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Education and Fear

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

M.P. Cremer

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” Nelson Mandela

I once took a class with a terrible instructor – who hasn’t? It wasn’t that this particular instructor was dull or graded their tests incredibly tough. No, they were perfectly competent in the personal aspect of teaching as well as grading. The issue was, they were completely over the head every single time they stepped in front of the class and started talking.

Who’s to blame for this problem? You could blame me. I was uninterested in this subject and flat out didn’t care, meaning I didn’t really try very hard to understand the material. 

You could blame my instructor. They did a poor job teaching the subject to a classroom half full of people who had no interest in this class nor the profession it directly pertained to and only took the class as a graduation requirement.

I argue we are both to blame; it was a two-way street. Both of the previous arguments built on each other creating the perfect storm, which was me doing the bare minimum to pass the class and giving my instructor a bland review at the end of the semester.

A buddy of mine in this class with me had the same struggles I did. 

When we walked out of our last class, we talked about the instructor and this friend of mine said, “They were just too smart to teach the class.”

I bit my tongue, mainly because I didn’t have the energy to argue after skating by with a C on my final. But this is a comment that’s always stuck with me.

Is it possible to be “too smart” to effectively educate?

First of all, no. I know plenty of experts across multiple industries who can do just as an effective job educating elementary school kids as they can their tenured peers. 

However, what my buddy meant in their comment was not all “smart” people can’t educate; it was they were so educated, they had a hard time “dumbing down” their words.

We see this a lot in agriculture. Science-minded individuals can be more focused on their findings than the communication of those findings, and that’s OK. It’s more than OK, in fact, because it gives people like me a job.

Take, for example, the newspaper you’re reading right now. Most likely, there’s some cover story about something on science (I mean, it is an agricultural publication, after all). 

Did the writer of the science story copy and paste the 100-plus page research paper published on the subject? Or did they condense it down to about 1,000 words, and include creative language to keep you entertained?

This concept is used across every single avenue of communication in this country. On television, radio, social media, print news, etc. 

Every topic can be reduced down to a toddler’s comprehension level if it needs to be. It may be hard, but it can be done.

So, I pose another question here: In efforts to cut out the middle man and communicate your findings and thoughts yourself, should you be afraid of becoming “too educated?”

I see this fear a lot when it comes to people having a passion for something. But I write this column today to tell you, you shouldn’t be afraid of “being too educated.” In fact, I encourage you to become more educated, in any field you find interesting.

Take for example my writing career. When I was in college, I interned with the Angus Journal and learned quite a bit. 

I remember I wrote my first story and was so excited to turn it in for review. I worked hard on it and put every ounce of creativity I could into it. 

However, I had zero technical skills when it came to writing. I didn’t know how to transition between paragraphs properly, how to attribute my sources the correct way or when and where to use different grammar rules. 

The story itself was pretty decent, but was the Angus Journal expected to publish such a hot mess based on the creative elements alone? Absolutely not, and they didn’t. Down the road, when I learned those skills; when I applied that knowledge, I became a published writer.

That was the day I learned a big lesson. You cannot get by on talent or passion alone. 

Sure, talent and passion help a lot, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s all just smoke and mirrors. You need those skills; the understanding of the fundamentals and the foundation of education to effectively teach someone.

Don’t be afraid to seek education or educate yourself, instead, face it head on and apply it to your existing skills –  you’ll be amazed at the difference you can make in the world when you combine passion, talent and education.

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