Education is defined as an acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. We all have an education. I have a high school diploma with a handful of credit hours from a local community college. More than that, I have so many things I’ve learned over the years by just doing and experiencing. It’s taken me a long time to realize that. My qualifications seemed to pale in comparison to so many others with Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorates. Then it hit me. Yes, they know many things that I don’t, but I have a lot of knowledge they don’t. Life teaches us all different lessons. Every job I’ve ever had has taught me something. Growing up on a farm taught me things I didn’t even know I wanted to learn. I’ve educated myself by taking advantage of the resources that were available to me. I could have gotten a degree, but never quite could nail down the right career for myself and didn’t want to just go because it was the thing to do. I have absolutely no regrets.
When someone tries to say a person with a degree is more qualified, intelligent, or equipped for what lies ahead, I have to say, “not necessarily”. That’s like saying someone with a doctor’s note is sicker than someone who didn’t go to see a doctor. What they have is a piece of paper. It’s not always the truth. I do understand with some occupations a degree is completely necessary. I don’t want to find out the surgeon about to cut into me has watched a few YouTube videos and read a couple of medical magazines in the waiting room. On the other hand, there are many good occupations where a degree doesn’t make a difference.
Student loans are over $1.3 trillion in the United States. So many twenty-somethings begin their lives with a huge debt to repay. This is especially disheartening when the total debt is more than an annual salary in their field of choice. They spend so many years focused on repaying student loans that other things are put on hold, like buying a home or saving for retirement. I don’t think a degree is for everyone. I don’t think saddling the next generation with debt right from the start is the answer. I think there should be more opportunities to work as an apprentice in their desired field before making that commitment. It may be an eye-opening experience. They may realize this isn’t the path they want to go down.
There are still many employers who are willing to train the right person. They understand that no matter what your credentials are, there are some things that aren’t taught. Drive, character, attitude, and talent, are the unteachables. As parents of this generation, we should be nurturing and building these qualities as much as possible rather than expecting a degree is going to be the key that opens up every door.