Monday, March 30, 2009

Education is Freedom

I believe that all kids should strive to attain a college education. This belief has often been met with criticism by some who tell me, "Not all kids are college material." I know that there are some who have intellectual capacities that aren't conducive to college. But I think there are much fewer of these cases than we want to admit.

I often tell people that my programs are going to aim to equip children for college by providing them educational options and opportunities. By doing that, kids then have a choice. They are not relegated to a job because that is all they know or because that is all they are capable of.

I believe we need everybody. I believe every job is important. We need trash collectors just like we need engineers to design the trucks that collect the trash. But people deserve a choice as to their outcome in life. If they are a trash collector because they don't have the education, because they never knew there were engineers that designed the trucks, and because everyone in their family has been trash collectors and that is all they know, we have failed them.

Education is a right in our country...or supposed to be. We need to provide an educational system that allows every child the opportunity to be who they want to be.

Dr. Marcus Martin wrote a great piece about how education is truly freedom. Read below.

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Dallas Morning News Website, 08:33 AM CDT on Friday, March 27, 2009

Marcus Martin: Paycheck is only one benefit of college

Young people are often urged to pursue higher education simply because a college graduate earns more money. There are numerous charts illustrating the stark income gap between a person with a high school diploma and one who holds a college degree. Various studies and census data highlight how a high school graduate's wages will average $1.2 million over a lifetime compared with a college graduate's $2.1 million.

A diagram plotting out the vast pay disparity alone might be impressive enough to convince some high school students to attend college; however, such graphics fail to show the full value of a college education.

The prize isn't just the fine paper bearing the graduate's formal name penned in calligraphy; nor is it the financial success to which the degree entitles its holder.

The true reward is in the education. A college education provides students with knowledge. With that knowledge comes a greater understanding of our global society and how its inhabitants co-exist. Philosophy, history, psychology, literature and the arts are all aspects of a well-rounded college education that encourages a person to think in terms of the larger picture and not just consider one's own experiences within small communities.

Take, for instance, a university student assigned to write an essay about how 17th-century English philosopher John Locke altered the relationship between monarchies and their subjects. Or a college student asked to contemplate the influence of colonial philosopher Thomas Paine in the battle for American independence from Great Britain. These young scholars gain a deeper understanding of our nation, its foundation and the workings of our government.

As a society, we hope such enlightened students emerge from the classroom transformed into well-informed citizens, committed to working for the betterment of our country.

Thus, not only does the individual benefit from higher learning, but our communities will prosper as well. Those with college educations have a higher likelihood of becoming voters, leaders and volunteers in their communities. They will be motivated to improve their neighborhoods because their learning experience has already challenged them to contemplate what it takes to create a better and more just society.

As mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles, those college graduates serve as examples to the next generation and can instruct them on the importance of education.

For those living in poverty, access to higher education is especially important. Many times, the cycle of poverty remains unbroken. Children born into poor conditions may not fully grasp the benefits a higher education can bring because they haven't witnessed firsthand how learning might transform their lives. Some youths may feel that college is off-limits because of their lack of financial resources or their poor academic preparation. Nevertheless, countless individuals have proven that these obstacles can be overcome.

Once a person breaks free from the bonds of poverty and successfully achieves a higher education, he or she can create new expectations of learning for subsequent generations. A fundamental change occurs when a college graduate who grew up poor is able to provide for his or her family.

With that financial security comes mental security, improved health benefits and improved well being. These college graduates, who consciously emerge from the hardships of poverty, will have a chance to teach and mentor their own children to follow in their footsteps and pursue higher learning so they, too, are able to make positive contributions to society.

Thus, a college education means much more than the money received from a paycheck. Simply put, education is freedom – and with that freedom comes possibilities. It is in the realm of those possibilities where hope, inspiration and personal transformation can be developed for one's own life, community and country.

Marcus Martin is president and CEO of Dallas-based Education Is Freedom. His e-mail address is mmartin@educationisfreedom.org.
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