Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Graduated Isn't Educated

I love to see the proud gleam in the eyes of young people as they graduate from high school or college. It is a significant accomplishment that should be celebrated.

I remember how ‘educated’ I felt when I got my high school diploma. I felt a little less educated upon graduating from college. I did not bother to attend graduation exercises for two graduate degrees. My feeling of being ‘educated’ decreased exponentially with every degree I received. Strange! I never thought it would be like that.


For the young people who are graduating from somewhere with a degree in something, just remember: "It isn’t over!" You are not educated yet. You never will be as long as you are alive. Anytime you think you are terminally educated, that will be a sure sign that you have become terminally ignorant.


One of the biggest problems today is the adult aversion to continued learning. We are afraid to think and continue to learn lest we be forced to change.


I have many times had reason to remember a scene from my youth which took place at a high school graduation at Repton High School. I must have been in the 9th or 10th grade. I do not recall why I attended the graduation exercises, unless it was because I had no place else to go. A young woman whose name I do not recall took her diploma from the principal of the school, Mr. H.D.Weathers, and then threw her cap in the air and yelled: "Educated, by God!" I wish I knew what ever happened to her - not much, I expect. She finished her education too soon. Who in the world could be ignorant enough to think they were educated upon graduation from a rural high school in the mid-forties?!


A number of years ago Robert Maynard Hutchinson, long-time chancellor of the University of Chicago, wrote in the Saturday Review: "Almost every fact I was taught from the first grade through law school is no longer a fact. Almost every tendency that was proclaimed has failed to materialize. I am especially embarrassed by the facts and tendencies I proclaimed myself. I ask all my students at Yale University Law School to forgive me, for the courts have overruled and the legislatures have repealed most of what I knew."


Doctors know that at least 75 percent of what they learned in medical school 15 or 20 years ago is obsolete. Ninety percent of the medicines they prescribe came on the market since they graduated. Almost every time I go to my cardiologist and he asks me what was the last procedure done to my heart, he says to me: "We do not even do that anymore. There is an improved technique."


I made my living for almost 50 years as a hired-hand for Christian people who in the main still wish to live as if the list of chemical elements that was on their high school wall were still true. There were 96 elements on the periodic table when I was a freshman in college. I do not know how many there are now because it changes every year. I cannot even pronounce many of them.


It does not matter whether you are a doctor, lawyer, minister, teacher, or a person now at some point on your life journey, you are not educated - not yet - not ever. If your education does not continue in whatever you do, you will lose your effectiveness and become obsolete.


A little girl fell out of her bed one night. Her mother asked: "What happened?" She said: "I think I went to sleep too near to where I got in." Don’t let that happen to you. Keep on asking and learning.


The poet, James Russell Lowell, said it well. Sometimes we sing it:

New occasions teach new duties,

Time makes ancient good uncouth;

They must upward still and onward, 

Who would keep abreast of truth.