Posted by: nmontague | June 24, 2010

Real Education

I sometimes marvel at how people qualify each other as educated or not-educated. The society we live it largely looks to whether or not someone has a degree or has graduated from a prestigious school to determine whether they are educated. Otherwise they are just “stupid.” Since when did having a piece of paper qualify one as educated? The idea is absurd to me. People buy their ways through school all the time. Does that mean they are educated? or even that smart?

We have it pounded into our brains that the only way to have intelligence or education is to go to college, and quite often get a graduate degree. Yet some of the smartest and most successful people in life have never done either. And some of the dumbest people I’ve seen have both. How is it people could be intelligent without these degrees for thousands of years prior to the 20th century, and now suddenly they are all important for education?

While I was in law school, I became even more convinced that this approach is incorrect. Degrees mean nothing. I had a class where I had to edit a fellow classmates paper. I didn’t know him. I still don’t know him. I don’t even remember the guys name. But I remember reading the paper and being shocked because I couldn’t understand at all what he was trying to express. The grammar was horrible. There was little to know citations. He didn’t coherently write in any way to help the reader understand what he was trying to say. One of his paragraphs was two pages long. A single paragraph! And his point was totally lost because of the horrible grammar.

I’m not a grammar nazi by any means. Heck, read any of my blogs and I am sure you’ll find mistakes. But these were such basic things for someone about to graduate law school that I just couldn’t understand how anyone could have gotten this far with those kind of errors. And I don’t say this to criticize him at all. (If you ask some of my closest friends, they can attest that I didn’t have any cohesion in grammar and writing until I taught myself how and had some good encouragement). My point is, these things are supposed to be taught in grade school. And people in graduate school don’t understand them. It tells me that we are paying a lot of money for very little benefit.

In addition, people seem to have some crazy idea that if they have degrees, they are “smart” and thus hey know everything. Or at least they sure act like it. I understand being proud of what you’ve accomplished to get a degree. But that’s just one drop of knowledge in the universe. Socrates, the most bodacious philosophizer in Ancient Greece, taught us that “True wisdom is found in knowing that you know nothing.” (Yes, I like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure).  Wisdom is found in this because when you recognize that you still have alot to learn no matter how much you do learn, you keep learning. You are humble. You seek knowledge and answers. You don’t say “Well, I don’t know this, so no one can.” You seek out answers. You learn to ask honest and sincere questions and you learn how to proceed to find answers. Through scientific experimentation or logic, or personal experience or pure revelation or any other way you can learn things in this world.

Read education doesn’t depend on the school you go to. Or depend on what degree you have. We get the degrees because it helps potential employers see that we’ve supposedly learned something. But that doesn’t guarentee we actually learned anything at all. Real education is satisfied with just learning for learning’s sake. We experiment to learn things and test theories. We ponder things to gain insight on them. We read to learn what others have experienced and see what they have learned. Real education is a lifelong pursuit that begins when we hunger and thirst after pure knowledge and never ends.

It starts with honest questioning. One of my favorite quotes comes from Thomas Jefferson:

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

This is a key to learning. Honest questioning. And I completely agree with Mr. Jefferson. God doesn’t want us to be stupid. He wants us to use our minds. He gave us minds for that very purpose. He has promised man that “Ask and ye shall recieve, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be given unto you.” Moreover, He has likewise promised “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given unto you.” Upbraideth isn’t a common word anymore, but it essentially means to chastize. In other words, God wants you to seek knowledge and will not chastize you for asking questions.  The concept of blind faith is foreign to thet scriptures.

What can we do to get real education?

1) Question with boldness

2) Read continuously. Learn whatever you want to learn, and if you want to learn something else, do it! Learn to find answers and not just rely on what others say.

3) Ponder, theorize, and experiment.

4) Create a culture of learning in your home. Have a place where you have books for anyone to read.

5) Pray for wisdom and knowledge. Ask specific questions and search for the answers.

6) Never assume you’ve learned enough. There is so much more we are capable of discovering if we just put aside false notions that this is all there is.



  1. NMontague,
    Thank you for your take on the matter. That certainly sounds interesting in its possible use.
    “True wisdom is found in knowing that you know nothing.” Nice quote… Also, your quote attributed to Jefferson reminded me of several incidents of years ago when I was a child in religious classes, some of us kids asking questions about God of the instructors and being considered impertinent for not accepting “rote” answers… We were old enough to understand more than simple answers.

    Thank you again.

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