The Meaning of EducationPosted: February 11, 2013
She’s got a taste for it now. There’s no stopping her. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, My Not So Humble Wife.
No parent or educator is trying to teach kids that money will make you happy, but I think we are inadvertently doing just that. Early in elementary school children are inundated with the importance of going to college. In middle school, the grades where I teach math, kids worry about taking the right classes and getting good grades so they can take college credit advanced classes in high school and get into a good college. It’s a huge focus of their little lives. The problem is when you ask them why college is such an important goal, their reasoning leads to an unhealthy place.
I’m nearing the end of my Master’s in Education and became interested in student motivation. I wanted to know why students felt education was important and what inspired them to succeed in school. So I conducted some simple interviews with a variety of students both officially and unofficially. I asked a simple question, “why is education important?”, and unfailingly it lead to the same basic discussion:
Me: Why is education important to you?
Student: It’s important so you can go to college.
Me: OK, Then why is going to college important?
Student: …<hesitation> So you can get a good job?
Me: And why is getting a good job important?
Student: …….<more hesitation> So you can make good money?
Me: Why is making good money important?
At this point most students became visible uncomfortable, shifting their weight, looking around, and fidgeting. While some students might eventually shrug and say they didn’t know, the majority said that making good money was important so they could have the things they want, some said that’s what it means to be successful, while others said it was important so they could be happy.
Truth be told, I was asking these kids some really hard questions. Questions that they had probably not even considered before and that many adults would struggle with. That said, I’m worried that kids are getting the point but missing the message.
Have you ever thought about why you want your kids or family to go to college? Hopefully, it’s not just about getting a job that pays enough for that McMansion in the burbs. I want my students to pursue a college education so they will have choices. Having an education means that you have the opportunity to find a vocation that you feel passionate about instead of having to take any job that presents itself. Yes, it’s important to be able to support yourself but a college education gives you a better chance at enjoying the process of earning a living.
So next time you’re talking to your kids about college make sure they know that getting a good job means getting a job they will enjoy or that is important to them. That college gives them the chance for expanding their choices for the life they want to live. That it’s not about the money, it’s about living a life they will find fulfilling.