Education Pays

17 Apr

A friend of mine shared this lesson idea with me, and I think it’s just fantastic, especially if you have students in your class who are inclined to doubt the value of a having a high school education/diploma…

In my friend’s class (which is in a NYC public high school), she showed her students the following chart, which indicates the median weekly earnings as well as unemployment rates in the U.S. in 2012, broken down by education degrees earned:

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 7.29.19 PM

She discussed and interpreted the chart with her students and asked them to identify patterns.  Then, she had her students create a monthly budget based on the average income of an individual who has less than a high school diploma.  They used this chart to create their budgets:

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 7.41.33 PM

Needless to say, the kids quickly saw something wrong with this picture.  “This isn’t enough money to live on!” many began to exclaim as they filled in the budget chart.  My friend then extended the lesson by having her students read from NYC Comptroller John C. Liu’s “Beyond High School” report, which emphasizes the fact that a large percentage of NYC students do not seek higher education.  Liu argues that in order to “achieve long-term fiscal balance, economic prosperity, and an improved quality of urban life in New York City,” more city residents need to go on to earn post-secondary degrees.

What I find most valuable about this eye-opening lesson is that the teacher didn’t simply tell her students this information.  She let them figure it out – but not the hard way (far too many people figure this stuff out after they leave high school, not while they’re still in high school).  By giving students this kind of statistical information and having them interpret how it might relate to their lives – while they are still in high school – we can begin to convey the value of earning a high school diploma and continuing on to earn post-secondary degrees.

Of course, degrees and money aren’t the most important things in life, and there are plenty of other and better reasons to get a high school education and go on to higher education.  But students get it when it’s put in terms of money, and that’s a place to start, to hook them into this conversation in a way that feels meaningful and relevant to them now.

One Response to “Education Pays”

  1. cketchum April 19, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    Reblogged this on craig ketchum and commented:
    For all the naysayers who speak against the value of further education, it appears that having post-secondary actually does pay off. See this graphic.
    For me, education is more than just the money you can make with your degree (I did study English and Social Sciences, after all), and I also find I have more options at my fingertips because of my degree.

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