Freelance writer – creative – media-maker
Education is the key to success. It’s true; if you don’t believe me, ask my mum. Since before I could tell the time, this adage was drummed into me by family and friends. Study hard, they told me; then you’ll be able to get yourself a respectable, useful degree, land your dream job and live happily ever after.
So I studied, got the grades and began my ‘useful’ double-degree combo of Media and Communications and Law. I even signed on for a Diploma of Modern Languages in Japanese, just because I could. Six months later, having seen the proverbial light, I dropped out of all three components and embarked on my current path, that of the lowly Arts student. The funny thing is that deep-down, I think I knew even before I applied that the Law course wouldn’t be right for me. So why did I go through with it?
The short answer is that I wanted to be educated. Or at least, I wanted to appear that way to everyone else. In high school, that meant being good at maths, a black and white subject with right and wrong answers. At uni, that meant studying law, dentistry, medicine or commerce. It didn’t matter to anyone around me at the time that I found history and the arts infinitely more appealing, for those interests were frivolous.
I remember telling a fellow high school student that I wanted to be a writer. He looked at me disappointedly and remarked, “Is that all?” Another baulked when I told him I was considering taking an Arts degree. He promptly informed me of his intentions to study a ‘real’ course that would actually challenge him, like engineering or medicine. Years later, I still marvel at how easily the benefits of a liberal education were dismissed by my peers, and how pressured I felt to conform.
Education should harness your full potential as a human being. Relevant work experience and real-world skills can greatly enhance both the learning experience and your employability. But simply training to be one of a million highly-skilled drones sitting in a cubicle somewhere is not educating yourself.
Surely an arsenal of vocational skills is best wielded by ethical, responsible individuals. By men and women with a basic understanding of the world’s uneven playing field, who think about their role in society. Superb organisations like The Big Issue exist thanks to individuals who combine practical know-how with a humanist outlook. Together, these qualities can do more than just land you a job. They can transform your life and the lives of others.
I don’t claim to be fully educated, whatever that means, and anyone who does almost certainly isn’t. But my Arts degree has helped me become a more culturally-aware and ethical human being.
I’m sure there are people out there who are passionate about their vocational degree, and many more who go to bed dreaming about the car, the house and the six-figure income that their law, medicine or commerce degree will all but guarantee them. It’s just not me; never again do I want to be stuck in that strange limbo inhabited by students who take vocational courses courtesy of a super-high Year 12 score, or who suffer through subjects they hate because they sound more worthwhile. I doubt I would learn anything that way.
As an Arts student, it’s fair to say that I possess a humanist view of education. At University, alas, this means I am often dismissed as indecisive, impractical and stupid. To be my own person however, I’m willing to wear that bizarre prejudice a little while longer. I know myself, and I know that I am none of these things. Whilst I’m not at all fazed by the idea of making financial sacrifices in the name of a non-traditional career, I have also racked up numerous paid and unpaid hours gaining skills alongside my degree which will hopefully give me currency in the job market.
The greatest gifts my education has offered me are the power to choose who I want to become, and the tools to get there. I look forward to continuing the journey.
Published in Trespass Magazine