I met a student recently who was about to graduate high school and the first two years of college all in the same day! Not only is that an impressive accomplishment, but also it is an accomplishment that has become increasingly common over the past decade or so. The rise of dual enrollment opportunities that allow high school students to take college courses has made it possible for thousands of American teens to graduate high school with an AA degree from a local college or university. Again, that is a pretty amazing accomplishment!
But what’s the rush? What is the end of that fast track education, a job? Why should we be in a hurry to end childhood so that our child can become another cog in the world’s economic engine? To be fair, I can imagine a few scenarios where a child needs to grow up and get to work to help the family out, even if the child only supports himself. The absence of a parent is probably the most common reason that comes to mind. Also, a child who has abundant siblings and parents of modest means might need to get to work as soon as possible. There are other good reasons, no doubt. Again, though, if the rush is only rushing to a career, and there aren’t extenuating circumstances that make it necessary for the child to enter the workforce, please consider slowing down.
Education is formative, and formation takes time. An education that is rushed through invariably is one that trims away anything that doesn’t seem practical simply because there isn’t time for it. Art, music, languages, literature, and composition are just the kinds of classes that get cut from the schedules of students on the fast track, but they are also just the kinds of classes that help students develop a sense of the true, good, and beautiful. They are the kinds of subjects that help us understand what it means to be good humans. The study of these things helps students get a glimpse of the good life. A life absent the study of these subjects will be something like a daily diet of dry toast when each piece could easily have been slathered with homemade strawberry jam. Is dry toast nourishing? Sure, nourishing enough, and you can have a piece of it in your mouth a lot quicker if you don’t take the time to properly slather it with homemade strawberry jam. But then, what have you got?
We slaves to the economic machine, have convinced ourselves somewhere along the way that education is completely utilitarian, a means to an end. But what end? We rush through education the same way we rush through everything as if it were just another thing to check off our lists so we can get to the good stuff. But what is the good stuff? A job? A car payment? Quarterly sales reports? Is that the good stuff we’re rushing to get to? What if the good stuff is the stuff we’re rushing through?
There is more to life than the American dream. There is more to being human than occupying a spot in the workforce. Whether your children are on the fast track or slow track, be sure to give them an education that helps them distinguish the good life from the daily grind.
Mr. Ron Gilley