Monday, September 27, 2010

Education: Choices and Sacrifices

There was a segment on the NPR program Tell Me More (09/21/10) that struck a chord with me. The segment was about parents going back to school to complete a degree. I completed both my bachelor's and master's after becoming a husband and father. The essential element for me completing both degrees was the support of family.

As a child, I saw my parents make the economic choice to complete their education. I call it an economic choice because that's how it was explained to me. My father, a teacher, looked at the union rules and understood that earning a Master's would increase his paycheck - so he earned his Master's. My parents ran the numbers and figured that if my mother completed her degree in education it would have a positive impact on the family finances. It did. Then my mother completed her Master's to increase her paycheck. There was a clear understanding and explanation of the economic importance of completing an education.

My parents encouraged me to complete my degree while I was single and childless. I did not listen. My educational path was in many ways the opposite of theirs. Instead of focusing on the economic benefits of a degree, I focused on subjects I was curious about. I changed majors: architecture; computer science; and finally communication studies. I completed my bachelor's 20 years after I started it and in a different field than my career. Along the way, I got married and became a father. I didn't full understand or appreciate my parents' sacrifice until I became a parent and discussed those same sacrifices with my wife and children. As a parent, I appreciate even more the sacrifices my parents made and the lessons imparted about education. Now, I encourage my children in their educational pursuits. I let them know they can achieve their dreams on their time table – as long as they never give up.

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