Happiness and Education

I read an article last week about happiness and education. At first, I thought it must be just one more alarm sounded to scare people into not dropping out of high school, or college. Then, I thought, people who are going to drop out probably don’t read articles stuffed with statistics about education anyway. They just drop out. But according to the article, and many others that I found, people with more education are happier. I will explain and add some of my own thoughts.

For years, we have been led to believe that money makes us happy. Of course, money is an important factor in happiness, but it can only lead you so far. I certainly cannot speak for everyone, but in my experience of traveling to 37 countries around the world I have observed countless people I would count as happy and satisfied who did not have a lot of money, relative to their particular culture. It is important to realize that income is relative; what is poor in one country may not be poor in another. I guess that’s pretty well understood. The same goes for education. Just in case you doubted the monetary value of formal education however, here is a chart that shows what different degrees earn, on average:


education

I once thought that happiness was something people defined for themselves, but in fact there are indicators of happiness that social scientists can measure through respondents answers to questions.

One article that caught my eye was a U.S. News & World Report study entitled “Why Learning Leads to Happiness: Education, engagement, and creativity produce happier and longer lives.” The article confirmed what I believed and what I have experienced. It also confirmed that, while education and income are often connected (see chart above), you do not need to be rich to be happy and live a long life.

Notice the discussion deals with education, engagement, and creativity, not school. I like to separate education from school because while we hope they are connected, they might not always be.

So what is it about education that connects it to happiness? For me education is an approach to life, a way to solve problems, a set of tools that can enrich us in more ways than the mere answers to questions on a multiple choice test. Education helps us put things in perspective; it provides us with the drive to start new projects that engage us. As John Dewey, the famous education pioneer said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

Education leads us to become creative—in our own way—and to be engaged in life and all it has to offer. I recall smothering myself in different authors after I finished high school. (Sadly, I was not allowed to do this in school! If you are reading this and you are an Obridge student, we welcome you to submit a plan for an elective to explore your favorite author, or favorite subject.) I became engaged because of the reading and this engagement led me to a certain type of creativity. Creativity does not mean that you have to invent something no one else ever thought of, or paint a picture that ends up in a museum.
I would sit all day reading different writers. The reading and education bug bit me. I began expanding my previously limited world. First one country’s author, then another. It hasn’t ended. It still keeps me going.

It would be great if this education spark can be ignited in you as well. If there is some way that Obridge can contribute to igniting the spark, you need to tell us. I invite you to do a self-inventory and see what interests and excites you and begin your education journey. We just might be able to better link education and school!

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