Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Higher Education--Is it worth it?

I have been in several social circles of late who have presented the attitude that getting a higher education isn't worth it if you don't use it for a career. When people say such a thing in my hearing range, it's like fingernails on a blackboard to me. I know that sometimes there are circumstances that prevent one from furthering their education and it can be quite difficult. But, I also firmly believe that higher education is for everyone, whether you "use it" or not. Just because it doesn't lead you to a lucrative career in your field of study doesn't mean that it doesn't have value.

A college education does more than land you a job. It broadens your mind and teaches you to think in the way that almost nothing else can. Sure, you can broaden your mind through travel and reading, but when you are challenged to look at something, anything, from another person's point of view and then discuss that topic and defend your own, it makes you think harder and in more complex ways than you would have to otherwise. It broadens your perspective on life and on people. You are taught to think in more complex ways and organize your thinking into tangible, readable, shareable ways. You become more well-rounded and perhaps even more focused.

My husband works at a job that requires no degree. The company he works for promotes from within, so all upper management started at the bottom and worked their way up. It was years of work experience and training within the company that brought them to the level they are at. Many of these people have told me they don't see the value of getting a college degree because they don't need one to get to the top within this company. They are right, but they are missing out on so much learning and so many great experiences by skipping college altogether. And I have noticed, when socializing with them, the only topic they to discuss is this company. They haven't broadened their minds to be interested in anything else--art, literature, politics, science, etc. It's no wonder that most of their friends are also only within the company because they have no other outside interests. And then I hear them say they think that college would be a waste of time--how wrong they are!

My husband worked full time at this job while supporting four children and a wife AND going to school full time to get his degree. Will he use his degree in his career? No. Did his classes help him in his career? Maybe. Is he a more well-rounded individual with a little bit of a broader perspective on life and people now? Yes. Was the sacrifice worth it? Definitely. It was so worth it in my opinion that I would encourage him to seek a graduate degree, even if it doesn't benefit his career.

I worked my way through college and earned a degree. I even used it the first few years after graduation. But then, after getting married and having my first child, I quit my job to be at home with my children. To some, that is wasting my college education. However, many of the ideas and subjects I studied in college are useful to parenting AND have helped me instill a love for learning in my children because I'm knowledgeable about a broad range of subjects. I hope to someday earn a master's degree in that field, and I may never use it for a career, but learning more about that subject interests me greatly and, if nothing else, may make me a better advocate on behalf of my children pertaining to their educations.

Intelligence is the only thing we take with us when we die. It can't hurt to obtain all that we can while we can. Even if all we do is the same job we've had since high school.

1 comment:

swedemom said...

I agree with you Jenna. I graduated 12 years ago with BYU and when I received my degree, I stopped working to prepare for my first baby. I have never ever regretted getting my degree. Some could argue that it was superfluous, especially since I would have a hard time getting a job in my actual field: english literature without additional training. I have worked part-time occasionally since graduating, but teaching piano and voice lessons.

However, my degree has been a huge blessing to me. In college, I really learned how to study and research, which has been invaluable to me as a mother. When I face a challenge with parenting, sick kids, or even marriage, I have been able to go to books, the internet and even friends, research and then sift through the advice to help find solutions that work for my family.

I can say to my children how important it is to get a good education.

Brent studied intensely for the 10 of our 12 years of marriage getting his degrees, and in a field in which it isn't always easy to get a job. We've been fortunate in that aspect.

I like what you wrote about having a broad education. I think it is very true.


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