12/04/2012 08:05 EST | Updated 02/03/2013 05:12 EST

Some Dropouts Find Success, But School Still Matters


On December 2, poet Suli Breaks posted a spoken word video titled "Why I Hate School But Love Education." As Breaks indicates in the description section of the YouTube video, his work of art pays homage to Jefferson Bethke's viral video "Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus."

Breaks' video focuses on the distinction between school and education, arguing that school is not necessary for education, and perhaps may even be harmful in the quest for true education. This is indicated by the catchphrase of his video stating, "I will not let an exam result decide my fate."

Breaks' video comes at a good time for many (including myself) as exams are just starting for students all across North America. In fact, I can imagine students repeating Breaks' words over and over again to calm themselves down while poring over pages of notes during a late-night coffee-fuelled library binge.

Breaks' video certainly does have some positive elements. He claims that post secondary education is not for everyone. In my experience thus far, I can confidently say this is true. In what is perhaps the best portion of the video, he asks viewers why they want to get a degree. This is certainly a question one should think about before throwing down the cash for university. Then, he lists a few examples of people who have been successful without a post secondary education. No one will claim that only those with a degree have grown to be successful, regardless of the definition of success one has.

Despite this, Breaks' argument is flawed in many ways. Before going on to list the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, Breaks claims he will give viewers statistics. This list of names is instead anecdotal evidence, and more importantly, a long list of exceptions to the general rule. Statistics actually show that those with university degrees are more likely to be successful, financially at least. All of the figures listed by Breaks are exceptionally talented and have capabilities most of us don't. We can't all be Steve Jobs. Furthermore, Jobs, Gates, and Zuckerberg all attended elite universities before dropping out to pursue their genius inventions. Perhaps Breaks should have put more thought into his choice of examples.

Breaks also reduces a post secondary education to something which takes place solely in the classroom. He complains of having to stay up late mindlessly drilling information in his head which would be lost a few minutes after the appropriate exam. He recounts waiting in line with other zombie-like students after a long night to hand in a paper.

I've dealt with both of these things; yet, they only make up one aspect of my university experience thus far. While it is this aspect of university which will be necessary in my quest to get a degree, I've had extremely rewarding learning experiences while at university that have prepped me for life in general. For example, in coming to university, I left my small town, travelled to Montreal, and have met people from around the world, giving me a cultural education I couldn't have dreamed of before.

I learned (my mom would probably say I'm still learning) how to live alone, how to cook, do laundry, and keep a tidy house. I became active in the university newspaper, which sparked a passion for journalism that only continues to grow within me. Without joining my current university, I wouldn't have had this opportunity, nor would I have made some of the contacts in the field I have now.

Regardless of what Breaks believes, school can foster education beyond the traditional methods. Breaks claims that education should inspire ones mind instead of just filling ones head. Although it sometimes feels like the formal element of school is filling my head and simultaneously draining my brain, my major inspirations have developed during my time at university, and have been related to it in some way.

With that said, I can't deny that Breaks' video has a few good insights. Actually, the best evidence of that is that it's currently 3 a.m., I am writing this article, and I have an essay due tomorrow that could still use some touching up. Journalism is what inspires me, and though I'm not studying it, it expands my mind instead of just simply filling it.

Still, my current studies are enjoyable, and with everything I've learned in university thus far, I feel far more prepared to tackle my dreams than I ever could have three years ago. School may not give you the education you planned on, but as an overall experience the right school is often life altering.

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