Education is important.
This societal norm is embraced by most people in North America. In fact, it is a foundational value of our social fabric. But every belief is quietly supported by a value. So why exactly is education important?
Our response to this question typically falls into one of the two following buckets:
- We educate to equip and prepare people for life.
- We educate to equip and prepare people for a job.
On the surface, these seem like simple statements. However, we must realize that our prevailing belief drive our day-to-day decisions related to education. To illustrate, consider these examples:
- Your child is about to graduate from high school. She wants to take a year off (a gap year) to travel and take some personal development classes. You want her to begin her education degree right away so she can begin teaching as soon as possible.
- Your rising star employee submits a request to go to a conference. The content of the sessions is outside their direct responsibilities. However, the content is helpful to their overall professional and personal development.
- You are invited to attend a community lecture. It is on a subject that has no personal interest to you but is something that significantly impacts your community.
- You have agreed to coach or mentor someone at work. You have a blank sheet of paper in front of you and have an hour to plan your content for the next two months.
Life preparation vs. job preparation. Our education choices are driven by one of these two motives (and occasionally by both). You have a bias towards one of these perspectives. Overall, I believe that our society places a higher emphasis on education to prepare people for work. This is validated by research that demonstrates 70% of employees do not feel engaged in their work (meaning we are more driven by the need to have a job than the need to be fulfilled).
I encourage you to draw a 1-10 scale in your mind with one choice on either end. If you have to plot your bias, where do you sit? Are you the parent pushing your child to pursue education so they can become self-reliant as soon as possible? Are you the boss who denies professional development that is broader than their job description? Are you the person who attends lectures outside of your sphere of interests just because? Or are you the mentor trying to provide both personal and professional development to your prodige?
Do you educate to prepare for life or to prepare for work?
Dr. Jeff Suderman an educator, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman