The importance of education can be understood not by only looking at the positive impacts of a well-rounded education, but also by knowing the negative consequences of an abbreviated education. In point of fact, high-school dropouts have higher rates of incarceration, are more likely to be drug-addicts and earn less on average than those who receive diplomas. On the converse, those who have advanced degrees (Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate) typically receive compensation in-line with their level of academic achievement. This paper will explore the original intent of Western education and measure against it the state of education in America today. In this way, it will attempt to determine the economic and social impacts of neglecting one’s education; additionally, it will discover the benefits of minding one’s education. The notion of Western education arose in Greece in their academic schools wherein a famous philosopher would instruct his pupils in math, philosophy, ethics and music (Jones, 2004). In that time, only aristocratic men had access to the famous academies of learning. Nevertheless, the point of education was similar then as it is today: to create well-rounded young people who are capable of thinking for themselves and determining the course of their lives with the aid of good sense. Over time education became institutionalized so that everyone could have access to it. The idea of compulsory education is that it levels the playing field for all students regardless of their race or economic standing. America has taken the basic Greek notion of education and applied it democratically, so that all have equal opportunities. However, the advantage of the Greek system is that it does not have to provide for every single student—the only students are those who can afford to be in the first place. The ambition of the American system is one of its tragic flaws. Students who do not perform well become discouraged easily, drop out, find menial work and end up forming a permanent underclass. The virtue of education—its ability to help young people break out of habitual modes of thinking—is never felt by a student who drops out; the only thing that that student understands is the oppressive weight of incomprehension. This last point is especially pertinent among African Americans, who, studies have shown have nearly a 50% dropout rate (in contrast to a 1 in 3 dropout rate for whites) (Thornburgh, 2006). Joseph M. Conrad Jr. uggests that education should be the highest priority on the agenda for African Americans: “My suggested list is first, education; second, economic development; third, home ownership; and fourth, health and safety” (World and I, 2003). The implication that Conrad is making is that education is what makes economic development, home ownership, etc. possible in the first place—and that is why it is at the top of his list. Of course, it is one thing to suggest that education is one’s top priority and completely another thing to suggest how to go about making it more effective. Thornburgh, in attempting to convey the detrimental nature of not finishing one’s education, draws an analogy between physical health and mental health: “Dropping out of high school today is to your societal health what smoking is to your physical health” (2006). The analogy is even more apt once some of its implications are considered: once a person begins to smoke, stopping becomes progressively more and more difficult—conversely, once a person drops out of school it becomes progressively more and more difficult for them to return. Thus, the benefits of successfully completing an education are a greater range of possibilities that one may choose from (in employers, job fields, places to live), a more well-rounded sense of well-being (educated people typically live healthier, more informed lifestyles) and finally, the confidence that comes from knowing that one is capable of setting a goal, organizing one’s time with an eye to its achievement and overcoming whatever obstacles one encounters. The importance of an education, then, is the way it tests a person and rewards them when they pass the test. Works Cited “Education Is Critical to Closing the Socioeconomic Gap. ” World and I. 18. 2 (Feb 2003): 18. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Web. 7 July 2010. Jones, Peter. “Ancient & modern. ” Spectator. 295. 9183 (August 7, 2004): 18(1). Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Web. 7 July 2010. Thornburgh, Nathan. “Dropout Nation. (Special Report; Dropout Nation)(Cover story). ” Time. 167. 16 (April 17, 2006): 30. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Web. 7 July 2010.
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