Why do people go to school? If you were to ask children that question, many would say that they have to. They go because their parents make them go, or because the law says that they have to go. Some would rather be in school because that's where their friends are or they're bored at home. This trend continues when teenagers go on to college.
The social aspects often seem to outweigh the academic, and the focus is on the necessity rather than the benefit. They've been told, by parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and society in general, that the only way to get ahead in this world is by acquiring an education, so they go to college.
Sadly though, all too often, their goal is not really education at all. Usually, 'education' isn't even what is meant by all of their well meaning advisors. At both the high school and college level, the goal seems to be the completion rather than the process.
Even if the majority today are more enthralled by the wealth and position that a college degree is supposed to bring, there are individuals that still care about education. People with a thirst for knowledge still exist. Maybe you're one of those people. You're curious about the world around you; you want to know things.
Yet, because of circumstances, you may have never had the opportunity to attend college. Throughout history, how many Newtons, Mozarts, or Michelangelos missed their true calling because of circumstances? How many looked around them in their daily toils and longed for a greater understanding of life, the world, and all that it holds?
Today, modern communication and transportation has created opportunities that were unavailable in previous centuries. Scholarships are one avenue open to individuals whose financial circumstances would not otherwise allow them to attend an institute of higher education.
The Internet has made this even easier. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology pioneered the open course-ware movement, where teaching material is put online for anyone to access, for free.
Thousands of courses, from dozens of schools around the world, are now accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. For some of these, all that you get are a syllabus and reading list. Others include video webcasts, exams, and answer keys.
Of course, students that are just auditing a class don't get credit for it. Because of this, auditing is not for everyone. If you need to earn a degree, or acquire other credentials, a more traditional educational path would be a better choice.
If you're just curious though, why not try auditing? With today's unemployment, and the fact that many college graduates end up not working in their degree field, the satisfaction that comes from a genuine education may be the only permanent thing about education.
By Earl Hunsinger
By Earl Hunsinger