The Purpose of Learning

It was a commonly known fact, at least when I lived in Iran, that the worth of your education could only be measured in terms of how much money and success it could bring you. The course of your education in an Iranian school would go something like this: You would be taught the value of grades and tests early on in life and trained to slave away over your books starting from first grade. As you got older you would realize that the only subjects that ever mattered were math and science. You would soon figure out that art wasn’t important at all because your art teacher would never show up to class. When she did, she would leave you alone with some scissors and colored papers. Eventually you would learn to memorize the books in a way that would allow you to get an A on your final and then effectively wipe your mind clean of the information once you didn’t need it anymore. You would work hard in high school so you could go to a good college and get a degree, so that you could get a job or call yourself a doctor, an engineer or an architect. Any other choice of career just wouldn’t do! I remember thinking, when I left Iran, how horrible it was that my friends would waste almost 20 years of their lives in those schools, studying things that they had no interest in, memorizing them by heart and then forgetting them after every exam. All of that just so their mothers could brag to everyone that their child was a doctor! But I soon figured out that the rest of the world wasn’t much different. Everyone seemed to be toiling over books, thinking that if they got a better education or if they got the best grades and went to the best universities, then they would be guaranteed to have a better life. What these people didn’t seem to understand was that the greatest writers, philosophers, engineers, businessmen and actors of our time were all educated, but almost none of them were educated at Harvard. As a matter of fact, Ivy League universities did not educate more than a couple of the people on “Time” magazine’s “The People who Shape Our World” list. Even more interestingly, most of the people on the oh-so-famous Forbes list are either dropouts or received no formal education. No, I’m not rejecting the value of a good education, but I am trying to point out that none of the people who managed to influence the world in a great way ever used their graduate degrees as “Please Hire Me” signs. Rather they used the skills they learned in order to achieve their goals and actually make a difference. Which brings us to Andover. To deny that all of us, in some way or another, are ambitious and attracted by success is naïve. However, must we really be so obsessed with college and grades? In my short time at Andover I’ve had to do two group projects. In one of them I was partnered with someone who genuinely wanted to make the best video documentary possible. In the second project, my partner was obsessed with making sure that the project was designed to please our teacher. The first project got a six. The second one didn’t. Don’t roll your eyes disbelievingly whenever you hear someone say, “I didn’t come here to get into college.” As a matter of fact, if you came here just to get into college you’ve really missed the point of your time at Andover. If you view your time here not as a great part of your life but as something that you must endure in order to prepare for the rest of your life, then you’ve really missed the point altogether. Tia Baheri is a new Lower from Plano, TX.