Years ago when I was writing articles for a military newspaper, I gained an appreciation for good headlines. Headlines grab our attention. They make us curious enough not only to read the article but how it relates to us. Ignoring them could be to our peril. “WALL ST. IN PANIC AS STOCKS CRASH”, “JAPAN ATTACKS HAWAII”, and “BATTLE FOR BAGHDAD”. These are just a few headlines that affected our lives. Headlines are the hook that warns us to pay attention.
So what is so important about this “pop quiz” mentioned in the headline? Who’s it for? How will you pass or fail? What kind of test is it? Is this about some new homeschooling law, curriculum issues, or college prep? It’s possible these and any other number of questions may have flickered through your mind, and you want to discover what it is that will affect your family.
Unlike regular news headlines, this article begins with a question though. Because sometimes a question makes us pause to think and look at things differently. Now, take a moment to consider all the different subjects you teach such as Math, Science, Spelling, Reading, Writing, etc., and anything else you teach your children, including what and how they think, how to study and take tests, and even how to relate to you and their siblings. Then consider the final sum of what you get from that so you can answer the following question. “What’s the ultimate goal of what and why you’re teaching your children?” Before you answer though, remember, the headline called this a pass-or-fail quiz. So read all the way through and think carefully before you answer.
The Important Pursuit of a College Degree
The average parent sending their child to private, public, parochial, charter, or homeschool wants them to graduate high school and college, get married, raise children, buy a home, and have a good life. Right? So how do you get all of this? Well according to what our culture teaches us – a college degree of course. According to the 2017 Census Bureau, “someone with an advanced degree earns 3.7 times as much as a high school dropout”. (I can guess what you’re wondering, but just bear with me here. This isn’t going where you think it is.)
We all know that not everyone will pursue college though. Just look at the numbers. A 2018 Washington Post article shows that 13.9% of America’s labor force chooses non-degree requiring blue-collar positions or the service industry. Then there are those who choose to pursue a higher degree. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 35% of American adults hold a Bachelor’s degree, and 13.1% hold a Master’s, Professional or Doctoral degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows while those with high school diplomas earn about $809 weekly; someone with a Bachelor’s degree averages $1,334, and a professional or doctoral degree about $1,900. It’s easy to see how that kind of difference makes a significant difference in someone’s life.
Degree or No Degree, That is the Question…or Is It?
Personally, when I left home for a job the day after high school, neither I nor my family would’ve guessed I would go on to pursue multiple degrees or hold some of the incredible jobs I’ve had. It’s one small reason I love this country. I’ve also held degrees and jobs far less paying and fulfilling than the glossy brochures led me to believe. So I now hold degrees for careers I no longer work in, and I sometimes wish I could have all those wasted Ramen noodle-eating college years and my money back again. Maybe I am a little nuts, but I’m not alone in this.
The data shows that while blue-collar welders certify in 1-2 years, and mechanics in 2-4 years; those with college degrees like teachers require 4 years of school and an accumulated average of $37,337 debt. Professional degrees such as college professors require 6 years, lawyers require 7 years, and doctors require 14 years while accumulating an average debt load of $76,620.
Now add to that, that current data suggests 26% of students don’t even think getting their degree was worth it, and 28% can’t find work in their degree field. In fact, an article by Forbes.com shows U.S. students hold $1.75 trillion in debt study, but only 27% actually use their degrees. Ouch! That is just painful to think about, mainly because I also fall within the 73% of the population currently working outside of my degrees.
I worked really, really hard to get those degrees. Just ask my wife how many years I worked more than full time in the construction trades, military, security, and ministry, built our home, and then stayed up all night studying for exams. Now, during all that time I’ve had the great pleasure of working with a few people with exceptional character who worked hard, did what was right, and kept their word even when it cost them.
Sadly though, I’ve also dealt with far too many people who’ve lied, stolen, manipulated, bullied; and generally worked harder doing wrong than it’s possibly worth. Most of both groups owed significant amounts of money on student loans and most struggled every day for years to just pay their bills. Many of the people in the second group will retire very well, all said and done. That goes the same for the first group, but can you guess which ones I trust and are still my friends to this day?
Okay, bear with me. Why did I give you all this data and what’s my point? Let me ask – what details did you focus on? Did you initially focus on some classes your child needs to do better at to get into college in order to get a better job? Did the student debt load or percentage of unused degrees shock you? What was it that proved vital to you? In the previous paragraph, did you notice that I didn’t attach a degree or title to either the individuals with or those lacking good character? No, because the level of education and job title had nothing to do with their personal character or their effect on others.
The Homeschooling Pop Quiz
So, let me throw the pop quiz at you now. Instead of only teaching them to pursue a college degree, did you consider the type of character your child should be gaining? Do your children reflect an insistence to do more in order to get more? Or have they been trained to work hard, make sacrifices, tell the truth, and care about others? Will they mature into someone who gives more than they take? Are you training your child/student to be a hard worker, a kind leader, and even a more capable parent/teacher? Will they be a lazy boss or a hard-working leader with integrity no matter what college degree or job title they achieve?
What is your ultimate purpose in teaching your children? Please, don’t forget the most important education they will ever need to be successful. Their success depends on whether you pass this test.
More About the Author:
Gabriel is a former homeschooled missionary kid and homeschooling father who adores his wife, children, and grandchildren. He is currently rebuilding a 130-year-old homestead, writing a historical fiction book on character for young people, and mentoring young men.
He is a former U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondent, Army National Guard Photographer, and U.S. Army Deputy Public Affairs representative and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He lived in Central America during Junior High and served on military short and long-term assignments across the U.S. and in half a dozen countries, including Iraq during his military career. Besides his deep faith and his family, his passion is writing and developing young men into capable steward leaders.
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