Thoughts about ongoing education

There are more than 700,000 postsecondary degrees, certifications and other credentials available to students in the U.S. who may be seeking to gain more valuable training (Your Money Briefing, October 15, 2021). I’ve lost track of how many of these I’ve taken, but ”dozens” is the most accurate description that I can come up with quickly. I seem to add at least a few per year lately. Right now I’m in three programs that will leads to some license, certificate and/or titled designation. These programs do not include the many professional interest groups, clubs, books, high quality publications (not the entertainment that we have come to believe is “news” today), podcasts and more that contribute to ongoing career education. I certainly consider ongoing professional education a core strategy to starting relevant and adding value to my career and community relationships. In my case, ongoing education, in total, takes up to 15% of my total awake time. It works out to about two hours per day. I don’t expect that to change

The WSJ recently covered the topic of how students can discern which ones can provide the most value. It occurs to me that my greatest concern is in the opposite corner. I see far too many people who take the minimal required educational programs for their career or profession and then just stop. Hardly a week – or even a day if we count social media communications – goes by that I don’t need to restrain myself from pointing out the impact of an obvious lack of basic workplace or professional knowledge.

For a long time I’ve faced regret with the concept of ‘if you could only see what I see’. In fact, I’m pretty well convinced that the lack of information among all parties is what led to the charged conspiracy and hit attempt to ‘take me out’ at the New Jersey bayshore back in 2006. Certainly financial greed was the #1 likely cause of the violent reaction to my negative economic conclusions of the impact of natural climate change trends. But I still think that if local politicians and neighbors had taken the time to learn what I learned then they would not have been alarmed by my conclusions about sustainability of the bayshore. Those indicted for the crime never faced trial so I never actually learned what they were thinking, what they knew and, more importantly, what they didn’t know about the big picture of unfolding events. I can only presume that they were not exposed to the extensive information that indicated their beliefs were unfounded.

The apparently widening knowledge gap is clearly a problem in my professional field. In another recent blog post I wondered about the plans of the AICPA to make their minimal professional training easier to encourage more young people to enter the profession. I wonder: if young people are reluctant to commit to minimal CPA career education, what about real working knowledge later? When I first entered the profession we were supposed to be qualified on compliance; primarily a financial and legal matter. Now CPAs are also expected to also be versed and provide guidance in environmental, social and governance performance measurements and reporting. AICPA entry level training and testing has barely touched this changing role of out profession.

Finally, I am concerned about the issue of reaching undesirable conclusions. Ongoing education inevitably results in reaching conclusions that are different that what you were taught in the past, different than what you learned from your parents, school, church and neighbors. Ongoing education forces us to recognize that the world is not not the way we wish it would be, We see far too many people base their beliefs and actions on the way they believe things should be, rather than what the facts and evidence indicate they should be. I’ve come to believe that this is the fundamental difference between the two political parties and their basis of belief. One focuses on discernible facts and data as they are observed and measured. The other focuses on a belief and goal of how things ought to be. Each of us, to some extent wrestles with the balance between the two. But the fact remains: the more we learn, the more we will know that we don’t know, and how inadequate our current level of knowledge and understanding. It could well be termed the ‘dark side of education’ and a reason why some are opposed to the pursuit of higher education.

My commitment to stick with ongoing education is clear. I don’t have any insight or prediction about where the apparently widening gap in ongoing education and working knowledge is headed for our overall future.