I imagine that if I were an alien who just landed on planet Earth and was stationed in the United States that I would find the people here very strange. For most of us our lives are spent at a frantic pace rushing to and fro, never stopping to smell the roses and live in the moment. We carry gadgets to simplify our lives because most of us are too busy to actually live our lives because the pursuit of being the best and achieving is our greatest priority. Yet for everything most of us are failing and no where is this greatest is when it comes to educating not only ourselves but our young.
Last night my son called me to talk and to catch up but to also let me know that he wants to transfer schools. Right now he goes to a rather nice private college in Wisconsin. While this school was not originally on our radar, they approached him and made an offer we could not refuse from a financial standpoint. Since when you are a 6’4 young half a Black man whose greatest interests lie in philosophy and political science and you like rowing boats, you are already marching to a different drummer or at least the media would have you to believe that. So a smaller quirky college with a serious philosophy department looks like a good choice especially when they offer enough money that your parents who forgot to save for your college education can actually afford the balance.
Sadly for my son this school is not quite meeting his needs, to put it bluntly while he is excited and passionate about what he is learning, he feels like an anomaly. For months he has expressed dismay that most of his classmates many who hail from far more financially privileged families than ours, are simply at school to earn that paper. As he told me last night most of his classmates are upfront that the only reason they are in school is to get a good job. (never mind the fact that if all one wants is a good job, last time I checked we haven’t quite figured out how to outsource our plumbing and electrical needs so these might be great career paths to consider) Now my son being a philosophy major finds that distressing, hell I find it distressing bit sadly I am not surprised.
The truth though is that college for most is nothing more than a pit stop to pick up a fancy piece of paper that hopefully will ensure middle class living. Never mind the fact that if these kids were actually paying attention to the world they would understand no longer is a degree the entry point to middle class life. Nope, it’s a gamble. Could pay off or you could be paying it off until you get ready to shuck your mortal coil and beam up to the next phase of the life cycle.
On the other hand is anyone really surprised? In the past decade or so, school is a place we go to meet goals, but is anyone actually learning? Oh, it’s easy to say well we need reform, after all I heard on the radio today that President Obama says that the No Child Left Behind law must be reformed. Really? How about blown up? I got no beef with teachers’ hell; I applaud them because in this current climate teachers are public enemy number one for no good reason other than the fact that apparently having a stable salary and good benefits is such a foreign concept that those of us without have decided no one should have these things. So teachers are the whipping boys rather than our corporate overlords.
Seriously though as a nation overall we lack educational curiosity, learning for the sake of learning no longer seems to be cool. Except among the growing numbers of parents (though still percentage wise quite small) who are choosing to educate their kids themselves. We have raised and are raising generations of kids who only see school as the ticket to a good life rather than a portal to having their minds blown with new and exciting knowledge. When the act of learning is reduced to a mere vehicle to acquire the so called good life it seems not only are the kids left behind but perhaps our whole damn society is left behind and frankly that says a lot about what we really value.
PS: Before some of ya’ll write me to complain I am not talking about you. Of course there are many families and parents that believe deeply in education and do all to foster a love of learning in their kids. But there are plenty of families that do no such thing and this is not always broken down around class level either.