The Importance of Higher Education
America, the richest and most powerful country in the world, ranks only seventh in higher education with roughly 28% of its people finishing college, lagging behind countries like Canada, Korea, and Japan, so Obama is urging the government to bring the higher education rate to the world’s highest by 2020 (Greene
1). Priority should be given to higher education since it not only affects citizens’ financial situations but also their
upbringing of children and their impact on our society.
First and foremost, higher education improves a citizen’s
financial situation greatly. To have a quality life, we need financial security first before talking about other nobler and more meaningful facets of our lives. As David Brooks reported, “College graduates earn nearly twice as much as high school graduates, and people with professional degrees earn nearly twice as much as those with college degrees”(11). College
graduates with better training in various subjects from science to liberal arts to technical skills are much more marketable for employment and more likely to be promoted at workplaces, and those with professional degrees like Masters and doctorate
who have deeper and more specific knowledge in certain areas are even better paid for their expertise. My own personal experience in higher education is a testimony of what Brooks said. While still in college, I looked for jobs, but nobody wanted me except a Mcdonald’s restaurant where I worked as a
hamburger cook, even though I have a bachelor degree from China and can speak English fluently. Paid with minimum wage and physically exhausted, I only survived a few weeks and discovered the only way to get a better paid and less
physically strenuous job is to have an American college degree at least. Years later, with an American diploma, I landed on a decent job, and with accumulated work experiences I moved from one company to another several times, each time with higher pay and more interesting work until I settled down in a company with which I was completely satisfied. “College is the gateway to
opportunities” (11) as Brooks accurately observed. Without a college degree, it was impossible for me to get a satisfactory job and therefore be financially independent and emotionally secured.
Higher education not only provides financial security for ourselves but also affects the way we raise our children
regarding their preschool home education and college education. Parents with higher education tend to prepare their children better during their preschool years. Wolf found out during her research work, “…by five years of age, some children from
impoverished-language environments have heard 32 million fewer words spoken to them than the average middle-class child” (102).
Middle-class parents, more likely with higher education, tend to have bigger and richer vocabulary with which they communicate with their children, so their children are exposed to more words, concepts, and the knowledge of the outer world. She further discovered, “In the most underprivileged community, no children’s books were found in the homes; in low-income to middle-income community there were, on average, three books; and in the affluent community there were around 200 books” (103).
The contrast of the availability of books at home for children is shocking with the increasingly advanced economic status of their parents. This is not just because books are more affordable for richer parents but also because affluent parents are often better educated and pay more attention to their children’s pre-school education. Having a professional degree, my husband used to gather children’s books from his relatives
and friends whose children had already grown up and borrow
children’s books from local library constantly in addition to buying children’s books himself. Every night, he would read his son to sleep, and when my son was old enough to read by himself, my husband would read together with him with different books in their hands before going to sleep. Sometimes, when I tiptoed into my son’s room late at night, I found them both asleep with their respective books dropped on the floor. My husband’s
efforts were well paid off when my son won an award for a chapter book he had written during his fifth grade. With great curiosity, I read the first page of his book and stopped right there because the very first page was full of too many new words for me to move on further. A good reader with independent thinking, my son does well at school in all aspects. So Wolf’s researches
and my husband’s example do prove that parents with higher
education are more devoted to their children’s preparation
before primary school, and, as a result, they enter the highly competitive real world with a better edge already from the very start.
In addition to the better preschool home education, parents with higher education are also more unwavering in urging their children to finish college. Having benefited from higher
education themselves, parents with higher education often don’t
give their children choices other than going to college after high school. “ Educated parents…pass down expectations,” (11)
as Brooks pointed out. Parents with higher education expect their children to finish college at least—an understanding
between the parents and their children. For an instance, passionate and creative in cooking, my son wanted to get a certificate and be a chef after high school, but my husband and I insisted that he finish college first before doing anything else. Finally, he took our advice and was accepted by a good college. Conversely, parents without higher education don’t
often encourage their children to go to college, even if they are qualified for college education. Two years ago, during a camping vacation, I met a girl my son’s age with very sad and
preoccupied eyes. Hoping to distract and comfort her, I tried to make a conversation with her, especially about her school life with which she was actually doing quite well, but when I brought up the issue of college education, she looked baffled. After I lectured her on the importance of college education and the vast opportunities ahead of her, her dazed eyes slowly began to glisten with hope. Later, from her mother, I found out that the girl was depressed because her boyfriend had moved away to
another city, and when I asked the mother why she let her daughter date so early, she laughed with pride, “Oh, sixteen?
That’s the right age to start dating.” Then when hearing my
mentioning of sending her daughter to college, the mother looked like having heard something from another world, “College?
I am going to have her as a help in my beauty saloon after high school.” I was so shocked to find that parents like this one don’t care about their children dating so early and not going to college. The different expectations between educated and uneducated parents toward their children’s higher education are
too obvious, testifying that only when we parents receive higher education then our children—the future of our country--
are more likely to finish college education as well.
Apart from financial security and the influence on our children, higher education also helps us be more conscientious and responsible citizens of our society. Malcolm X, a noted black civil rights leader, reformer, author and speaker, educated himself to read and write in prison by copying words in a dictionary. In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, he said, “My
homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness,
and blindness that was afflicting black race in America” (46).
With the command of the language and knowledge acquired by reading widely in prison, he realized how his people were discriminated by the society, and how he could utilize his skills to fight for the rights of the black people. As he stated later on, “You will never catch me with a free fifteen minutes in which I’m not studying something I feel might be able to help the black man” (47). He was constantly searching for the ways to help his people who were in the lowest strata in the society. It’s truly inspiring that with education, Malcolm X began to ponder how to use his education more meaningfully to help his inhumanly treated people by being a successful spokesman for them and eventually sacrificing his life for the noble cause.
Like Malcolm X, educated people are more concerned with the issues in our society by watching news and actively participating in any changes they can make in our society. “College grads are nearly twice as likely to vote, “(11) as
Brooks surveyed. Since educated people can read and analyze information and feel responsible for better changes in our society, they tend to spend more time poring over relevant materials and take advantage of our democratic system to vote
on various issues on the state and federal levels. Keeping himself well-informed, my husband always votes for any issues that he feels beneficial to the people and society. Brooks
further commented, “They are more than twice as likely to do
voluntary work. They are much more likely to give blood”(11).
Both my husband and I have done voluntary work for years, and my husband is still doing it such as helping children in school and giving blood on regularly basis in spite of his very demanding job and very little spared time. Famous people like Malcolm X and ordinary people like my husband are better motivated intellectually and spiritually to benefit others and the society with the higher education they have received.
I am sure higher education has more benefits than what I have mentioned above like the financial security, the influence on our children, and the contributions to the society. With the economic recession we face and the budget cuts in many different fields including education, we definitely should reconsider the importance of higher education and support Obama’s pledge
to invest more money in our higher education system. Witnessing the five million dollar budget cut in my school, the ensuing cuts of classes and teachers, and the difficulty of getting into
classes many students have to take, I am deeply saddened. Where has our money gone? The wars we have waged abroad cost us billions and billions of dollars, yet at home, we even can’t
afford to educate our own children. The American government, what are you doing with the power we citizens entrust you with?