Education is Key!
F. Scott Fitzgerald once stated, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold opposed ideas in mind simultaneously and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see things as hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.” Being able to see things from different vantage points and engage in alternative perspectives analysis is critically important.
The requisite skills to effectively engage in critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis are gained through education. I am from Flint, Michigan and have witnessed the devastation associated with a lack of education. I have witnessed and experienced hopelessness, apathy, feelings of despair, and a lack of concern for human life. There are a myriad of causal explanations associated with such phenomena not only in Flint, but also across the United States of America. Although a lack of education might not be number one on the list regarding why our nation has entered an era of epic uncertainty, it is a salient factor that must be effectively addressed if we aspire to create an environment in which our young men and women are encouraged to learn, teach, and grow as productive members of society.
Where does it start?
I often hear young people complain about their situations and employ a victim of the circumstances mentality. While I am empathetic to the plight of those without voices and resources, I understand and know what it takes to move beyond current circumstances. I understand the importance of knowledge acquisition in one’s journey toward dream fulfillment. Where does it start? It starts in the mind! Our thoughts are a reflection of our beliefs and value system. The words we speak are a product of our thoughts, and our outward realities are nothing more than an external manifestation of inner thoughts and chosen words. Many of us hold ourselves captive and sabotage our potential successes due to fear, a lack of understanding, or limiting speech. We must learn to embrace our power and relentlessly pursue excellence. If you want to do better…do better. How does one do that, you ask? You must read, study, and learn about everything important in your life. Education is alchemic. I am not necessarily suggesting that one must attain significant university education to achieve his/her goals, but I am proposing that deep knowledge can only be gained through education and/or experience.
Moving from an “as-is” state to a “to-be” state.
It has been argued that experience is the best teacher and while I agree, I also believe education is the key to breaking barriers and moving from an “as-is” state to a “to-be” state. Education is the one facet of an individual’s life that can never be taken away. Regardless of an individual’s socioeconomic status, family name, race, creed, religion, or otherwise, education is the great equalizer. It can be argued that education does not always translate into highly skilled individuals, but it is irrefutable that education does increase one’s knowledge and in turn, the confidence to venture boldly into uncharted territory necessary for goal achievement.
Many people do not have the knowledge, skills, or abilities to make it out of their current circumstances…or at least that is what they think and/or have been told. Many people, especially the younger generation, think that the only way to “success” is through athletics or entertainment. That statement cannot be any further from the truth. I only have to cite a few examples to debunk that myth – Barack Obama, John Kerry, Yoky Matsuoka, Roland Martin, V.S. Ramachandran, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Marissa Mayer, Dr. Steve Perry, Condoleezza Rice, and Dr. Ben Carson. The aforementioned are big name individuals, but you only have to look at those around you to find real life success stories. They are found in the form of teachers, military personnel, medical doctors, and your wise next-door neighbors. These types of people are omnipresent; we just have to recognize and appreciate their successes when we see them. Their successes are due to classroom and/or experience-related education and we would be wise to learn from their failures and successes. An individual can receive an education anywhere. How you apply that education is most important.
I am often saddened when I speak to the youth and sense despair, hopelessness, or fear. I am overjoyed when I speak about the power of education and witness a moment of clarity in a young man or young woman’s eyes that is indicative of a switch in thought processes. When I tell the story about how my parents sacrificed to send me to a private high school and how their commitment to my personal development instilled in me an unwavering desire to succeed, I am amazed at their level of engagement. When I tell them that my commitment to educational excellence at the high school level afforded me the opportunity to attend what I consider one of the best universities in the U.S. – The University of Notre Dame – I see optimism. When I tell them how I used basketball as a tool to transcend my circumstances and embark on a lifelong learning journey, I see excited anticipation. When I tell them how I took advantage of my learning opportunities at the undergraduate level to prepare myself for advanced level graduate degree studies, I see a resurgence of internal fortitude to conquer mountains worth climbing. When I tell them that one example is all that they need to know that pursuing their heart’s desires are well within reach, I see renewed faith in their potential. When I ask them for a commitment to educational excellence as a demonstration of human potential and a promise to carry on despite the real or perceived odds against them, I see hope.
I challenge you to embrace your educational pursuits.
As a young man who has experienced an assortment of struggles, I understand the pains and the feelings of loneliness. If you want to achieve, I challenge you to embrace your educational pursuits. Engage in science, technology, engineering, and math. Learn about history. Appreciate the arts. Develop foreign language fluency. Commit to a level of knowledge acquisition that will allow you to realize successes once unimagined. Believe that you believe. Allow yourself to imagine the possibilities that education can bring. I mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating…Education is the only thing that can never be taken away from you. It allows you to analyze from varied perspectives and challenges you to achieve a level of mastery you once deemed virtually impossible. Education decreases the chasm between the haves and the have-nots and allows for rigorous intellectual debate at varied levels on disparate subjects. Education affords momentous learning opportunities and as the great Maya Angelou once said, “When you learn, teach and when you get, give.”
As my mother always says – Love everybody, treat everybody right, and I will talk to you soon if the Lord says the same.
~ Charles Thomas Jr.
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