Education clearly has changed, hasn’t it?  We no longer push our children to select a college or university based upon the exclusive book collections that it houses inside its libraries.  The academy no longer has a stranglehold on textbooks and thus your access to textbooks is not determined by access to a specific academy.  You no longer have to go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, unless you absolutely have to see it in person, that is.  Students do not even need to go to the bookstore anymore, they can rent their books from their dorm room.  But, I am getting ahead of myself, I am writing under the assumption that education means a college education, but this is a large and not completely accurate assumption.

Education, many of us know all too well, is not a piece of paper.  It is not a credential.  It is not a rite of passage.  It is not training.  It is not neutered knowledge.  And, when done correctly, education is not a scam and does not feel like one.  Education cannot be a piece of paper simply because you can buy paper–many have–and they are none the wiser for it.  Furthermore, there are too many people who have lived and educated others, yet they had no piece of paper or credential: take Jesus, for example.  Education cannot only be training because if this were the case, wouldn’t we have trained ourselves into an intellectual utopia by now?  We are very good in the modern day at mass-producing things, why not education?  We can’t mass-produce education, because neutered knowledge will only get you a computer and not an educated individual.

So what is education?  It is knowing the truth, but also applying it to the world around you in a way that is good.  Only by applying the truth for the good can we thrive, which is what God wants for us–if you are uncomfortable at this point in your journey with using God’s wisdom as your guiding light, simply look to nature.  Nature’s goal is to flourish and thrive–I believe it does this because it reflects God’s will to us–either way, God’s way or the “natural way,” the point is to prosper.  To be truly educated means you are thinking about the good and the good of not only today, but the big picture.

If you want to do what is good here on earth, there is a bit of sacrifice you will have to endure.  Whether is is signing your life away to an institution of higher learning for a few years, seeking the wisdom of the elders in your life, spending hours in the library, or praying, you will be investing time into an activity (or activities) that do not always give an instantaneous reward.  But you do it because you know that it is for the good of your overall life.

So we return to the question, has education changed today?  No and yes.  Yes, education has changed in that one can have access to information in volume and multitude in a way that those before us never had access.  I can access the same information and texts in rural Alaska–as long as I have current or prior internet access–as a student at a top tier university.  So, yes, how we access information has changed and thus education has changed in that it has added a new road that one can get to it–it would seem that even education seeks to thrive.

But, education in its most simplistic sense has not changed.  If I am to learn–for example–how to perform a medical procedure such as setting a broken leg and putting it in a cast, I need accurate information.  This has been a staple of education that we could trace back beyond Plato and Aristotle.  Some might argue that it is not completely necessary that a student have a steward or teacher present for the student to educate themself–they just need correct information–but a teacher is necessary.  I once taught myself how to type using the free tutorials I found on a website.  I did not have an active mentor–but I did have an inactive one, the generous individual who created the tutorials.  The mentor, steward, teacher, facilitator, or whatever you want to call that person who helps you come to know and do what you could not and did not previously know and do is impossible to remove from the education equation.

In today’s electronic educational landscape, the teacher has not gone away and will never go away–you cannot become educated without a teacher in your life.  We can trace any education you have back to a source, a teacher.  So, education has not changed, only the way we can come to be educated has, through expansion of means to get it.

This new avenue, online education, is becoming increasingly popular in the formal education sector: i.e., the academy.  32% of all enrolled college students have taken at least one online course, this percentage has been on the rise consistently year after year for the past ten years.  And the remarkable thing, we still find a human being on the other end of the computer for subjects that want students to do more than rote memorization–because education is a little more than simply knowing.

So what has really changed about education?  We haven’t gotten rid of the need for accurate information, learning, the teacher, or application of correct information.  I suppose the world’s perception of what is an acceptable way to become educated has and is still changing–and it will continue to do so for awhile.  Online education, as the avenue to becoming educated, could deliver us to the intellectual utopia I made light of earlier.  If knowing the correct information and being able to do the correct things with that information is all that matters, then the academy will be changing in the next couple of years.  Sounds crazy you say?  Well, the no-pay MBA already exists.  The world of business is just one profession in which the embossed piece of paper you paid for that has your name and an institution’s name on it matters less that what you know and what you can do.

Online education is attempting to bring education and people to what is actually important: what you know and what you can do.  After all, isn’t that what is most important in a business transaction where you could lose everything?  Or if you were a first time parent and wanted to give your baby something sweet, but all you had was honey.  Maybe you wanted to try your hand at hunting mushrooms during spring season.  These are practical matters, but they can truly change your life if you do not have the right information and do not apply it correctly.  But what about matters of the heart, spirit, and soul?  Again, what matters is the knowing what is true about God and how to do correctly what it is you are supposed to do–trust me, education from the armchair sounds much easier than it is, and that notion, like education, hasn’t really changed.  You can’t fake being educated, when tested, and receiving your education via electronic methods can be as successful for you as non-electronic methods: you just have to have those three things I mentioned before: correct information, a teacher, and apply the correct information in the correct way.

Thank you for reading.  My name is Joshua R. Franklin.  I am a Christian and a writer.  Currently I am working toward a Doctorate in Biblical Studies at Colorado Theological Seminary.