What Does It Mean to Be Well Educated

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Whether or not a person is well educated is not an easy question to answer. There are several things to consider when answering this question. Some people look to their grades, level of completion, or what school they attended. Others look at their ability to interact with others in society and consider issues such as philosophy, politics or religion. While these are all common criteria for measuring ones education, a person ought not to ever stop learning. The mark of a well educated person is their ability to apply what they know to learn the things they do not know.

When I was in high school I was regarded by my family and teachers as a bright student. My mom always bragged about my report card because I received mostly A’s and a few B’s. I graduated with a 3. 86 GPA. I went on to attend Sacramento City College where I did not make it past the first semester. I was devastated to realize that what I had relied on in high school to excel did not work for me in college. I lacked the tools necessary to continue in my education.

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A person’s education cannot be measured by the mark they receive in a given test or class, but rather by their ability to understand, solve, and apply the solution to the problems and challenges they are presented with in life. You have all either said or heard it said, “I will never use this in real life” when studying for a calculus exam or writing an essay on classical literature in high school. Well for the most part for me that was true. I don’t remember very much from my high school English class or any of the formulas from my Calculus class.

The real world has been very different than high school. I graduated from high school because of my ability to remember facts. I spent little to no time studying or completing homework. In fact, if I didn’t finish my homework before the end of class I never completed it. You are probably thinking that I cheated my way through school. Well I didn’t but I did get A’s on almost all of the tests that I took. I had a knack to cramming in the facts right before the test and it always worked. It wasn’t hard work and motivation that earned me A’s and B’s but my ability to take tests.

In an article about standardized testing, Alfie Kohn writes: In a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, elementary school students were classified as “actively” engaged in learning if they asked questions of themselves while they read and tried to connect what they were doing to past learning; and as “superficially” engaged if they just copied down answers, guessed a lot, and skipped the hard parts. It turned out that high scores on both the CTBS and the MAT were more likely to be found among students who exhibited the superficial approach to learning.

Similar findings have emerged from studies of middle school students (also using the CTBS) and high schools students (using the other SAT, the college-admission exam). (2000) After high school I went on to Sacramento City College. I was quickly confronted with the realization that I was in a whole different ball game. The tactics that I had mastered and relied upon in high school were no longer good enough to earn high marks in college. I was totally unprepared for this kind of learning.

My professor’s were not only asking for the right answers but they wanted to see how I came to know the right answer. I had no idea how to study or to think deeply about the material that was presented to me. In a study on college readiness it is stated, “Twenty-nine percent of first-time freshmen enrolled in at least one remedial reading, writing, or mathematics course in fall 1995 (Lewis, Farris, and Greene 1996). I went from being the smart kid in the family to the one who didn’t even make it past one semester in junior college.

I dropped out of junior college feeling defeated and worthless. Upon entering the work force as a high school graduate with no college degree I found myself working for minimum wages at a sports bar. I would not be considered a well educated person by any standard or criteria. I had not gone to a good school, I had not earned any degree, nor could I carry on a conversation about the latest political event or discuss the works of Chaucer or Shakespeare. At what point in one’s life does someone become well educated?

Is it after they graduate from grad school or earn their doctorate? Is it when they land a job in a large corporation or get elected to political office? These things are no doubt within the reach of an educated person but they do not justify a person as well educated. When writing about his wife Kohn implies that a person can be brilliant in an area and have a ton of schooling from the best schools but lack the basic skill of multiplication (2003, para. 2). A person never stops learning, and there is not a person on the earth that has attained all that can be attained.

If you compare a person who graduated at the top of their class at the Harvard Medical School and a person who graduates at the top of their class from the MIT School of Engineering, who is the more well educated? I guess if you asked them to explain how to take apart the engine of a 1964 Mustang and put it back together again they might both seem dumb to the subject. Does this mean that they are not well educated? Of course not, it just shows that a person’s degree or where they went to school does not make them well educated.

I would bet that both of these hypothetical people could figure out how to take the engine apart and put it back together again because they possess the skills necessary to learn how. In the last 10 or so years I have worked many different jobs in many different trades. I have learned how to solve problems and to think about things on a deeper level. I find myself using what I have learned in the past to figure the problem that is set before me. I then in turn gain more knowledge to use in solving the next problem that is set before me.

As a Christian man I am commanded “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col 3:23, English Standard Version). I can no longer apply myself superficially to the tasks that are set before me. I have to engage myself and allow myself to give everything. When I apply this principle to learning I am a well educated person. The apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Phil 3:12, English Standard Version).

He was referring to what he considered to be the only thing worth knowing (the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:10-11, English Standard Version). Paul was a man of the highest education among his peers. His life experience was unmatched and his devotion was second to none yet he himself knew that he would not stop pressing on to know Him more. The grades that I received in school and the praises I received in high school did not make me an educated person.

My heart was not committed to learning nor did I make any effort to engage myself in the education process. The success I had in high school was superficial and I was not prepared to continue my education. A person can be well educated without even going to college and a person who has a graduate degree may not be well educated. I learned how to become well educated in the work place. It is to the person who possesses the ability to use what they know to know more and has the motivation to solve the problems that they are presented with that we can give the title of well educated.

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What Does It Mean to Be Well Educated. (2017, Mar 14). Retrieved from


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