An Education on Education

All too often, education is framed as a means to an end. “If I get this degree, I’ll be able to pursue this career”, or “If I achieve these grades, I can go to this grad school”. And while having tangible goals to work towards is always advantageous in terms of maintaining a sense of direction or motivation, this school of thought can be detrimental in other ways.

Let me first make the disclaimer that education is a privilege. Many of you have likely heard this statement used before, generally by frustrated parents or authoritative figures, attempting to convey the message that your grades could benefit from some extra TLC in the homework department, or something along these lines. But what I’m attempting to address in this instance isn’t necessarily that everyone who gets to go to school must get straight A’s as a sort of of thank you note to the universe for placing them in a social class in which they’re able to do so, but rather that it should, at the very least, be appreciated in the form of mindfulness. At this point, I’m sure that many of you are lost. What could mindfulness, a term traditionally associated with meditation, possibly have to do with education? Allow me to elaborate (and just a forewarning for those of you who aren’t into the emotional-type posts, this might get a little personal).

From the start of my degree up until this point, when asked what my field of study is, people have been consistent in their reactions the my response of “Women’s Studies”. The general retort usually includes a cock of the head or an eyebrow raise, followed by the age-old question that I’m certain most people with an arts degree can attest to hearing: “What are you going to do with that?”. And for the longest time, not even I had an answer to this somewhat loaded question that I could honestly say that I believed or found comforting. Not until recently when, upon a period of serious introspection, I realized that this question might not even be relevant in every student’s circumstance. Certainly not mine. 
Ever since I can remember, I’ve spent the majority of my time on this earth trying to disappear. Speaking at a carefully controlled decibel level in public spaces, wearing muted tones so as not to stand too far out in a crowd, sitting on public transit with my arms folded and my legs crossed in order to provide ample space for all of the other commuters (despite the fact that everyone sitting around me didn’t seem to provide this same courtesy), or constantly chasing that ever-diminishing goal weight. All of these things combined, while not immediately striking or worrisome, point to a world in which women and girls are taught that they’re very presence in society takes up too much space. Now, before anyone gets all up-in-arms about me pushing my feminist (that’s right, I dropped the f-bomb) agenda, let me just say that this isn’t something that’s ever directly stated, or even consciously put forward by the powers that be; and for the most part these attributes are largely dependent on how an individual construes the messages being put forth in the media and in day-to-day life. In fact, the negative impacts of this widespread lack of appreciation for fellow humans isn’t even reserved for females alone, it’s simply a reality that’s been left behind by generations past who maintained social hierarchies and constructs with unfavorable standards by which people were expected to live their lives.
As of now, many of you are probably wondering how any of this related to what I was discussing at the beginning of this post. And I guess what I’m trying to convey is that in my own personal experience, the education that I’ve been exposed to has provided me with a means of analyzing my own decisions in life and the forces in this world that have brought me to make them. University hasn’t been all career-building and no life-lessons, but yet a tool to sharpen my ability to think critically. All of this to say that, while making something of yourself professionally is a commendable feat by any standards, don’t lose sight of the actual living that’s happening on your off-time. If you are in that privileged echelon of society that does have access to higher education, why make that experience one-dimensional? Learn what you can, and of this schooling, squeeze out every single ounce of its positive benefits that allow us all to move forward in this world.         

By Karyna Evangelista

About the author:
Karyna is a Montréal native with a penchant for all things artistic. Whether it be fashion, music, visual arts, or literature, you can find her all up in the latest happenings around the city. Her affiliation with fashion comes from a desire to see a primarily female-focused industry take on a more conscious and empowering stance in the struggle towards equality, as well as the desire to compile every so-called “rule” of fashion, only to consequently break them and see what happens. When she’s not busy tending to these preoccupations, she’s probably hard at work on her Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies at Concordia University, or hanging with her other half, Biscuit (who happens to be a tiny poodle). Legend has it that if you ask her real nicely, she might even whip you up a batch of her ever-tasty veggie chili in exchange for some stimulating conversation over a few (more) glasses of red wine.