What Does It Mean to be Truly Educated?

What Does It Mean to be Truly Educated?

Many of us are pretty much trapped in our societal loop of growing up, getting higher education, possessing a higher degree, getting a well-paid job, settling down to raise a family, and trying to stay alive and healthy until our last day. We grow up going to school because everyone else around us seems to be doing so or because we are told to do so. What does it mean to be truly educated? This is one of the questions that we oftentimes haven't heard of or had the answer to. Most of the education systems in many countries around the globe don’t remind us to ask ourselves this one particular question because one of the purposes of the education system’s design is to fixate on manufacturing enough obedient and conformed workforces to keep the world economy going. The following writing will be discussing the answer to the above question. I think that being truly educated means being able to know how to best acquire knowledge and learn to think critically about what is true for ourselves. It is more than acquiring a degree.

We are responsible for figuring out how to best learn for ourselves when it comes to acquiring knowledge. Learning is an individual experience. Every student has a different learning style. One student might be an auditory learner, whereas another one is a kinesthetic learner, who learns best by experiencing and doing hands-on activities. I am a visual learner, so I like to observe and prefer my learning experiences to revolve around diagrams, scribbles, pictures, and videos. Being aware of my learning style allows me to choose the right note-taking strategy to use, which in my case is mind mapping. "Enabling teachers to know their students' learning styles and making students aware of their learning styles increases teachers' and students' understanding about the students' learning process, allows teachers to provide better support for their students, and has therefore high potential to enhance teaching and learning" (Sabine, 2009). Moreover, learning style could also be about self-studying versus classroom learning. I like to do self-studying on different topics that I find fascinating. Thus, asynchronous learning, a form of education that allows you to learn at your own pace from anywhere at any time, suits me very well. On the other hand, some students might need to be sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher/lecturer talking and interacting with them. Victor Weisskopf, an Austrian-born American theoretical physicist, said, “It's not important what we cover in the class, it's important what you discover” (The Brainwaves Video Anthology, 2015). A truly educated individual knows themselves well and how to best acquire reliable information to construct the right knowledge.

In the modern internet age of our data-driven world, we must be able to critically think about what is true for ourselves. There is quadrillion bite site information out there on the internet to which we have access. Information is no longer accumulated only in physical volumes or kept exclusively in ivy-league school libraries or government offices. There are global revolutionary movements that advocate for free open access to intellectuals' legacy ー their findings, researches, books and journals, knowledge, and ways of thinking. The University of the People is doing exactly that. Nowadays, we can search for almost anything on the internet at our fingertips. Hence, the question doesn’t lie in whether or not we have access to necessary information, but whether or not we have the ability to distinguish the truth from faulty information. This is where the ability to think independently, question existing knowledge, and challenge what we have been told comes into play. "The need for educators to change their goals for children from conformity and obedience (heteronomy) to critical thinking and choice-making (autonomy) is suggested" (Constance, 1991). We all want to make the right decisions in our lives despite knowing that mistakes can also help us learn. Therefore, one of the goals of obtaining a true education is to be able to think critically before deciding for ourselves what is true.

The sole purpose of education goes beyond merely obtaining a degree. Wilhelm von Humboldt claims that the core principle and requirement of a fulfilled human being is the ability to inquire and create constructively independently without external controls (as cited in The Brainwaves Video Anthology, 2015). Learning is a lifelong experience. A person can either keep learning gradually every single day or become stagnant. The desire to acquire knowledge and the commitment to work hard to expand one’s knowledge and others’ are what makes us human and what has brought us to where we are now. The degree could get us the job we desire, the salary we need, and the lifestyle we dream of. However, what is more meaningful than that is the satisfaction and happiness we get from our enlightenment ー the ability to understand the world around us ー and the application of that understanding in creatively and constructively creating the solutions to improve our own lives and others’. The purpose of higher education is to help us live a fulfilling life by becoming a better version of ourselves (Ljiljana, 2021).

In conclusion, as we are going through our education journey, it is useful to remind ourselves often about what it means to be truly educated so that we can stay motivated and on track. Being truly educated is more than just getting a higher degree, it is about how we can discover our learning style to best acquire knowledge for ourselves. It is about how we acquire the critical thinking skill needed to analyze the information that we have accumulated before making decisions. Good decisions and genuine acts of service to others can allow us to live a fulfilling life by making a difference in our lives and the world. It goes beyond obtaining a degree.


  • The Brainwaves Video Anthology. (May 27, 2015). Noam Chomsky - On Being Truly Educated [Video]. YouTube. Link
  • Sabine, G.(2009). Supporting Teachers in Identifying Students' Learning Styles in Learning Management Systems: An Automatic Student Modelling Approach [Abstract]. Emory Libraries. Link
  • Constance, K.(1991). Toward Autonomy: The Importance of Critical Thinking and Choice Making [Abstract]. Emory Libraries. Link
  • Ljiljana, R.(2021). Education and the good life: Petrarch's insights and the current research on well-being [Abstract]. Emory Libraries. Link

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from Panha Suon's Archive