Tip of the Iceberg: the Value of a Theoretical Education

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

When people ask me what I’m studying, sometimes I just want to answer “everything”. I don’t say that because I’d probably come off as sounding pretentious and because I don’t think people want to deal with my  opinions on education.

At UTM, I study commerce, broadly. No, that doesn’t mean that I study money or how to get rich quick. My area of study can cover anything from how businesses run to how to keep the Canadian economy from self-destructing.

And that’s not all. I also study literature—how to find meaning in texts by deciphering the literary techniques embedded in them. I study philosophy and how to go about answering questions when answers can be neither right nor wrong. At The Medium, I study journalism—how to convey pertinent issues to the general public in an accurate and investigative manner. At the restaurant where I work, I study how to read people. Are you looking for low-key service or a friend to chat with for the duration of your meal? At church, I study religion and how to be a better person. What I mean by all of this is that university is the very tip of my education.

Some may think that university is no longer the house of scholarly debate and curiosity it used to be. And while it may be true that university is becoming less of a place to question one’s identity and more of a place to gain employment skills, I think we’re wrong to place the responsibility of turning students into leaders on universities.

University can’t just be the factory where we turn ignorant teenagers into civilized adults. That doesn’t happen in a lecture hall filled with 500 people. And there’s no getting around that for the time being, because we have an ever-increasing demand for education with a very small supply of universities and colleges. Instead, I’m okay with it becoming a place where we learn more concrete knowledge, while also being encouraged to question what we are taught. At school you can learn how to practice medicine, but you won’t learn how to be compassionate inside a classroom.

Despite the changing role of universities in society, there is definitely still value in a university degree. The thinkers you will meet and the challenges you will face will only serve you well in life. But you are greatly mistaken if you believe that school is where your education begins and ends.