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Do Americans generally take education for granted?

tnitsuj

Diamond Member
May 22, 2003
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Over the course of the last two weeks I have happened to have dinner at the homes of several suburban middle class families as part of a program with work. Two of them were your standard American families that have been in this country for generations and the other two were 1st generation Immigrant families, one from Lebanon and one from China.


In the non-immigrant homes the families talked very little about education (I was there as part of work in developing a youth diversion/crime prevention program). Both of them had grown children who despite having the economic and educational opportunites to go on to college had chosen not to and now worked retail jobs, etc. Not exactly losers..but certainly average people who had not gone beyond high school. I found this odd as in both these families at least one parent had gone to college and the usual trend is for the children to also complete college in households such as that.

In the two 1st generation immigrant families the parents spoke of people they knew who were "not educated" in a tone of voice that made it seem like they were speaking of people who had some sort of disease. While they did not seem to be the "typical" Asian parent everyone on ATOT talks about, thier was no doubt that no matter what thier children were going to college, and that they would see them as incomplete people without an education. In one of these families neither parent had a university education, while in the other both parents had graduate level educations. The contrast between attitudes towards education was marked, and the almost reverence and respect given to "educated" people was quite obvious.
 

Gravity

Diamond Member
Mar 21, 2003
5,685
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Well, the next generation has yet to define itself. College, imo, isn't what it used to be. Nonetheless, it seems that fewer young folks want to define themselves by going through those hoops. Personally, I think it's important.
 

RagingBITCH

Lifer
Sep 27, 2003
17,619
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Different priorities. College was a priority to me. My family and I are more towards the immigrant family you visited than the other one, since neither of my parents graduated from college.
 

I don't think I take my education for granted but every day I see students whose parents push them through school just because they "should." There are tons of kids at my school who don't belong here and don't want to be here, so as far as I'm concerned, they shouldn't be.

But college has had the opposite effect on me - I've grown to LOVE learning and writing and reading, and each day in school is another day that I'm given an opportunity to cultivate knowledge about stuff that I've waited my entire life to learn about.
 

dullard

Elite Member
May 21, 2001
23,028
1,289
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The last generation to really have hard times were born in the 20s-40s. Their kids (born around the 50s - 60s) learned from their parents that you need to work hard, get a good education, and support your family otherwise you may be left out on the streets begging for food. This generation however didn't have to suffer through any major problems. With their hard work and education they, for the most part, have earned a nice living. They often have huge houses (in historical terms), multiple cars, tons of luxury goods, etc. Their kids are the most spoiled kids (born ~1975 to present, yes this includes me) to have ever been born. All our lives we've pretty much had anything we ever wanted handed to us on a silver platter. We aren't starving through a depression, we aren't sewing our own clothes since we cannot afford to buy them, we aren't working in a factory at age 12 to support the family, etc. In many cases, these kids have never felt true punishment. Get into trouble? No big deal, Mommy and Daddy will help you out. Still a drunken fool at age 30? No problem, Mommy and Daddy will still give you an allowance - no need to work. It is these kids that don't value education.

This article sums it up:
It's not just an American phenomenon. In Britain, one-quarter of parents expect to help their offspring financially through their 30s and into their 40s, a new study finds. One in four parents contributed money toward an adult child's car, and one in five helped pay for a home, according to Lloyds TSB. Others gave middle-aged children a regular allowance or pocket money for daily needs.
In Britain, one-quarter of parents expect to help their offspring financially through their 30s and into their 40s, a new study finds. One in four parents contributed money toward an adult child's car, and one in five helped pay for a home, according to Lloyds TSB. Others gave middle-aged children a regular allowance or pocket money for daily needs.
I know many people like I'm describing. They dropped out of school, party all day, (one became a 18 hour a day surfer, real surfing, not web surfing) and live off of their parents. No reason for them to care about education since their parents give them everything.
 

LuckyTaxi

Diamond Member
Dec 24, 2000
6,043
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I'm also towards the family that wants to see their kids succeed, therefore they make every effort to push their kids through the school systems. I just finished my degree and my personal experience is that it was worthless from a certain standpoint. It's gotten to the point where a BS/BA degree is like a requirement such as a HS diploma once was. Too many ppl but then again that's because of the current economy.

I see plenty of smart ppl with no degrees and they're living well off. I'm changing my field from IT to mortgage brokerage and it's going fairly ok. Not much luck in the IT field at the moment.
 

QueHuong

Platinum Member
Nov 21, 2001
2,098
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I answered yes because I see a lot of kids at my college who definitely do not belong there. They go to college because it's something to do. They don't give a rat's ass about education - they're there to get laid, to party, and to follow the rest of their friends. On the other hand, Germany, for example, only have 20% go to college, so it's very competitive and those kids that get in are bright as hell. I'd imagine it's the same for the rest of the European and Asian countries. To me, that says America = opportunity, but like you brought up, those opportunities are taken for granted, and should be given to someone else who will make better use of it.

At my college, there's a very large number of international students, mainly Chinese and Indian; and these guys are smart as hell. I'd like to see education better used on them because they can stay in America and better society or go back to their country and improve the lives for their citizens, as opposed to seeing a lot of American kids who go through college, treating it like one big party.
 

rocadelpunk

Diamond Member
Jul 23, 2001
5,590
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Originally posted by: jumpr
I don't think I take my education for granted but every day I see students whose parents push them through school just because they "should." There are tons of kids at my school who don't belong here and don't want to be here, so as far as I'm concerned, they shouldn't be.

But college has had the opposite effect on me - I've grown to LOVE learning and writing and reading, and each day in school is another day that I'm given an opportunity to cultivate knowledge about stuff that I've waited my entire life to learn about.
don't forget aboot the rivalries : )

--

my parents are both foreign college graduates, my mom has her Ph.D, my dad graduated as an engineer/math major..

needless to say my parents emphasize education all the time and how it's my job, yada yada yada : P

I enjoy and work very hard in college...highschool I was kinda lazy.

but I agree, I'd definitely say the average american takes their education for granted.
 

Whisper

Diamond Member
Feb 25, 2000
5,394
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Nah, and it doesn't sound like the children in either of those non-immigrant families were taking their educational opportunities for granted, either. It simply may not have been as stressed by their parents, or their parents might have been more accepting of a decision not to attend college after high school.

As Americans, many of us are born here, and as such grow up with these opportunities constantly around us. Many immigrants, however, come here soley for the purpose of pursuing an education. As such, of course an immigrant traveling to America for that reason is more likely to talk about and stress the pursuance of high education. Also, as someone mentioned, the tech sector boom of a few years ago showed lots of people that college isn't necessarily a requirement for living a successful life. That, coupled with the great personal freedom accorded their children by the average American parent, leads to many students either not entering college at all, or not finishing their degree.
 

mAdMaLuDaWg

Platinum Member
Feb 15, 2003
2,437
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I've been educated in the US and abroad. I think it has to do a lot with culture and the way kids are brought up; Immigrants generally worked hard to make it here in America, and they want their kids to enjoy a better life, so they send them to college. Where as an average American parent usually did not have to endure the same hardships that the immigrants did; thus they don't place a real emphasis on college. Also, an average American kid has more 'freedom' to do what he wants to do once a certain age is reached, he gets to live his own life and become independent; whereas in Asian families, conforming with your parents wishes is something that was instilled in you since you were young, rebelling or becoming completely independent is generally out of the question for an Asian. Generally speaking, Asian parents see education as the sole means for a better life whereas American parents let their kids figure what to do with their life on their own.
I see this everyday in college, for the most part, young American kids who are in college really don't want to be there and end up dropping out of college, and they end up coming back when they are much older and much more serious about education.

I'm not dissing anyone here, just putting forth my observations.
 

Ryan

Lifer
Oct 31, 2000
27,518
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I come from a non-immigrant home, with two parents who are in the military. I have never considered NOT going to college - it's always something I would just do. My parents stressed that it was important, but they also said that I was free to make my own decisions and if I didn't want to go, that's fine. If anything, I think a lot of children who have immigrant families are pressured by thier parents into going into college, etc.

I personally think that college is awesome, but it will be by my own rules, without pressure from the outside. Some people are perfectly content without going to college, and many will be able to find jobs that do pay well. If you're happy, that's all that matters. Also, if a person is financially well off, they might not see any reason in going to college.
 

XZeroII

Lifer
Jun 30, 2001
12,572
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It is very much so taken for granted. Walk into a typical public HS and you will see. College is just considered a place to party.
 

Orsorum

Lifer
Dec 26, 2001
27,626
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A few disclaimers about myself: first, I am in my third year of my undergraduate education, and I plan on a law degree, an LL.M. (Master of Laws) at a minimum, and I am still throwing around the idea of a Ph.D. later in life. Both my parents have graduate degrees and are highly regarded professionals in their respective fields, and my sister and brother in law are new lawyers.

So, my perspective is a bit skewed. That being said.

I grew up in a blue-collar town near Seattle, WA, USA. Out of my high school class, perhaps 25% went on to any form of higher education (Technical college, community college, university, etc.). I went through my 12 years of mandatory education with the best of that 25% (Honors nerds, valedictorians, etc.). I am blessed to have a circle of friends comprised of intelligent, thoughtful people. When I came to the University of Washington, I took that background for granted. I took courses for two years, with no real direction; I had scholarships that paid for the majority of my schooling, and my parents paid for the rest. Up until that point, school was simply something I did to pass the time.

But for the latter half of my second year, I started suffering from depression; gained weight, my grades become so bad I lost my scholarship. There was a quarter where I stopped going to class for two weeks at a time, I would show up for midterms and that was pretty much it. I struggled with the idea of grades, of competition, of my place in the world. That year ended, and I had to finally concede that the mathematics degree I sought would not be mine, because that was an area of study in which I was simply not capable of doing well. I took an accounting class over the summer, and fell in love with it as an area of study and as a profession. I also started reading legal articles and debating with my friends; it was during this time that I came to enjoy law as well.

For the last two and a half quarters, I've been on my own, emotionally, financially, and academically; I've changed from blowing things off to treating them as a job, as an opportunity to learn and challenge myself; from contacts with family, and with friends from high school, I have come to realize the amazing opportunity that a university education provides, the perspective it allows a young person to gain. The same with money - I still spend more than I should, but much less than I once did. I struggle with paying for tuition, and I've come to realize the sacrifice of this education. This is not something a person earning $7 an hour can afford! This is a privilege, not simply an activity to pass the time; this is preparing me for citizenship and participation in one of the best countries in the world.

And so it irritates me now to read the student newspaper and read articles by young people like Mr. Musgrave, who apparently lack the discipline and perspective to truly appreciate their attendance at an institution like the UW. It irritates me to talk to kids in the dorms or in the apartment complex in which I live and work, and to see them blow off class, like it's not valuable or like it's not worth their time - sure, it may not matter for the grade, and if all you're after is a grade - but good god, this is such an opportunity to learn, to stretch oneself.

When I first came to my school, I thought that the people who were obviously recent immigrants were anal - these were the kids who (in a very generalized way) went to class every day, did all the required homework, spoke with the instructor after class, etc. But now that I have had to look at myself objectively and say, "What do you want to do with your life?", "What do you want to contribute to this society?", what am I capable of doing? I am capable of more than the minimum, of scraping by, I have this opportunity, and by god, I'm not going to waste it. It is unfortunate that so many young people around me have not yet learned this.

So, in a very generalized way, I would say that those young people who have not had to work for their education, for whom this experience is simply "Something to do" or "the thing to do", do take education for granted.

Cheers!
Nate
 

GreenGhost

Golden Member
Oct 11, 1999
1,272
1
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Another factor is that immigrants do not represent the 'average' citizen of their countries. There's already a selection process in place. Even if immigrants don't have higher education, they have a well defined set of goals and real focus on trying to accomplish them. Work ethics are also important, and from experience I can tell it is intimately related to their cultures. Some are good, some are awful.
 

iliopsoas

Golden Member
Jul 14, 2001
1,844
2
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I am a first generation immigrant. My mother never went to school. My father had an elementary education and taught himself how to read and write. He finally got an Associates degree in the US, which was a very big accomplishment for him.

10 yrs ago, as I was heading back to school to pursue a different career path, my bosses offered a huge raise and promotion. I was so tempted because I could live comfortably, especially for someone only 24 yrs old. For the first time in my life, I was unsure. I asked my dad for advice. He said, "Do you still want to go to school? If yes, then go. Work will always wait for you. You can work for the rest of your life but the opportunity for an education won't always be there."

My parents value an education because it opens up one's mind and creates new opportunities. I may have taken my education for granted in the past but I've learned to appreciate it alot more now.
 

wyvrn

Lifer
Feb 15, 2000
10,074
0
0
I could go on and on about this subject. I have done research and have personal experience. Basically, most immigrants are from mid-upper to upper income families. Even though they are poor when they get here, they weren't when they left. Their families had a history of higher income, business, and investing. So you are comparing apples to oranges. If you compare the majority of immigrants with mid-upper to upper level long-standing US citizens, both value education highly. If you compare middle class and poor Americans to poor living in other countries, the US probably gets more public education to begin with and has higher rates of college enrollment in these socio-economic categories. The US has increasing numbers of college enrollment, to the point where there are often not enough people to hold down the blue collar jobs we need to support the country.
 

Ranger X

Lifer
Mar 18, 2000
11,218
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Other countries tend to think so, as well. They think we only care about entertainment and call us "Dumb Americans". :)
 

iliopsoas

Golden Member
Jul 14, 2001
1,844
2
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Originally posted by: wyvrn
I could go on and on about this subject. I have done research and have personal experience. Basically, most immigrants are from mid-upper to upper income families. Even though they are poor when they get here, they weren't when they left. Their families had a history of higher income, business, and investing. So you are comparing apples to oranges.
Dunno where you get your info...but based on my experience as an immigrant (most of my friends are first-generation immigrants as well), we come from all walks of life. Pretty similar to the class structure here. Some were wealthy. The majority were dirt poor.

The reason we value an education is because it's considered a privilege. In our homeland, only the wealthy or the very brightest get to attend college.

In the US, the current generation of non-immigrants, for the most part, had everything handed to them. No famine. No major wars (as compared to many country constantly embroiled in civil war or previous world wars). We live in an era of relative peace and affluence. Basically, the current generation never had to fight to EARN their way of life.
 

0roo0roo

No Lifer
Sep 21, 2002
64,862
83
91
parents can talk about it too much. it becomes child comparing/bragging much of the time which disgusts me.
 

burnedout

Diamond Member
Oct 12, 1999
6,249
2
0
Originally posted by: Ranger X
Other countries tend to think so, as well. They think we only care about entertainment and call us "Dumb Americans". :)
Well, according to published research a few years back, Americans comprise 3 percent of the world population yet consume 65 percent of the world's available recreational drugs. Therefore, we can say that this perception isn't totally without reason.

Orsorum: Great post. I personally had similar experiences in 1979-1980 and learned quite a bit. If one doesn't study and do the work, they won't pass. My mother was really disappointed when I flunked out of college the first time. Here I was a hick from a lower-class family with a scholarship to the premiere university in the state (Kentucky). Not only did I let my parents down, I let myself down. Neither my mother nor my father even graduated from high school, although both seperately became financially comfortable after I left home for the army (what a coincidence).

Now, twenty something years later, I'm finally attaining some educational goals. Since retiring from the army over three years ago, I've completed a bachelors, a second associates degree and a 25 SH college certificate. I've completed 104 SH since the spring semester of 2001 by attending classes at night/weekends/online and working full time. Currently, I'm pursuing a masters degree and a second certificate.

During a couple semesters, I sat in class Mon-Thur evenings and Saturday mornings. This semester is my 10th consecutive session in attendance at one of three schools here in the area.

Sure, this is a lot of work at my age. My fellow co-workers, all with at least bachelors degrees and some with masters/PhD, shake their heads daily in amazement. My wife isn't happy about these educational endeavors. But she knows that's what I want.

Bottom line: If I can do this then so can almost anyone else.
 

freegeeks

Diamond Member
May 7, 2001
5,460
1
71
Originally posted by: burnedout
Originally posted by: Ranger X
Other countries tend to think so, as well. They think we only care about entertainment and call us "Dumb Americans". :)
Well, according to published research a few years back, Americans comprise 3 percent of the world population yet consume 65 percent of the world's available recreational drugs. Therefore, we can say that this perception isn't totally without reason.

Orsorum: Great post. I personally had similar experiences in 1979-1980 and learned quite a bit. If one doesn't study and do the work, they won't pass. My mother was really disappointed when I flunked out of college the first time. Here I was a hick from a lower-class family with a scholarship to the premiere university in the state (Kentucky). Not only did I let my parents down, I let myself down. Neither my mother nor my father even graduated from high school, although both seperately became financially comfortable after I left home for the army (what a coincidence).

Now, twenty something years later, I'm finally attaining some educational goals. Since retiring from the army over three years ago, I've completed a bachelors, a second associates degree and a 25 SH college certificate. I've completed 104 SH since the spring semester of 2001 by attending classes at night/weekends/online and working full time. Currently, I'm pursuing a masters degree and a second certificate.

During a couple semesters, I sat in class Mon-Thur evenings and Saturday mornings. This semester is my 10th consecutive session in attendance at one of three schools here in the area.

Sure, this is a lot of work at my age. My fellow co-workers, all with at least bachelors degrees and some with masters/PhD, shake their heads daily in amazement. My wife isn't happy about these educational endeavors. But she knows that's what I want.

Bottom line: If I can do this then so can almost anyone else.


:beer: for you


It's great that you are doing this
 

Gyrene

Banned
Jun 6, 2002
2,841
0
0
The majority of Americans want the easy life. They don't want to work for an education, and they expect a degree to be handed to them. They don't want to work and save, they just want things. Just take a look at how much debt the average American has. I believe it's about 50% of all college students drop out in the first two years, on average. They find out you have to work, and they don't want to.
 

Siddhartha

Lifer
Oct 17, 1999
12,501
1
81
How is the exportation of high tech jobs to low cost labor markets is going to affect the value of education in the US?
 

wyvrn

Lifer
Feb 15, 2000
10,074
0
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Originally posted by: iliopsoas
Originally posted by: wyvrn
I could go on and on about this subject. I have done research and have personal experience. Basically, most immigrants are from mid-upper to upper income families. Even though they are poor when they get here, they weren't when they left. Their families had a history of higher income, business, and investing. So you are comparing apples to oranges.
Dunno where you get your info...but based on my experience as an immigrant (most of my friends are first-generation immigrants as well), we come from all walks of life. Pretty similar to the class structure here. Some were wealthy. The majority were dirt poor.

The reason we value an education is because it's considered a privilege. In our homeland, only the wealthy or the very brightest get to attend college.

In the US, the current generation of non-immigrants, for the most part, had everything handed to them. No famine. No major wars (as compared to many country constantly embroiled in civil war or previous world wars). We live in an era of relative peace and affluence. Basically, the current generation never had to fight to EARN their way of life.
I get my information from statistics compiled by the government and studied in my government class. My professor, with a doctorate in political science, concurs with her own research. I put that up against your anecdotal evidence anytime ;)

I am not disagreeing that immigrants have to earn their way when they get here. Many of them are the result of war. But that does not mean they do not have a very solid financial background, because at one time the majority of them were extremely successful in their countries. And with the opportunities they have here, success is going to come for them.
 

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