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School, the one word that will make any child cringe. Hundreds of hours sitting in classrooms, countless essays written, and numerous trees worth of pencils all spent in the teaching of a student. Twelve grades, more than 2,000 days, and 26,000 hours spent in the learning and memorizing of material. After all of this time and energy expended, can the individual be classified as educated? That raises the question of what an educated person truly is. Even pop culture has tried to evaluate what an educated person is through such works as The Once and Future King, “Learning From the Giants”, The Man Without a Face, Dead Poets Society, and “When I heard the Learned Astronomer.
” Educated persons acquire knowledge from experience as well as from textbooks, use history of the past to shape their future, are non conformists able to think and reason logically, and turn to nature for answers when all else fails. To begin, the best way to truly learn a subject is to have some kind of hands on experience that one can personally relate to.
A lot can be learned from textbooks, however, textbooks can only teach so much. In The Once and Future King Merlin tells Arthur that, “Education is experience, and the essence of experience is self-reliance.” (46)
Arthur’s tutor Merlin uses his magic to turn Arthur into various animals to teach him life lessons that will help him to rule his kingdom when the time finally comes. When Arthur is turned into a merlin, he learns about hierarchy and being accepted into a group through proving honor and bravery.
He quickly learns how to think on his feet under stress and pressure because his life depends on it. These types of skills cannot be taught by a book. There is no book that could have taught Arthur how to think act under pressure and stress, he was only able to learn it through doing and was ultimately successful because it had become personal to him and he had something tangible to lose if he failed. Second, an individual needs to have an understanding of where they came from to truly understand where it is that they are going. History is one the greatest teachers. By learning history, one can learn from past mistakes and past successes that have occurred.
That knowledge can then be applied in the reasoning process of decision making and used to shape choices made. In the article “Learning From the Giants,” Lynne Cheney states that: The study of history is also injured by the educationists’ emphasis on process. It involves believing we can teach children how to think without troubling them to learn things worth thinking about — that we can teach them how to understand the world without teaching them the events and ideas that brought it into being. Without this knowledge of what has shaped the world into what it is today, an individual cannot truly be considered educated. This knowledge of history is crucial in the education process and proves beneficial over an entire lifetime.
The next criterion of being an educated person is being a nonconformist that is able to think and reason logically. In life not everything is always handed over in black and white, a lot of times one has to think things out and come up with an answer on their own. In Man Without A Face, McLeod says to Chuck, “Think, reason… I didn’t spend all summer so you could cheat on this question.” Chuck has his own mind and has an experience with McLeod that he can draw upon to be able to reason out to the question he asks McLeod. McLeod wants him to use this experience and to think logically about what the answer is and to reason out whether McLeod abused the boy or not. McLeod is not going to give him the answer to this question because he knows Nordstadt will have to think on his own and does not want him to become reliant upon others telling him answers as well as how to think. Also when thinking for oneself, one must sometimes be a nonconformist in order to do so.
Being a nonconformist and not being afraid to break from tradition allows the mind to experience new things and develop their own voice. In Dead Poets Society Keating breaks from traditional teaching in order to get the students out of their comfort zone and to think in new ways. Keating stands upon his desk and has the students do the same telling them, “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way.” He wants them to understand that there is more than one way of looking at things and just because they see something different, does not mean that they are wrong.
He encourages nonconformity in thinking and wants them to embrace it. The final key to being an educated person is turning to nature for answers when all other forms of education fail. Nature is a form of education that has been around for centuries. Some of the greatest discoveries and advances in science came from observing nature. An example would be Galileo Galilei turning to the stars in order to deduce that the sun was the center of the solar system and not earth. In “When I Heard the Learned Astronomer” Walt Whitman explores this idea of learning through nature, “In the mystical moist night air, and from time to time, looked up in perfect silence at the stars.” The narrator does not want to be bothered by all the boring learning through charts and diagrams, he simply wants to learn using nature as his charts and diagram. He believes that that is sufficient enough and will teach all that he needs to learn.
Nature has been the best teacher for many years and those that forget that are those who lack a full educational understanding. Nature is there for a reason, to teach, and it is important that one often goes into nature to learn. Many things go into the idea of being an educated person and a checklist of qualities must be fulfilled in order to be considered educated. Literature and the world of Hollywood have explored these ideas and offered their own opinions on what it means to be educated. Merlin teaches Arthur to learn through hands on experience, McLeod tells Chuck to think and reason out his answer and Keating teaches his students to be a nonconformist when doing so, Whitman tells of turning to nature for answers as others have done throughout history and Cheney comments on the importance of learning that history. It is of the utmost importance that one has experience from which to draw, as well as not being afraid to be a little different in one’s ideas because everyone has a different experience that shapes those ideas. Also an understanding of the past allows an educated person to bring additional insight into a situation and use that knowledge paired with one’s experience to ultimately come up with a solution that is uniquely one’s own.
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