An education goes beyond the classroom

There’s a lot we can learn outside of our classes.

Derek Olson

I can still recall my fifth grade teacher moving a paper triangle — representing a ship’s sail — up and across a globe. She used this to demonstrate how Christopher Columbus witnessed ships arriving at port and first hypothesized that the earth was round. The trouble with her story was, as I didn’t learn until many years later, Columbus didn’t discover that the earth was round. Pythagoras first wrote of the earth as a sphere more than a thousand years before him, and this was actually common knowledge among those with a formal education in Columbus’ time.

Most of us learned at some point in grade school that Henry Ford invented the assembly line. This is also false. Ford actually wrote in his autobiography about how he first witnessed the assembly line at a meat packing plant in Chicago.

The majority of people probably live their entire lives believing these myths about Columbus and Ford. For 99 percent of them, it probably doesn’t make a difference, and that raises the question: Why does it matter?

These stories are small examples of the disconnect between what we learn in school and the knowledge that benefits us in life.

There is no doubt that school teaches us valuable things, but students can’t expect school to be a perfectly consummate education.

For example, social IQ is actually quite important in professional life. Employers never post or advertise a majority of available jobs. They offer them to friends and acquaintances before giving anyone else a chance.

Several of the most inspiring books I have ever read were not school assignments. I gained some of my most useful skills not in school, but as a leader in my fraternity.

As the end of my college experience grows closer, I’ve realized that the value of my education is in the whole experience, not simply the academic intelligence. My advice for students is this: Do extra curricula, get involved beyond the academics and be social. There is a lot of useful knowledge and skill to be gained outside the classroom.