Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Weekly Column: Helping youth succeed makes for a better society

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, October 28, 2019.

I just read an uplifting news story. It was about the tuition waiver program for the former youth in care. About 1,119 young people got a fresh start in life due to the program. I can only imagine how empowering the feeling, and I can safely assume that the gratefulness born from that will create many happy ripples along the way. To say that we need more of that in today’s world is an understatement.

Talking to high school graduates or young adults who are trying to find their way, the one limiting factor many are pointing to is money. Going to school for higher education is one expensive affair. Some say they will not go to university until they are sure of their choice so they will not pay tuition money for nothing.

Others are saying they will set aside studying for a year or two so they can work and save a good chunk to have while studying. Some say that dreaming about higher education has to stay just that, for now: dreaming. They cannot afford it.

Let’s just imagine that education would be tuition-free. Not free as in open gates and everyone getting in on the basis of simply breathing, but open gates for everyone committed to study to earn their spot and keep their efforts up throughout school.

The recent election campaign brought forth the issue of free tuition. Imagine how many stories would be written in happier terms if more young people, especially those who are dealt a tough hand by no fault of their own, would be given a better chance to earn an education that can ensure a better life and thus create opportunity and reason to give back.

Being young and knowing that nothing stands between you and a better path in life, save for your determination to give it your best school-wise, now that can improve our society as a whole.

I have always been amazed by children’s curiosity. From the moment they can form words, they will ask ‘why?’ with the kind of stubbornness that is seen in intrepid scientists and explorers. Not taking no for an answer; building one why on top of another until the bigger picture makes sense. They devour books if they are introduced to reading, and they ask for more. Yet somewhere along the way, that zest for learning dwindles.

Come high school, some turn too cool for reading, and for many, phone-related activities have long replaced the more intellectual pursuits of younger age. Educators and parents are complaining of the low quality of education that plagues the system. I was told that it is not unusual to have first year university students who struggle with grammar. That is not acceptable. In general, making it easy for them and sparing them the ‘pain’ of failing, doesn’t take them where they want to be but chips away at their ability to persevere until they succeed. They need that.

Should higher standards be imposed by our education system, that would challenge kids to do their best (I dare say taking phones out of the classroom to make room for ‘just school’ would be beneficial as well.) Challenges create determination and overcoming one obstacle after another, school-wise, is empowering. There is also a high chance we would see fewer behavioural issues (bullying included,) with more children learning to say ‘I can’ as they accomplish things through their own hard work.  

Just imagine… Lives can be changed. If we are to see a better future, just wishing for it will not do; we ought to help prepare our youth for it. Anyone who is willing to put in the work should be given a fair chance to succeed, no matter their financial capabilities. Better education, from the moment children first open a book to whatever level they choose to go to, makes for better adjusted people.


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  1. Kevin

    Norway, a country where education to the highest levels of a PhD is free has been consistently rated as the nation with the happiest people. Their criteria for the state covering the costs as as per what you suggest here. And contrary to this being seen as a cost it is seen as an investment. And it has been paying off for them economically with better educated workers creating new businesses and contributing to existing ones in the modern knowledge economy. Plus paying off socially such as per the happiness indicator. Could they afford to do it even if they did not have the foresight to create a sovereign wealth fund from oil royalties? Of course is their attitude as the educational subsides are seen as investments that are now more than paying back in a robust economy and with strong social harmony, which reduces cost for services such as policing and medical.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Kevin. I think when a society/country values education at every level, better adjustment to life is a natural consequence. Once tuition-free education is the only avenue, I am sure that the financial part can be solved as well (long-term). The other side of the trade is, like I mentioned, that kids would be challenged to give their best – which only makes them feel better about yourself, and also helps them develop a clearer idea of likes/dislikes. I fully agree that education as an investment generates an economy where policing and medical needs are much more reduced, hence lower costs.

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