I spend a significant amount of time studying in the library each week. Recently this has caused a lot of comments about my study habits. Words like “crazy”, “nerd”, “weird” and “great student” have been thrown around. On one level I find it funny because I'm simply doing what I need to in order to get everything done (and especially to understand what the heck is going on in my theology classes!). But as I was sitting at home on Saturday night reading articles about the gospel of Luke, I started to wonder why I'm the weird one and why more people don't care or aren't passionate about their education. Why do I feel as though I need to continually justify my decision to study over other activities? And why are study and education and those who enjoy learning regularly shamed?
The answer to those questions could probably be the topic of a research project, but here are a few thoughts I’ve had for those of you who think I’m crazy for spending so much of my time studying.
- Don't take your education for granted!
Whatever shape or direction your learning takes- whether school, university, trade or on the job training- remember that it is a privilege to learn. According to the UNESCO, 263 million children and youth between the ages of 6 and 17 are currently out of school globally. Many do not have access to education because of their sex, location and wealth (or lack there of). This is just with reference to primary and secondary education, not factoring in how those numbers would decrease again in tertiary or higher education. Living in the relative comfort of white, middle-class Australia, it can be easy for me to forget that in many places around the world education is not easily accessible. I often have to pause and remind myself that doing post-graduate study is a privilege and one I should not take for granted. I take my study seriously because I recognise that had I been born in any number of places around the world- especially as a woman- I would not be afforded this incredible opportunity.
- Don’t just live for right now.
A dangerous cultural trend has emerged that says it is acceptable to live for the experience and pleasure of right now, while disregarding anything that might not immediately feel good, even if it will be beneficial in the future. Let me be clear, I don't always find study enjoyable and there are days where I feel like my head will explode. But I’m not living for instant-gratification or for "feel good" experiences all the time. I'm living with the end in mind. I know that what I am studying, although it sometimes seems like a sacrifice of time and enjoyment now, will be incredibly useful for myself and others in the years to come. I am committed to my study because I can see the long-term gain of being focused and dedicated in the short-term.
- Don’t settle. Don’t strive.
It's pretty easy to get caught up in striving for good grades (and to some extent doing well should be important). But I’ve come to realise that study is about learning and growing, not about accumulating good grades or just scraping by. In my many hours in the library, I overhear a lot of conversations of students who are doing the bare minimum and are proud of it. The phrase “p’s get degrees” might be literally true, but I don’t want to send children to a school where this was the attitude of the teachers, nor do I want to go to hospital and have surgery performed by a surgeon with this attitude, nor do I want to go to a church where this was the attitude of the pastor. I think the same could be said of any profession. On the other hand, I hear students with ever-growing anxiety about doing well, who are basing their self-worth on their grades. Some settle for P’s, others anxiously strive for HD’s. Neither extreme is helpful. Study, for me, is simply about learning. Sometimes that means I do really well, other times it means I completely miss the point of the assignment because I get sidetracked on researching something I want to learn or understand. But the point is always that I have learnt something and that I have grown. I am passionate about my study because it is stretching and growing me and I am passionate about my study because what I am learning also has the capacity to help stretch and grow others.
It helps that I have found something to study that brings my soul to life. But you can too! And when you work out what that is, don’t be ashamed or talked out of spending time in the library, learning and growing!
 United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Leaving no one behind: how far on the way to universal primary and secondary education, July 2016, http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Documents/fs37-out-of-school-children.pdf