The Great Courses – ongoing education!

So I’ve just started to read The Bourgeois Virtues by Deidre McCloskey and in her acknowledgements at the beginning of the book she mentions ‘The Great Courses‘ and something about her listening to it while walking on a treadmill or some nonsense. So I thought to myself ‘I’ve never heard of this thing before?!’ So I quickly moved from bed to desk and in five seconds Google was telling me that there was a massive learning resource of which I was completely oblivious. Basically, it’s a for-profit site that sells different courses (i.e. a series of lectures) that are presented by exceptional (think ivy-league) lecturers. There’s a massive variety of topics and lecturers. They seem brilliant. Importantly (and unfortunately) they aren’t cheap. Depending on the course they range from $100 to $1000+  which is pretty damn expensive if you’re paying in Rands! No 3rd-world-country, boo-hoo, give-me-discount here! BUT, they are currently having a sale and it’s 70% off!!! Which is fantastic news. According to the website, the sale is ending ‘soon‘, but the term ‘soon‘ coming from a money-hungry, morally-starved organisation is a rather loose concept I’m guessing. Nevertheless, I thought I must take advantage of this opportunity (exactly what they want me to think- good little consumer-drone that I am). So I bought the course The Story of the Bible which had rave reviews and looked really interesting (and was only $30 due to the sale! Usually $130!). So I downloaded the first 5 episodes (there are 24 30min lectures in this series) and started listening to them, and they are great. Wunderbar! The professor is interesting, impartial, well-read and enthusiastic. But the story doesn’t end there…unfortunately for my credit card.

So I thought to myself I should really take advantage of this 70% off thing because paying full price will be so irritating when there was just a sale with such a large percentage off (the hook had sunk deep into my consumer-drone consciousness). I was mainly thinking about another course that Prof Johnson lectures called Jesus and the Gospels which is a 36 lectures series (30min each) and only $49.95 (originally $200!). So I bought that one…but then I also saw RAVE reviews for Classical Mythology (24 lectures $35) and History of Ancient Egypt (48 lectures $65) so I got those too 🙂 great stuff!!

I definitely think it was money well spent and I most definitely intend to listen to them at some stage this year. In my budgeting spreadsheet  I will record this under ‘Educational expenditures’ which is an investment (not a consumption) good. I also chalk up my UCT metrics course fees in that category. Too often we think that buying educational books (read: ‘all books that aren’t Mills & Boon’) is a luxury or we are spoiling ourselves. What CRAP! Utter nonsense. How is it that spending R40 000+ on your formal higher education is classified as a legitimate investment in your future, but buying things like downloadable lectures isn’t? For those familiar with the economics of education literature, I am aware that one can use the Signal-theory argument here to shoot me down (with downloadable lectures sending no credible signal), but for me personally I don’t give two hoots about signals – I’m not planning on going into the real world anytime soon (I’m still thinking of a better, more derogatory word for the ‘real’ world). I intend to inhabit academia as long as she will have me.

So I implore you (whoever you are) to do something about your ongoing education. It doesn’t have to be buying a course online (although that really would be a great start – just be sure to read the reviews first), it could be buying and reading a book about history or linguistics or cooking or whatever –  it doesn’t matter…just learn. When we stop actively learning, we start actively dying. Sad, but true.

Onward and upward…

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