Friday, November 04, 2005

In which my eyes are opened about the meaning of education

Something happened yesterday that expanded my understanding of the local culture. For the last few years as I've read the newspaper articles during election season to try to decide how to vote, I've usually skimmed past the brief biographical information about candidates to get to the issues they find important and what they have to say about those issues. But I've also noticed how often the candidates will name the high school from which they graduated.

I've been making assumptions (that may still have some valididity) about why the candidates were naming their high schools. I've assumed that the information was to show or remind voters of the candidates' ties to the locality. Where there have been school district mergers, the name of the high school tells something about the era in which one went through high school and perhaps establishes a bond with others who remember walking to classes in the same hallways. At the very least it might explain why one cheers for a particular high school football team, or why one does not become despondent when the local team loses to one's alma mater.

I noticed this week in a recent newspaper article that one candidate had her college education listed while the other candidates listed their high schools. Still carrying my assumptions about what people were saying by naming their high schools, I asked this candidate about her silence about which high school she attended. The answer I received turned on a figurative light bulb.

The newspaper reporter asks for the highest level of education.

As Freud said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

A candidate's formal education is just one more fact to be viewed in the context of the whole person. Stereotyping is dangerous and often misleading, so I do not recommend a close reading of someone's academic pedigree for any other purpose than determining whether one meets the formal requirements of a position.

It is a genuine strength for communities when people with all levels of education, people who care about doing the right thing for their local communities, offer their time, gifts, skills, and experience in public service.

And I'll keep skimming the bio sections before I focus my attention on the ideas and accomplishments of the candidates.

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1 comment:

W. said...

Andrew Carnegie, the Wright brothers and even Albert Einstein never even finished high school.

Meanwhile President Bush has degrees from both Yale and Harvard.