“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”
~ Isaac Asimov
Today I went to take an English test. I scored 110 in a test for which scoring 60 is considered high…
I didn’t have to take that test, nor to waste half a day from work or pay for the bus tickets.
But I was forced to take it:
Although I have been a teacher, a counsellor, a speaker, a freelance writer, a curriculum developer and many other things (many of them in English and many in Canada, an English speaking country), I do have an accent, my dressing is a bit unorthodox and I look like a Latino (sometimes people have though I was Greek or Iranian): test yourself and dress up a bit, you’ll see how decisions on where to send you, how to treat you and whether or not to pay attention to you change!
People have all kind of stereotypes and boxes in their heads: they can’t understand why I would apply for a horticulture course! (the assumption, I guess, is: nobody with a “good” job and a career would take classes on trades…what for? It doesn’t make sense…)
After experiencing the frustration of being sent to different departments (nobody was certain about what to do with me?) and experiencing all kind of inefficiency and bureaucracy (executed by extremely polite, nice and probably good people) , I was so tired that my first reaction was to give up…I thought to myself: what need do I have to go through all this? I have a job, a good “career” and can learn this by myself from videos, books and friends!
What made me change my mind was the challenge: I wanted to experiment in my own skin what most of my own “clients” (all immigrants) probably experience every day, being their English levels lower and (sometimes) being more “visible” minorities than I am…
Now the funny outcome: “you passed with extremely high score, I’m amazed” but…”as there is nothing higher, you may take English courses (which you don’t need) as the university will require them for you to graduate from any program” (not written anywhere on their website or brochures and there is no English course listed among the ones I’m supposed to take if I want to “graduate” from horticulture…)
I wonder if they are pressed to manipulate vulnerable people into taking courses they don’t need so the university collects more money…
I ended up enjoying the test (I’m a bit of a nerd?…geek?) and being happy with the results: except that now I have to choose between taking a higher (more academic) test or…paying for the courses I don’t need! (The nice lady mentioned I will probably pass the test with good scores)
How many times people may be discouraged from real learning when faced with so many barriers (and inefficiency) from super-systems or corporations disguised as universities and colleges?
Competition and the “Forces of the Market”
Last year, I decided to stop paying for “an education”. I love learning and have been studying many things for a long time…
Jobs descriptions are becoming more and more unrealistic: you read them and think they are “wishing lists” nobody could possibly fulfill: employers want people with more certificates and degrees, experience and the ability to do all kind of things…the compensation and benefits, however, don’t match the amount of skills, experience and multitasking they ask in return.
People are then pressed to study further, longer and add certificates and courses in order to stay “marketable” and able to compete in a market that becomes more and more difficult every day. A market where people with PhDs and masters are driving taxis and serving hamburgers, employers extend the “probation” period in order to avoid paying benefits and two jobs merge in one (but you are paid as ½)
Learning becomes a business, requirements add to the actual “certificate” so instead of being fun and interesting, it is another dot in the daily “to do” list of our already stressed lives…
None of this education is free: while there are student loans, you have to pay them back! (and here in Canada, not everybody is eligible for a loan)
That is why, after years struggling to get a bachelor (in Canada, as my studies back home are not “valid” here) and the burden of a big debt (I was not found eligible to receive student loan), I gave up…
However, while I am OK with books and videos, I started missing the interaction with instructors and other learners, the assignments (I enjoy them) and the structure you don’t find when you learn by yourself…
This year, I started taking free (and excellent!) courses at Coursera and trying to organize my next step of Permaculture-related learning within a self-directed Permaculture Diploma (creating a learning plan and under the caring coaching of a Permaculture mentor)
Why do I need then to study horticulture formally?
I am still trying to figure out J
“That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.”
~ Doris Lessing