“Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.”-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I was recently asked to speak at the Erma Johnson Hadley Scholarship Banquet.
Hadley’s life was filled with accomplishments: She was the first Black student from Leggett, Texas to graduate from college; the fourth chancellor, and the first woman and first African American to lead Tarrant County College (TCC) District.
She was the first woman and first African American elected as chairman of the DFW International Airport Board. Hadley died in 2015 and was such a proponent of education. Her legacy continues through the many lives she impacted and this scholarship program which supports young people in their pursuit of a college education.
Times have changed drastically from the days of retiring from a job after 30+ years of service.
My grandparents did not have college degrees and were able to take care of their families. Yet, data is demonstrating that the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to widen based on education.
According to the New York Times (October 3, 2023), “Al- most two-thirds of American adults do not have college degrees, and they have become increasingly excluded from good jobs, political power, and social esteem. As their lives and livelihoods are threatened, their longevity declines.” Research also confirms that those with degrees live longer than those who are non-degreed on average.
The educational divide is also clear in economic circumstances. “According to Federal Reserve data, wealth was equally split between those with and without college degrees in 1990, but today three-quarters of wealth is owned by college graduates.”
The disparity between those with and without degrees is evident in many areas including in hiring: “Jobs are handed out not on the basis of necessary or useful skills but by the use of the degree as a hiring screen.” There are long-term impacts on many levels as it relates to pursuing or not pursuing a degree or a trade.
Education is important but I don’t think we recognize that we must push young people to get more than degrees and certifications. There is something lacking in a lot of young people and even those who are more seasoned—we are missing traits such as integrity, character, understanding, and wisdom.
There are a lot of educated fools—a lot of people who have book sense but lack compassion, kindness, and humility. If we want to see a better world, we must focus on building these qualities in addition to getting letters behind names.
As a society, we focus a lot on materialism, money, and things that don’t matter such as popularity and fame. If you want youth who embody the aforementioned traits, these desired behaviors are developed by spending time talking with your child/ren and modeling what you want to see. Don’t drop them off at church and expect others to teach them how to live.
It starts with you and your faith. What are you putting first and focusing on? “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Some of our paths are filled with steep curves because our priorities are out of order. I often tell my daughter that every person she meets is the sum total of their decisions. Every single day, we make choices that produce consequences. We must help young people make wise decisions, activate discernment, and use discretion.
“Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts…” (James 3:13 MSG) Choices in friends can impact our lives as well: “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
The Bible tells us that “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7) We need to help our young people to “get” more than a degree and that starts with training at home. Diplomas and Degrees are important but what we teach and model at home are critical, too.
Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the President of Soulstice Consultancy and the Founder of the Reconciliation and Restoration Foundation. She is also the author of four books and the host of the Tapestry podcast.