It seems like yesterday to me. Our antique kitchen farm table bore the brunt of our family conversations. Some conversations were absolutely hysterical; others historical. Perhaps the wooden knots really signified moments in time that would change our choices forever. I can remember tracing my brother’s penmanship in the wood with my pinky finger, which was embedded from last week’s school assignment. I had thought if I held my breath long enough maybe I would pass out and wake up as a Rock Star.
As my father looked over his glasses he said, “You are going to college. You are going to have the opportunity that I did not have.” At that time I had believed that $500 a week was a lot of money. I could work three jobs and eventually have my freedom. After all, don’t most teenagers day-dream of having the wind blowing in their hair, staying out all night and listening to music loud enough to wake the dead. Yeah, during that time Bruce Springsteen was really “the boss,” white pants represented the youth of Miami Vice and BMW still meant “Break My Wallet.”
As I stared skillfully into my father’s eyes, I somehow instinctively knew that education was the key to having a more successful life. I’m not saying that money is the answer to all foes that we experience. Yet, a person with more education has a greater chance of increasing their overall income potential. Not that I consider myself archaic, but back in those days, people still felt that they could work hard and reap from the benefits of their efforts. Perhaps this may have been the case for some. After all, the personal computer wasn’t “personal” just yet.
There is no doubt that today we live in a knowledge environment. This means that most industries valued, are the ones where a person uses their mind rather than their brawn. What does this mean? This means that IF your child does NOT have a higher education, it is less likely they will be financial stable. In other words, the income of an individual is highly dependent upon the level of degree that the person holds. It’s appalling how we can live in the richest Nation in the World and yet be ranked 33rd in Reading, 27th in Math and 22nd in Science. (Geographic.org, 2009). What does this mean for our children?
In 2007, the Census Bureau reported the following statistics:
Earnings Estimates Starting Points:
- $19,405 Less than a high school diploma
(approx $10 per hour)
- $26,894 High school diploma
(approx $14 per hour)
- $32,874 Some college or associate's degree
(approx $17 per hour)
- $46,805 Bachelor's degree
(approx $25 per hour)
- $62,287 Graduate or professional degree
(approx $32 per hour)
Reality Check: According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2007 the poverty threshold is $20,614 for a family of four. However, if you take into account the expenses of owning/renting a home, automobile insurance, food, clothing, gas, electricity, water, taxes and healthcare, I think that you will find most individuals with Bachelor’s degrees struggling to keep above water.
Let’s put this into lifelong terms:
“High school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million; those with a bachelor's degree, $2.1 million; and people with a master's degree, $2.5 million. Persons with doctoral degrees earn an average of $3.4 million during their working life, while those with professional degrees do best at $4.4 million.” (USGovInfo)
Okay, now that I have your attention. Yea, education is important. I’m not saying that it is “wrong” if you choose to not educate your children. I’m just saying that it’s likely they will need assistance from the government in their life-time. Honestly, this bothers the heck out of me. Why? Well – our tax dollars shouldn’t be used for those who are capable of thinking and working. One really has to ask, “Have I failed my child” by not encouraging higher education? In my opinion, Yes. Education is not a failsafe. However, education is key to keeping those out of poverty.
A good question to ask is: Will my child be able to take care of themselves and/or their family without any outside assistance? If the answer is yes, then Bravo! If the answer is no, then perhaps returning back to school is worth a consideration. I would imagine individuals who are angered by my post are those with little -to- no education. Why? Because most educated individuals really understand and know the value of higher learning. In fact, here is a really good depiction of your typical uneducated American. Come to your own conclusions.
Perhaps listening to my father all those years ago was the most valuable words ever spoken to me. Because of our education, my partner and I can easily pay for an adoption, all of our expenses, live in a more than comfortable home (estate to some) and most importantly, intelligently understand and discuss solutions for the needs of the many. Perhaps social justice lays in the foundation of earning an education. Think about it. If you are tired of living in poverty, tired of watching every penny come in and out of your bank account, tired of not being able to afford dentistry or health care, tired of being sick and tired – then consider reinventing your life. Teach your children by the clarity of your own example. You always had the choice to better your experience. You just have to stop playing the victim and do it.