Updated: Jun 27, 2022
A mantra that is repeated often, usually from parent to child, or from educator to student. This blog post is inspired by one such interaction with a student.
Where does this idea come from? Why do we say such a thing in the first place? During a conversation about developing structurally sound essays with a student this past week, the question of positive reinforcement arose - centering around the idea of grades, and whether students should receive rewards for achieving "good grades." Naturally, I asked this student what the importance was of "good grades" any way. And *Aries provided me with this precise answer.
When I pushed him to why exactly one needed a good education, he had to think about it for a moment. He did think, carefully; he's a very smart boy. After some careful consideration, he said that a good education was, he thought, necessary to get a good job, which was important to being able to live a stable life, and this would mean he would be happy. A good job equated to more financial freedom, and this meant he could do things that would make him happy - even if the job itself did not, he noted.
Makes sense, right? On the surface, absolutely. There's not anything wrong with wanting to live a comfortable life, or to do, buy, and attain things that give us momentary pleasure.
But that's just it. Those pleasures are momentary. Are we to chase one pleasure after another? To teach our children to chase one more thing, one more promotion, one more achievement?
For what? To keep ourselves, and them, "happy?"
Realize that this student was not speaking from his own personal experience, but rather from a set of societal expectations and preconceived notions that have been passed on to him from institutions and establishments that he has been exposed to over the course of his lifetime.
While having this set of beliefs in itself is not a problem - after all, this is understandable given the surrounding environment and atmosphere - it is the blinding belief that one must adhere to these things, to complete or perform this grocery list of sorts - to find true happiness in life. While having a good education - however you classify the term - is important to the development and progression of human society, it is by no means a replacement for genuine happiness in life. And that is what a good education is seen as - the pathway by which one can attain true happiness. Now we get to the crux of the issue! Why is this a problem? For the exact reason that this student voiced his answer to me - while this student in particular is intelligent enough to realize that money will not solve his problems, he also recognizes that it is important to do something he loves as a career, because life is meant to be lived, not wiled away in a jail cell for 8 - 15 hours a day on account of a paycheck. His parents are in agreement - that their son will do something he loves, and they will be happy as long as he is with his state of affairs in life. Smart parents. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
But I know this is not always the case. How many other children out there are forced, coerced, or pressured into something they do not want to do, with the biggest factor being the money? While there are lots of varying statistics on how many people like their job or career, it's most certainly under 40%. How on Earth can we expect our children to choose jobs or careers they like, or start businesses based on passion, when we as adults do not exemplify that for them?
The solution for this? Pretty simple.
Encourage your children to do what they love, not what makes them money.
Of course, finances are always a consideration. But they're not the most important factor. The majority of adult life is spent at work. Instead of trying to figure out ways in which we can work less, how about we focus on making sure people are happy in the workplace? That starts with liking the actual job itself. "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
- Annie Dillard
*name changed to protect privacy of student
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