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Blog: Non-traditional ways of learning; Democratizing Education

Manny Becerra as a child

April 2010

I've been working as a professional in higher education for the last, approximately, seven (7) years, specifically in the community college sphere out of Northern Nevada. It's been incredible, to say the least. It's also been inspiring, particularly, and I believe, because it's an educational environment that is setup to serve a diverse subset of the extended community. Diverse, not only and merely in the racial sense, but also related to economics and general interests.

Everyone, generally speaking, wants to learn, wants to improve, wants to be able to do work that brings them a sense of dignity and self-worth while making a living.

It's inspiring to work in this environment, specifically, because it's more-and-more clear—year-after-year—that everyone, generally speaking, wants to learn, wants to improve, wants to be able to do work that brings them a sense of dignity and self-worth while making a living. This perspective and understanding is not entirely new to me though, it's something I witnessed—day-in, day-out—as a child in my mostly immigrant and low-income neighborhoods: people with not a lot of financial means, but an abundance of will, grit, and motivation to work hard and help others in the process. The only thing often holding them back from reaching their fullest potential, and to over simplify it, was and often continues to be: money and education.

As a society, we need to explore and value other forms of education. We need to create and accept more ways of non-traditional learning. We need to redefine education all-together.

This is why, what's more, I appreciate community colleges: they're intended to serve a wider base of the community, giving folks that normally wouldn't have access to university options, for instance, a path toward higher education; however, the catch here is that even community colleges can fall prey to the Systems meant to keep the status quo in-place. I'm not dismissing community colleges and what they have to offer, what I'm getting at is that we—society as-a-whole—need to explore and value other forms of education. **We need to create and accept more ways of non-traditional learning. We need to redefine education all-together. More ways for people—all people in our communities—to learn for both fun and professional reasons. In doing this, we can effectively democratizes education and help individuals and society better reach their fullest potential.

The current System is setup where a subset of institutions and individuals gatekeep knowledge, by extension, power. They get to decide who has certain economic value and opportunities for advancement in our society, which is not always aligned with actual merit or skill. That is silly and harmful to both individuals and society.

The current System is setup where a subset of institutions and individuals gatekeep knowledge through the avenue of accreditation, by extension, they keep power—in various forms—limited to a few, rather than distributed equitably. They get to, effectively, decide who has certain economic value and opportunities for advancement in our society, which is not always aligned with actual merit and skill. That is silly and harmful to both individuals and society. It doesn't makes sense for people to be solely assessed on whether they are professional worthy for a career solely based on whether they have a degree from a higher education institution, of which, they may not have been able to have access to in the first place.

While a higher education is of value; let us not forget and disregard the priceless value of continuously learning to obtain and share knowledge openly, even in different ways through non-traditional channels and methods.

Technological advancements are allowing more-and-more information and collaboration to easily occur between people from all over the world. Advancements are also making online learning more viable. With these advancements, there's a potential for a wider set of people to learn in non-traditional ways, including for a wider array of individuals to be seen as masters of their craft outside of the current System. Society just has to be ready and willing to value this shift; ready to accept new ways of how people can and want to learn, and, simultaneously, be willing to breakdown power structures that currently prevent everyone from reaching their fullest potential.

There's value in someone who has the desire and potential to continously learn and grow over someone who merely goes through the motions of obtaining a college degree without interest nor understanding of what they learned.

So, while a higher education is of value; let us not forget and disregard the priceless value of continuously learning to obtain and share knowledge openly with one another, even in different ways through non-traditional channels and methods. There's value in someone who has the desire and potential to continously learn and grow over someone who merely goes through the motions of obtaining a college degree without interest nor understanding of what they learned.

Never stop learning,

Manny


I am a problem solver: a tech and people leader with a passion and proven track-record in building and leading empathetic, productive teams—remote and on-site—within a continuous learning culture, while championing usable, inclusive digital products and online experiences. I am also a father, advisor, life-long learner, advocate, community builder, and speaker—I am Human. Learn more