Myths About Learning

Society places a high premium on formal education. Without it, people often find that there are many doors slammed shut that might otherwise be open, if only a little. Unfortunately, society also perpetuates a variety of myths about education and learning. These myths say that learning has to look a certain way in order to be valid, and they are typically less than helpful, at best, and downright harmful at worst.

Myth: Everyone Should Go to a University

If you visit a typical high school campus nowadays, you’ll find that most students are being taught as if they graduated high school and attended a university, or at least community college. It’s certainly good to encourage children to have ambition, but the “college track for everyone” idea ignores the reality that not even half of Americans currently have a four-year college degree. Recent numbers show that only about one-third of Americans do, and that number is at an all-time high. That’s also an increase from a decade ago, when only 28 percent of Americans reported obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher. So, the numbers are up, which is something to celebrate. However, the majority of Americans don’t have a bachelor’s degree. That suggests that other factors are at work.

It may help to look at the number of high school graduates who go on to college. In 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nearly 70 percent of 2016 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities that fall. It seems safe to assume that the desire to attend college exists for many high school students. It’s possible that life interferes, and forces some to leave college to work full-time. Or, perhaps some people find that they just don’t like college and see no point in sticking with it. After all, additional education is a luxury for many students who have family members that expect them to work and become financial contributors to the household. For those who want additional education but have trouble making it work with their schedules, the answer may lie in innovative academic programs that allow them to go to school online or in the evening. Learning a trade at a vocational or technical school is also a good idea for people who don’t do well in a traditional classroom environment.

Myth: We Reach a Point Where We’re Too Old to Learn

Sometimes, of course, students get burned out on formal education, and just want a break. Years later, they might find themselves wanting to return to school, but hear things like “You’re too old now.” Those who ignore the naysayers will likely find plenty of people in their age bracket, once they’re back on campus. About 40 percent of all college students are 25 and older, with the number expected to rise to 43 percent by 2020. Older students are often able to focus on school in a way that they couldn’t in their late teens or early twenties. They’ve seen enough of the world to realize that they don’t want to go back into the workforce without some additional education.

The same holds true for older adults looking to learn an instrument or a certain style of dance. More and more people are deciding not to let age hold them back from accomplishing something they’ve always wanted to do anyway. We’re all getting older; that much is inevitable. However, we might as well lead richer, fuller lives along the way.

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