Julieta, Graduate Student, CA
"We need to think of communities as opposed to the individual self and I think that's what contributes to personal happiness."
Imagine a child you care about deeply is now in their 30s – out of school and starting into adult life. What do you hope for them about their life? What would make it a ‘good’ life?
"I imagine my little brother. I would like him to have enough academic and professional preparation to sustain himself and help better the lives of people around him. I want him to be able to be an economically independent and emotionally stable adult who is capable of helping other adults or children if that's what he decides to go into in terms of a career.
I would want him to have a global perspective. I feel like currently it's acceptable in society for people to think only of themselves and the individual. I think that's a misperception. We need to think of communities as opposed to the individual self and I think that's what contributes to personal happiness.
My parents are immigrants from Mexico. Growing up in that household, you already have a bit of a global perspective, the people you care about come from different experiences, that's ingrained in you at a very young age. That was my first exposure to a global mindset, my parents brought in ideas that were different from American standards.
In addition, I've been lucky to have been able to travel quite a bit from a young age. My parents would send me with family to Mexico to spend summers and breaks. After that I was able to go on school trips which gave me yet another perspective. I think it's mind opening, it makes you see how good we have it here, but also how much improvement needs to happen.
Having a global perspective is humbling and intimidating. It's humbling because it's nice to know that it’s not all on you, things aren't all your responsibility. You realize it takes an entire community to make something happen in a tangible way. In another sense, it lights a fire, it pushes me to work to do my part as well, and it’s a give and take. It's a sense that I belong to a bigger picture, I feel responsible but I also feel connected and supported, which I think is essential for personal happiness."
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?
"Schools should teach us how to think creatively and outside of the box without fearing failure.
I remember growing up a lot of the time my teachers looked for the right answer on the first try, and if you didn't achieve that you weren't seen as the best student, or you were considered to be low achieving. I think there needs to be a lot of space for error so we can develop ideas and start thinking outside of the box. I don't know what that would look like in a practical sense or structure, but I think we need more room for growth and error way earlier in schooling, in partnership with being taught practical skills. That's problem-solving."
Do you think schools are currently playing that role/doing what they should?
"I can tell you from my experiences no, they didn't play that role. In my experience, school was very traditional - you studied, memorized the right answer, there wasn't too much space for conversation. It wasn't until I got to a university level that I was exposed to this conversation piece of education.
I went to school in a low income community. There is going to be less funding in those districts, and with so much emphasis being placed on standardized exams and pressures teachers are going through to upkeep the standards schools need - there's a lot less opportunity for creative learning or problem-solving strategies.
Whereas I think at schools in much wealthier communities, there is more funding. Schools can afford tutors and extracurricular activities because the parents, community, or school can provide more funding for these things. I also think there's a lot less pressure on teachers in those cases, which makes a huge difference, it gives them more space to educate differently.
So I think there's a huge imbalance among communities, depending mostly on their class, and usually class is associated with culture or race, where lower class communities are usually composed of predominantly minority students and people, and wealthy schools and communities tend to be composed more of white people. I think it's a class and inequality issue."