Monday, June 17, 2013

The Road from Higher Education

My daughter attends a highly ranked high school for gifted students. (I believe all children are gifted at something, but that’s a topic for another post.) She and I are talking about one of the teachers at the school who was a student there years ago and that his two siblings were, too.  Girl #2 (her blog post ID) mentions that the teacher’s brother substituted there once or twice.

“Hmmm…” I utter.

I say to my daughter, “I wonder if he’s unemployed.”

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have this image of very smart people men working as business owners, lawyers, engineers, doctors, university professors, writers, politicians, etc.; or even as actors, comedians, producers, artists, and journalists. If they’re not doing something akin to one of those professions, then something must have gone wrong along the way.

Women…we get an out. Why? Because we have babies.

After this brief, non-feminist—perhaps—thought process, I continue my conversation with Girl #2.

“The reason I wonder about his occupation is because all the kids in his family must be smart and he’s substituting.”

I begin to think about other very smart people and add, “Mrs. Smith was number one in her class at WestPoint, got a law degree, practiced, and now she’s a stay-at-home mom; been one for years. People thought she had wasted her education; some probably still think so.”

Girl #2 says, “So if you plan to become a mom, then do you say, ‘I’m not going to get an education.’ What if it doesn’t work out; that you don’t become a mom?”

“Good point,” I respond.

(Girl #2 was—maybe—thinking of women who want to be stay-at-home moms.)

­_ _ _ _ _

I often hear kids ask things like, “Why do I need to know that X2 is the same as X times X? Who cares! When am I going to use that in my life?”

It’s a valid question that has a good explanation that I won’t try to give. However, how many of us majored in one thing and worked in the respective field a short time and then began to do something entirely different. Same thing with trade schools; learn it and then decide, “That’s not me.” A lot of businesses have quickly gone by the wayside, too.

So, have we “wasted” time and/or money when we change our minds about what we want to do? Do we take a seat in a classroom from someone else who will perform the skill indefinitely?

I’ve heard people ask questions and express opinions to others in a tone that suggest disapproval, like:

- All that education and you are still so fickle!

- When are you going back to practicing law?

- You have a nursing degree. Why aren’t you working as a nurse? There’s always a need for nurses.

- What are you going to do now that you have your doctorate degree?

- Are you going to be a career student?

And to young stay-at-home moms—the list is endless, but here’s a few.

- I thought you wanted to do more than to just have babies.

- You went to college but you have no intention of becoming a teacher?

- When are you going back to work?

- Why did you go to college?
_ _ _ _ _

This is another time of the year when I question the energy parents spend in trying to direct the future of their children. The last of the high school graduations just happened. The college graduations were last month. Another round of kids are catapulted onto the roads of their various destinations—places where Mom and Dad will give the thumbs up to and feel that all their child guiding energy was worth it; or, to places where Mom and Dad will wonder, “What happened?”

With a curious eye, I have studied the lives and occupations of many people, trying to match their college choices and education (or lack of) with their occupations and successes (or lack of). I have concluded that the gifted are not always doctors or do gifted-people-worthy jobs, and the so-called average people are not always blue collar or servers. And being a stay-at-home mom (or stay-at-home dad) is not determined by how much education you have.

My oldest daughter, Girl #1, will be a senior in the fall. My friends have already warned me about the overwhelming college preparation process and because they know what they are talking about, my husband and I are going down a few avenues to get help and advice. It’s not easy when it’s your own kid.

This post is a sort of part II to my post titled, “What DoYou Want to Be When You Grow Up?” written three years ago, where I divided parents into three categories: the “Go-Getters,” the “I Just Want My Kids to Be Happy”, and the “Sports families”.  No Serena Williamses in my bunch, so I find myself split between the first two types of parents. Three years ago, I was amazed at the competitive nature of getting educated.  Nowadays, I’m used to it.
Currently, Girl #1 has not chosen schools she’d like to apply to. It’s possible that the colleges most of the neighborhood kids attend are not high on her list. I am happy to report that I am not stressed, believing that it will come together.
I have a friend who is employed at a large corporation as a manager. She has a master’s degree and a lot of letters after her name. A graduate of a local university, she told me that she works in the office (or was it a cubicle?) next to the guy who received his degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  Their different roads from higher education led them to the same place.
Are our recent grads benefiting more if they earned a degree from a top ranked university versus one ranked much lower?
Are you one of those rare people who is doing something that relates to your college degree or field of training?


joeh said...

I have two theories on this topic.
1. Everyone, as you say, has some very special talent...but for some of us the invention to capture that talent has not been invented.
(Bill Gates would have been a very poor farmer. Lucky for him the PC was invented.)
2. True talent or genius can not be held down. If you had locked Beethoven in a closet with nine bottles and a pitcher of water, he would still have developed a symphony.

Barb said...

Wow, Anita - I may have to rest my brain overnight and come back to these questions! Well, let me try. I think each person does have gifts, but some of us take longer to open ours. I've never been comfortable with cutthroat competition. The stress of needing to win (get into the best, have the best, be the best) is not healthy, in my opinion. I went to a Taekwondo testing this weekend and one of the Masters spoke of the impossible quest to be perfect. He suggested that trying, failing, but continuing and not giving up was a greater satisfaction and a better builder of character than perfection. I think I've learned that you cannot direct the future of another person - it's impossible even to direct your own future. Good Luck to you and your daughters - I hope each finds something she truly loves and can pursue it wholeheartedly for her own satisfaction. If she does that, it won't matter what others think.

yonca said...

I am the second type.I want my kid to be happy! If he wants to do any activity, I let him start learning.I enroll him a course and let him get education, just open a door for him.

For ınstance, he wanted to play guitar and I put him a class.If he keeps getting education, will do better for sure. But if he has a special talent..the real one..
i think, it can't be hidden...or he just enjoys his moments doing music that makes him happy.

Shelly said...

Although I changed my major a few times in college, both my degrees are in education and I spent my whole career in education. That said, I think the best path is the one that satisfies your heart, and sometimes we don't know what satisfies our heart until we've been away from school a few years.

Very thought provoking post-

Abby said...

Lots of thoughts on this one... I'll try to keep it short.

I majored in engineering and loved being an engineer, then I became a mom and loved being a stay-at-home-mom. Certain majors are definitely a means to an end. I can't think of any of my classmates in college that didn't get a job as an engineer.

We want our kids to "find their own paths", but at the same time, choose a college major that will lead to gainful employment. If they're undecided, take time off to investigate more. It bothers me to hear people whine about having a bachelor's degree, but no related job, and it turns out their bachelor's degree is in something of low worth to employers.

As far as the anxiety and competetiveness of getting into the "right" college? I can be cynical about that too, but then I'm biting the hand that feeds me :).

Buckeroomama said...

Another interesting post! I did a bit of what I majored in in university; found out that I preferred to do something else; stuck with that for over 10 years... and now I am doing something totally different! Knowing what I know now, would I still have taken up what I did in uni? Maybe not. At the time, though, that was *it* for me and it felt right then. Still, no regrets. It's led me up this path and I'm happy where I am.

Ankur Anand said...

thanks for the visit .. n lots of thoughts proved .. nicely written :)

Jenny said...

I love Joeh's comment.

She said what I was feeling much more eloquently than I could!

Stephanie said...

I have a University and College education and am currrenly not using either! I actually remarked to my Husband today that someone needs to offer a real course on how to raise a child, because there really is no manual. Do I feel that the education I have and am not "technically" using is a waste? No, because I do call on that knowledge from time to time, and my time spent in those institutions helped to make me the person I am today.

Rebecca S. said...

I don't think an education is necessarily a guarantee of anything in life, but that certainly doesn't mean it isn't worth it. My own, and my husband's post-secondary experiences helped shape us for the better and are the reason I encourage my kids to seek an education, too. I am pretty relaxed about what that will look like for each of them, but I, being a parent, am not without my concerns for their futures. However, I am doing my best with my husband to bring them up to be thoughtful and wise, being more concerned for WHO we are bringing up and sending out into the world than WHAT they might do for a living.
There are so many different paths for people, and everyone has a unique situation to deal with. Most people end up doing what they can manage emotionally, I believe. A person might love learning how to be a lawyer, but when it comes to practicing law, they may find it is not for them. However, their education my lead them to something more suitable for their personality. I always planned to be a teacher, but when it came down to it, a little, but insistent voice inside me said no. It is very important to listen to those voices and teach our children to listen for them, too. I ended up teaching my own children, homeschooling them, and teaching catechism for years, so in a way, I did become a teacher after all.
Best of luck to you as you prepare your daughter for college!