Curating an Education

By Clare Atkinson

As undergrads, when we talk about our lives – the jobs, experiences, opportunities, classes – the conversations regularly turns to the resume. An experience’s value can be judged by its appearance, or lack thereof, on the official document of your education. This categorization of education into the official, which we schedule and earn, or the intrinsic, which is ever-occurring and unrecognized, does the double duty of fragmenting a life-long thread of acquired knowledge and alienating young people from building a sense of self education.

I’m 20. That number doesn’t inspire a whole lot of self-confidence in the significance of my perspective, but I am getting educated as we speak, or so my CV would imply.

The most wonderful part of school, to my mind, is individual classes informing each other and the similar exchange between out of school activities and formal education. Thinking about thermoregulation on a sweaty bike ride or hearing a reference on the radio to something that I was learning about in history. This mutual enrichment is one of the great pleasures of school and something that I believe should be enjoyed and pursued.

Our resume’s emphasis on the appearance of an education choke-holds the integrity of the learning experience. The joy of the experience too! The ubiquity of GPA focused learning is the result of an obsession with quantifying progress. The distinction between results-driven and interest-fuelled learning defines campus populations. GPA-booster class culture is symptomatic of the official education mind-set. The whole notion of participating in a class purely for its numerical contribution to your degree-defining number exemplifies corruption in the pursuit of knowledge. You have to ask yourself what the attitude of ‘school for school’ actually yields off paper. Not happiness, not competency, not meaningful growth. When you compartmentalize school as a means to an end, it devalues the internal wealth of the pursuit.

Your capital E Education is always happening, whether you choose to engage with it or not. The books, festivals, CBC radio programs, road trips, public talks, jazz shows, and conversations don’t end up on my resume but they grow my sometimes joyous, sometimes devastating, sometimes meandering understanding of the world. The curatorial role that we all play in our own life-long learning is an important one to recognise. And to surrender this curation to perceived expectations of a cookie cutter resume or even just ‘trending now’ on Facebook, is to sacrifice the liberty that allows us to fully develop our identity. The information available to us at this time is undeniably vast, at times overwhelmingly so. Developing a sort-of ethic, or even just awareness, when distributing your attention throughout a day can lead to a cohesive compilation of personal knowledge.

The book that you were reading when you went to that museum exhibition the day after you helped your friend move seems trivial but I actually think that this rotating cast of learnings and actions aid the synthesis of personal ideas. This mixtape of ideas and encounters plays a definitive role in our value judgements, which as citizens of the world are important to be clear on, not only as pillars of ourselves but as consequential elements of our generation off the resume pages.

Maybe this is just a convoluted explanation of humans’ continuing preoccupation with paper. Or maybe this is a clumsy call to world of current undergrads to exercise what little pragmatism we might have and expand our sense of learning.  True engagement, curiosity, and a sense of Education (with a capital E!) are, in my experience, the best ways to get rid of that pesky CV tunnel vision and are what employers are actually looking for.


As Clare Atkinson, I am a citizen of East Van who likes to dance and talk. In my free time, I am a second year Biology student at UBC.


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