On “Ignorance”

02.15.07 | 3 Comments

On the Britannica Blog, Robert McHenry’s essay titled “Ignorance” replays an old, oft-repeated tale. At least, it’s a story that rings remarkably like my own experience. McHenry describes how, upon entering college, he slowly realized just how under-educated he had been.

I went to school in a rural community, and with a few exceptions the education was sub-par. It’s true that a few teachers had both the drive and the subject matter mastery, but many others just worked on auto-pilot. Add to that a crappy curriculum based on crappy textbooks designed to help us pass state tests, and it’s a wonder we graduated high school walking upright. Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, but it left a lot to be desired. That first semester of college was a great awakening. I and my closest high school friends realized that a lot of what we’d been taught was at best incomplete and at worst whitewashed crap. At first, I did poorly in classes like history and government partially because I was so fascinated by the lectures that I forgot to take notes. Of course, it would have helped too if my high school education had included a learning skills section–note taking, study habits, and so on.

Looking back, my high school education mostly consisted of planting the seeds of my self identity in the face of all the typical teenage social angst. Oh, and the importance of football games. I’d blame it on growing up in a rural Texas town but I suspect it doesn’t matter where you grow up–school athletics always takes precedence over education. Show me a school where the debate team is treated with the same admiration as the football team, and I’ll show you a school with no football team.

I compare my education with that of Mrs. Flametoad, and it amazes me. Her parents sent her to a private Catholic school (despite not being Catholic), and her education was at a totally different level than mine. Granted she had to deal with the Catholic indoctrination, but she came out intact. Let me give you some examples of the differences in our education. Our outside learning experiences were limited to a bus trip to the Houston Space Center (which was a pretty fun trip, I’ll admit). Mrs. Flametoad’s class went to the coast to study wetlands ecology one year, and another year they went to Big Bend to study geology. She learned Latin while I stumbled through Spanish. She had doctor-JANE-freakin’-GOODALL come speak to their class. I had a former drug dealer come talk about how drugs led him to becoming a satanist.

All that being said… I loved college. Well, okay, I sweated through two years of Spanish and the math in Astronomy kicked my ass, but in so many other areas it was the education I’d been craving all along. I remember thinking that I’d love nothing better than to be a life-long learner, always taking some sort of class in whatever esoteric field that interested me. But after a while I got tired of being poor. Suddenly there were other demands on my time–a job, then a girlfriend, then a wife, then children, then a second career writing and managing a game company. I’ve toyed with the idea of applying to an MBA program, but honestly I don’t know what I’d do with the degree. I’d have to give up my comfortable life and move to a city large enough to support a job that paid high enough to make the investment in an MBA worthwhile. But there are other ways to learn besides slinging a backpack over your shoulder and getting a degree. I think for now I’ll just focus on learning and growing in the craft I love–writing.

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Comment by Jason
2007-02-15 14:46:28

I wend tu same skool u did I lern plendy U 2 gud fer uz

Skoul er b skooled upon!

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Comment by Prest0
2007-02-15 14:56:10

Well I stand corrected. :p

Comment by Kyle
2007-02-18 20:51:15

I enjoyed that trip because I got attacked by Denessa and pinned under a bus seat.

Never has entrapment been so fun.

I’d probably pay for that experience now….

Yeah. I know I would.

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