some {semi} thoughts on education

I've been thinking a lot lately about how important education is to me. Attempting to state the fact simply would be an unforgivable understatement. However, I just sat through a 2 hour lecture on sexual renaissance poetry, and because of said lecture, words--specifically the poetic kind--are failing me. So, for the sake of my mind, let's just say that education is ranked near the top-- just a few, mere steps from God and Family.

But, why? Why is this concept of 'learning' so important to me? Why do I hunger for knowledge, or even desire it? Why I am spending $9000+ dollars (Tuition, books, room and board, etc.) a year to attend a university solely for the purpose of enhancing and developing my mind?

The first, most obvious reason one might consider before obtaining an education is money. Beginning in elementary school, and continuing throughout public schooling, children are taught that education is the key to success in life. They are pushed by parents and teachers to be at the top of their class, their grade, and their age because these 'adults' understand that if children are able to continue excelling through middle school, high school, and eventually graduate school-- the probability that they will find a good, steady, well paying job as an adult increases significantly.

However, as alluring as monetary funds sound, they are not the reason for my desire. I was raised in a culture where I was taught that as a woman, I should stay at home and raise my children rather than going to work. Therefore, the benefit of pay increase is hardly an incentive for me, as I will not have a great amount of time to utilize that asset.

Perhaps it is the appeal of establishing one's ethos that drive people to obtain an education. Being a woman, I know how frustrating it can be when you aren't taken seriously by males; especially in those circumstances where you are more learned in the topic at large. Being able to drop a line such as, "Oh yeah, I studied THAT while finishing my graduate degree at such-and-such school," automatically demands respect. The legitimacy of your opinions then increase significantly, and people actually LISTEN to you when you have something intelligent to say, rather than making some ignorant comment about your blonde hair or your pretty face.

(Bitter? Clearly.)

But, no. This, also, is not my reasoning. In thinking about my education, I have come to the conclusion that my desire for intelligence comes from my drive to connect with my fellow human beings. The differences between each individual human being and his/her fellow human beings are absolutely incalculable. Each person has different interests, different fortes, and different ideas.


Because of my love for people, I have a desire to connect with them on a level that is not shallow or superficial. I feel that education will aide me in that desire. I feel that by expanding my knowledge and learning about a myriad of topics, I will better understand the many facets of the people around me and it will become easier for me to connect to them. I will be able to carry on insightful conversations about numerous topics with countless people.

That's what I have (unknowingly) believed, anyway.

As I was meandering around campus this afternoon, I came to this realization about myself. I was thinking about how legitimate my reason for wanting an education is, and consequently thought of this book. It greatly swayed my theory.

(It's a great read-- One that I highly recommend if you happen to run into some free time in the near future.)

At the start of the novel, Charlie Gordon is a 32-year-old man with an IQ of 68 who works as a janitor and deliveryman for Donner's Bakery. His uncle got him a job there 17 years previously so that Charlie would not have to be sent to an institution: the Warren State Home. Wanting to improve himself, Charlie attends reading and writing classes at the Beekman University Center for Retarded Adults taught by Alice Kinnian, a young, attractive woman. Professor Nemur and Doctor Strauss of Beekman University are looking for a human subject on whom they can test an experimental surgical technique for increasing intelligence; they have already successfully performed the surgery on a mouse, Algernon. Alice recommends Charlie for the procedure. His motivation to learn makes him the prime candidate and he undergoes the procedure.

The procedure is a success and, three months later, Charlie's IQ has reached 185. As his intelligence, education and understanding of the world around him increases, his relationships with people deteriorate; he is fired from his job at the bakery because his colleagues there are scared and resentful of his increased intelligence. Charlie also has a troubled romance with Alice. Even though they develop strong feelings for each other, he is prevented from having a physical relationship by the spectre of a younger Charlie whom the older Charlie feels is always watching. Unable to get close to Alice, Charlie starts a purely sexual relationship with Fay Lillman, a vivacious and promiscuous artist.

Charlie notices a flaw in the theories that led Nemur and Strauss to develop their intelligence-enhancing procedure. Shortly thereafter, Algernon starts behaving erratically, his intelligence fades and he dies. Charlie starts working on the project himself and discovers that his own increased intelligence is also only temporary. As Charlie regresses intellectually, Fay becomes scared by the change and stops talking to him. However, Charlie finally attains sufficient emotional maturity to have a brief but fulfilling relationship with Alice. Despite regressing back to his former self, he still remembers that he was once a genius and cannot bear everyone feeling sorry for him. Consequently, he decides to go to live at the Warren State Home where nobody knows about the operation. In a final letter to his friends he asks them to put flowers on Algernon's grave.

After contemplating the affect intelligence had on Charlie Gordon, I have come to the conclusion that my theory on being able to connect with people is only legitimate in the sense that conversation becomes easier when one has knowledge on a myriad of topics. In Charlie Gordon's case, intellect was the unfortunate driving force in his isolation from society. The actual connection between persons has nothing to do with the subject matter discussed. It simply has to do with one's attitude, and the way he/she decides to connect with the people around them.

Today, I decide to love.

And today, I am still in school.

Remind me why?

Too bad the economy is collapsing. Money just about had me convinced.


brooke said...

I LOVE that book! I totally forgot about it.
This was very enlightening for me as well, especially as I've been thinking of the insanity of this semester and wondering if it's worth it.
You are just so great.

obkebe said...

Kaylie, your writing is absolutely magnificent!!! Just remember me when your rich and famous with all the Novels you have yet to write. Just send me a signed book, that's good enough :)