The value of education

When we were kids, adults would often tell us we should work hard and get a good education because that’s how we could get a good job and have a good life. Perhaps I took that advice too far. With a PhD journey ready to unfold, people have been asking me, “What do you need a PhD for? Don’t you have enough degrees already?”

It brings me to an exchange with my student the other day when I was told, “Miss English, you must be very rich!”

I sighed, “It doesn’t matter how much I make right now. I’m still super frugal. Everything goes to my PhD fund.”

“Why do you need a PhD?”

“I love studying. I love teaching. PhD is like where I can do both.”

The chubby boy frowned. “Really? I don’t believe it. How can someone likes teaching and studying?”

“It makes me happy when I learn something new,” I think my eyes twinkled when I said it. “I like knowing that I’m more knowledgable today than I was yesterday. That’s why I’m always reading different things online. I look up every movie I see on Wikipedia to learn more about the background story. That’s why I know so many things even outside my area.”

His jaw dropped, and we returned to our tedious dictation.

I don’t know if it’s possible to convince someone learning is fun if he doesn’t feel it. All I can do is to show him how fulfilled that makes me.  It could be different person to person. For what I know, many people see education as a means to an end, but I see education as an end itself.

What we learn from school may often seem impractical in the “real world”. As someone who hates numbers, I never understand why we need to learn anything math beyond fraction and percentage because the only time I do math is when I shop. However, I think the most important thing I’ve learned in school was not the content (for Christ’s sake I had a professor who was basically a communist and I was pretty right-wing) but to come to terms with who you are and who you wanna be.

I know many who feel attached to their secondary schools, but I honestly feel nothing but spite. My friend was surprised I told him I hated my high school for suppressing my potential and loved Iowa for accepting me for how I am.

In my opinion, universities, at least the US ones I’ve attended, are the freest place in the world, where dreamers can dream big without being judged, where no one tells you your idea is too crazy or your aim too high.

There are enough bitter people in the “real world” who can’t wait to tell you to “get real”. I want to help nourish dreamers and help them actualize their potential before they have to face the inevitable cruelty out there.

That’s why I wanna get a PhD.


About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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