Monday, May 20, 2013

It's the education, stupid!

Yesterday was an amazing day. I watched my oldest son graduate from college. I’ll save my gushy emotions for the end, as I want to talk about something that I learned this weekend:

Education is the most important thing in the world.

I had flashbacks of my son’s entire education process. From learning how to walk, to learning how to read, to doing simple math problems. From birth it was all about the learning and mastery of new things. Non-stop learning, both formal education (K-12, High School, College) and education from summer band camps, scouting, organized sports - it has been non-stop learning and a continuous education process.

Learning to walk. Learning to read. Math, Algebra, Calculus. Chemistry, Biology, English. Computer programming, Accounting, Business Law. How to ride a bike, how to drive a car, how to cook, how to paint, or sculpt or draw. How to build a website. How to design, create, invent - anything - and everything. From the simple to the complex, life is a non-stop process of learning new things.

Life is learning, and learning is life. They are one in the same. The quality of one’s life is measured by the pursuit of lifelong education. Notice that important word - pursuit. It is this pursuit of education where things seem to become unfair.

As we get older, something happens with the education process. I don’t know when learning becomes a scarce asset connected to money, but it happens. At some point, the ability to “learn” is connected to how much money you are willing to spend in exchange for the knowledge. The more money you have, the easier it is to learn. The more money you have, the better the access to the material, to the instructors, to the source of the quality learning process. At some point, it starts to cost lots and lots of money to learn “the good stuff”.

I watched the faces of people during the graduation ceremony. Parents, Aunts, Uncles, Sisters and Brothers. I watched the smiles and the tears as everyone celebrated the learning process culminate into one of our most coveted prizes: a college degree. Many of these smiling, crying, laughing people borrowed a great deal of money to make this wonderful day possible. Many families worked two jobs, or went deep into debt to make the college experience a reality. And the student loans, let’s not forget the student loans!   

Life is learning, and learning is life. But why does this process become so expensive? Why does the formal education process hit such a division, where having (or not having) enough money determines your opportunity to pursue your passion?

There were many young men and women in my son’s graduating class who will become teachers, doctors, lawyers. They will become scientists, possibly inventing new drugs or changing the course of society. They have wonderful career opportunities because they were fortunate enough to pursue an expensive college degree attending an excellent accredited university. Some will carry college debt for many years, with or without securing jobs in their chosen field of study. Life is learning and learning is life.

Why would we not want as many teachers, doctors and scientists as possible? Why would we not want anyone with the passion and the drive to become a productive members of society via higher education? There was a time in this country where only those with money would ever learn to read. Everyone else was out of luck. What would the world be like if anyone who wanted to learn was empowered and enabled to learn? It should not matter how much money your parents have, or what part of the world you happen to live.  

Life is learning and learning is life.  It should not be connected to money.

I am very proud of my two sons. I want both of my sons to have the best of everything. Access to a quality education should not be reserved only for those with means. I feel that a quality education should not be based on your social status. It should be based on your passion, your work ethic and most of all, it should be based on your character.

Across the country there were many families celebrating a wonderful day - college graduation day. Lifelong learning should not be so damn expensive. Maybe the distance learning technology of today will continue to change the way we pursue higher education. The world can use all of the passionate, dedicated, highly educated people we can get. We should not let the lack of money get in the way. 

Life is learning and learning is life.
Congratulations, Tommy.  Now the real learning begins.

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