Dedicated to my soon-to-be graduating brothers and sisters.
Let’s begin by asking the question of what education is for. Why do we think it is important to “get” an education?
Well, I think the real issue behind education these days is that it is the prerequisite for life in our society. Without an education there are few doors open to us for employment, few paths up the career ladder.
Interesting metaphor, isn’t it — “up”? The proper place for an educated person in our society is “up.” Wendell Berry has some comments on this metaphor. Observing that “education is the way up” and that the popular aim of education is to put everyone “on top”, Berry wryly notes, “Well, I think that I hardly need to document the consequent pushing and tramping and kicking in the face” involved in getting to the top and staying there. He muses that perhaps “up” is “the wrong direction.” We would add that “up” is the wrong metaphor and misshapes the imagination of our young. Rather than instilling in them a desire to get to the top, to move up, we want to encourage our children to develop a sense of calling and service, including an awareness that this may require a process of downward mobility, a decision not to strive for the top but to care for those who are on the bottom.
Vinoth made similar comment that in India, “Two million university and college graduates emerge every year from a country in which two out of three women are illiterate. The obvious question that arises is: what will these graduates do for these women and other forgotten poor? The answer, as in most other nations, is: not much. Most graduates see their degrees as a means to climb up the social ladder, not to serve those at the bottom of the heap. Middle-class graduates agonize over which mobile phone package to buy or who should lead the nation’s cricket team, but not over the fact that India is falling behind almost all the poverty alleviation targets set by the UN Millennium Development Goals for 2015.”
May the tribe of serving graduates increase.