As a child, my parents always impressed upon me the importance of getting a good education. My father in particular always told my siblings and I that we should strive to be number one in our studies. Because of the strict nature of my father, getting good grades was the rule, while getting low grades resulted in punishment.
Needless to say, my siblings and I achieved honor roll status throughout our K through middle school years. However, as I hit high school things began to change for me. I was no longer that little boy that followed my father’s every wish out of fear. By now, I had been hardened by the tough streets of Brooklyn and questioned whether getting a good (formal) education could take me out of this environment.
You see, in my community, I knew of a few high school graduates, much fewer college graduates. My parents had limited education and struggled to provide for my siblings and I. Like many that grew up in poor communities, I experienced my fair share of pain and struggles.
Like many of today’s youth that is dropping out of high school in record numbers, I too doubted the transformative powers of formal education touted by my parents and teachers. I did not believe that formal education alone could transform my socio-economic situation.
As a result, I began to devalue formal education and withdrew (cutting classes regularly). Luckily, I began to realize the error in my thinking brought about by the intervention of a high school guidance counselor. I struggled to graduate high school, needing to attend summer school two years in a row in addition to night school. Nevertheless, I did graduate-But what next!?
Today, we hear news reports about the high dropout rates for inner-city high school kids across America. I believe that this high dropout rate stems from the inability of the youth to understand and witness the transformative power of education within their communities. As a 34-year-old man with a Ph.D., I can now attest to the transformative powers of getting a good education, but not just one that is formal.
I have seen examples of education’s transformative powers in the lives of my colleagues, as well as in my own life. However, most people won’t get a Ph.D., or even a college degree. Does this mean that they are doomed to a life of suffering and pain because of their socio-economic situation? Well not necessarily, as a significant percentage of millionaires in America did not graduate from college.