Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What it Means to be an Educated Person

What does it mean to be educated?

I've had this question swimming around in my head for a while. I recently obtained what (I hope) is my final degree, an Education Specialist. I work on a committee at my college that distills and itemizes exactly what outcomes we hope our graduates to have in each area of liberal arts subject matter. So this question is something that I have some professional experience with. But this question isn't just one of profession, I've come to realize, but one that really permeates the very reasons for our existence.

I think about this question in relation to this blog. What does it mean to be a badass dad? As I've said before, I don't profess to know the answers and though the title of the blog suggests that this is a course in becoming a badass dad, it really isn't anything like that. It's really an exploration of the roles of the modern involved and attached father and, in a broader sense, an exploration of the various levels of awareness that a parent might seek in the role that they have acquired.

But let us get back to the point. There is the within the definition of an educated person, the dichotomy of the fox and the hedgehog. The fox is a clever creature, and it knows a lot about how to survive, how to thrive, how to hunt, and how to avoid hunters. In short, the fox knows a little about many things. The hedgehog, however, knows only one thing--but it does that one thing very well. The fox knows many little things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing, as Archilochus put it.

To be educated, is it enough to know a lot about one thing? Is that an education? Or is it better to have a foundation of knowledge about many things, but none of them in absolute detail? A college must answer this question, to be sure, but so must we. We must answer it in our own lives, in our own roles as parents.

I have always sided with the fox, personally. I think that it is better to be educated on a wide scale of knowledge so that the interweaving relationships can be better understood.

I'm getting ahead of myself, I'm afraid. This may be a rambler, after all.

Let me answer the question. What does it mean to be an educated person? It means that you have more questions than answers. That's what I think it means.

I think an education shouldn't be a ceiling, but a floor to stand on. I think if one wants to be an educated person--or a badass parent--that they have to constantly review and renew their knowledge through the questioning of new ideas. I've said something like this before when comparing education and schooling on another life-hacking blog. But really, I can't say it enough.

The moment you assume that your education is finished, you stop growing. The moment you assume that you know what there is to know about how to raise your kids, you stop growing in that facet. Once you know everything that everyone else knows--through the acquisition of a degree or the birth of a child or the successful completion of some project--it's time to start creating knowledge about what is not known.

There is not a bank of knowledge out there that will answer all of your questions. There is not an interpretation of truth that will serve the purposes of every perspective. Truth, knowledge, experience, must be earned through the examination of your own life. What it means to be educated is to never be satisfied that you have learned all there is worth knowing.

A child sees things in black and white: things are good and bad, up and down, happy or sad. As you grow--if you are to truly grow--different colors and perspectives enter your realm. But for too many of us, those colors and perspectives fade--we get set in our ways and the clay that we mold our lives from hardens and stiffens and we return to a black and white perspective: you're right, they're wrong. If you want to be educated, you can never let that happen. You must constantly explore, analyze, engage the world around you. If you want to be educated, you have to give yourself permission to change your mind. You have to not be afraid to be wrong, to see new sides, to feel out more options, to look at the opposition.

The world of opposites oppresses us. The black and white mentality stalks us. When we fall prey to it, we stop growing and we turn into statues of types, afraid to think for ourselves, seeking safety in the known and in the numbers.

A teacher of mine once said, True growth never happens inside your comfort zone.

The minute we become comfortable with what we know or what we've accomplished is the moment that you must start asking questions again. The moment we become comfortable in our plans is the moment that you may be driven far, far away from your plans from a force outside of your control.

What am I getting at?

Don't settle. Ask questions. Explore perspectives. Don't wish for enlightenment, but live for the seeking of it. If there is something that you know without a doubt, it's time to start doubting it. This is what it means to be educated. This is what it means to be a badass dad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your blog.