Appreciating Education Outside the Classroom

It is the favorite maxim of many to speak of attending college and university in the pursuit of higher education, and while this is an admirable truth and reality, one of the most formative aspects of this education is often overlooked. Within the classroom, the intangible knowledge we receive begins to feel like a sensible reality, but outside such a place, the most formative and sapient facets of education occur. Within the classroom, we are exposed to a myriad of concepts and ideas. Immersed in a world full of so many simultaneously alike and dislike, yet filled with the same passion for progress in all aspects of life, it is in the moments before, between, and after the classroom experience that we discover so much about ourselves, each other, and the world around us. Yet despite the vast importance of such moments, so many are squandered in the numerous frivolous outlets provided by the 21st century, and the time wasted is time lost evermore.

The educational features of life between the classroom are ubiquitous in nature but differ day by day—the opportunities to learn manifest themselves in many forms, and, more often than not, they are only truly recognized after they have all but past. And further, the opportunities often must be sought out, like a buried treasure, as they often wear the masquerade of aimless interaction and experience. Yet, it is within these capricious incidents that  lasting and profound effects are often found. Where, then, are they, and when do they occur? How can one ever know for sure that he or she is on the cusp of learning? One can never be sure, but it is with wide eyes and ears that one can maximize their headway and amass knowledge of all kinds.

In my own personal experience, the most educative experiences are both the obscure and the obvious. Knowledge is found within the everyday monotonous routine of movement from class to class, people watching, studying interactions and the lack thereof. One begins to understand the people around him, as much as one possibly could understand. In the everyday conversations, one can also find the meanings and stories that words veil, learning lessons secondhand through inference and interpretation. Yet, I have found that the time when no one else is present is equally important—the late night marches under the cover of moonlight, where the world around can be studied as is, devoid of interruption. Moreover, equally cathartic and beneficial is the uncommon awakening to an empty house or room, and the mercurial moment where one can contemplate his fading realization of his dreams, and the journeys never journeyed.

Certainly more obvious and less romanticized examples of the accepted invasion of knowledge occur. Through film, art, literature, and music, one who is willing to seek out educational opportunities becomes the contemporary of all around him, invoking conversations with ancients and unpresent artists, intellectuals, and the like. Within all of these art-forms, we find a sense of self, and an additional part of yourself is constructed. We learn from the glorified reflection of ourselves we find within the art forms we expose ourselves to. That is to say, when we identify a common link between ourselves and the beloved characters and atmospheres of history or fiction of art and song, we learn more about who we are and who we are aren’t, and, further, who those around us are.

Many, if not all, of these experiences are diminished, if not lost, by the transient and erratic nature of our world today. Constantly distracted by new-age technology and the latest social media app—wherein meaningless and superficial interaction comfortably resides—we begin to miss out on the subtleties and passing realities where we can truly learn about ourselves, our world, and our companions. It is in the pervasive and constant use of phones in every waking second of our lives that we amass incredible amounts of intangible transient gratification and recognition in spheres that don’t substantially exist but miss out on discerning much about the reality of the world we all expect to conquer. To hold such expectations, we must first expect to be able to conquer the oppression and control exerted upon us by the socially normative structure that encourages spending our time in meaningless folly.

Knowledge—arguably the only omnipresent facet of the universe—is accessible to many, yet chased by few. It’s potential lays dormant in every interaction, every failure, and every success, and even in ourselves. Yet, it exists as a code, one we must desire and attempt to crack: Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is rarely ever valued, but certainly it is better to be rare than to be ignorant. Life outside the classroom is often mistaken as the leisurely absence of our progress, wherein relaxation and stagnation are common, yet it is rather the place of ultimate contemplation, of ultimate discernment, and, finally, ultimate learning and growth. If we truly value our knowledge and our growth, then surely we will begin to truly value our time, both inside and especially outside, the classroom.

Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor