The “chicken vs egg” debate is one of the most controversial and grueling debates of our time, but the constant argument: education vs experience, is far more relevant.
Both educators and students have thought long and hard, objectively and subjectively on which of the two values is most important. The most popular arguments are often as follows: how can one know how to get the most out of the experience without education? How can one make anything out of their education without experience?
The actuality of the education vs experience debate is that no single argument can prove which one matters more; it differs from case to case. Both terms “education” and “experience” are broad. What kind of experience? Some will be unhelpful and some not. What kind of education? Some education offers a different kind of experience on its own. The debate is, and will always be, entirely subjective. Students’ answers will depend on their schooling, the timing and their own experiences.
To explore the idea that this debate is more than a black and white look at the two terms, I interviewed 5 campers from The Young Writer’s Initiative’s virtual writing summer camp (commonly known as TYWI). While the sampling is small, we begin to get a look at the subjective and deep scope of the argument.
“I think this [debate] varies from student to student,” Emily, a fiction camper explained. “Now, with the modern-day tech and resources, I honestly think a lot of what we learn is useless because we can answer most of our problems with a simple google search. I think the student experience is more important because no kid gets to relive their childhood, and it should be a time of happiness, and not stress,” she later adds: “To me, I learn through experience. It's hard for me to sit in a classroom for hours on end and just listen to the teacher talk. I'd much rather dance than learn about dancing.”
“Education is great and all, but the experience helps so much more in the real world,” Ray, a nonfiction and fiction camper said. “Think about it this way: if you want to be an activist or a public speaker, which is gonna matter more? The rules of grammar and how to write a sentence, or how you perform talking in front of large crowds? The first is indeed very important, but the second will make or break your career. If you're nervous and shaky and you stumble on every single one of your words, no amount of grammar rules can save you. The only way to fix those speaking flaws would be through experience. So yes, education does matter, but experience matters so much more because experience is what makes education shine.”
Ray shared a time when experience helped them out, “I was in an argument with my mom's friend who was arguing with me about transgender people, and why she doesn't think they should be able to play sports with their correct gender. My self-taught education about this topic did help, but my experience with debating and making my points clear and concise helped me even more. A year before this event took place, I would never have been able to stand up to her and say the things I did at the moment, but because I’d gotten so much experience, I was able to.”
Siddhi, a fellow nonfiction camper, provided a different look at the argument. “I know how important experience is, and its importance over education, but I wouldn't be able to reach up to a platform, or a stage to avail any experience if I wasn't given an education first,” she explained. “I would have been simply lost without it. What use would the experiences be if I wasn't educated on the ways I could leverage them? Both are well important to me, but education should always be the first step.”
“I think in my school system (Indian CBSE) we were more focused on how to get marks on our exams than actually learning. It was more "this will be on the exam, know it by heart" than actually learning anything,” said Soha, a fellow fiction and non-fiction camper. “It was rote learning and it was designed to make us all the same and discouraged many if not all from studying. So this type of learning has definitely created a sort of distaste for learning and subjects while if I studied it by myself I could have found it more interesting.”
“It [experience] ends up standing out more because it comes to a point in high school where we just don't have to learn the things they make us learn,” Maya Scuri, another TYWI camper shared.
She closed off by saying: “If I'm going to be a television writer I don't want to waste my time studying science. If someone makes me analyze another plant in biology class, I'll throw it out the window.”
Through these experiences, we can tell that everyone has a different answer to this debate, based on their own schooling, education and experiences. No answer is any less valid. The conclusion to this debate, however unsatisfying it may be, is that it really depends.
Thank you to the following TYWI campers: Maya Scuri, Soha, Emily, Siddhi and Ray for taking the time to be interviewed. Their contributions to the article are appreciated.
first ventured into the world of writing with her sister. Since then, she has gone to explore different genres and styles: short fiction, literary fiction and most recently, non-fiction. When she’s not writing she can be found spending time with family, going on walks, or watching the latest grammar videos.