The Outcome of Education

Posted on December 4, 2013

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Stumped by EducationWhen we think about education, we immediately think about a few things – literacy, school, degrees, professions and money. If you’re somewhere in the U.S., you’ll be thinking student loans and debt as well. After all my experiences, now when I think of education, I think of quality of life, civic sense, open-mindedness, cultural sensitivity, self-esteem and spiritual growth.

According to a recent study conducted by “Save the Children” on Infant Mortality Rates (IMR), in India, more than 2 million children under the age of 5 die every year. That’s one every 15 seconds. The most common reasons for these deaths are preventable infections like diarrhea. I read (when I was in social work school) that educating girls till just fourth grade brought down the IMR considerably. Can you imagine? Fourth grade! I guess learning simple things like drinking boiled water or washing hands after urinating or passing stool goes a long way! Who’d have thought?

And then I think of the U.S., one of the most s0-called developed nations in the world; it has the highest rate of teen pregnancies among all developed nations. The rate of teen pregnancies is higher among teens belonging to lower socio-economic backgrounds and once you are pregnant, you are more likely to drop out of school.  Studies show that the children of teen parents are at greater risk of becoming teen parents. Thus begins a cycle of poverty and teen pregnancies. Is it that these teens do not know how to avoid pregnancy? I doubt that.

That brings me to the questions – A. What is education? B. What should be the outcome of education?

When I was in grade XII, my mother already had Alzheimer’s Disease. She was in her 40s. It impacted my school life greatly. One day, I went to my Sanskrit class without my homework. I explained to my teacher that my mother was not well. She said to me, “Well, that excuse if valid only if she is dying.” I am pretty sure my teacher has a Master’s in Sanskrit and at least a B.Ed (degree for teaching). Is she educated?

I have heard of an oncologist talking to patients like, “Listen, you have a cancerous tumor in your voice box. Do you want to get operated? If you get operated you will lose your voice. Do you want to get operated?” All the while snapping his fingers. I can see some of you shuddering. We should.

I recently read this very powerful article written by a woman who has autism. Please click here and read it. Basically, she does not have what it takes to hold on to a job. She is educated, sure. But she cannot work. So she asks a very pertinent question. Do I become valueless just because I don’t have a job? My feeling is, her education has been very successful. A. She can blog about what it is like to be a person with special needs and educate you and me. B. She is able to separate her self-esteem from the value that people attach (or negate) to her.

I know of women who are very educated and earn really well, yet choose to stay in abusive relationships. I know of people with really beautiful homes and fancy degrees making homophobic/racist/classist comments. Then I know really well-intentioned people who just can’t accept other people’s ideas! Why?

Because education interacts with our body, mind, spirit, personality, families, socio-economic status, exposure, zip code, etc. Basically, we make sense of what’s in textbooks through a multi-colored lens made up of all the aspects I just mentioned, and many more. As long as education is victim of that lens, we cannot expect to reach the absolute top of our potential.

That brings us to the question – What can help set our educational experience free? And the answer to that is EDUCATION. I was like just any other small-town girl in India. A product of my socialization. I had a manageable eating disorder at 15, I wore make-up, I giggled at boys, I dreamed of falling in love and living happily forever after. Till I came to social work school. I wish everyone had the opportunity to take a couple of social sciences or life skills courses every year. I learned that society indicated to me that I had to be thin, modest, virginal, just the right amount of smart and ambitious, etc. etc. blah. blah. My appearance, my behavior, my dreams and ambitions were all somehow manipulated.

But that was then. I broke free. The only other thing I did after social work college is dive heavily into meditation and prayers. Today, I feel so comfortable in my skin, in my marriage, in my life. Sure, I have moments when I am cowed by the money my friends are making or the non-profits they’re heading or the books they have published or the holidays they’re taking. But when I sit down to eat my meals, I take those few minutes to be grateful for everything I have, and I am back on track.

Education. That’s what it takes to be set free. Just as my mother taught me. If you have any other way of becoming the best version of yourself, then that my friend is “education”, even if not in the traditional sense.

Note: There’s a lot more I could write about in this post. But it’s such a vast topic that it isn’t possible for me to coherently write about it all at once. So pardon me if this is too elementary for you. I look forward to your comments and discussions.

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