With the disruption rocking the world today, the question becomes valid, what does it mean to be educated in 2020? First off, education, unlike beauty, is not in the eyes of the beholder. There are definite parameters that provide certain proof that one is educated or not.
Although there is no one way of doing something or defining a thing, there however should be acceptable ways of knowing when someone is educated or not. And there are ways to do that.
The goal, however, is not to make a standard out of it, but to simply bear it as a flexible yardstick that can change as the world evolves. Before we answer the question, let's take a look via the lenses of Alfie Kohn who wrote on this subject years ago. He puts it this way:
“No one should offer pronouncements about what it means to be well-educated without meeting my wife…Today she is a practicing physician—and an excellent one at that, judging by the feedback from her patients and colleagues. She will, however, freeze up if you ask her what 8 times 7 is because she never learned the multiplication table.
And forget about grammar (“Me and him went over her house today” is fairly typical) or literature (“Who's Faulkner?”). After a dozen years, I continue to be impressed on a regular basis by the agility of her mind as well as by how much she doesn't know. Rather than attempting to define what it means to be well-educated, should we instead be asking about the purposes of education?”
If that doesn’t ring a bell, what Alfie Kohn simply said was someone can be a functioning member of society and still not be up today about the generalized skill sets normally associated with education.
So, before we indulge you with the Alfie Kohn’s set of definitions, let’s treat you to the cliched definition we have carried over the years.
Education is the ability to read and write. And when defined in the context of the 21st century, computer literacy would surely make the list of criteria. It simple terms, all it takes to be educated is the ability (not disposition) to read, write (in a certain language, English being just one) and be computer literate.
But wouldn’t it be too simplistic to view education in that light? Let’s see what features in Alfie Kohn’s set of definitions. Ready?
To be educated is:
1. To develop the intellect, presumably including linguistic, mathematical and analytic capabilities.
2. To produce competent, caring, loving, and lovable people.
3. To create and sustain a democratic society.
4. To invest in producing future workers for the workforce and, ultimately, corporate profits.
From Alfie Kohn’s set of definitions, it appears that we have picked the only #1 and built a tent around it.
Now here is the real question; does one need to attend school to be educated? We believe there are intrinsic differences between school and education. Though correlated in a great way so much so that one is almost inseparable from the other, there is, nevertheless, a balance between both exists. With much determination and thought, anyone can be personally educated, irrespective of the formal system they ass through.
Therefore, to be educated means to develop the knowledge and skillset to see beyond the superficial and to find the hidden meaning of things. The goal of education is not only to teach people about numbers, words, and phenomena, but to about everything around them and equip them with the required skill set to relate with their evolving world.
Perhaps one of the primary benefits of education is that it allows us to make sense of the world around us. Taking in information and processing it to make informed opinions about people, events, and the world and expressing that in a way that others understand is perhaps the most obvious benefit of education. And the ability to read and write achieves just that. Imagine someone who cannot read a signboard or make sense of a warning signal in plain sight. Such would have to depend on others for the minutest tasks. And that could be cumbersome.
According to studies, education increases one's chances of making a decent living. Being educated means you stand the chance to offer a professional service that leads to monetary rewards of some sort. Most middle- and higher-income earning groups got to where they are due to the opportunities provided by higher education.
An educated mind will always find it easy to make more informed decisions. The human mind doesn’t grow or evolve by default. It depends largely on the quality of information that it is constantly fed with. Through proper education and training, a person becomes independent and can embody qualities such as empathy, discipline, self-control, finesse and of course, a sense of responsibility. Studies also reveal that a good education decreases the rate of crime rate and other social vices by a huge margin.
Science has by far made life easier for us today. Even though some gadgets have been optimized with signs and a variety of language options to allow inclusivity of use, the fact remains that it is hard to use technology without a basic form of literacy. Education has brought technology to where it is today. And it will take education to engage with it without difficulty. Basic functions such as texting and calling could be shockingly difficult when basic education is lacking.
If you're still asking the question, what does it mean to be educated in 2020, let's revisit the words of Alfie Kohn who has this to say: “the goal of education is more education. To be well-educated, then, is to have the desire as well as the means to make sure that learning never ends.”
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