Extract from a chapter in a book
An Educated Woman
To reflect and evaluate university education for women
Profiles of members of the Australian Federation of University Women
While studying for my M.A., I observed one day how some third-year students were having difficulty with an essay requiring analysis of a poem. I remarked to my lecture, who had coincidentally also taught me some 20 years earlier and assigned me the same head-splitting essay, that looking back it all seemed so pointless now. Having sweated over that essay when I can now only barely remember the facts seemed futile. He took this comment very seriously because he knew that I was doubting the value of my tertiary education. I’ll never forget his reply because it caused me to contemplate my university experience and better understand its positive legacy.
‘Our task is not to teach you facts or what to think, but the essential process of how to think‘.
Reflecting now on the long-term, and at times intangible, benefits gained from acquiring a university education, I see them fall into various categories. At the subject level, there is expertise in and a deep appreciation of various fields of study. Socially, there’s the companionship of like-minded peers and access to university extracurricular activities with the impetus to become socially, politically and environmentally aware citizens. For some, a university education provides added social status. On an intellectual level, students are taught the ability to assimilate and express ideas verbally, orally and on paper. The most important legacy of such an education for me has, without doubt, been the ability to think clearly, evaluate, analyse and appreciate whatever comes my way in life, and then to be able to pass this on by way of guidance to my children and to my students. Faced with issues that may be social, political or ethical, the capacity to analyse and determine what is required, formulate a strategy and apply this to complete the task, must have been developed somewhere. When I ask myself where I acquired this cognitive ability, I see clearly now, how these thought processes were taught at university. We learned quite specific steps of analysis, applied logic, synthesis of ideas, research procedure and report writing all within various frameworks – whether they were philosophical, ethical, political, ideological or spiritual. I’ve tried to pass this way of thinking on to my children to help them come to terms with the world, succeed in their studies and in their initial search for employment. I see the greatest value in my university education as the ability to pass on the lessons learned.
A university education leaves a lasting legacy that influences every aspect of life providing the tools whereby life can be more fulfilling and enriching. I would not trade it for anything.