This is a guest post by Cori – a freelance illustrator and designer and full-time student of the world.
There is a product which has been sold to each and every one of us as the be all and end all for securing a future of financial stability. That product is higher education.
Minimalism does not lend itself to only small amounts of physical possessions, but also to mindful, deliberate living. However, due to the effects of the status quo, many of us are unable to live mindfully consistently. Higher education is just one example of this phenomenon. Many of us think of college as just a natural step in the process of life and do not stop to realise that it is merely another well-marketed product.
While higher education is not toxic to all people, it can be poisoning to some. In the same way that we must be mindful of what we eat, we also must be mindful of how we learn. Education, after all, is something which you consume. In the end, being a dropout (as long as you’re the right kind of dropout) is actually a viable option.
What’s in an A+?
What does it take to achieve the ultimate grade? Too much. According to a recent study implemented in the Fall of 2016 by the American College Health Association – National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA IIc), stress is the leading cause of negative impact on academic performance. Anxiety follows in second place and depression places in fourth.
According to the study’s findings, 50.9% of students felt things were hopeless; 86.0% felt overwhelmed by all they had to do; 60.6% felt lonely; 38.2% reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function; 60.8% felt overwhelming anxiety; and 48.4% of students described academics as being traumatic.
Success in academics is achieved at the cost of time, effort, and money. However, it can also come at the cost of your mental health. Many do not register this as an actual negativity because society’s general consensus is that higher education is of extreme value and importance. Because of this, many will willingly drive their mental health into the dust just because a consumerist culture claims that there is no other option.
Education vs. School
In my country, school is simply a process of memorising facts for a test and then turning around and forgetting said facts as soon as possible in preparation for the next test. Information is rarely retained, and the student becomes a machine which is programmed to take input and give an output in accordance with what the system wants.
This is not learning or education. This is regurgitation.
Real education happens when a student pursues knowledge as a way to better their life. It is a mindful and deliberate action made out of self-improvement or self-preservation. It is this inner motivation which will allow the student to not only retain information but also make the necessary connections needed to apply what they have learned to the world around them.
Can education happen in a school? Yes, of course. But not every degree or diploma is a result of education.
It is a feared word with a lot of stigmas. However, being a dropout is really not that big of a deal — as long as you’re the right kind of dropout.
Dropping out of school so that you can nap on a couch and binge-watch your favourite television show is one thing. Dropping out of school so that you can learn by living, build your life on your own terms, and launch into a career is a completely different animal. See the difference? One is a potato, and the other is a strategist.
The status quo claims that those without higher education are unfortunate souls who will have a harder life ahead of them. Many will blindly follow this teaching, failing to realise that education is a choice as well; and where there is a significant choice at hand, mindfulness must be at the forefront of our minds.
I am not advocating that absolutely no one should pursue higher education. If you have the will and opportunity to pursue a degree of your choice, by all means, go for it. However, when done intentionally, becoming a dropout can actually be more educational than a degree from any institution of higher education. When you allow yourself to learn and grow by being and becoming, your mental and emotional health and character can grow and flourish. In reality, you just remove the four walls of your school, and your classroom becomes the world.
Taking Back Control
Higher education is well-marketed, yes, but it is still a product — one that can significantly affect your mental health. It is one of several children borne of a consumeristic culture and status quo which can be limiting when not carefully examined. However, when we take the time to consider the hidden pockets of alternative routes in life, we can claim back a piece of our lives which was lost to the negative impact of our culture.
Have you ever felt disenchanted with the circus of hoops our society has labelled as a school? How have you mindfully educated yourself outside of a classroom? What other limits do you think the status quo imposes on our mindfulness as individuals? Let me know in the comments below.