The Difference Between a "Degree" and an "Education"


by Teri Fritsma

Do you want an education with that degree? When it comes to school, we’ve become a society of consumers. Whether we’re pursuing a high school, college, technical, or graduate degree, we want our education to be convenient, cheap, and relevant. Above all, the credential we earn must make us more employable; we want a good return on our investment.

 

In the push for credentials, let’s not forget: pursuing a degree may be a purely economic decision, but getting an education is just plain hard work.

 

Too many people want the prestige of an education (a diploma or degree) and the benefits of an education (the ability to lead, think critically, understand the world, write well, etc.), but want to skip the hard work or pretend it shouldn't be necessary. This is like hiring a personal trainer and telling him: "In four years, I want to be able to win the Iron Man triathlon and run a four-minute mile…but I want to skip all that sweaty, boring exercise. And let's make sure my training is always fun and without discomfort."

 

If you want an education along with your degree, plan on the following:

 

  • Turn off your cell phone, iPod, Blackberry, or any other hand-held electronic device when you’re in class. Give yourself (and your classmates) a chance to take in the material without distraction.
     
  • Be prepared to read actual books—hard ones. Remember, struggling to understand material is part of mastery.
     
  • Never ask “will this be on the test?” If the instructor is covering it, it’s probably important—whether it’s on the test or not.
     
  • Go beyond memorization. Challenge yourself to absorb, analyze, critique, synthesize, and apply the material you’ve learned.

 

If you go through the motions and do the minimum, you’re likely to finish school with a degree. If, however, you invest time, effort, and work, you’re likely to finish your degree with an education, too.

 

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