Education for the Sake of Education. Who Woulda Thunk It?

Waiting in line at the PA grocery store on Fort street, in mid-town Montreal, on a busy and fall evening, I see an acquaintance from McGill University. A young lad who just completed his bachelor of arts in psychology with a minor in Religion.

Interesting combination, I note. “What will you do with this?” I ask.

“I use it every day. I studied psychology and religion because I am interested in these fields. I just launched my video filming service. I want to create short films and public service announcements with a social message.”

Impressive young man, and planning to make a damn fine stir-fry by the looks of his grocery basket.

Listening to his confidence, I wonder how and when we stopped studying for the sake of learning. Why must it be an investment? A must? A pressure?

Why must society coerce us in all kinds of things and for who’s benefit?

During the English-language electoral panel co-organised by the Dawson Student Union and the McGill and Concordia University graduate and post-graduate student associations last August (captured in its entirety for your viewing by CUTV and TVMcGill), eight party representatives in the riding of Westmount-St-Louis shared the stage. Education and the fate of students, including international students, dominate the discussion.

A young man stands at the audience microphone: “You talk about the cost of university, what about the purpose of university? What is it for today and onward?”

A stunned panel sits in silence.

Thank you for asking, I feel like telling him.

What is the purpose of education today? Why do we study? Why do we strive to get in to those schools?

“An educated and highly skilled professional force,” some say. “To be part of a civilized society.” “This is what you do, go to university.”

I remember the comments flying in the midst of the intensifying protests in the winter and spring: “It’s the Arts students who are on strike, not the serious Engineering, Business and Science students. How do History, Anthropology, and the like benefit us anyway?”

This said by 20- and 30-something’s.

The practical use of a discipline. The societal return on an educational choice.

Is this where we’re at?

If our history is erased, and no one studies it, and no one wants to study it, how will we know who we are?

*Photo by Concordia University (via Flickr using a CC license).

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