Monday, March 14, 2011

a woman of letters

i am an excessively educated woman. i started school at age three, in pre-kindergarten, in the fall of 1984. i was in school without interruption until the spring of 2002 (for those keeping score at home, that's eighteen years). i took five years off to find myself, then went back in the fall of 2007. i am still here. four more years of education gives me a grand total of twenty-two years in school of a total of thirty years of life. i will have the following credentials when i am done:

1) a high school diploma, advanced with honors
2) international baccalaureate diploma, which means i took six tests at the end of twelfth grade, wrote a couple of papers and did some community service to earn an extra piece of paper that proves that i really, really learned a lot in high school
3) bachelor of arts degree, american history
4) juris doctor degree (my law degree)
5) graduate diploma in civil law (my special louisiana law diploma)
6) master of laws in taxation (my second law degree)

that'll make me magnolia, B.A., JD/DCL, LL.M., esq. that's an alphabet soup of credentials. i say all this not to brag on myself, but to pose a question. i've spent a lot of money and a TRUCKLOAD of time over my life attaining knowledge. book learnin', if you will. but why is it that this automatically makes me "smarter" than other people? i've had a couple of conversations over time with brilliant people who don't have these credentials. the basic idea that's been posed to me is, you have brains; i have wit. um, no; we both know that's not true, you have just as much "brains" as i do. but you've got the education, and that makes you smart.

does it? i mean, i'm not going to sit here and tell you all that i am not an intelligent person. i've learned a lot in my life, and i'm hungry to learn more, more, more. but what makes me smart isn't the fact that people in robes have handed me pieces of paper with categories on them. it's the fact that i think, i read, and i consider. you don't need special training to be smart. why don't we value intelligence gained in other ways? there are so many circumstances to consider as to why people don't tack the letters onto the back of their names. why is it that we've just decided that the one way to be "smart" is to do it? that's unfair, and it costs us a lot in terms of societal ignorance of people without these benchmarks.

i love my education. but there's more than one way to smart. we'd all be better off if we remembered that.


  1. I have two BS degrees and a Masters. Am I smart? Sure. The smartest in the room? Rarely, if ever. There's a lot more to "smart" than college credentials.

    One of my degrees is from an ivy league school and it's amazing how the mood changes in the conversation if that ever comes up. I've never casually tossed it around like some of the d-bags I went to school with, but you'd think otherwise based on others' perception of what I "should" be like.

    I worked my ass off and am proud of my education, but it all means nothing if I'm not using it wisely. After all, I'm unemployed. Who the hell am I to judge what you do or do not have following your name?

  2. Education is very important for happiness, but it doesn’t have to come with a shingle.

    I only went as far a 12 grades with a certificate. After that it has been life lessons, military, learning a trade, marriage, and kids. This all done without acquiring any dept. well, we did barrow for a modest home and paid it off early. Been self-employed for years and have always had work. That mostly is a factor of being known for quality work. Volunteer with City committees, and Service Clubs, self taught about new and techy things. There is no end to things to learn about, that is where many people fall short as that is when boredom sets in.

    If this could only be taught in School !

  3. I get this all the time. "You have a degree in CHEMISTRY? You must be really smart!" Um, thanks, but my husband is way smarter than I am and he only finished high school...

    All my degree means is that I learned to jump through certain hoops.

  4. I make my living as a singer. I studied voice in college, took private lessons, played leading roles in tons of University shows, attended masters level symposiums and performed for amazing, famous teachers, with nothing but compliments and well wishes from all of them. I even had an offer to sing in a class for the Met. Eventually, I went to New York and got a leading role in a month. Now, I have a very good, steady church job in one the most prestigious churches in my STATE. I say this not to brag, but to make a point. You would not believe the amount of people who have absolutely zero respect for me as a musician--and are astonished I can even keep pitch--because I do not have a degree in music. My diploma says "journalism". I am a B.A., not a B.F.A., therefore, I suck. It boggles my mind. Education is important, but some folks put far too much emphasis on letters. Love the post, darlin'. You nailed this one.

  5. I'm one of those people who's smarter than the average bear, but despite spending lots of money and time, has never managed to actually finish a college degree. I've had to deal with people looking down on me, passing me over of jobs, etc because of my lack of a degree. Through hard work, and by actually being pretty good at what I do, I've managed to make it pretty far despite my "handicap."

    I've found that what degrees and where they were earned has very little to do with a person's competence nor their ability to work with other people. A person's character, their willingness and ability to learn from anyone or anything, and their ability to simply work hard, are all far more important than a degree.

  6. Great point - there is more than one way to be smart. But damn, girl, rock on with your badass smart self! I love it.

  7. There is more than one way to be smart - and I think what defines that is the interest in constantly learning. For some [and I am right there with you] that means going to school A LOT. For others, that means educating themselves.

    If people have no interest in looking outside their small little worlds, then they are not smart. They are stifled.


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