Taking Action (Rethinking Education 2)

27 August 2011, by A. Cedilla

Part one of “Rethinking Education” is a starting point meant to show you just some of what’s available online in terms of free educational opportunities.

This follow-up focuses on the planning and action phase, and one very important factor to consider is this: you need a new approach to getting and continuing your education, wherever you decide to take it.

  • You need a degree to get to the next level in your organization, but you’re already working full-time.
  • You need a degree, but you’re not sure which one would really help.
  • You have a degree, and it’s not paying off the way you thought it would, so you want to get another one.

A) Rethinking Education

“Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” – Einstein

Rethinking in this context is not to rehash, but to look at the issue from another level. Assuming you’ve gone through basic elementary schooling, however long ago, you have to understand that the way you learned things then is different from the way you’re expected to do things now. The old systems can’t handle the demands of the emergent new reality. You can’t exclusive rely on old methods of learning when you’re expected to adapt to the changes facing you now.

Many brick-and-mortar schools are accused of inflating the employment rate of their graduates to attract more students. Online schools, on the other hand, still have to battle the image of being diploma mills, studying “online” not being seen as serious as “actually going to college.” Education is in a slow state of flux, and while it’s changing, we still have to figure out what we want to learn while the old rules are breaking down.

  • “X degree from Acme University is great for booming industry Y!” Result: a market flooded with graduates of a particular discipline, many of who will have to find jobs outside their field of study to support themselves. Booms come in cycles, and right now, some fields are over-saturated, while others are just emerging. Trying to cover all your bases is nerve-wracking, and a failing proposition.
  • ” Follow your passion, ” and “Follow the money” both have proven their drawbacks – what with the emphasis on one thing being able to answer all your needs, the lure of big love and big money is a mirage until you hit the reality of daily work. What you need to realize is what really matters: after everything, are you content with the life you’re making?

Watch Sir Ken Robinson explain the change in a TED talk on the future of education (YouTube).

Five, ten, fifteen years from now, new industries will emerge that we can’t imagine today, and you will be called to adapt, again and again. There’s no time better than the present to train yourself to being flexible and open to change. This is something you have to teach yourself, and no course or college can give it to you.


On a personal level, there are things you need to determine on your own:

  • Do you have most of the skills and resources you need to live the life you are content to lead? If you don’t, what plans to do have to go get them? What steps are you taking right now?
  • What skills do you need to be able to keep with the demands of your current job and your desired/future job? Are you quick at adapting to new technology?
  • What personal qualities do you have to practice that will help you meet your goals? I’m talking about things like discipline, patience, frugality, perseverance, etc.
  • Do you have the skills and the support structure (social, economic, etc.) to go after what makes you feel alive, or include as much of it as you can stand in your life? Remember that you’re only at one stage of your life, and you will still have to adjust again when you enter the next phase. Better take this into account when you’re researching what to study.
  • Do you know what it is that you need in your life? What about the things you want? For yourself? For your life? For your family, if you have one or are planning to have one?

You have to understand that you can’t rely on any one thing to supply you with everything (a job, money, a relationship, a degree). Education is only one part of the equation. Look at the bigger picture, because it’s the rest of your life you’re talking about. Education is a tool, and one of many you can use to live a well-rounded life.

B) Rethinking Education
Education is doesn’t only happen in schools. Schools also teach us how to behave in groups (“Wash your hands, play nice, be fair and take turns…”) as a precursor to hitting adulthood and moving as a member of society. We learn how to interact, deal with, lead or follow people . We learn how to relate.

Past college, hopefully we also get to pick up life-management skills : reading and mathematical comprehension beyond rote memorization, discipline, self-motivation….and failing that, we can read articles like these:

A degree is a tool. You can use it as a key, as a stepping stone, as leverage, but it is not a guarantee of happiness. You want happy, you want contentment, you need to see that those things need different approaches, so you’ll need different tools. Learn to build a portfolio of skill-sets.

Here are a few questions to get the process rolling:

  • What credentials or certifications are you looking to acquire? In what fields (yes, plural) can these be applied?
  • Do you have skills or talents that can already earn you advanced credits?
  • What are the long-term benefits of getting them? Can you leverage them into other fields of employment?
  • Are there schools, colleges or universities in your area who offer these courses online? How about their credentials and their reputation for providing a good education?
  • What is your time-line for getting these credentials? Do you have a deadline?
  • If these are paid courses and you’re an employee, would your company be willing to pay for the course, or at least part of the costs?

The answers to these questions will determine how things will play out, so don’t jump the gun and lock yourself into a plan you can’t adjust.

All things being equal, people will pay what they’re willing to pay. The concept of “expensive” is relative; expensive doesn’t always mean money, it carries over to time, labor and relationships costs as well.

You have to consider the costs and benefits of the course of study you plan to take, so yes, whatever you choose, it will hurt in the short run, but when you take the long view, you see things differently. It the end, it’s what you do with what you know that shows how much you learned at all, and how you use it to get you what you want.

Good luck.

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