July 12. “Training teaches people what to do; education teaches people what to be.” (Nido R. Qubein)
When I was in school my classmates and I would sometimes question the value of something we were being required to learn. The old question of “when will I ever use this?”, came up frequently. We were no different from children of any age. My children asked the same questions about some of their school work, just as children around the world have for generations.
The truth is that there are quite a lot of subjects that are part of the grade school, high school and college curricula that have no direct on-the-job benefits in the future. I have never had to use algebra, philosophy or quantum physics in my career. I have never been asked by my boss to diagram a sentence, improve my penmanship, or properly conjugate a verb. In today’s technology-fueled era, I don’t even have to know how to do long division, apply my memorized multiplication tables or take the derivative of a formula. There are, of course, careers that DO use those subjects and disciplines, but it is the minority of people who hold those jobs.
The flip side is also true. When I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I knew very little about how to work in an office environment. I had computer sciences classes, and could write code, but I didn’t know much about how the computers at my new company had implemented things. I had to be trained on those computers and their technology. I also had to be trained on dozens of other skills from fairly routine office procedures to complex business processes. The University I attended could not have possibly taught me those things, because many of them are different from company to company.
As an experienced project manager, I still am required to take classes every year. All of the required classes I take are labeled as training, some would call them on-the-job training. I have to learn new procedures, review changes in company policies, brush up on legal requirements, and so on. These tend to be very short training courses, and are very practical in their application.
What I am getting at is the crux of this quote, that there is a difference between teaching someone procedures and policies (training), and teaching them how to think and act (education). Those classes in High School and College were about my education. They taught me how to think critically, how to break things down to gain understanding. I may not use the particular skills that were required for each class, but I have learned the disciplines that those classes taught, whether consciously or sub-consciously.
I have said in my blog recently that I consider myself a lifelong learner. When I wrote about that I was talking about what this author refers to as education. All people, to some degree or another, have to learn new things to do. Whether it is reading an instruction manual for a new appliance, or learning new procedures at work. But too few people, in my opinion, spend time continuing to learn how to be.
My reflection today is on how grateful I am that my family and my teachers helped create an ongoing thirst in me for learning how to be. I am, and always will be, an imperfect work in progress. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.