Or at least, that’s what I used to think.
With the prohibitive costs of education and the high rate of unemployment and underemployment, it’s easy to see why education may not be the best investment for ourselves, even when the contrary has been what our parents have so zealously tried to inculcate into our minds. This argument becomes even more potent because of figures like Steve Jobs, Oprah, and Steven Spielberg, who have found success in their chosen endeavors despite not having university degrees.
Many people who have found success without a university degree say that all you really need in order to make it is resilience and a good work ethic. And while they aren’t wrong in that sentiment, there’s just one problem. Resilience and a good work ethic are not things that are inherent in people in the same way that bravery and courage are not inherent in soldiers.
Education Is More Than Just Knowledge
With the rise of the internet, we have gained unprecedented access to all types of information. And while it can be argued that we have also been exposed to misinformation, a user that is able to discern correct information from bad is bound to learn just as much, if not more, than if he were taught these lessons at school.
But therein lies the first misconception about education. We put so much emphasis on the knowledge that we can acquire in school and we end up overlooking the habits that we can build in school. As so eloquently put by Roman writer Publius Renatus: “Few men are born brave. Many become so through training and force of discipline.”
It’s true that resilience and a good work ethic are core ingredients for success, but the question now is where can you build these traits completely? The answer? School.
The Culture Of No Excuses
It’s also in school where students are often faced with requirements. And let’s get things straight. Most employers require applicants to have a degree in order for them to even be considered for a job. This is one requirement.
Life as a professional is peppered with due dates, tasks, duties, and of course, standards that need to be met and if possible, surpassed. Again, another requirement.
The real world is full of requisites that need to be met, whether it’s in a job application, taking out a loan, or even invoking a right. The education system familiarizes us with the culture of rising to the occasion and meeting requirements. You can even say that school is like a simulation of professional life except in the real world, failing to meet standards often means that you face serious consequences.
So, yes, education may be a pricey investment to make, but there are many measures like student loans and Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP) that help parents raise funds for the education of their children.
So, while education may not be the single guaranteed solution that allows us to find success, the habits and the knowledge that are acquired during the pursuit of a degree are what truly build a future. You aren’t defined by your grades, but rather, by your character and your merits.