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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Education or Application?

I never fit well into the “go to college right after high-school and make something of yourself” mold. Sara didn’t either. I tried. I think we both tried. When I was eighteen, I applied and was accepted to a few institutions, but I just could not bring myself to go. It wasn’t a matter of laziness or an issue of confidence on my part though. I earned excellent grades all throughout school and very rarely had troubles understanding learning objectives. Frankly, after years of “pre-school,” (because let’s face it, that’s what grades K through 12 are now days) I just needed to learn who I was outside the pages of a textbook. I had prime opportunity to start this venture since I was living on my own and couldn’t afford to support an educational habit anyway.

Was this the right move for me? Many colleagues critique my lack of education. In fact, at one point, it caused me to start doubting my decision to wait on college. I was fell victim to the “you don’t get anywhere without a BA or a Masters” line. People would even mention that it didn’t really matter what I went to school for as long as I went. Really? I just needed to show commitment. Hmmm. Maybe these little birdies had a point. After all, working steadfast in an industry for a decade, flourishing in a monogamous relationship for nearly eight years, and pouring my soul into our nearly three-year old daughter is certainly not commitment. That stuff must just be life. Silly me.

Since I’ve been pretty successful at “life,” I thought it was time to give the good old conservatory a shot. Sara decided that she wanted to be an RN now that she was all grown up, so she started her commitment at the local tech a couple years ago. I recently got down on bended knee and committed myself to the local tech as well.

In pursuit of a degree in Forensic Science, I was quickly informed that an Associates degree won’t cut it either. Rewind to the earlier paragraph where BA and Masters degrees are noted. Oh well. You can't please 'em all, can you? No, I have not settled for mediocrity. I just came to the consensus that I am now attending college for myself. I am ready to make the commitment to learn something new and use the information that I am paying out the ass to receive. If that rolls into even further education, be it a BA or a Masters, I am fine with that. If not, I am fine with that too.

Given my philosophy on education as it relates specifically to my life, one might wonder what expectations I hold, we hold, for Graisyn and, God willing, any future children we have. Sara and I discuss this regularly. At Graisyn’s ripe old age of one we even attended open houses for area elementary schools. In our household, there are high stakes placed on the nurturing and development of her young mind. We want a strong focus on the basics, you know, math, English, history, science and an even stronger focus on humanity, civilization, and communication. Our wants and needs for the growth and development of any children we have pointed us in the direction of the Charter schools in our area.

Sara and I wait VERY patiently for the day we send our little girl off to school. Meanwhile, we, along with Graisyn’s daycare provider, work with her daily on skills that will help her once she “enters the world.” She knows her numbers through fifty and is sketchy, but getting there, from fifty to one hundred. She knows the alphabet. She is beginning to recognize small words and has mastered shapes, colors, texture, and age appropriate fine motor-skills. She is also recognizing consequence and the value of human emotion. “No Graisyn, we don’t hit our friends because that hurts them,” or, “Graisyn, that was really nice of you to give so-and-so a hug when they were sad.” We want her to beam with her successes and feel a healthy amount of shame with mistakes. More importantly, we want her to make mistakes and own them, because making mistakes is a key factor to success and dubbed the phrase "trial and error." And even more important than that, we want her to know that it is ALWAYS okay to change course if a decision is not panning out the way it was intended.

Why is the last one so important? In my opinion, having the ability to recognize error and change direction to rectify the error or at least minimize damages makes a statement about an individual's or an even an organization's integrity, ethics, strategic skills, financial/life/business planning, and forecasting. Generally speaking, making mistakes and owning them, is not a skill that can be taught from a textbook. It's also not a skill that many possess. We live in a world where the expectation is that someone else will clean up the mess we've made and all will be forgiven and forgotten. Is this because application has been taken out or reduced in the learning process? I don't know. I do know that waiting to dedicate myself to further education forced me to master the art of trial and error. Sara might say the same. We were on our own. If we were not successful, that would jeopardize the roof over our heads or the food on our table.

Ideally, Sara and I would love to see Graisyn grow in a curriculum that embraces the basic concepts of school, but broadens it to include the components that will move her forward in the real world. We want her to be able to balance her checkbook and figure out what she can and cannot afford, not just maintain the American average of $5K-$15K in credit card debt. We want her to have enough confidence and tact to present a problem with a solution to her boss, not just gripe about the problem. We want her to read the textbooks and apply the information that she read, not just take a test and forget it. We want our daughter to value good education, to appreciate it, especially during her "preschool" years. We do not want her to get so wrapped up in "higher" education that she cannot see beyond the pages of a textbook.

I am ranting, so I will wrap it up. I really meant to say these tiny, uneducated things. Let us not piss our money away on education simply for a "piece of paper." Let us learn with purpose and intention. Let us cultivate logic and problem solving skills and, for the love of Pete, let us learn how to communicate with the other two legged homo sapiens that surround us. Let us embrace those that have knowledge based on experience. Let us not cap that knowledge because we have a degree and might know better. Let us, educated and uneducated alike, share the contents of our minds because I think knowledge might be power. And, finally, let us zip our damn lips about our ideals for the success of others and speak of a united, progressive, civilized, cohesive future.

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