By Margaret Adams
Labor Day is over and students from pre-K through college are back in school. But why do we send our children to school? Is it because it’s the law? (YES!) We have heard and been told for years that if you go to school, it helps you get a job and if you go to college, you will get a better job. But, are these the best reasons for going to school?
Let’s look at the history of schools and education in the United States of America. In the early days of civilization, education was available primarily for royal and wealthy families and the clergy. It was a form of privilege. As the world grew and became more industrialized, it became obvious that there had to be some way of teaching the working mass so that progress could continue. When the United States was established, there was no formal education available for anyone other than white male property owners. There was no mandatory education and education was not paid for with taxes. However, our founding fathers recognized that in order for their new democracy to succeed it would require an educated population that could understand political and social issues, participate in civic life, vote wisely, protect their rights and freedoms, and resist tyrants and demagogues. Education was seen as a way to provide moral instruction and build character. (The above concepts are from Nancy Kober’s paper, “The History and Evolution of Public Education in the United States,” written for the Center on Education Policy).
Free public education was not available until the 1830s, and according to classroomsynonym.com, the purpose of public education is to “train students to become skilled workers while teaching traditional core disciplines” (reading, writing, and arithmetic). It was seen as a less expensive means to end poverty versus the expense of punishing and jailing criminals and coping with the problems stemming from poverty. Ohio enacted the Bing Act in 1921 which required children aged 6 to 18 to attend school.
It is generally true that the more education you have, the higher income you can expect. Per the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported by nasdaq.com, a high school graduate will earn $22,000 per year while a college graduate earns $52,00 per year. A 2019 Bureau of Labor Statics report showed that someone who did not graduate high school will earn $606 per week as compared to a high school graduate’s $749 per week (these numbers represent national averages.)
The point is that having more education should improve your ability to earn more. Another benefit of having an education involves health and life expectancy. A 2015 study by Virginia Commonwealth University found that people who did not graduate high school generally died 9 years earlier and experienced more illnesses than more educated people. These reasons are enough on their own to encourage one to complete high school at a minimum. Reality tells us that there is no guarantee that income earning potential will be the same for all—nor is completing an educational program the end all. In today’s job market and with rapidly changing technology, continuing education is almost mandatory, and learning new information and skills is now a lifelong trend.
While the above reasons for going to school are the ones we most generally hear, it can be said that the REAL reason for going to school and gaining an education is KNOWLEDGE. The Oxford dictionary definition of KNOWLEDGE is facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education. LEARNING is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or being taught. Once you have KNOWLEDGE it can’t be taken from you and it can be used to help you better understand and cope with the world around you.