What Did You Learn From Higher Education?Posted: May 27, 2012
Today has been games day at my house. We’ve played some Arkham Horror and Lords of Waterdeep, one collaborative and one highly competitive board game, and it has been a lot of fun. It’s been the standard group of Australians around the table. Eight people, six with PhDs, and two currently studying for them. (That is, of course, not a serious comment on standard. A lot of my friends, including my wife, are University trained and have post-graduate qualifications.)
I was wondering what to talk about today and, at breakfast this morning, my wife suggested that I ask our guests what they got from going to University – what they learnt? (We gave them lunch and dinner so it wasn’t too much of an imposition. 🙂 )
My wife’s answer to the question was that she learnt to keep going, keep putting effort into her work to get something good out of a course. My answer was that I learnt that it was never over, even at the end of a degree – that you could always do something new, something different, change career. (Yes, we’re similar but not quite the same.)
When I asked my friends, I got a variety of responses, because we’d been playing games for over 8 hours and we’d had wine with dinner. One said that he was still learning, but that he thought it was more about the process than the output. One said that she learnt how to drink and keep up with men (I suspect this wasn’t her most serious answer). Another said that, although it sounded cynical, he thought it was often better to be convincing than right. One, who I work with closely, said that truly horrific educators cannot spoil kids if the kids are really keen. One said that he learnt programming.
The last answer got laughs from around the table, as did many of the answers – as did the question. There are always going to be a range of answers to a question like this: a person’s reaction to this question, especially when I told them was going to publish it, is generally going to be framed self-consciously. However, all of them are using the skills that they learnt in Higher Education and all of them at least started PhD studies, even if they hadn’t completed them yet. There is no doubt, in this group, that the University if a useful thing, even if particular instances are not fantastic exemplars of that.
But it’s an interesting question. What did you learn from your foray into higher ed, if you’ve done it. What do you think of when you think of higher education? If you’re going there, what are you expecting to learn? If you’ve never had any direct exposure, what do you think that people learn when they’re there?