Valuing Experience vs Education

So as a vice I play a popular MMO. MMOs are massively multiplayer online games. We recently had a discussion where there was a huge uproar over a difference of opinion that got me thinking. Basically the people who had experienced the higher harder content in the game where calling out people like me who have done research on the higher content as being “clueless”. While you may say “it’s just a damn video game”, there was an important observation I made upon reflection:

We live in a time where it is very difficult to balance the importance of having practical experience on a subject matter and appropriate theoretical knowledge.


Hear me out for a second. Our current traditional and informal education model appears to be built on the dynamics between learning via experience and learning via observation (in this case what I will label education). So, people have had a series of experiences and have noticed some common themes. Instead of having more people have the same experiences to learn the same themes, it was decided it is easier to teach people those lessons without having them physically experience those things first hand – AKA the education system. That way, with those concepts as a base, people’s experiences can either build on those experiences by confirming and developing nuances, or change the course of those concepts by disproving their relevance and replacing it with something else.

Yet, it is more than just doing those things. There are social values being placed on having “more experience” in some situations vs learning through observation. For instance, parents and non-parents are viewed differently when talking about matters relating to child care. I find that still interesting though because even among parents, younger people who are parents are still viewed negatively in terms of their experience levels when talking about child care issue.

Sure looks like we still value first-hand experience over education. But that narrative is problematic in a world where education access for some has vastly improved. In other words, very few areas of industry in some countries you make good money with a HS diploma. On the flipside, too many people with undergraduate degrees have the expectation of being CEO level pay in the field at their first job merely BECAUSE they went to college. Should they get compensated because they have their degree? Sure. But a degree doesn’t always predict how well people will translate those lessons in the field.

So how do you balance the two? Well, that’s the issue there. Both have merits and for me that’s the crux of the matter. IT would appear our contemporary climate is so driven being dichotomy its harder than ever to appreciate difference. It just seems like it always is one way OR the other (experience OR education) as the best fit for ALL situations.

And here I thought true knowledge was the ability to merge both experience and education in a practical manner to grasp an understanding of a specific topic or concept. Silly me, right?


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