Education: A Daring Adventure
Many students follow the same path followed by most of their fellow students. The path may be boring. It may be too easy or too hard for you. It might not lead in the direction you want to go. The tragedy is that so few students even dream they might find a better path. If the path you want doesn’t exist, set out on your own. Create a brand new path, a path that will lead you to your chosen destination.
The rock climber in the picture is making a daring leap. While he appears to be leaping from the top of a rock into space, I think we can assume that he has a clear goal in view. I would guess there’s another rock, hopefully a bit larger than this one, that he expects to reach. You will also notice that he has a rope. I don’t understand how the rope will keep him from falling but I think we can assume that the rope provides some measure of safety.
When students decide to take charge of their own education, it takes courage for them to make that leap from the security of doing what they are told, to making their own decisions about the the goals they will seek, and the paths they will choose in order to reach them.
To reach your goals, it may require taking a only few short side-trips off the main pathway, but even these may require courage. You might find another path you prefer that will get you to the same goal. Or, like this rock climber, your goals may be very different. You may need to take a very different path, perhaps an unexplored path. You might, like the rock climber, even take a daring leap.
The Education that is Right for YOU
If the Education your school is offering is exactly what you want, be sure to take full advantage of it. Choose the information and skills you need most.
If the Education your school is offering is OK, if you don’t know what you want, take advantage of what’s available and continue to explore your own goals and interests.
If you are NOT satisfied with the education your school is offering, do something. Get the education you want and need.
When you graduate, you won’t be saying, like so many of your classmates, ” I didn’t really learn much. I’ve already forgotten most of what they were teaching. I got my diploma and that’s all I need.”
You want to say, “I have my diploma, but what’s more important, I got an excellent education. I learned much that I will value and use the rest of my life. Most of all, I learned …… The rest of that sentence is up to you.
Take Charge of your own Education: The first steps
Setting out on your own is a daring adventure. It requires courage and hard work. It is not an adventure for the weak.
This does not mean dropping out to learn on your own. Most students can work within the structures.
The required courses at your school were carefully selected to include what the staff though every educated person should know. Take a good look at course outlines. Study the chapters in your textbooks. Respect their judgement and start by taking a good look at what they recommend.
Choose the topics in each subject that
- are most interesting to you.
- are most relevant to your future goals.
- you know the least about.
1. Make the course your own. Select areas of special interest for your term papers or special projects. Spend more time doing individual research in these areas. You might find that, as you get involved in the class, topics that seemed boring or pointless, become more interesting.
2. Work with your advisor. If you can show you already know most of this material, test out of the requirement. There might also be a way to substitute a similar or more advanced course.
3. Work with the professor. Share your personal interests and needs. The professor might suggest other resources. She might work with you to develop a term paper topic that will be exciting for you and acceptable for her. If you prove that you already know the material in several chapters, she might give you alternative assignments .
4. Be an Independent Learner. Become your own teacher. While keeping up with your classwork, create a plan to learn on your own. In many schools, you can even do an independent study and get credit.
What Jermaine and his Friends Decided
Jermaine has begun to define his own goals. He shares his list of goals (on the computer) with his friends. Jermaine wants to learn how ancient African cultures influence their current political systems.
He plans to learn several African Languages, starting with Swahili. His college doesn’t offer Swahili, but he can take classes online. He will talk to the head of the foreign language department to see if he can get credit.
He hopes to spend at least a year in Africa doing some basic research. He isn’t content to wait until graduate school to begin learning. Jermaine has another goal. While he is in Africa, he wants to work on a project that will make a real difference in the lives of African children.
Lorianne wants to learn the latest research on the brain. She will read everything she can find. She hopes to plan and carry out some simple research projects. She has already talked to a neurologist about an internship during the summer. Her interest in this area began because her grandmother has brain cancer.
Henry is interested in birds. His college doesn’t teach any classes about birds and that’s OK with him. He doesn’t want that kind of information. He’s thinking about becoming a biology teacher and probably won’t do graduate work in ornithology. He plans to spend weekends and summers working with the local Audubon Society and getting practical knowledge about the birds in his area.
What a sense of accomplishment they will have! What a great education they will get! What a sense of power they will have, knowing they did this themselves!
If you haven’t read it, Bill of Rights for College Students