The most affecting headline in Share last week for me is the one found on page 18 that beseeches young people to ‘Pursue your education as if your life depended on it’.
The headline is taken from a report by Ron Fanfair about scholarships presented by the United Achievers Club of Brampton to young people, in recognition of their academic excellence and came from the keynote speech by Justice Dr. Irving Andre, who has blazed quite a trail of achievement himself.
For youth, your future will be determined by how assiduously you pursue your education. There is a secret to moving up the academic and education ladder: your success is not so much dependent on your intelligence or aptitude for learning. What it really depends on, more than anything, are persistence and order.
Some might call that discipline, but a lot of us don’t like that word since it is too often associated with restriction and punishment. Yet these keys are about having a workable structure for getting your program of study or other plans achieved.
Dr. Andre had another telling piece of information in his speech which was that “there are no failures in life…only those who gave up too soon”.
There is another saying, about keeping your eyes on the prize. The prize of a life that is more secure comes from creating a good foundation, something that is not achieved overnight, but requires a day-by-day plan of action.
Right now there are students who are skipping classes to do things that seem more exciting. And probably are. But what they need to ask themselves is what the long-term consequences of what they are currently doing will be. They must think their actions through to the logical conclusion. Will they lead to well-paying jobs, or chronic unemployment, jail or early death?
Young people live in the moment and are typically not focused on the long term. This is a Catch-22 of youth. And, if a young person is disengaged from his or her formal education, any lecturing about what they should be doing will only add to the tension.
People are more responsive to reward. So the challenge for those who care about the future of underachieving youth is to help them to see the future rewards of embracing persistence and order today.
The other challenge is to help them to achieve small successes along the way. A person who only knows the feeling of failure has little motivation to keep trying.
This is no small task if you are now 15 or 16-years-old and have never experienced the positive force that comes from achieving, or if you are only learning from the education system a message that you are substandard.
Nor will it be easy if you are getting only lip service support at home about studying. It is no easy task if no one is there to set an example or point you in the direction that best suits your abilities, your talents and interests.
But everyone knows someone who is heading in the right direction. Find that person. Attach yourself to him or her, even if it’s only during the school day. Make time to borrow some of the energy that person is carrying. You do this because your future depends on it.
The alternative is to become someone who is chronically unemployed or underemployed because you lack marketable skills and education. You don’t want to be facing your retirement years wondering how you will manage to keep a roof over your head.
So work on a solid education, and don’t stop until you are sure that you are firmly in possession of that education and that training. It will absolutely be a long slog while you are going through it, and when you get to college or university you may worry about the debt burden that you are incurring. But the debt will be paid off eventually, and you will have the rest of your life to benefit from that period of training.
Among the rewards are the personal satisfaction of having achieved the kind of goal that earns you self-respect and the respect of society in general. There is the fact that with training and education you are more employable and will always be. And that’s what this is all about.
A note on the U.S. presidential election…
What is it about American political culture, as it plays on television, that makes it that much more watchable than Canadian politics? Sure we’ve got the Ford sideshow, but the Obama-Romney face-off is, minute-for-minute, a great nail-biter of a drama. Stay tuned.