kid of about ten or so, I wanted an Encyclopaedia Britannica. My parents couldn’t afford one, and so it had to wait until my late twenties, when I finally had a job and bought myself a set. I have to admit that I didn’t really read it that much. Nevertheless, it looked great on the bookshelf! And I felt I had finally arrived.

Oh well….

Education is a great asset to anyone, and is rightly prized. Yet, there is a difference between education, and the mere collecting and memorizing of facts. The latter is, all too often, the stuff of schools, universities, degree qualifications and the like. Indeed, we see people on general knowledge quiz shows who can regurgitate an almost infinite amount of data. Interestingly, these people, despite seeming like geniuses, often hold quite lowly and poorly paid jobs. Actually, it’s no coincidence.

Who needs a walking encyclopaedia of useless information when there are printed versions readily available?

The modern education system stuffs as many useless facts into a child’s head as possible, teaches them to memorize and regurgitate those facts on a periodic basis, and then throws them out onto the street as ‘educated’, where they promptly forget all that they sweated blood to engorge. Moreover, most of this ‘education’ leaves them poorly placed to get a job.

Really though, what use is it to be force-fed data like: what happens when copper sulphate is added to nitric acid; or to be able to prove some obscure geometry theorem? No wonder the majority of people are totally put off education for life!

Education, in the purest sense, has little to do with any of this. An educated person may have few, or even no, formal qualifications. A truly educated person is one who has a commitment to lifelong learning and excellence; to knowing what needs to be known in order to maximize one’s opportunities in life and expand one’s talents to their fullest, in order to be of the most value and service to mankind as possible.

Too many people come out of the school education system all twisted up, feeling like failures, because they could never get the hang of memorizing and regurgitating endless lists of useless facts, and stringing them together to form even more useless bodies of information that would never be used in real life. They say they are no good at Math, when the reality is that their Math teacher was HOPELESS at teaching it to them, and left them scarred and mathematically handicapped for life! Is it any wonder that kids forget all this stuff within weeks of the exams? They never had the slightest interest in it in the first place, nor any practical outlet where most of that ‘education’ could be used.

Meanwhile, there is a strange absence of the sort of thing that would actually set you up well for life. When were you ever taught to ask yourself what you actually want to do with your life, let alone create a plan for achieving it? So many people lack a life purpose because they have honestly never thought about it. Certainly, their schools never did anything about it. But isn’t this every bit as vital as the reaction between copper sulphate and nitric acid?

Clément-Auguste Andrieux's 1852 The Battle of ...
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Or how about goals? When were you taught how to set them and visualize your desired future until it came to pass? Yet, these are VITAL educational skills that schools never teach us. Instead, we learn who won the Battle of Waterloo – as if we really care.

Certainly, it is important to understand the basics of science, art, mathematics, history and the like. This is NOT an argument against any of that, but rather it is an argument for a proper BALANCE in the training we receive that is supposed to be setting us up for life!

It is vital to be taught how to find the information you seek, and to do your own learning, i.e. to become a self-educator, rather than someone to whom education passively ‘happens’. What is more important is to be given an enthusiasm for learning itself and a commitment to self-education that lasts a lifetime. True education should allow you to explore and expand your awn intelligence, rather than be made to feel like a retarded dumbo – an impression that is often retained for life. All too often, the educational system leaves people swearing that they will never read another book as long as they live, or tearing up their course notes on graduation day. I’ve seen that happen!

Did you know that roughly 85% of books bought in bookshops are bought as gifts for someone else?! There are many people who never visit bookshops and have never bought a book for themselves in their entire lives. Very sad.


True self-education is behind every success story that there has ever been. You only get anywhere in life through a continual commitment to updating your base of knowledge. It makes all the difference in job applications, the amount of money you earn, and even the level of satisfaction you experience in your life.

In America, fully 95% of people who retire do so broke, complaining that the State didn’t do enough to support them, or whatever. However, a continual commitment to education and retraining, coupled with a flexible mind and a determination to be self-responsible, would go a very long way to drastically reducing the numbers who end up this way. They would learn that their own well-being is their own personal responsibility, and not someone else’s.

All too often, you hear people complain that they ‘can’t afford’ some book, course or training seminar that could really make the difference for them. The reality is that they can’t afford NOT to. In this fast changing world, if you are simply standing still, you are really going backwards! For example, people who are poor (in the West) stay poor because they don’t know how to change their situation, even though there is plenty of information available on exactly what to do about it. But they stay poor because they claim they can’t afford the education to change their lot. But there’s really NO excuse for it. Personally, I would beg, borrow or… – well, let’s just leave it at that, shall we? – in order to get money to buy the knowledge I needed!

You hear a similar attitude with companies – mostly small to medium-sized ones. Their grumble goes like this: why waste good money on employee training when they’re only going to leave and work somewhere else? Here’s a much worse scenario to dread: what if you don’t train them and they STAY?!

Do review your commitment to self-education. It is the answer to most any problem you may have in your life. Whatever your experience may have been of the educational system, you were born a genius and, despite the best efforts of the educational system to take it all away, you can be a genius again. All it takes is the commitment to do so. Commit to your awn education and growth, each and every day!

Copyright Asoka Selvarajah 2011. All Rights Reserved.

If you liked this article, then you will love my new book, Aspire To Wisdom, which is filled with dynamic strategies for personal change and spiritual growth.

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