clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?

An article in the Chronicle Wednesday goes after the money vs. education
argument, and the basis of the writer's argument is that playing sports doesn't
require a college degree, which is certainly true, insofar as it goes. 

However, the argument that college is simply a way to get to a career, or
that a career is more important than education really shows how much our
attachment to education has changed.

The writer refers to his grandfather, who dropped out of school and simply
started a dental practice, which you could do in those days, and he couldn't
afford college to boot.  But we're willing to bet that his grandfather,
like ours, could quote Milton and Shakespeare until the day he died, and that
his grandparents had a solid working knowledge of science, mathematics, and the
history of this culture.  In other words, in many respects, a high school
education in their day was more sound than a college education in ours.

There's nothing wrong with money.  We certainly don't run from it; we'd
like more, in fact.  But money is not the end-all and be-all of existence,
and a career is not the sole reason one educates oneself.

To put it as succinctly as possible, we would prefer to have a lawyer who had
a solid grasp of ethics, a physician who had read Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky,
and a banker who had studied philosophy.  And we would prefer that our
children study with teachers who had taken classes which got away from theories
of education.

Two of the best athletic examples in Duke history are Gene Banks and David
Henderson.  Both were poor when they got to Duke, and both made careers in
basketball.  But if you talk to either of these guys, it's clear that they
are informed, they have knowledge of things beyond their field of expertise, and
that they are men of substance.

It's great that Kwame Brown has a lot of money and can take care of his
family, but we think of Kobe Bryant, who almost went to Duke, and he talks about
how he wonders what he gave up.  Rich as Midas, and he wonders what he

This is an ancient argument in our culture of course.  Americans are a
pragmatic people and making a living is pretty darned pragmatic.  But we
can't help but think of Bill Russell in class at USF as a freshman, and having
an insight that made him cry out, and his professor telling him
"congratulations, you just had your first thought." Or words to that
effect, anyway. 

How do you put a price on that? How do you value someone like Sun Tzu
speaking to you?  When you have learned to learn, and you go to a bookstore
and seek out things to nourish your mind, would you trade millions for
that?  Is money the single most important thing in life? And if it is
really important, when do you have enough - and what do you do once you get it?
Count it?

The irony, of course, is that many of the points made in the article, in our
opinion, are wrong -- and that only a person seeking an education could make