Education is Not Found in a Book

Melissa Penn   Student, USC

hile baby-sitting my younger cousin Kelsey, I noticed that 
she was frantically searching through a stack of books.  
When I questioned what she was looking for she responded 
frankly, "An education."  I had to laugh at such a childish 
remark.  Many individuals believe that education is simply obtained 
by reading books, listening to lectures or sitting in classrooms.  
However, education is not received by being an active listener, or 
an excellent reader.  College does not guarantee a higher education; 
rather, it provides the atmosphere and tools that are required to 
develop into an educated, and scholarly individual.  Education 
therefore is achieved by progressing through the different stages 
of knowledge, and acquiring the skills required to be an active 
observer and participant in the real world.  

Education is too often emphasized by the regurgitation of facts, 
which diminishes the use of critical thinking.  There are too many 
dualistic students in society today who think topologically.  That 
is, they believe that there are only two different answers to every 
question, the right one, and the wrong one.  This type of thinking 
not only limits the quality of education that the student receives, 
but it also exploits the teacher's indolence and insufficient ability 
to bestow a higher education upon their students.  Although I was 
ranked number four in my graduating class of 371 students, I do not 
feel like I have received a higher education than the student who 
was ranked number 371.  Why?  Simply because high school is equivalent 
of a board game, one repeats what the teacher said, one's thinking is 
emulative of the teachers, and one turns in the "busy work" on time.  
Hence, high school has educated an individual on how to be resistant 
to critical thinking.

On the other hand, college professors attempt to make students think 
critically about issues, which concern their lives, and the lives of 
others.  A good college education is not bestowed to the students by 
their professors; rather, the students furnish their own quality of 
education.  A student can choose to remain resistant to critical 
thinking, or the student can maneuver into the next stage of education, 
which is thinking with multiple perspectives.  In this multiple stage, 
the student begins to regard issues with diverse perspectives and to 
consider multiple answers to questions (Mitchell, 2000).  In contrast 
with high school, college encourages students to argue with the 
decisions and claims of the professors.  Professors desire to encounter 
contradictory views about specific topics, because professors realize 
that the world is not dualistic.  Although the student is at first 
aggravated, frustrated and overwhelmed by the rejection of dualistic 
thinking, the student slowly learns to adapt to the recommendation of 
critical thinking.  

Despite being warned that college would be a major reality check, I 
assumed that I would be able to succeed in college like I did in high 
school.  I figured that I would be able to maintain good grades in 
college without a struggle.  However, after experiencing my first year 
at the University of Southern California, I have realized that receiving 
a higher education is a serious and difficult task.  An education is not 
something that a person can find in a book, or order in a catalogue.  
In order to receive a higher education it is necessary that one apply 
what he/she has learned in their classes to the real world.  This 
application of knowledge will facilitate in comprehension of the 
real world, and the social problems that ensconce the world.  I have 
come to the conclusion that students must motivate themselves to learn 
and to mature.  

Moreover, college does not guarantee a higher education because it is 
the student's responsibility to develop into a critical thinker.  
Professors provide the tools to think critically, but it is the student 
who teaches him/herself how to use these tools.  After the student 
explores the tools that the teacher presents, he/she begins to identify 
him/herself as a scholar, or as an immature student.  The scholars begin 
to develop relative thinking perspectives, and examine how things work 
in society.  These students do not condemn the critical challenges that 
the professors present to them.  Instead, these students find it enjoyable 
to discover how each part of the system fits together in order to make the 
whole.  Thus, college does not only offer the opportunity to attain a 
higher education, but college provides students with the opportunity to 
discover who they are, what they represent, and what their goals are. 

Similarly, college provides the opportunity for an individual to become 
committed to a certain subject, and achieve a higher education.  College 
cannot force students to take an active involvement in their educations.  
However, college explores diverse subjects and allows students the 
opportunity to develop an intimate relationship with what they are 
learning.  For example, a student who is aroused by the contrasting views 
about the cause of alcoholism may become completely devoted to the topic 
and begin to involve himself or herself completely within the subject.  
The student may begin to research the subject, read books and develop 
their own ideas about the subject, without being told to do so.  An 
individual with an active commitment to the growth and development of 
his/her knowledge has achieved the highest of educations.  This individual 
is prepared to change the world, and offer diverse views about life. 
In essence, a higher education is achieved when an individual willingly 
maneuvers through the different stages of knowledge.  In order for students 
to receive a higher education it is necessary that they learn to think 
critically and not topologically.  Although some may consider high school 
as providing an adequate education, high school negatively encourages 
dualistic thinking.  However, college is an institution that successfully 
encourages students to think critically and influences them to develop 
multiple perspectives on life.  I have found my first year of college to 
be a valuable experience.  Not only have I been challenged to think 
critically, but I have begun to develop alternative perspectives on life.  
I look forward to receiving a higher education by using the tools provided 
by my professors.