Editor’s Note: Higher education institutions (HEI) are challenged by the frenzy of anti-intellectual rhetoric. It’s true that HEI has a static culture and outdated traditions that support group think and snobbery. But a formal education is optional in today’s shifting economy…
Education is something in life that is very personal. Well, sort of. Sometimes we have a burning passion to do something in the world, something that may or may not require a formal education. For example veterinarians, psychiatrists, or nurse midwives need special training. But many of us fall into careers that don’t need formal education. Life experience is an education in itself and school is not for everyone…
For Dr. Patti and I, education was not an afterthought. We enjoyed school early on because we had good teachers. Their teaching carried throughout our lives and helped us earn a doctorate. My first music teacher introduced me to the piano – I liked listening to and reading stories, learning to write my name in cursive, and recess was always a highlight of the school day.
We all learn differently. We learn by reading, talking, watching, doing, listening, and feeling. Here’s a list of learning styles:
- Visual learners use images, colors, pictures, and mind maps.
- Physical learners “learn by doing,” draw pictures, physical objects, and role play.
- Aural learners use sounds, rhythms, music, and recordings.
- Verbal learners like to listen, use words, write and read out loud.
- Logical learners use reason or systems to understand the bigger picture.
- Social learners prefer groups or interacting with people.
- Solitary learners like to learn alone and through self-study.
For example, I’m a combination learner using visual, physical, aural, social, and solitary. As a musician and social media expert, my spouse is a visual, aural, logical and solitary learner. Along with the birds, he’s the talker of the family and I’m more the thinker/analyst.
Education is wide open
Dr. Patti and I are life long learners – our goal to earn a doctorate has been a long term one. I don’t know how we decided to go back to school later in life. But clearly it was part of our life long dreams.
As I said, life experience is an education in itself and likely more valuable than a formal education. The way we learn and how we educate ourselves is wide open. I appreciate the talents of writers and educators, and the bravery of people in the military, the creativity of artists, the physical talents of athletes.
Not something for everyone
How do you decide to go or not to go to school? Let’s look at the risks and rewards of returning to school:
Debt: Think about the cost of your education and if you can risk more debt through student loans. It’s nice to think about saving for school, yet reality is another story. But the rewards include earning a degree and knowing that you finished something that you started.
Time investment: Most graduate degrees take at least six to ten years on average. You need to think hard about this risky time investment. Dr. Patti and I had one foot in the working world, the other in school full time. We had to master the art of time management to earn our rewards as doctors.
A good fit: This really is a big risk because technology drives education. If you’ve been away from school for a while, you’ll need to update your learning and technology skills. And online learning will be difficult if you’re a technophobe. Maybe a hybrid (traditional and online) is a better fit for you.
Emotional investment: Graduate school is a HUGE emotional investment. You’ll miss time with family and friends and struggle with doubt and fear. And life gets in the way. Only you will know if you have the drive and passion to do the work. You’ll often wonder if you’ll ever reach the finish line to earn your graduate degree.
Career choices. Any decision to go to school may depend on your career choice. If you want to be an academic, you’re facing the challenge of fewer tenured jobs. You may need to look beyond academia in your job search. More importantly, you’ll have to be creative and flexible in today’s job market.
Very long time coming
Now that Dr. Patti and I have earned our doctorate degrees, was it worth it? Absolutely. There were many days and nights of doubt, times when we couldn’t think straight trying to work out the details of our research. Life happened and threw us curve balls along the way.
But earning a doctorate was a dream we had for years – we just had to decide if and when to make it a reality.
School is not for everyone. Go for it or not – just be happy with whatever you decide.
Dr. Bessie and Dr. Patti
Learning is like rowing upstream: Not to advance is to drop back. ~~~ Chinese Saying ~~~