Education report: Graduation is opportunity to use knowledge to build future

Graduation is opportunity to forge future.

Graduation is a time for joy. It’s over; school is out! You’ve taken all the exams, your parents are happy, you are happy and your teachers even seem happy. They are, believe me.

Graduation is also a time for student humor. Some students plant “word bombs” about the course or the instructor buried deep in the textbook they return. Some students wear their expressions of joy on T-shirts under their graduation gowns or spelled out on their caps.

Consider these that I saw at my granddaughter’s recent college graduation:

“Compared to Einstein I’m an idiot. Compared to you I’m a genius.” “We have nothing to drink but beer itself.” “I’m an expert at doing homework. What kind of job do you have for me?”

That last one reminds me of a story in Reader’s Digest. Ken Hendricks dropped out of school in the 11th grade and went to work for his father in the roofing business. He quickly moved up the income ladder to making $10,000 a year while working at two full-time jobs. Not a great start in life.

Ken was unhappy. Not so much because of his income but because of the lack of respect he was accorded, especially by the business owners who sold him and his dad their building materials. To digest the story even further, Ken and his wife bought three already failing building supply centers with borrowed money and set out to change the roofing industry.

Today, according to the article, Ken is CEO, chairman and sole owner of ABC Supply, the nation’s largest wholesale distributor of roofing, siding, windows and gutters. His 350 stores in 45 states last year had $350 billion in sales. Not bad for a high school dropout.

Quiet story

You won’t hear his story told in many high school or college classrooms. Teachers have a very elevated view about the importance of their field and a very low view of dropouts.

Education is important. Teachers are important. Many young people will trace their success in life to at least one teacher they had in school. Teachers inspire us. The better ones also coax, urge, coddle, criticize and, if necessary, harass us to do better than we may think we can. So don’t think for one minute that teachers and education are not important.

The key word there is “education.” Education comes in a variety of forms, not all of them found in a classroom.

School teaches us to apply ourselves. School teaches us how to learn.

School teaches us where knowledge is found. School teaches us what others before us have learned or done. School teaches us about the success and failures of those who went before us — including the Ken Hendrickses of the world.

But successful people in life learned something else: They learned that to achieve anything in life, they had to take what they learned and apply it to the world they knew, not to the world their teachers or parents knew.

You have heard the tired adage, often disparagingly applied to teachers: Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

Don’t believe it. Nevertheless, the kid with the T-shirt about homework and a job has a point. Knowing is not doing. Learning is not doing. Education is not doing.

Doing is doing, and graduation is about doing.

Graduation ceremonies mark the moment in our lives when we pause to look back at what we have accomplished. We remember the highs and lows of our years in school, more often only the highs. We are reminded that this is the last time we will see some of our friends. And then we get to enjoy that exhilarating moment when we walk across the stage to receive our diploma.

Applause, cheers, hats in the air. Hugs, smiles, kisses, photos galore follow. Parties and more smiles with proud parents and family members complete the day.

Then what? That door closes and graduation opens the door to the future.

Look forward. Move forward. Make your way in the world. Opportunities abound for those who will use what they have learned to create the world they will live in. The events of your past — classmates and classrooms — are frozen forever in the yearbook you purchased. They won’t change, but you must.

Change, grow, bloom and prosper. It is your destiny, it is your future.

Look ahead

Do not live in the past. Don’t look back. Cherish your past, but build your future. School doesn’t so much train you for a job as it trains you for a future. Go get your future today.

Charles Cummins, Ed.D., is a retired school administrator. Send questions to him at: [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts

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