Being Educated

What Does It Mean?

By Jorge D. H. Prósperi

What does it mean to be educated? Might as well begin with a blockbuster question! Sorry, but I don’t have a blockbuster answer. But can we at least address possibilities?

Perhaps we need to alter the question somewhat. Before we ask what it means, should we be curious about its purpose? Whether it has or should have a process and goals? Can the answer(s) be quantified or qualified – verified via a check list of standards? If so, whose standards? Is there one single definition or countless?

Do we need to ask the question considering the vastness of history, societies and cultures? How about different socio-economic norms? Do the number of years spent in classrooms provide an answer or the number of degrees? Do we begin by comparing and contrasting GPA, ACT, SAT, AP and IB scores? Maybe the number of languages we speak? Does it have anything to do with affluence, status and class? The amount of stuff we accumulate and/or its value? Is it all about reading, writing and arithmetic? Would there be consensus by rural, urban and suburban folk? The number of countries and continents visited?

Who gets to wear the crown of being educated? Is it the national spelling bee champ, international science fair winner or the most recent record breaking Jeopardy champion? Maybe the best memorizer and/or the fastest reader? How about those educated by experiential experiences? Would tech gurus be placed high or low on the educational totem pole? How about graphic designers – visual story tellers incorporating a host of technology and artistry?

Who gets the most credit for educating? Is it the kindergarten, middle school, high school or college professor? Who would judge? Who would make up the grand jury? Lawyers and Judges? Industrialists? Wall Street Hedge-Funders? Bankers? Politicians? Members of the clergy of every faith – even agnostics and atheists? The National Federation of Teachers and Principals? The AARP? How about Betsy deVoss?

Would gender and sexual preference even be considered? Does it have to do with the accumulation of membership cards of associations, affiliations, clubs and societies? Maybe the number of credit cards? Do collections of pens, cars, dolls, and Lionels provide a clue? Would you consider education a requirement for a president, pope, queen, king, CEO, College Provost?

So upon getting closer to a single definition, is anyone left out? How about musicians, painters, sculptors, actors, dancers, screenwriters, singers, poets and authors? Do they get equal consideration? Let’s keep in mind the little attention they received during their formal schooling. My gut feeling is that they would not even care. They tend to have their own definitions – their own validations.

So when it’s all said and done, what do we expect from an educated person? Does education have anything to do with citizenship? Oh my there’s the rub! Is citizenship a common denominator? Is this when the question should matter? What about being a decent human being, just, respectful and empathic towards others? What about our view of the world and its inhabitants? What about the pursuit of the truth no matter where it leads?

What we can agree on is that each of us will answer the question by how we were raised, schooled and influenced by society. We express and act out the answer every hour of each day – particularly how we think, feel and act towards others.

The plethora of academic content presented (some learned – some not) from kindergarten and beyond has been stored, some used and some forgotten. So what remains that matters? What remains that defines us? Who did we eventually become – perhaps are still becoming?

Is the original question of ‘what does it mean to be educated?’ only the teaser, the launching pad, for the greater life-long question and journey… “What does it mean to be human?”