The Influencers Are Wrong: Education Matters
As the parent of a young teen, constantly trying to instill in him the value of an education and helping him responsibly navigate the Internet, this recent opinion piece in Entrepreneur struck a chord in me. As his dad and I attempt to nurture his developmental, spiritual, and academic growth, including his love of math, computing, and music, it seems the Internet is always there to woo him with dreams of becoming the next rapper, online gamer, trick shot star, or influencer.
We’ve always encouraged him to excel in school (and he has) and often talk about him going to college, but we also want him to pursue his dreams and be happy. Even though we attended a university and have advanced degrees, “college,” for us, has always meant some form of post-secondary education and continued training beyond high school toward an upwardly mobile, fulfilling career that will support his and his future family’s economic needs. But at age 13, watching many online celebrities who didn’t take that path, our son often asks, “Do people really need to go to college?”
Hanna Shanar wrote about the “dangerous” message that seems to be increasingly communicated to kids and young adults today: “education is worthless.” And no college and no form of post-secondary education is needed to become wealthy and successful. Kids are inundated with influencers who talk about how they made it big as high school dropouts or by not continuing their education and how others can, too. What they don’t say is that it’s like winning the lottery; most people don’t find success, and many who do find it to be short-lived and have little to fall back on when it ends. There are also a growing number of online crash courses and training programs that claim to teach young adults how they can strike it rich, too. Just purchase their online program, and they’ll teach you how.
Shanar suggests a possible correlation between the rise in social media usage and the decline in college enrollment, given what she and many others see daily. I don’t know that this has been studied yet, but the facts do seem to show that education is pretty powerful. Some of the wealthiest individuals in the world have a post-secondary education, most of them with a bachelor’s degree or above. And as Shanar referenced, most people with an annual income of $200,000 or more have at least a bachelor’s degree. She concluded, “social media influencers claiming [a] degree is worthless are factually incorrect, and are statistically lying to you.”
She’s right. The evidence is pretty clear that post-secondary education and training make a difference. There are many pathways to a great career that pays a healthy living wage, and more exist now than ever. Not all of them require kids to go straight to a four-year university after high school, but they do require more than just a high school diploma. Many great careers can be started through short-term training programs that lead to an initial certificate, where the individual can begin working and then gradually pursue more and more education and training to grow and develop while earning a paycheck. And employers are increasingly paying their workers to do just that, making it financially possible for them to continue their education and grow the talent their businesses require.
Education beyond high school is about growth, development, critical thinking, problem-solving, and becoming a lifelong learner. It’s no surprise that individuals who have those experiences tend to have more opportunities throughout their lives.
So the next time an online influencer tries to tell your kid that education is worthless, use it as a time to talk about facts versus fiction, the joy of lifelong learning, and the never-ending process of reflection and self-improvement that enables us all to be our best. It’s crucial for your kids, for mine, and future generations.
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