Does school prepare children for the real world? “Study hard and get good grades and you will find a high-paying job with great benefits,” my parents used to say. Their goal in life was to provide a college education to my older sister and me, so that we would have the greatest chance for success in life. When finally earned my diploma in 1976-graduating with honors, and near the top of my class, in accounting from Florida State University- my parents had realized their goal. It was the crowning achievement of their lives. In accordance “Master Plan”, I was hired by a “Big 8” accounting firm, and I looked forward to a long career and retirement at an early age.
My husband, Michael, followed a similar path. We both came from hardworking families, of modest means but with strong work ethics. Michael also graduated with honors, but he did it twice: first as an engineer and then from law school. He was quickly recruited by a prestigious Washington, D.C., law firm that specialized in patent law, and his future seemed bright, career path well-defined and early retirement guaranteed.
Although we have been successful in our careers, they have not turned out quite as we expected. We both have changed positions several times -for all the right reason- but there are no pension plans vesting on our behalf. Our retirement funds are growing only through our individual contributions.
Michael and I have a wonderful marriage with three great children. As I write this, two are in college and one is just beginning high school. We have spent a fortune making sure our children have received the best education available.
One day in 1996, one of my children came home disillusioned with school. He was bored and tired of studying.
"Why should I put time into studying subjects I will never use in real life?" he protested.
Without thinking, I responded,
"Because if you don't get good grades, you won't get into college."
"Regardless of whether I go to college," he replied, "I'm going to be rich."
"If you don't graduate from college, you won't get a good job," I responded with a tinge of panic and motherly concern.
"And if you don't have a good job, how do you plan to get rich?"
My son smirked and slowly shook his head with mild boredom. We had talk this many times before. He lowered his head and rolled his eyes. My words of motherly wisdom were falling on deaf ears once again.
Though smart and strong-willed, he has always been a polite and respectful young man.
"Mom," he began. It was my turn to be lectured. "Get with the times! Look around; the richest people didn't get rich because of their educations. Look at Michael Jordan and Madonna. Even Bill Gates, who dropped out of Harvard, founded Microsoft; he is now the richest man in America, and he's still in his 30s. There is a baseball pitcher who makes more than $4 million a year even though he has been labeled 'mentally challenge'.
Download for eBook: