Three of the men in my life are recent graduates, one from 4-year-old preschool, one from high school, and one from college. As I watched my little grandson Braden march across the stage in his blue cap and gown last night, I couldn’t help but think that that was just the first of many rites of passage he will experience. I also thought about how even though he was graduating, he was also participating in a commencement ceremony; he’s just beginning his educational experiences.
Then my mind wondered a bit as I thought of something I’ve read many times: All low-income countries have one trait in common when it comes to schooling, that being that there isn’t much of it. In the poorest nations only half of the kids ever get to school, and for the world as a whole, only half of all children ever get to the secondary grades. As a result, about one third of people round the globe can’t read or write. Aren’t we fortunate? Here in America, education is considered a right. It’s too bad that more people don’t take advantage of it.
Can anyone deny the value of education? For starters, post secondary education is linked to a better job and more satisfying career, better health and a longer life, and a certain amount of social mobility. Schooling affects both occupation and income because most (but not all) of the better-paying, white-collar jobs require a college degree or other advanced study. And get this, only three percent of adults who have a college education live below the poverty line whereas high school drop outs are ten times more likely to be living in poverty. In addition to higher earnings, people who continue their education past high school are more likely to hold jobs that have a lower accident risk.
The number of years of education is one of the best predictors of health. Compared to less educated adults, those who spend more years in school have lower death rates, lower disease rates, and lower disability. This association remains even after age, sex, race, and marital status are taken into account. I’m not sure why this is the case, but it could be because people with some postsecondary education have more fulfilling work, a sense of personal control, and a healthier lifestyle. Actually, I’ve got lots of ideas about this, but that’s a post for another day.
A sociology professor of years past told his class that two variables went into a person’s social status: the family he or she was born into and the person’s education. An individual doesn’t have much control over her parents, but she can sure choose whether or not she pursues her education or not. That’s the ticket, according to my old professor, and I believed him then…still do.
I’m proud of Braden, Chris, and Paul, and I hope they realize that they’re fortunate to be living in a country which permits, even encourages, its citizens to get an education. Keep it up, Guys, if you want to have better jobs, live healthier and longer lives, be more financially secure, and experience a bit of social mobility.