'Education is not a commodity' | Centre for Veterinary Education

'Education is not a commodity'

by Lis Churchward

Sharing knowledge is like sharing light – at the end of the exchange you both possess it.

Recently, the CVE contributed an advertorial published in Vet Practice which stated that ‘Education is not a commodity’. This provoked discussion in the office as to whether that statement was indeed correct.

So, we thought it would be a great discussion starter for a CVE blog. Many people are ‘pushing back’ against the idea that education is a commodity, the same as a bar of chocolate. Others argue that you buy both, so what’s the difference?

We at the CVE believe that there is a world of difference

We don’t consider education or continuing professional development such as a CVE conference, online course or workshop to be a commodity.

‘Please explain’ say the cynics

Hunter Rawlings, a former president of the Association of American Universities, summed it up much better than we can in an article in the Washington Post in June 2015 entitled ‘Genuine education is not a commodity, it is the awakening of a human being.’ His main arguments and those from the Putney Debater (an occasional weblog) are summarised below:-

It deals in markets, commodities, goods and services. As French philosopher and author Michel Serres states in Wordpress blogEconomics Does Not Know Knowledge Exchange (Education)

‘In this knowledge exchange (education) there is no equilibrium at all, but a terrific growth which economics does not know. Teachings are the bearers of an unbelievable treasure – knowledge – which multiplies and is the treasure of all humanity.’

What truly makes education valuable is the effort participants are prepared to invest in it

Devil’s Advocate:

Yes, but explain how paying for education, say a continuing professional development course such as a CVE TimeOnline course, is any different than paying for a gym membership which I view as a commodity.

We agree that both involve an exchange of money and both outcomes are directly affected by the amount of effort you personally put into each activity.

Where they differ is in motivation, and the best way of looking at that is through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Model (and we just had to share this updated version somewhere… ☺).

Why ‘Why?’ Matters

  • WHY are you paying to enrol in the education?

The gym course fits in the SELF-ESTEEM category, and so could education IF you have enrolled for the reasons stated in the model: achievement, mastery, recognition and respect.

But, if you have enrolled for the loftier goals of SELF-ACTUALISATION, then your motivation is on a higher plane. You are not simply doing so to master a skill or gain recognition from your peers – not that there is anything wrong with those admirable goals. Rather, you are driven to pursue long-held dreams and ambitions, to release your inner talents and creativity and gain self-fulfillment or self-betterment. You are enrolling in education for yourself to improve your own skills and talents to improve the lives of animals. After all, that is why you became a vet in the first place, isn’t it…?

You have accepted a challenge and taken an active risk, both in terms of financial investment and time, and you will be exposing yourself to the daunting task of using your mind and challenging your assumptions. You are opening yourself to a life-changing process.

  • WHY are the educators providing it?

Some may be providing it as a simple commercial exchange – your money in exchange for their ‘commodity’.

Others – and the CVE is in this camp being a not-for-profit AND a membership-based organisation – are providing it to challenge and engage you, to provide an environment where you have to make a commitment to use your own mind and talents and contribute to veterinary knowledge.

It’s not easy

You’ll be prodded and inspired and exposed to a life-changing process to become a ‘better vet’.

Can you put a price on that ‘commodity’?