The following is an excerpt from Louis Hernandez, Jr.’s latest book, Saving the American Dream: Main Street’s Last Stand, which can be purchased here.
Tenets of the American Dream: Education
As the son of parents who were both immigrants and educators, I grew up with a profound appreciation of the value that Americans place on education. Like many immigrants, my parents believed that everything they had – at least their material possessions – could be taken away from them at any moment. But what could never be taken away were things that, in our home, had enduring value and enabled one to build a better life: family, religion and education.
My parents made it clear that these were our priorities in life and we were expected to work hard at them. We were expected to be active in our church and make whatever sacrifices were necessary to support our family. But most of all, in education, we were expected to come home at the end of each term with a report card delivering straight A’s. Anything less provoked disappointment and demanded explanation. These commitments were something that I carry with me today, and I have tried to pass the same values along to my children, particularly regarding education.
From a purely practical perspective, education in the U.S. is highly correlated with employment opportunities, job stability, and income, which all affect an individual’s chances of achieving the prosperity of the American Dream. The majority of high-paying jobs in the U.S. require applicants to possess a bachelor’s degree – or in some cases a professional degree – as the price of admission. In addition to its inherent economic value, having a higher education can also provide a degree of security. Unemployment is generally lower among college graduates than those whose highest educational attainment is high school or less.
Education is important from a societal perspective, as well. It reinforces cultural identity, prepares individuals to become productive workers, enhances their status, and enables them to be responsible members of their communities. In many ways, it is the foundation of a strong and sustainable economy.