Liz, Graduate Student Researcher, Mentor, CA
“I think most people want to be happy, but a lot of the time people attribute that to monetary success, and those two things are sometimes in conflict. A lot of people automatically assume if you’re making a certain salary range that should be enough to keep you content in life. But monetary stability doesn’t equate to personal fulfillment.”
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 would hope that what they do is fulfilling to them, that they feel satisfied with the work they are doing and that they feel like they have accomplished whatever makes them happy.
Do you think everyone agrees with you about what a good life is?
I think most people want to be happy, but a lot of the time people attribute that to monetary success, and those two things are sometimes in conflict. A lot of people automatically assume if you’re making a certain salary range that should be enough to keep you content in life. But monetary stability doesn’t equate to personal fulfillment. You could be doing a job where you get paid 100,000, but does it bring you personal fulfillment? When you wake up, do you look forward to doing that job for the next 8 hours? Those two things don’t have to be exclusive, but I don’t think people are necessarily willing to seek out what truly makes them happy and sacrifice financial stability.
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?
I think education should allow individuals to become knowledgeable about their options and opportunities to reach personal goals. At the same time, I also think education should help people become aware that success that looks for happiness doesn't have to be tied exclusively to monetary success.
Do you think schools are currently doing what they should?
No, schools are definitely not. I don't think they mean to, but I think our society is very based on you finding a career that's going to make you money, and education perpetuates that notion. For me I feel that the paths schools always emphasized were in STEM, or law…there were only a few main careers: engineer, lawyer, doctor, or teacher. As you get older, you realize there's way more things that you can do.
I grew up wanting to be a doctor, and then I saw an episode of House that squashed that dream real quick. So then I wanted to be a lawyer. As I’ve gotten older I'm still very inclined to do that profession, but I’ve come to realize it's not my only option. School has made me aware of that, but I think it’s also the people I surround myself with - my mentors - who have really guided me, not the education system on its own. It's been true of all the schools I've been to, I've always had at least one key instructor who's encouraged me to do anything I set my mind to.
What is the purpose of education?
I think the way the education system is set up right now is to maintain the status quo. It's set up so that certain individuals can succeed. The students who make it out - we're like the ones that got away. We weren't supposed to make it out, but we beat the system.