On Being Educated

Supposedly, the older you get, the less you know, which can be a sign of wisdom.  For me, the Harvard educated, lifelong ‘A’ student, however, the idea of knowing less is deflating.  I was the nerdy kid, the one in the corner, even at extended family gatherings (which my cousins kindly remind me every chance they get, to help me shrink my growing head size), with a book in hand–reading–sometimes under the guise of doing homework, but not always.  I took reading to the level of a competitive sport.  I assumed the identity of an intellect, someone who studied and was smart.  Having been rewarded, in grades and honor rolls, as well as accelerated academic levels in grades K-12 to a coveted University of California education to an Ivy League degree, the idea that I am more cerebral than sensible is jolting to the ego.  Perhaps, the “stuffed shirt, Ivory Tower arrogance” does apply to me?   On the cusp of my fourth decade, I’m learning that being intellectual is not the same as being educated.  Where I went to school is not as important or impactful as what I do with what I know–and how I use what I know to help others.

Having credentials in the degrees with my name on them only gives me the first step toward being educated.  When I first meet people, revealing the Crimson H (i.e. the Harvard degree) has the power to bring out stilted, awkward smiles, as if the other person is considering how to respond.  Over the years, I’ve been hired without more explanation than that I went to Harvard, somehow becoming credible simply with the degree, while others wonder aloud about how I seem so normal for having gone to Harvard.  Even while vacationing throughout Japan, some people I met literally knew no other word in English, than “Harvard.” The reputation of the Ivy League transcended cultures and languages.  And, yet I understand all these various reactions.  Harvard is the place I hate to love, yet I want the esteem of being a graduate.  Being educated is more complicated than where I went to school and how well I can repeat the ideas I learned.

Enhancing our inherent smartness is the goal of parents, educators and students.   How that enhancing takes place isn’t dependent on where (i.e. a reputable college).  Matching oneself to the college can be backwards–after all, you’re paying anywhere from $125,000 to $250,000 and giving 4-5 years of your life to build your own intelligence and be prosperous in our world, however that looks for you.    Find the college that’s going to match you, keeping in mind that a reputable university is more complicated than the prestige.