There was an article in the NY Times the other day about the college selection process. Alumni of about my age (class of 2001) from three schools--Penn, U Michigan, and Reed--were polled and interviewed for the article. I wasn't personally interviewed, but I did fill out the poll on which the author bases some of his assertions.
The poll found that 28% of Reed alumni "said that learning “how to think, to work, to learn” in college was what they valued most now." I'm pretty sure I'm part of that 28%, because more than anything else (except perhaps for some complicated lessons about social/economic class on which I've already expounded here), Reed taught me how to learn. When you're a kid, learning comes naturally to you--everything is new, and learning and adapting to your environment are directly linked to your survival, in one way or another. As an adult, though, you already know enough that it becomes possible to get by without making any attempt to learn much more. And, honestly, I think a lot of people live their lives just that way--thinking they already know enough and can somehow stop learning now. To my mind, that mentality goes hand in hand with classes in which the most common question is "will we be tested on this?" And, for the most part, that attitude was not only not encouraged, but simply not tolerated at Reed. Now that I am (basically) out of formal education and responsible for initiating my own learning, and am profoundly grateful to have internalized Reed's way of thinking.
And so I will grit my teeth just a little bit less when I make this month's student loan payment.