As a parent I believe that there is no greater task than making sure your children are successful. The obvious next question must be asked, what is your definition of success? I would define success as “knowing what you don’t know”, simply I need them to be self-aware. I have a philosophy about how to get them there. Many disagree with me, but I have my parents to thank for their great example. One of the great things my parents did was the gentle subliminal push toward and appreciation of education as the route to achievement. I remember the extra lessons in grade school, and going to the clinic with my mother. I remember helping sterilize the supplies in her delivery bag. What I don’t remember is any discussion of college or which college or even getting better grades.
My parents were very generous with opportunity. They allowed my brothers and I the freedom to decide our interests. Expectations were high but were not overtly discussed. We were required to read aloud at daily devotion. We were not allowed to work outside of the home. Our only responsibility was to complete chores and go to school. We filled our down time by dreaming of the world that could be and taking control of what was around us. We learned to cook, hand wash and iron our clothes. I learned to tailor and one brother learned upholstery. We learned to manage our money, by managing our daily school money. This collection of activities may not seem very significant, but my brothers and I have extraordinarily similar outlook on the world. We believe that our children must be allowed the chance to attain the highest pinnacle of education because they can, not because they must. We believe that our responsibility to our children is paramount and no one comes before them. We may live far apart, but would give the same general answer to 9 out of 10 questions.
We learned from out parents that living the example is more important that showing it. We saw our parents reading and watching the news. We saw their drive to continue their education. We watched them solve problems creatively. They allowed us to explore the world freely but the boundaries were clear.
My view of the world is shaped by my family. My parents and grandparents created an outlook on the world that as given us a never give in attitude. I want to give my girls that same attitude. I will never clip their wings. I will allow them to fly. I will always be there to catch them if needed. I will be supportive. I will provide the means for them to have a platform for success. I will always support my girls, because they are equal to the challenge no matter what it may be.
I thank my village for giving me the strength to allow my princesses to fly.
There is a time and place for everything. But there is always time for curiosity and learning. We are all born with a curious instinct, but it unfortunately it gets drummed out of us. I have the unfortunate curse or blessing of still being curious. I am always looking for a new challenge and very often finding it. I am not sure how I came to be this person, but I am sure my up bringing had something to do with it.
What exactly was involved I do not know, but I would love to figure it out.
I would love to pass my curiosity unto my girls. How to do that is the key question and my current challenge. In examining my up bringing the one constant I can remember is the emphasis on knowledge. My parents were quite permissive in their wiliness to allow me access to new and challenging things and they too were constantly acquiring new knowledge. They allowed me to spend a summer learning to be a tailor, that was a great experience and I still have the first mens suit I made. We also had pianos at home and my mother taught us to play and while doing music theory exams from the London School of Music, she shared her lessons with us. My dad was always reading something new and my grandparents, who lived up the street, were relentless in their reading habits.
My mother would buy us extra books beyond the recommended in math and science classes. The emphasis on learning was everywhere around us. Even today my parents are still relentlessly learning new things and taking new courses and showing up much younger people. They are my heroes and I would love to be the same type of example to my princesses. Some say knowledge is power, but I say the pursuit of knowledge creates everlasting strength.
There is a curious question being asked by many. I am not sure what is the genesis of this oddity, but it presents a dangerous falsehood that needs a vigorous rebuttal. So insidious and capricious is that question that even national media outlets have thought it important to comment. My difficulty with the discussion is in the lack of depth or nuance. The question in various shades of gray suggests by the tone of the questioning that a college education is not a good deal. Please read that last sentence again.
The very suggestion is quite offensive to me. My grandparents, I am sure, are all turning and cursing in their graves. I have inherited a non-negotiable emphasis on the importance of a well-rounded education. The current discussions emphasis on cost is shortsighted and is particularly destructive to the poor. Many factors have gotten us to this question and a full and complete discussion is needed.
I would hope that the need for a good education beyond the bare skills to compete for a job would be evident. Alas, I have given too much credit to the opinion makers, they mostly don’t get it. For this country to remain a functioning democracy the masses must not only be capable of holding a job but must be able to defend the pillars of our freedoms. The suggestion that all citizens don’t deserve a full and complete education is dangerous both economically and politically. The examination of cost is worthwhile and needed, but the value equation is not being discussed in an honest manner.
A college degree is currently the best route to a great education, but how do we get there? The disconnect starts at the beginning, with the lack of focus on the skills needed to create individuals recognize that life long learning is needed to navigate the currently environment. Education starts long before your child can read or write. It begins with parents answering all the annoying questions toddlers present. As a father of a 2 year-old and a 4 year-old I have experienced the never-ending questions and even the embarrassing public questions. However, I am committed to accurate answers. Answering, all those questions builds knowledge and confidence, and encourages curiosity. The latter is what parents must cultivate. Curiosity about the world is what drives true education.The power of curiosity kept me out of trouble and I hope it will do the same for my girls.
How does this have anything to do with college or the utility of a college education? This is how I see it. Curiosity drives a hunger for knowledge, which includes a focus on value. A key piece of knowledge that we can pass to our children is that it is best to complete a great major at an underrated college than a poor major at the best college. Following that one rule will provide a greater value than anything else. What is a great major? Since I am in the sciences I would suggest Math and Science and the associated applied fields. Yes we all cannot be engineers, but making the correct choice is vital to the cost/value equation of a college degree.
Start early and be curious. Most of all start early. Figuring out your college major in college is too late. This is where parental guidance is important. This is also where being born to educated high earning parents makes a difference. The typical guidance for the children of the well-educated is quite different. It has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. Parents all want their children to succeed, but some know what it takes while some don’t. This suggestion that a college education cannot be a good valve has the most negative impact on the poor. A choice to focus on other avenues to financial success versus making the hard choices that will provide a great education to our children will be what keeps us poor.
As parents we need to start taking the education of our children more seriously and endeavoring to guide them into successful decision-making is key. College is still the best deal to a lifetime of improved options. Start early. Be curious. Succeed.