COMMENTARY: Why a university education can be so much more than a degree
I won’t be on the air on Thursday, but I’ll be back on Friday.
It’s unusual at this time of year to be away from the show but Thursday is not an average day.
On Thursday, I am graduating from Simon Fraser University with my Bachelor’s Degree.
LISTEN: Why a university education can be so much more than a degree
Now a lot of you might hear that and think “big deal, I did that years ago,” or “who cares, people graduate every day,” or even “who needs a degree anyway?”
And you know what? Four or five years ago I might have been one of those people and agreed with you.
But as some of you know, I had a real change of heart back in 2014. For those of you who don’t, here’s why I did it.
There really wasn’t anything else I could do at this point in my life that I could say I did for no reason other than to make my mother happy.
Because she has been gone now for 27 years. She died very suddenly from a car accident when I was 18 years old, and a week away from final exams in my first year at university.
I never finished. I drifted away, went to journalism school, got married, had children and did all sorts of other things.
But in 2014 I was going to turn 43.
That was the age my mother was when she died.
It was so young, but as a teenager I never fully appreciated just how young she had been.
She was really on my mind, and I wanted to do something that would re-connect me with her. I went back to school to finish what I knew she had always wanted for me.
That’s why I went. Now, all I want is to thank her.
Because she is the one who taught me that education is the most incredible gift.
My mother’s family came to this country more than 50 years ago and we have always been taught how lucky we are, and how we must always strive for more education.
But you know how it is: we get into our adult years, into that middle age, like I was (and am), and you start to think you know everything you need to know.
Look around us today. We have politicians and others who scorn those who strive for higher education.
They get called names like the “elites.”
Every time I hear that I get angry, because education is hard. It is challenging.
LISTEN: Simi explains in 2014 why she’s going back to school
The right to have an education is a hard-fought one, and one that, increasingly, I’m afraid we don’t value as much as we used to.
We’ve stopped appreciating the importance of empirical information and we think “academics” is a bad word.
Sure, the academic world has its faults and I’ve seen them and experienced them. But what I have gained from my education is far greater than the sum of its issues.
The most important thing I learned is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
What is it?
The most important thing is that I don’t know everything.
We have a tendency these days, many of us, to have the attitude that we know what we know and we don’t want to, or don’t need to, learn anything else.
You read something, somewhere, on the Internet and think that’s all there is to it.
You hear something from someone once and don’t want to hear anymore.
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How could there possibly be more to the story? How could there be another side? You know the whole story already. Except we don’t.
In the United States and in the news, we hear more and more stories about an unwillingness to understand each other and what other people might be going through.
It’s time we all asked ourselves: where have we gotten with being angry all the time? What do we gain from closing our eyes and ears?
School has taught me the exact opposite.
I don’t know everything. And actually, there is so much out there for me still to learn.
Constant learning is something we should all strive for. Take a class or read a book.
Most importantly, scare yourself. Sitting in a classroom with kids 25 years younger than me, who were more comfortable in that element than I was, scared the crap out of me.
But I learned. And I made new friends. And at the age of 45, that is really saying something.
I will be sitting with some of those friends tomorrow when I graduate and I will be thinking about all of these things.
But mostly I will be thinking about the person who can’t be there, and who would be the most proud of me.
This is my way of being able to say to her: thank you.
And I want to say to all of you, who over the last few years have written to encourage me and ask how my studies were going: thank you.
And hug your parents today if you get a chance.
Simi Sara is the host of The Simi Sara Show. Listen live weekdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on CKNW AM 980.
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