As a lifelong educator, my views on education will obviously skewed towards espousing its virtues and importance. I’ve been in school pretty much my whole life, both as a student, a high school teacher, and as a college professor (at one point in time, I was all three!), and I’ve seen my fair share of students go through existential questions like what do you get after high school, or the most popular one, why is school even important?
And it’s a valid question, one that I encourage my students to ask on a daily basis, and one that I encourage them to answer themselves. As much as possible, I try to get my students to answer it without using the ‘I need a diploma to get a job’ answer, not only because it’s a tiring and shallow response, but also because it negates all the other wonderful benefits of having an education. And while Steve Jobs dropped out of college, he himself understood the importance of education, and encouraged mavericks like himself to stick with school for as long as possible.
And while I do want you to answer that question yourself using your own words, here’s why I think school is important, and why education is a lifelong gift that keeps on giving:
Why is School Important? Because it Builds Your Confidence
I’m going to let you in on a secret: I, too, hate math. There’s not a subject in the world that sends chills down my spine than anything math-related. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t essential; on the contrary, a solid foundation in math will go a long way in whatever discipline you study.
But despite my fear, I challenged myself to take up math and physics electives during my undergraduate years. And guess what? I failed miserably. If you’re wondering if college is harder than high school, the answer is: yes, especially the math subjects!
However, despite my failures, I had wonderful professors and teachers who encouraged me and guided me through every calculation and formula. No, I did not prosper (math is a vocation, I believe!), but every time I gave an answer that was correct, my confidence was through the roof. And after 3 semesters of advanced calculus, and despite me dropping out, that idea of achieving something in a field that is difficult was ingrained into me, and that feeling of absolute confidence that I can accomplish anything if I set my mind to it became a habit.
Confidence isn’t just a fancy word that means you forego all fear: rather, confidence is a habit that tells you to push forward, that you can achieve things if you hunker down and set yourself on the grinding wheel, and most importantly, confidence is telling you to trust in the education you received, that it will not fail you regardless of the situation.
Why is School Important? Because it Teaches You How to Socialize
Despite what media wants you to believe, humans are, in essence, social animals: we travel in packs, we thrive in dense populations, and we rely on each other immensely. How we interact with our fellow social animals is instilled in us early on with school.
School is a jungle, with social hierarchies and unspoken rules, and it acts like a microcosm of “real” society, making it the best training ground for a person to understand how they will navigate the “real” world once their education is complete. School teaches you how to make friends, how to keep friends, what your values are and what values you hold dear in other people. It teaches you how to interact with people you dislike in a diplomatic manner, and more importantly, it teaches you the basic of civility and decency.
Why is School Important? It Teaches You How to Work as a Team
Once you have the basics of social interaction pat down, school will start teaching you how to leverage your social connections to achieve increasingly complex goals. Basically, it teaches you what it’s like to work in a team, what your best role is in that situation, and whether or not you can lead a group of like-minded individuals in accomplishing a goal.
Whether it’s through academics or sports, schools drive us to participate in activities as a group, and it teaches us how to find our place in that group, what our roles will be, and how we can help each other. It also teaches something else: people aren’t perfect, but we have to work with them anyway. That’s a big part about being in a team: you’re not always going to like the people you’re working with, but you have to manage your expectations and behavior in such a way that it still benefits everyone in the team.
Why is School Important? It Gives You Knowledge
And as we all know, knowledge is power. Every subject, class, course, or unit that you take up in school will one day benefit you, mold you, and most importantly, provide you benefits beyond the economical or financial. School gives you knowledge, a gift that keeps on giving, whether you’re pursuing a profession in a particular industry, or if you just want to learn how to build a book shelf by hand, school will give you the foundation to build and create knowledge.
That’s one thing a lot of students don’t understand: most of the lessons you learn in your classes, mundane as they seem, are designed to teach you how to seek knowledge, trains your critical thinking in such a way that you yourself can generate knowledge from your own mind, come to conclusions using facts on your own, and make informed decisions about any subject matter you choose.
This is why school is important: it teaches you to become a holistic human being that is capable of making sound decisions, be useful in society, and be confident in what they do. It teaches you how to be decent to your fellow humans, to improve your society, and most importantly, to use your knowledge to better yourself and the people around you.