Schools of Thought: The benefits of an educated populous

vintage-school-kids-life-magazine education
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
― Plutarch

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What is the value of a  productive member of a society? In what ways does a civilization benefit from the works of an educated and thriving population? Does society in fact benefit so greatly from an educated workforce and a knowledgeable citizenry that to deny this benefit is not only not beneficial at all but wasteful and just plain stupid.

There is no doubt to the value of a college education or work training. Society benefits greatly from a workforce that has been fully prepared for the diverse and challenging workplace of today. The cookie cutter one-size-fits-all, the test-test-test atmosphere of the current educational system in The United States is, in my opinion, sorely lacking.

Society benefits from a educated workforce in many ways: higher levels of education corresponds to lower levels of unemployment and poverty in general and this in turn provides more tax revenue to the state and less burden on social assistance  programs such as food stamps and welfare. An educated populous is healthier with lower smoking and obesity rates and with more positive perceptions of personal health in general.  Higher levels of education are correlated with higher levels of civic participation, including volunteerism and voting.

If there is no doubt to the benefits of an educated populous, why are we so lacking?

There’s no shortage of people who care and it is not from the lack of effort from many dedicated educational professionals, parents, volunteers and students.. on all fronts.  There is certainly much debate on this subject of how to fix our broken educational system, it is obvious that indeed it is broken. We can all agree on that at least. Whatever we are doing is not working, but we cannot seem to reach a consensus on how to fix the problems.  In my opinion  part of the problem is as with many issues, we are going by the blueprint of another era. Our models and way of thinking is outdated. The world is undergoing rapid change on many fronts and we are dealing with issues we never would have dreamed up even a decade ago. We rely too heavily on what has “worked” in the past and I think we tend to cling too tightly to tradition and ceremony. Innovation is viewed with a cautious and weary eye. It seems whenever new ideas that work on a smaller scale are implemented on the much larger scale disaster happens. This could be part of our problem as well. We approach education with a one-size-fits-all strategy.

Diversity and innovation are not only not encouraged but discouraged. Feel-good, do-nothing campaigns with misleading names that embrace cheap easy answers only compound the problem.

Students are more likely to be taught what to think not how to think for themselves.

In the effort to provide certain standards we have over standardized ourselves. We have pigeon-holed our thinking that everyone learns the same way.  We know this is far from the truth as many factors determine the success of a student including socioeconomic status.  The successful student is more likely to be a successful adult, meaning one who contributes positively to the community and society in general.

Many don’t get this chance. Many perfectly capable people are lost in a system that rewards who you know and what you have instead of what one can do and the content of your character.

I can’t help but notice how illogical this system is where we base how someone will contribute to society by the economic status that one is born into. Opportunities are missed and talents squandered.  The best person for a particular job or profession may not necessarily be the person who’s parents could afford to foot the bill for the education required.

I think about all the bright people with talents and ideas that will never be realized because of their geographic and/or economic status. I think of the result of that lost potential; the loss to society and the world at large.

There is no doubt that a mind is a terrible thing to waste yet this is what happens. People come in all sizes and shapes; all kinds of backgrounds, socially and economically. A diverse population brings to the table a wide array of talents and experiences. This is one of the aspects that have made the United States so successful in the past. This and our capability for dedicated, hard work.

Oak-Trees

We have it in us to become great but we need the valuable contributions of us all in order for that to happen. Good ideas are like seeds they not only need to be exposed to the light, they need care and feeding order to grow. Good ideas can sometimes become great ones and like a mighty oak tree provide shade for many on a hot day.  And oh my friends don’t let a blast of wintry weather in the winter fool you…we are going to have quite a few hot days in the future and we need all the oak trees we can get.

 

Student Loan Debt education

We can longer afford to throw away the minds and talents of people who weren’t born at the right place at the right time to the right parents. We can no longer afford to punish those who seek an education “above their” station” by saddling them with the crushing burden of potentially lifelong debt.  There is too much at stake.

quote education noam

We the people need to make this a priority. The middle class should be on the endangered species list and a part of the widening gap between those that have and those that have not is the access to higher education and work training beyond high school. This should not be a luxury for only those who can afford it it should be the right for all citizens and a necessity of any modern civilized society that wants to have a chance in the global marketplace.

One of the best things about human beings is our innate talent for creation and innovation and the ability to work effectively to realize a dream fulfilled or have an idea come to fruition.  We are smart and capable, all of us regardless of race, color, sex , religion….or the economic status we are born into.

The American dream is alive but it’s lying in a hospital bed sicker than a dog…gasping and sputtering and wondering what went wrong. It is up to us to fix this mess.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
―    Nelson Mandela

Thanks for listening,

Strawberryindigo.
andy College grads throw hats by Alannah Rose
Related and Slightly Related YouTube

Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd

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References and related articles

Five stereotypes about poor families and education (washingtonpost.com)

Higher Education cuts fuels student debt crisis (america.aljazeera.com)

Where U.S. stands in education internationally — new report  (washingtonpost.com)

Six Years of High School? An Educational Experiment in Chicago (thetakeaway.org)

Strange Schools (atlasobscura.com)

The Nonconformist

Today I celebrate the nonconformist. The one who thumbs their nose at convention. The one who doesn’t follow the crowd. The one who blazes their own trail and never looks back.  It is this sort of person who creates innovation and brings new ideas to life.  Without the nonconformist the world would be a boring place indeed.

It is understandable to want to blend into the background. It is safe there. Away from attention and possible controversy, judgement or dislike. I’ve spent most of my life in the shadows hiding from the light. But that is a lonely existence hiding away behind a wall and not showing your true face to the world. You not only deprive yourself of the world, you deprive the world of yourself.

Don’t do this!  Stand out and be proud for being yourself.  As my friend and mentor Dr Seuss  once proclaimed;

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

 

tulip fields--flowers

I often liken the world to a garden and people to flowers in that garden. Through diversity in nature we find strength and resilience. This reminds me of the Potato famine in Ireland in the 1840’s. One in eight Irish people died of starvation during this horrible famine. It was a lack of genetic variation in Irish potatoes that contributed to its severity when blight wiped out the potato crop in which the people’s diet was so dependent on. This devastated Ireland’s population and economy.  Evolutionary theory tells us that relying on a mono-culture is a recipe for disaster.

When we are all the same, we as a people stagnate. New ideas are not formed and our garden of humanity is in danger of being wiped out when the inevitable crisis occurs and no new solutions can be found. I don’t think our culture encourages diversity of thought as much as it should. People are led to believe the fallacy that in order to get along we must conform to rigid social norms that leads to a group vs group mentality which in turn leads to exclusion, misunderstandings and unfortunately, at times…violence. They say that birds of a feather flock together and I see this time and time again.

Everyone has their own song to sing and each one is different and beautiful. We must learn to respect the songs of others and see the loveliness in our diversity. We must also see how valuable we all are to each other and know that everyone can contribute; not just those whose personal philosophies align with our own. Lastly we must learn to recognize our own wonderful uniqueness and not be ashamed to show it to the world. The more people that do this, the more such differences will become acceptable. So if you already haven’t done so–find your own unique and beautiful song. Sing it loud and sing it proud.

Have a wonderful day!

Strawberryindigo.

writers 3 weird guys

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

– Apple, “Think Different” campaign

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“The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”

― Martin Luther King Jr