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Is Formal Education Everything?

Tonight (February 24), President Obama made a state, which to me, was a very critical statement in his speech before both Houses of Congress and to the United States. He said, in essence, that dropping out of high School is no longer an option for Americans. If an American drops out of high school, he or she not only fails themself, but they also fail this country, the United States of America. He also said that he believes and wishes that every American attend at least one year of some kind of continuing education, either college or some sort of professional school.

His basis for these statements rest in his belief that for America to succeed economically, Americans must be formally and professionally educated. Why? Simple, in his speech he mentions that it is no longer enough for someone to simply have a High School diploma, for now, in today’s society, a college degree is now seen as the prerequisite for many jobs. Though this is true, there are many types of jobs that are available where this type of education is not necessary. However, it is his claim that for one to be successful, fulfilled and economically stable, and therefore, for this country’s economy to be stable, everyone must be “educated.”

First, let me say that I am a firm believer in formal education as well as continued education. I believe that, though not necessary for all, it is a right of passage for many, as well as a doorknob for many possible doors for people’s futures. However, I am also a firm believer that not everyone is cut out for continuing education, and I also do not necessarily believe it is a person’s “right” to that education. Before I cut into the “high school” remark, let me touch on continuing education.

Before I thoroughly anger the masses, let me clarify the term “right.” Do I believe everyone who qualifies for a type of continuing education should have the chance? Yes, as long as someone truly does qualify, and is also willing to put the effort into completing the task at hand. I see far too many people who ride the “college wave” who put no effort into the education aspect of the college experience, and not only waste their time and their respective professors time, but also the institutions time and money, and therefore the tax payers money. In fact, I know of individuals who go to college, not to learn, but so that they can receive government grants so they can but a new car, etc. Is this the opportunities that the President wants people to take? Next, I know of valedictorians from high school who could not even write a five paragraph essay in a English introduction class, and they thought it was funny! Amazingly enough, they were in college because of scholarships and government grants. Did they complete college? Though they may be back now, when I was in school with them they were dropped because they could not maintain a 2.0 GPA (a C average). Being an American, or even a high school graduate does not simply, in and of itself, give you the right to continue your education. Having the personal fortitude to study, learn, and make the effort gives you the right to at least try, but even in these cases, not everyone can make the cut. With the attitude that everyone has this right, the problems trickle down even into elementary education, where in some cases it is possible to actually hold some people back because others cannot keep up. President Obama even said he wanted to close the “achievement gap,” how so? Does this mean we must dumb down elementary, etc, education so everyone can be on the same page? Is this how we are going to lead the world in the coming years in education?

Now to the high school remark. I found this utterly repulsive, in fact, it was the only part of his speech in which I simply could not find anyway to agree with the President. Is he saying that if you have dropped out of high school – for any reason, that you truly are a failure? I hope not. I know plenty of people who either did not complete high school and went onto successive work, or in the end, got their GED and went on to successive work. I know people who cannot do high math equations, or write the perfect paragraph, or even speak straight (our former President anyone?) and who still maintain successful and fulfilling lives. The hallmark of President Obama’s economic plan is to create jobs by creating projects, like new railways, buldings, improving roads, etc, and many of these people who do this type of work already do not necessarily have a high school education, or a professional education. Granted, the engineers do, but there are those in the grunt work force who do not, and they hammer nails just as well, and probably better then those who have a PhD.

Education is important, but it is not truly the answer. Also, education comes from many places, not just formal schools. I, myself, was home schooled. Granted, it was through an accredited program, yet from fifth grade on not one professional teacher taught me a class. My parents helped of course, but essentially myself, and my brothers, made it through the curriculum ourselves. Now wait, the litmus test… My brother is about to graduate the University of Georgia, I believe Magna Cum Laude, with a dregree in International Affairs. I am currently a Junior with a 3.7 GPA as a History and Classics major, I also served in the United States Marine Corps as a Signal Intelligence Operator for five years. My little sister, who will be eleven this year, is at least a year ahead in all of her studies, and is an A student, likewise my youngest brother has been very successful in his studies – all home schooled, and no, my mother does not grade the majority of their work, Roman Catholic priests, monks and nuns do, and believe me, as hard as my mother can be at times, her grading does not even compare to theirs. Beyond the realm of home school, their are also people out there who have dropped out of high school, have found work, and are successful. In fact one friend of mine told me that if he had NOT dropped out of high school, he has no idea where he would be, and that by doing so he is working in an area where he is truly happy and successful, in other words, he is fulfilled. Granted, some people drop out because, as the President so eloquently pointed out, they are losers, but their are also those out there who drop out because its necessary, or for some other honorable reason. Likewise, there are many out there who do get their high school diploma, and never go to college, many of these can be found in the military, and many of these lead successful military careers of twenty or more years, enabling them to retire as well as opening other doors. Some never even go to high school, and work on farms, or work in the family, and help maintain a tradition that goes back generations. Are these people stupid or failures? I do not think so, for these people, though not formally educated in the American system, receive an education that is far more valuable to them then any the government could provide.

I hope I have made some sense with this post, though I will admit I am still a little flustered concerning the above mentioned statement. However, I want to finish this post with an interesting note on two people in history. There is a great chance that the greatest historical figure in the history of Western Civilization, and more so in the world, received not type of formal education. In fact, it is speculated that this individual was quite possibly not even literate, or if this person was, not fully, and only versed in what he needed to know. Likewise, the education that he received would have have only been toward his particular trade, which some people know as carpentry, or which a few professors I have had call him a “tecton,” which simply means someone involved in manual labor. This person is Jesus Christ. The other person, though both religious and historical claims was not literate at all, yet was able to marry into a wealthy family and take over and run a very successful merchant caravan business. Then, at the age of forty, he drew himself into seclusion where he claimed that a certain angel gave him “recitations” to share with the people around him, 114 in all were recorded and eventually put in book form. This man could neither read or right, and yet his 114 recitations became not only the basis of a modern language, but also form one of the most beautiful books of poetic prose known to man. The language is Arabic, and the man was Mohammad. These two men, whether or not you follow either one of them, either founded, or led to the founding, of the two greatest religions on this earth. Their words have been studied for centuries, and the codes of morality have led to the majority of legal systems and codes in today’s modern societies. Neither one of these men went to high school, nor received a diploma. Both of these men worked with their hands, and lived simple lives. Would President Obama consider them failures?


5 thoughts on “Is Formal Education Everything?

  1. “Education is important, but it is not truly the answer. Also, education comes from many places, not just formal schools.”

    You have hit the nail right at the head. People need formal education, but they also need many additional things if they wish to succeed.

    Johnson C. Philip, PhD (Physics)

  2. Pingback: pepperstone

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