Friday, 19 June 2009

The Importance of being Educated

Can you smell that? It's a bit of excitement with a whiff of anxiousness and a dash of pride. Yes. It's that time of year when millions of students start the first day of the rest of their lives: Graduation.

Next month I'll be one of those students. Except that I've done it all before. Yep. Been there, done that, worn the t.shirt. Instead of excitement and anxiousness there's just the stench of embarrassment.

My last graduation in 2007 was hell. I was forced to wear a scratchy black gown that bought me out in hives. And a cap which made my head sweat so much I looked like I'd been swimming. Then there's the endless sitting around, for hours. The kind of sitting that makes your arse so numb that it feels like a separate entity. Oh and the constant clapping. I'm all for congratulating my peers but jeez, I couldn't feel my hands for the rest of the week. The only good thing to come from that day was that I got to shake hands with Richard Attenborough who was Chancellor of the University of Sussex. Now he's the man.

So I find myself full of regret for agreeing to attend my upcoming graduation, part deux. And it isn't because I had a boring day the last time round. Sadly, I feel that 'further education' has turned into a bit of a farce. That's where the stench of embarrassment comes in.

90% of my brain (and my heart) hates me for feeling this way. But there's that 10% that can't be denied. The 10% that thinks education has become nothing but an excuse to get out of getting a real job in the real world. That believes by making university education so readily available, we've downgraded its value. It's such a harsh opinion to have but I just can't help it.

Going to university was always on my agenda. The reason my life for so long was study hard and study harder. I went off on a gap year to relax and have a good time, pre-empting that I would need all my strength in my future education.

But when I arrived at uni, I felt like I was surrounded by people on their own gap year. A stopgap. A bit of time to figure out what they really wanted to do with their lives. When students come out with things like, 'Oh I only need 40% to pass the first year,' well, you know there's a problem.

Education and its importance has always been drilled into me. Having a degree would further my career and widen my prospects. I've since discovered it's a bit of a hindrance. So many people have degrees nowadays, all fighting for the same jobs. How on earth are employers meant to separate the men from the boys? The good from the bad? It's just one big vicious cycle of mess.

Surprisingly, I don't regret going to University. The skills learned outside the lecture theatre have provided me with a greater wealth already. I'm independent, responsible, know how to cook and the social skills alone are surely a benefit. Plus I did learn. My brain got bigger. That's always a good thing. I just think that the education system needs to change. We need to adapt the way it is used. And make sure it's used for the right reasons.

Reader, what do you think?


  1. I don't think you are crazy for feeling the way you do. You are right, there are a lot of people who are in university who should not be. I was horrified to find that I had peers that were unable to integrate a quotation into a paragraph properly when I had a group psychology paper during first year. I was also surprised that it is possible for someone to get marks low enough not to make it into the honours program in music. I am the first person in my family to earn a university degree. It seems as if I was destined to go to university and it scares me that this academic year coming up is potentially my last. At my convocation this year we actually received a speech about how this is a horrible time to graduate but all the graduates there were exceptional and would, therefore, be perfectly fine. I have to say that I couldn't feel any less exceptional at that moment. It felt as if we were all in the same position which is where no one wants to be in times like this.

  2. I am with you Ashley. It's an awful time to graduate. Sadly i don't think anyone, even those with degrees are safe and guaranteed jobs etc. In such an economically unsafe period, we are all the same fighting for any old job. Sad but true.

    At the moment, i'm wishing that i hadn't have bothered going to uni. Especially continuing on to do an MA. I think that was stupid of me really but how was i to know the economy would fall apart as it did?! Such is life i guess, such is life.

  3. I was raised with the emphasis: "If you study hard and go to college and graduate, they'll be lining up to hire you." Every fiber of my being worked toward that goal, and upon graduation I still was dumb enough to think "This is it."

    Then I moved back home and started looking for a job, and no one cared. I was competing with high schoolers for the same crapola office jobs. I could have saved myself $50K and a lot of damaged liver cells if I'd just gone out and looked for a job right after high school

    But then, you've got to wonder: what if I had done that? Where would I be now? Sure, it didn't turn out the way I thought it would, but you said it perfectly: ". . . the social skills alone are surely a benefit. Plus I did learn. My brain got bigger." So true.

    Did I just say I graduated with $50,000 friends and a fat head?

    I think so.

  4. Kate! made me laugh at the end of your comment. But it's true. I think going to university or leaving school and getting a job both have their good and bad points. Unfortunately, with the recession, the bad points are highlighted even more. Hopefully it will get better! Fingers crossed :)


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