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Education - There is something deeply ironic about drafting an antidefinition of education while I am so deeply engaged in an educational process: in graduate school, in a graduate course, drafting to fulfill an assignment, to complete one more tiny task before earning the ultimate institutional stamp of approval that is the PhD. The thickness of the context is appropriate, however, as education is never without context, and any given taxpayer's, slave's, or citizen's understanding of education cannot be extricated from their understandings of identity, nation, purpose, work, prosperity, and pedagogy.

I have been going to school for 21 of the past 24 years. Only during 6 or so of those (despite all my math classes, precision seems beside the point here) has it occured to me to ask why. Why so much time? Why so much effort? The choice I made to continue beyond the required 10-13 years was hardly a choice at all. This is what you do. You go to college. You get an education. What a deceptively simple declarative. What is this education we are all meant to get? Is it like getting an idea? Like getting a present? Like getting herpes? It must be different for each of us since we all live in different (head)spaces and times.

Football play diagram Various inds of pipes

Definition: Education is the process of learning in order to become an educated person. Tautology: Education is the process of learning in order to become an educated person. More-honest-definition: Education is the exchange of money in order to gain cultural (which may lead to social (which may lead to economic)) capital. Pragmatic-definition: Education is the transfer of knowledge from teacher to taught in order to maintain the supply of capable workers. Snarky-definition: Education is the learning of trivia in order to make conversation in places where martinis are served. Anti-my-antidefinition: Education is the replacement of parental values with liberal propaganda in order to undermine America. Antidefinition: Education is the [false] promise that if you work hard, prove you're smart, and please the right people, you will have a bright future.1

Vandinsky's Composition 8

But of course, my future possibilities always already depend on who/where/when I am. For me, here, now, the blank-paper smell of freshly purchased notebooks belongs rightly with the smell of late summer sweat and the anticipation of changing leaves and shorter days, and these things are all hopeful. Anyone with the title professor has the uncanny ability to make or ruin my day with a single utterance. The university is a place of transformation, buildings constantly being revamped and repurposed, computers, students, chair arrangements, administrators, strategic plans coming and going. Education is the thing we can all agree is valuable. But my education is not yours. More importantly, in this age of cost–cutting and ideological chasms, my education may hold no value for you, and yours may be schlock to me.

  1. Some unexpected moments of Marxism. Note for later reflection in wide/site/image deliberations.