The Importance of a Good Education – What it Really Means to be Well Educated

My name is Aleksandr Biyevetskiy and this is my response to the meaning and significance of a Good Education written for Business Government and Society class taught by Frank, a professor at Rhode Island College.

Mind Control and Provocative Thought Disclaimer

If it sounds too legal and obnoxious, and yet makes no sense whatsoever, then bear with me, because I am about to share the story of my humbling and trying pursuits of education, which still seems mind bugling, unreal and makes very little sense to me, too!

Before you start reading any of this, please understand that this is my story and my view of the world on the true meaning of Good Education. You do not have to agree with me, but you are more than welcome to have a little laugh, and perhaps even identify with some parts of my crazy experience on the road to becoming educated.

Why am I sharing something so deeply personal?

As I started writing my response, it occurred to me that it can make for an amusing story that I would like to share with you. Also, nothing like a little shameless self-promotion in the age of technology, which by the way, is something that I think everybody could take advantage of. And I do not mean it in a good way!


Quick Background

I decided to make this post public, because writing this response really made me think all the way back to my elementary school days in Moscow, Russia. Immersing my thoughts all the way back into my childhood, opened up a bag of strange and forgotten feelings and emotions that really started to hit home for me, now that I can reflect on it with a certain degree of maturity, or so I hope.


Acknowledgments

Now, I do not claim this to be an academic piece, but I do want to say thank you to people who inspired this work. A big thank you goes to Professor Frank for presenting such a great, and potentially provocative topic, which really made me think and inspired me to actually put some real effort in writing this. I must say that many have tried this, but only a few succeeded to ignite the light of education for me.

I also want to thank you Alexandra for encouraging me to go back to school and complete my last semester of College, after taking such a long and painful 2 year break due to a wacky and mysterious injury resulting from getting too close to my secret mistress, the passion for competitive ballroom dancing, which caused me a lot of pain and took me out of commission for such a prolonged period of time.

Aleksandr Biyevetskiy and Nicole at RIC ballroom showcase

Aleksandr Biyevetskiy and Nicole at RIC ballroom showcase Cha-Cha

Aleksandr-Biyevetskiy and Agata Harvard Ballroom Dance Competition

Kristin and Aleksandr Biyevetskiy at Ballroom Dance Competition


So, without further a due lets ignite the Light of Education!

The light of Education

Topics Presented and Covered:

Focus on why it is important to have well educated citizens?
Why it is critical that they are properly educated for the times in which they will live?

Also present the answer to this question:

What do you think are the important outcomes of a ‘good’ education?

Good Education Quest – What it means to be well educated to me.

For as long as I can remember, the idea and a concept of a good education have never really resonated well with me. No, it was not like my elementary school teachers have never tried to persuade me (force down upon me) that education is important, but it was the pervasive manner in which it was done, and the obvious (to me) teachers’ disregard for my intrinsic value as a person has discouraged me from doing well in school. That and the lack of a sincere and kind encouragement from my teachers seems to have created a lot of stubborn and persistent resistance within me, which was really holding me back from doing my best in my educational tracks.

Excerpts to set the stage

If you do not do well in school, and you do not happen to be Albert Einstein, then clearly you must be a failure and the only thing you can do is load and unload boxes at the department store. – Paraphrased quote from my elementary school teachers in Russia.

The importance of being educated has been forcefully preached to me ever since I started attending the elementary school in Moscow, Russia, but I could never force myself to buy into this idea no matter how hard I tried… – and my clearly immature reaction to it:)

A small bit of my background

I was born and raised in Moscow, back then Soviet Union. My father, a “single and highly overworked” parent, was really struggling to raise me and my younger brother during those rough and highly turbulent times of Perestroyka and later the so called “democracy”, which at best can be called anarchy of the post soviet chaos and corruption.

Thinking back, I find it interesting that the idea and significance of being well educated, or becoming educated period, has never been instilled in me by my Father who is an accomplished Inventor and a good Scientist in the field of Glass Physics and Material Sciences.

Warning the text below has not been proof-read yet, as I wanted to post my raw thoughts and ideas ASAP, so I can go back and take care of the typos, grammar, and readability as soon as I have a chance.

So, ever since the first grade, my elementary school teachers have been preaching that education is the light, and lack of education is a path to darkness.

While I have no doubts that my grade school teachers meant well, I never truly got the idea of what exactly they meant by becoming a “well educated person”. One thing that I remember clearly, though, is that they used a sort of a fear tactic to make kids work harder at my school.

Our teachers would tell us that if we fail at the school, and the premise was elementary and middle school (in Russia, the middle school combines middle and junior high school into one), then the only thing that the world will be able to offer us, we’ll be becoming a person who loads and unloads things at the department store.

The problem was that I didn’t think it would be all that bad to load and unload all sorts of stuff at the department store rather than doing homework. Of course, I never considered dropping out of school, but I never really knew why I was going to school in the first place, and my teachers have sort of failed to explain to me why it was in fact important to do well in school.

Thus, I spent my first eight years at the Russian elementary/ middle school without really knowing why I was there, and that was a huge disconnect that was draining me for what seemed like forever. I remember clearly walking to school and imagining the day when I would be free from this torture.

Alas, it was left up to me to figure out the answer to the question of why am I going to school?

Unfortunately, I could never find that answer on my own, which I guess was the reason why I never really did well in school. I just really did not see the incentive behind the misery of homework! Finally, feeling inadequate because I did not live up to the expectations of my teachers only made matters worse and made me passive aggressive in my approach to education, which did not help my confidence.

The Reality starts to sink in

In Russia, the citizens are only expected / obligated to finish nine grades of schooling, which qualifies for meeting a minimum standard established by the department of education.

I remember very clearly that when I was in the ninth grade, I was asked if I had the plans to continue my education beyond the ninth grade. All of a sudden it occurred to me that after the ninth grade I would have to make my own decisions as I would no longer be expected, nor obligated to continue in school.

I remember that it was a little bit scary because I did not know what I was going to do with my life. What made the matters worse was that my school action needed all for grades 10 and 11, which is an equivalent of an American high school except that it can be 10 times more a difficult.

Because I was not the brightest student in a middle school by any means, my school officials have pretty much told me that if I were to indicate that I had the plans to enroll into high school at the same school, then I would not pass the ninth grade, which would disqualify me from entering the high school in the first place. So, in order for me to graduate, I accepted the deal and agreed not to continue my education beyond the ninth grade at my former school.

But, graduating from the middle school in Moscow, Russia, was not as easy as taking a deal and agreeing not to attend the high school. There was yet an additional requirement to fulfill. I had to take some private lessons with the math and physics teachers who made it pretty clear to me that I would not pass their classes if I didn’t.

I guess it was a nice easy way for them to make some money and for me to pretend like I was learning something by attending their private classes. The problem was that there was barely any food at my house, and paying for the lessons did not help the family budget.

Seeing how “things really work” did not help strengthening my spirit for the pursuit of education. In fact, I became utterly disgusted with the “system” and couldn’t wait to get myself out from the school.

Such was the sad economic reality of living in Russia after the failure of communist rule. The irony was that these were supposed to get better after the fall of communism, but they’ve actually gotten worse and my father was not getting paid for his work. I know for fact that I would never have to pay for the “necessary” extra math and physics lessons.

Truth to be told, I already knew that my family was going to immigrate to America, and I could not care less about how well educated I was by the Russian standards.

But like everything in life, my expectations of my family immigrating to America upon my graduation from the middle school did not quite materialize when I was expecting it. So there I was, a 15 year old with no job, and I was not on my way to America either.

I found myself in a peculiar situation, because it was the end of a summer, but I had nothing meaningful to do, and I would still have nothing to do in September, when my friends would be attending high school.

The month of September came and passed, as I became completely bored out of my mind. Back then and even now, I was a little bit of a geek in terms of being obsessed with the latest video and computer games. But, I was just a poor boy who could not afford to buy a computer. Thus, I was left myself, and with having no “meaningful” things to do I became quite worried about my situation.

I also started having some serious doubts about my family ever going to America, which was supposed to happen ever since I was 12. It was really bothering me that all my friends were doing something while I was cruising the streets of Moscow looking for something to do and having absolutely nothing meaningful to do.

So, I set out to try to get a job, but the economic situation in Moscow wasn’t that glamorous, and I did not know any influential people who could help me find a job.

Chess to the rescue

A few years before my dilemma of having nothing meaningful to do, I have developed a hobby and a passion for playing a good game of chess when I attended a Jewish cultural center where they had a chess club for the youth. Within a few years I became quite good, and I even thought of pursuing the betterment of my ability to play the Game of chess would be a worthy investment in my future, and it would help me stay focused by doing something I enjoy.

So I went to the elite Moscow school of chess for the youth named after Tigran Petrosian who was the hardest player to beat in the history of chess. When I got there, they told that I was too old to enroll. Disappointing as it was I decided to go and try to talk to the school director to see if he could help me get enrolled. We made a deal that I would help him move some furniture from one floor to a floor beneath it, and that in return, he would try to get me enrolled. Needless to say that I was desperate, and so I jumped at the opportunity and with the help of my brother, we rendered a world class service of moving the old, expensive and very heavy furniture for the kind grandmaster. After I have done my part, he suddenly became very busy and I have never had a chance to ask him about my enrollment into the chess school. As they say, oh such is the life…

I guess, my grade school teachers were right, after all I was only good to do the physical labor to prove myself worthy of chess education, but it got me nowhere.

The school for the Losers Sounds good to me

With the time running out and the situation not getting any better, I decided to enroll into a professional technical academy, which was something that I believed to be a school for the losers. Now I wanted to become one of them. Ironically, it was not the pursuit of education, but rather the fear of going nowhere and becoming a serious loser in life that pushed me towards going forward with that decision.

Luckily, despite being a month late since the semester started, I was able to enroll in a professional technical academy for the aspiring future carpenters, and to my great pleasure I discovered that I would be getting free meals while I’m at the school plus a small monthly stipend. I guess the school for the losers was not all that bad after all.

Unfortunately, it was not all that great either, because I was surrounded by many troubled kids who grew up in a small but infamous city called “Lubertzi”, which was right outside of Moscow.

The city of Lubertzi received a national respect and recognition for two distinct achievements; for having a very popular musical band called “LUBE”, and for having more young criminals per square mile than any other city in Russia.

So there I was surrounded by the young criminals from the city of Lubertzi, and although the quality of education at the school was decent, I couldn’t say the same about the social aspect. I really had to fight for my survival at that school. During every recession, I I would go to the gym located on the second floor of the school, where I would be lifting weights and punching a boxing bag so that I could develop the skills necessary to defend myself in this hostile educational environment. At home, I would become very intimate with a pull a bar that became my best friend. Back then I would be doing well over 100 pull ups per day to keep myself in shape for the school fights, just in case it happens.

In retrospect, I learned a lot of valuable lessons at that school; the education is important if you don’t want to go to a bad school where you can get your butt kicked. Luckily, I won all of my fights thanks to my wrestling experience, but other kids weren’t so lucky.

After a year at that school, I actually became more confident in my ability to defend myself and I gained a few pounds of lean muscle from weight lifting. I did not learn a whole lot academically, but I was getting some regular meals, good exercise, and pocket money from the school’s stipend. I guess it was a good thing for a poor boy with big ambitions like myself.

At last, my family did move to America where I enrolled into a high school in Pawtucket, RI for three semesters before I graduated with a real American high school diploma. If

When I was a high school, I learned that there is a thing called “College” and that it might be the thing to go after I finish high school.

Once again, nobody would explain to me what was the point of going to college in the first place. And to be honest, I had no idea what the point was.

I did apply to Rhode Island college in my last year of high school, but I was not accepted because I had never taken a foreign language class in high school, which was a requirement for enrolling into college.

Unfortunately, speaking a fluent Russian, I had no idea that taking a foreign language in high school is necessary in order to enrol into college. Because I have only had three semesters to attend in high school, taking foreign language courses was out of the question because I couldn’t even speak a proper English at the time. My guidance counsellor has never arranged for a foreign language test that would have demonstrated my proficiency in Russian, which would qualify as a foreign language requirement and give me a green light to enrol into college.

I really think that life has a way of laughing at people, because I’ve only found out about all of these requirements when my “I don’t really know why I am applying other than to wrestle” college application to RIC was declined. If

I felt bad because the only reason I ever wanted to go to college was to be able to wrestle in NCAA program, and Rhode Island college seemed like a good place for my pursuits. Oh well, now that my application to RIC was declined, I decided to join the army National Guard, because I wanted to do something cool and meaningful, and I was no where near to be going to college, not just yet any ways.

The army basic training for the infantrymen at fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia did me good. I got into the best physical shape of my life, learn to shoot a rifle, became the company’s
physical fitness champion receiving recognition from a battalion commander, and developed acute case of disgust for the army food, and roger that Sir/do what you are told Army mentality. It kind of made me think that perhaps I should go to college, so I can become an army officer and tell people what to do!

The things I learned about “Good Education”

When I got back home, I was a lean and mean killing machine full of confidence in myself. I realized that four
months spent in the fort Benning, Georgia gave me more confidence than I ever had throughout my elementary, middle school and high school years.

The first meaningful lesson about education that I derived
for myself was that learning to do things that can hopefully help me gain more confidence is the paramount point in and of itself in any “good education”. I could be wrong, but that’s the conclusion I came to.


Here is the least of things that I believe should be the outcomes of good education.

1. Having a clear idea of why the person is/was pursue and education and the first place.
2. Having developed the ability to think independently and analyze ideas.
3. The independent thinking means being capable of critical thinking, and having an open mind.
4. Becoming an independent person who is a somewhat rational, confident, well-intended, mature and compassionate human being.
5. Competence, it would be great to actually have learned at least something in school and have developed some abilities and problem solving approaches.

I also believe in a personal humbleness as a direct result of a good education, because it is only natural to be humbled just from realizing how little you actually know and understand, and how vast and unlimited the invisible frontiers of the knowledge really are.

Now, here are few other things I realized about education. A good education has the ability to open and expand the horizons of human thinking and human mind. Learning may even help a person to become a better human being, but ultimately it depends on the person and what ideas, principles, and beliefs they are willing to internalize.

I’ve learned that it’s what you put into your education that matters the most. The more I put into my education, the better results I will get. I now believe that one can excel even at a mediocre school provided that he/she puts in some good amount of effort into it, however I would encourage everybody to seek the best school they can get into, as I believe that will help them get/gain far more from their efforts.

If I were to do it all over again, I would put more energy, and goal oriented effort into my high school education so that I could go to a more privileged secondary school.

Despite the fact that I don’t think too highly of Rhode Island college, because it is such a tough environment that doesn’t provide a true college experience for most students who commute. I am still thankful, and I do think that I’m now more open-minded about pursuing a master’s degree in business, which would have never been the case if I did not go to Rhode Island college in the first place.

I must admit that I think that good education is a selfish thing, and remind to myself that we do live in a highly individualistic society and in a selfish world. I know that I would be frowned upon by the so called “well educated people” if they found out that I didn’t finish college (If that were the case, but luckily it is not).

Part of me thinks that it’s as if I’m trying to prove to them that I’m a worthy person, because I’m educated and I don’t have to do a hard labor for a living.

I think this line of thinking is very limiting, but I know for a fact that many people in the educated circles will always ask you what you do for a living. And if they hear that you just do some blue collar job, then they will likely assume that it’s because you did not go to a good school. All of the sudden, you will become less of a person in their eyes. But, let me ask you this, though. Does it really mean than such elitist attitudes on their part, characterize them as well educated and independently thinking adults? I don’t think so, but we do live in a tough world and there are many people who will inevitably pass judgements.

Therefore, my resolution is to do the best I can with my education, but it’s not because I want to impress somebody, but rather because I want to be all I can be and make the most impact in the world. This does not mean that I will ever look down upon somebody who did not finish college, because I only judge the people based upon the quality of the person that they are, and their attitudes towards the world. I also consider the impact they make on the world with the abilities that they have. In other words, I try to evaluate every human being as a whole person rather than categorizing and jumping to a quick conclusion about the person based on a piece of paper called diploma.

I think it is critical to look at the book, and not give undue credit to people just because they may have graduated from Harvard. I would rather see a mature and compassionate person with good values, vs. an obnoxious immature kid with a Harvard diploma.

Aleksandr Biyevetskiy is the author of this post. Feel free to share your thoughts on what it means to be well educated to you.

Some Great Educational Resources:

Veterans MBA Application Wisdom – Analytical explanation of which MBA essay questions are best to answer based upon your background.

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