No, you didn’t attend “University of Life” or “College of Wikipedia.”


Wikipedia is certainly a valuable resource, a reservoir of accurate, sophisticated information–revolutionary in almost every way. Wikipedia includes information going far beyond a “regular” encyclopedia. It includes information about important academic articles and thinkers, too, for example. Wikipedia is the world’s largest and most accurate encyclopeida in the history of the world.

However, in contrast to the meme above, Wikipedia does not including everything you learned in college. Notions that suggest Wikipedia is a comprehensive catalog of everything available in college misunderstand the true purposes of learning and how it happens, as well as a typical person’s motivation. 

The college / university campus is a unique place in any society. While formal education is not a prerequisite for being very knowledge, institutions of higher education have no parallel in our world.

An important part of learning in college includes practicing said information — asking questions, writing essays, taking tests, doing practice problems, and being “evaluated.” Another important part of learning in college including listening to experts and being around them. Likewise, learning in college is social, too – meeting very different peoples and participating in various student activities.

Wikipedia includes knowledge–the same way articles and books do. All of these can be read, but it takes a dedicated person and/or a dedicated environment to actually learn.

So the meme above could just as easily say, “everything I learned in college can be found in the books I (should have) read.”

uni-of-life-art-whiteOn a similar note, it is common to see someone post on Facebook that they attended the “University of Hard Knocks” (or something similar). These people don’t understand that college is much more than “life experience.” It’s a place that teaches a very specific kind of knowledge and allows for a kind of thinking, sadly, not taught or welcomed in general society. It includes learning inside and outside of the classroom. “Life experience” is always important. One form of “life experience” is the college experience, but life experience alone does not add up to a “college education.”  

Of course, as I’ve said here and elsewhere, a college education is not a prerequisite for being very knowledge. 

What do you think?

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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12 replies

  1. I don’t think the quips and memes regarding alternate collegiate study are anything to defend (but rather to enjoy for the contrast humor) but I do think college, especially a four year institution, remains far too much an expected road to success. Studies in the practical sciences is one thing as that generally follows a specific career path… but the vast majority of folks are in some variant of liberal arts studies and the expectations are so high in that is the direction of success. Back in the 80’s when my kids were in school I got involved in a local education-to-careers initiative with the local school district. Back then the idea was to somehow work with local business to create curriculum that had relevancy in the real world. I ended up “graduating” to the local community college program which handed out grant money for what amounted to business mentoring and apprenticeships. Back then the 2 year community colleges were growing as a kind of stop-gap for those feeling they needed a 4 year college degree. The problem was, and seems still is, that business hiring still values the 4 year degree when the job to be done does not. The other influence is parents. Even in my day, the late 1960’s, I felt the pressure to go to college.. and I had NO interest in it at the time (until I had an Oprah moment a few years later.. a whole other story). There’s not many parents who do not want their child to go to a 4 year college. No parent wants to admit.. “Well, you are more a worker bee so you don’t need to go to college, son.”
    Now we have a world where college grads are flipping burgers.
    BUT… what a degree does do (very generally speaking), is clear up one’s speaking and social interaction and certainly their ability to read and communicate in a coherent written form using the King’s English. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • There really is always a struggle to align the needs of (local) business, the hopes of providing everyone the best education possible, paying for everything / paying everyone fairly, etc., etc. Formal education is a tricky thing, for sure. Most people don’t seem to understand the true purpose of college. It’s clear you do. 🙂


    • I am totally sold on education and prodded my spawn to continue on with it. But that’s not to suggest I’m not a bit of a cynic when it comes to college. I did a formal two years, then upped it to four, then actually completed all the classroom toward a masters.. but me and the school had a difference of opinion about it and I never completed the thesis. I sure showed them! In the meantime.. no masters degree. 🙂 Ten years later when I tried to grovel my way back in to finish the thing it was way far passed their statute of limitations to return. The thing that perturbed me was that it was simply resume fodder. I mean, my oldest got his degree in physics and that’s one thing. Mine was a liberal arts thing… and all through that I always felt I knew more or as much as the instructors.. and the masters was a total waste of time and money given there were no new concepts or applications of substance. I had no problem tackling the required thesis, and my topic was a good one… but there was way too much classroom attention kicking work back based on margins, indents, and position of footnotes rather than evaluating content and form. There’s that real world thing again… will some future employer in my particular business discipline care if I send him a report with proper thesis margins? But like I said.. I lost that dispute. Yet more to the point, I took the masters course not for the learning but for the resume and a little bit of ego just to say I did it.

      Liked by 3 people

    • ps- thanks for reading and commenting! AJP


  2. Probably the single-most important endowment a college education gives to the person is the ability to analyze information before making a judgment about its value. Wikipedia doesn’t teach you how to analyze information. The discussions you have in college teach you that even that information you rejected before will often have relation to something you approved later. Wikipedia is a bunch of articles that are not necessarily facts at all. Most of what goes into Wikipedia is opinion. Sometimes that opinion is just whether or not certain information should be included in a topic. Sometimes the writers state their biases. Most of the time they do not. There are many articles that are careful to see two sides to a topic and state both for the reader to decide which to approve. However, too often that is not the case. Worse, we are never told who wrote the article so that we can understand their viewpoint.

    When it comes to history, too many people think it is a list of facts when most of what we see in history books is opinion, opinion about what happened, opinion as to what is important to know and understand. Even dates may prove later to be inaccurate. All first-hand reports may be biased because we all see something different when we are all watching the same event. Interpretation is automatic and not objective because we have built into our brains a categorization process in the hippocampus, necessary for retaining anything long-term.

    So, yes, Wikipedia can include a lot of information that appears to be extremely accurate but all such information is constantly being updated. The University tends to have faculty that keep up with the updates. Wikipedia is supposed to also, but I have seen many articles that are clearly biased against alternative medicine, for instance, precisely because the writer doesn’t keep up with the research done in that field or even in conventional medicine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wikipedia, according to the latest studies I’ve seen, is more accurate than “regular” encyclopedias. Here’s a good essay arguing in favor of Wikipedia: – I use Wikipedia often to get quick information / references. Its lists of books and movies, for example, are incredible. I have been frustrated at times because their “fact checkers” are “too good” – in that I’ll add some more specialized information to an article that’s not necessarily easily available across the Wed and the fact checkers will remove it because it’s not already backed up by other sources easily on the Internet. There is a way to track when information is changed/added and who did it by clicking the “view history” at the top right of each article.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! AJP


    • Thanks for the tip on the history. I have found a lot of inaccuracies in medical articles especially. You are very right in that its reference list for each article is a great place to start with tracking information. However, I still exercise caution and do not normally cite Wikipedia when the original published articles should be. I have not found the fact checkers to be that good because they don’t check for “important” supported by multiple articles on the Web that might contradict what is said in the article. The articles can be biased in that they do not present multiple views of something, when the presence of controversy is relevant, but imply by their single view that the subject is “settled science.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think this is one of your best thoughts yet, and like you mentioned college does not make one knowledgable, but maybe the college experience helps one attain knowledge and become a knowledgable person.
    Doug had some very valid points; I know some of my students are going on for four years because mom and dad want that for them, perhaps because they never had the opportunity to “go to college” themselves.
    In another comment I said that knowledge was nothing if you didn’t apply it. I know of at least a few individuals who are” walking Wickipedias”, at least able to rattle off facts, but I wouldn’t call them knowledgable.
    Also, what ever happened to the good, old-fashioned idea of a liberal arts background at least. That status could possibly occur in two years at a community college, then specialization could take place the last two years IF WISHED. Sometimes I think we have “messed up” what was already in place.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Rae!
      Part of the power of college is that people don’t really understand its purpose, misunderstand its purpose, and that colleges have a truly unique function in society.
      And for sure knowing “facts” doesn’t make someone truly knowledgeable – we have to be able to discuss these, understand these when juxtaposed with other ideas and whatnot.
      The expectations of college is always changing, and what colleges specifically do is always changing too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m always a little annoyed when people try to downplay the importance of college. Find them in ten years and they’re almost always trying to go back, or finally admit they had tried and failed and it was all resentment.

    I think college is an important part of growing up, and learning life lessons. It also helps young adults develop critical thinking skills. The unfortunate part is that not everyone can afford it, and even when we can, it doesn’t always translate into the jobs we wanted when we started.

    It is what it is. I did 6 years of college and would do it all again.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Indeed. I think Wiki is some massive free book that surely lacking the ‘action’ (practice, interaction etc) schools (any level) have. Still, I guess schooling is a ‘simulation’ of the ‘real society’ out there—the ‘wild-wild-world’ where nobody has a predefined scheduled of what ‘classes’ to attend (or what are actually being put to ‘test’, for that matter). That being said, I believe memes are (by design) meant for drawing attention, not delivering substance. (Note: I don’t have facebook/twitter/insta etc accounts, so there’s a good chance I don’t know what I am saying 🙂 )

    PS: Thanks for voicing your thoughts about the so-called enhanced stat page. I hate that too. 🍸

    Liked by 1 person

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