Wednesday, 3 October 2012


“Only the educated are free.” - Epictetus

I am in Adelaide for work and so far it has been a very enjoyable experience. I love the part of my job where I interact with other academics from other institutions and where I discuss matters of common interest that relate to higher education and way this can be made relevant to all levels of society. These meetings that I am attending are about collaborations between different providers of tertiary education and how these common programs that are developed by them can be used to offer the chance of a university education to everyone, even the “non-traditional” university students.

It is quite important, I think, to be able to offer accessible tertiary education to people who have not had another member of their family study at university before, to people with disabilities, women who are raising or have raised a family, and people who have been in the workforce for many years and have never had a chance to educate themselves. In the latter case it is also interesting to see the increasing numbers of retired people who come to universities to study. In these cases it is sometimes surprising to see that these students are very passionate, committed and highly motivated, often achieving brilliant results.

An educated society is one that is highly civilised, tolerant and flexible, adaptive to change and capable of achieving great things on social, cultural, artistic, political and developmental levels. While a university education is not the be all and end all of “education” it can give people the chance to expand their minds and be exposed to the world of exciting and daring ideas. I have known some people who although have not been to university are more “educated” than many university graduates. I am also aware of such cases who have gone to university after retirement and it is then that one sees an amazing growth and wonderful flowering of the intellect, all stimulated by the university milieu, which is conducive to the development of the mind.

On reflection, I have also had personal experience of the converse: Very narrow-minded people who have come to university and have failed to become “educated” although they pass their examinations and they get a degree or two. It is often these people that show the very worse side of human nature, their lack of “education” aided and abetted by their selfishness, their arrogance and cupidity. Unfortunately they often succeed to climb high in the social ladder and their malign influence may be seen in many professions, the political arena and unfortunately even the academic world…

Education to me represents an opportunity: A ladder by which one may reach the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Making that ladder available to as many people as possible is the responsibility of an enlightened society. That some may taste that fruit after it falls from the tree or should they steal it instead of gathering it themselves represents the side of human nature that is not particularly attractive. However, such rotting or stolen fruit of the tree of knowledge will almost certainly cause indigestion and will not be assimilated by the person consuming it.

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