Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Anchoress on Uncredentialed Wonder

That would be wonder as in that sense of joyful curiosity and delight in learning new things. 

 I've been following the rather worrisome phenomenon known as the "higher education bubble" lately. The cost of a college education keeps going up and up, 440% since I collected my degree almost 30 years ago, yet there seem to be fewer and fewer good job opportunities for college graduates, particularly ones that will pay them enough to retire the massive load of non-dischargeable student debt many will acquire, or even save enough money to retire themselves one day.  (As the joke goes; how do you get a psych major off  your porch? Pay him for the pizza.)

Over at The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia has a wonderful post that explores the question of whether we have come to value a credential more than a true education. She also talks about the many examples of some very successful people who though they may not have possessed even so much as a GED are demonstrably better educated than some highly credentialed ones who are overtly disdainful of some of those successful people for the simple reason that they don't possess the right credentials. From the post:

I wonder if that’s really good for America, though. To become educated is a marvelous thing; to have the opportunity to study is a privilege too many take for granted. But have we become a society that places too much weight on the attainment of a diploma, which sometimes indicates nothing more than an ability to keep to a schedule and follow a syllabus, and underappreciates the ability to wonder, to strike out on an individual path, and to learn on one’s own? When did non-conformists become so unromantic and undervalued?


It is a wonderful thing to sit in a classroom and grow in knowledge, if one is in fact doing that, but often it seems that degrees should be awarded in going through the motions; they come without a genuine expansion of thought, or an enlargement of wonder. And, to paraphrase Gregory of Nyssa, it’s the wondering that begets the knowing.

My sister also makes a great point:

Our Great-grandfather was a self-educated man, the eldest of 14 children, who rose to become the local equivalent of Superintendent of Schools without ever setting foot in a college or university. He used to walk the 5-10 miles to the local library whenever he had the chance.  Point is, credentials are fine, if they are meaningful, but it is intellectually slovenly to assume that there is only one way to acquire wisdom and knowledge. With our over-emphasis on credentials, we cheat ourselves out of the contributions of many bright ( or late-blooming) minds. 

Read the whole thing.

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