Wasted Education?

Been pondering the whole education thing lately.

I spent 12 long years in school - as did most of you.  Then on to the Cape Technikon to complete 3 years of a Food Technology Diploma.  I was lucky to land a job as a cheese & butter maker right out of tech, which lasted 2 years until the factory was shut down to save costs on the farm. 

Equally lucky to be offered a job by my godfather in a completely unrelated field, for which I had no official training, as his secretary and assistant admissions chick at a private college.  I spent the next 11 years working there, mid-way ditching the "secretary" part of things (I was a particularly bad secretary :-) ) and becoming a full-fledged Admissions Officer.  I had to play catch-up along the way, teaching myself to type at speed, to use the various computer programmes, and eventually to design web sites.  The college website was among my first.  I added in design of the informational yearbooks to that - and then managed to put a certificate to the skills with an Intec diploma in web design and a few other bits and bobs of paperwork.

But after 11 years it was time to move on.  Thanks to the good graces of an online friend, I was offered a position as Technical Writer for a tracking device / management organization.  Again, a learning curve, with new software, processes and procedures as well as products to discover.

And during my work there, quite by accident, I fell into the e-waste business.  What started out as seeing a pile of electronics slated for the bins and offering to find a way to dispose of it, gathered momentum - I finally found a use for the domain name I'd registered many many years ago, formed a concept around the business, and it grew!  At the same time, Favourite Man was putting his skills and considerable knowledge together building a second business with my name on it - wireless internet provision, with a bit of web design on the side.

Both of those again steep learning curves, but strangely based on everything I had learnt and done in the past - from food production to administration to technical stuff.

Now you may look at my "career trajectory" and think it horribly random.  50 years ago this would have been called less a career and more an aimless wandering!  Back then you did one thing until you retired.

You may also think I've wasted the education my parents invested so much time and cash in.  That National Diploma in Food Technology is not being used at all!

But you'd be wrong.

You see, I see education like this:

It's an ongoing process.  You don't have to study something for a few years and then spend the rest of your life perfecting it (unless that's truly your mission in life).  Everything you do, day to day, is an education.  Whether it's figuring out how a coffee machine works, sorting a dripping tap, putting up an antenna on a roof, figuring out code on a screen, or merely driving a car - it's all education from point A to point B.

Which leads me to a quick mention of my son.

He's been out of official schooling for 3 1/2  years now.  Initially I had hoped to get him to write his GCSEs via an overseas instition, correspondence-based.  But that didn't happen (too many factors to discuss here).  Instead he's been dragged out into the big world with Favourite Man and myself.  He's learnt how to terminate a network cable and put an antenna up.  He's learnt how to navigate around Cape Town using the map book, and how computers and other electronics come apart.  He's taken some of those bits and built his own computer.  He's then taken that computer and figured out how to get at least one game running optimally with mods on it - and believe me, that's taken a few months!  He's dealt with clients, he's answered phones.  He's learnt that if you don't work, you don't make the money you need to eat (though that lesson still needs a few more hammerings into the head and less sleepings-in :-) ).  He's now learning to drive.

Does he have a paper-in-hand-butt-on-bench education?  No.  Has he learnt more about the world out there than many of his classmates have from their desks?  Quite likely.  Does he still have a long way to go?  Yup :-)

So here's the summary of my thoughts on education.  You can never have too many skills.  You can never know too much.  If you keep delving into stuff you don't know and stuff you haven't been able to do, until you can do it and know it - that's education.  It may not have a piece of paper attached, it may not be "formal".  But that's what I'm pushing for myself, for my son.

And in this day and age, that is worth a whole lot.


craniac said...

Nice post. Wish I could get second son to get some motivation to learn anything so he can advance from the relatively low-paying job he has and start earning enough to build a life.

Michelle said...

I think motivation is the biggest battle we face, as parents or as individuals. Much has been said of the "youth of today" and their lack of it. Struggle with getting said son out of room myself to get world-educated, but I can see faint glimmers of light at the end of a rather long tunnel :-)

Mandy said...

Interesting isn't it? As an educator, I see real value in those pieces of paper. Having said that, my goal continues to be to get my students out into the real world asap so that the majority of their learning happens "in industry" with what they do with me builds on that rather than the other way around. I'm with Jay on getting out of bed early though :-)

Kel said...

at this point in time i am very envious of the opportunity you had when an online friend was a link to a paid position as a writer

despite having been very active online for 7 years, I've not yet had the bonus of getting a single paid gig out of it :(