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28 July 2010

What makes an “educated person” educated?

When you hear or read the expression “educated person,” what comes to mind? Someone who is well read? Someone who is capable of writing tight, meaningful prose? Someone who knows how to change the carburetor in your car?

When I hear the expression “educated person,” I immediately think of someone who has atleast a bachelor’s degree (the more degrees, the better); they know what’s going on in the world and they keep abreast of politics; they read literature (whatever that may be); speaking a foreign language or two doesn’t hurt. When I look at my assessment of the expression “educated person” or, even more specifically, “well-educated person,” I now realize just how narrow-minded and arrogant my understanding of the expression is.

Certainly, the above describes a type of an “educated person.” But to say that, if someone doesn’t have a degree or they’re not up-to-speed on world politics, they’re not an educated person, is just being snooty, elitist. A good example of this snooty elitism is how I and many others view mechanics.

Mechanics have a rather dirty job. They get grease all over themselves; they lie on the ground an awful lot, poking around underneath our dirty vehicles. I’d say a huge number of people view everyday mechanics as “uneducated” or “poorly educated.” And sure, if you hold up a college education, being well read, etc. as meaning “well educated,” you’re right – many (but certainly not all) mechanics are “poorly educated.” However, this judgment starts to fall apart when you flip things around. From the mechanic’s point of view, perhaps the college-graduating, literature-reading people are the “uneducated” ones. Why, they’re not quite sure how to change the oil in their cars; they can’t figure out a basic engine problem, one that any mechanic would see within 15 minutes; hell, they don’t even know how much air is supposed to go in the tires of their vehicle!

In other words, I think it would be fair to say that many people look down their noses at mechanics and many other people who do “dirty work.” However, it’s interesting to note that, if every person who did a “dirty” job stopped working for a month, a week – even a mere day – we’d all be in trouble. Garbage would quickly pile up; sewers would overflow due to lack of maintenance; our gas-guzzling vehicles would sit in our driveways (paved excellently by those “uneducated manual laborers”). In short, we’d all be in trouble. That’s putting it politely, by the way – a more appropriate expression would contain a six-letter word beginning with f.

Strictly speaking for myself, I need to stop equating educated with book-smart, which is a decent summation of my previous thinking. You can be illiterate and still be educated in some form or another; you can be extremely literate and not know how to do anything. I like to consider myself “educated,” and I couldn’t begin to tell you how to change the carburetor, in any vehicle – mine included.

Please think of that wisely. Don't ever judge without any clear observation.

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