YOUNG VOICES: The case for non-traditional educational experiences

2013-09-02T00:00:00Z YOUNG VOICES: The case for non-traditional educational experiencesBy Briana Petty
September 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

As I begin my senior year of college, thoughts of nostalgia and opportunity crowd my mind. I wonder, “What are other students taking away? Are they taking ownership of their educational experience?”

In high school, I didn’t feel a real sense of participation with my education. We were all doing more or less the same work, usually with the same end goal in mind: college. The thought of doing something else never occurred to me. And though I really enjoy working in the university environment, I don’t think it’s for everyone.

I don’t mean to say that not everyone should be granted the opportunity. In fact, I believe there are many students who would excel at the university level, but are never given that chance. However, there are also students who might feel uncomfortable or unmotivated in the university environment and could be more productive doing different work.

Through the years, I have come to realize that education is a very individual process. People take in, process and demonstrate their knowledge in different ways. Our society largely fails to recognize this and instead tries to convince students there is a certain formula for success and if they don’t follow it, they have failed.

Education is very formalized, to the point it saps creativity. But where would we be without visionaries, those who think “outside of the box”? Some of my favorite and most productive educational experiences have been outside of the classroom. Does this make them any less valuable?

I have friends who enjoy fixing up bikes and working on cars. They know pretty much everything there is to know on the subject and are not only self-educated, but have helped numerous people with their skills. Is this form of knowledge somehow less than mine? Is this any less of an education?

I believe there is much to be gained when people break away from the traditional educational formula. Students who are on the fence about going to college should look at the costs and benefits (and the costs are always rising) as well as the skills they already possess.

Those who are on the way to university graduation might benefit from challenging and engaging learning experiences that occur outside of classroom walls. And as a society, we should recognize and encourage various forms of knowledge with its diversity in thought and skill.

Briana Petty of Valparaiso is a senior at Indiana University in Bloomington. The opinions are the writer's.

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