These days, I hear that higher education—college—is primarily to increase the money one can earn. And education certainly does raise pay. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers age 25 and older were $909 in the second quarter of 2017. Full-time workers without a high school diploma had median weekly earnings of $515, compared with $718 for high school graduates (no college) and $1,189 for those with a bachelor’s degree. Full-time workers with advanced degrees (professional or master’s degree and above) had median weekly earnings of $1,451.”
But for me that far greater reward from education is learning how to think. I remember my fascination when I discovered the different and equally valid systems of logic inherent in mathematics, music, languages, grammar/writing, and physics/chemistry. I learned to think in those modes because I had to to pass courses. In the process, I greatly enriched my ability to think.
I learned to approach a subject from a numerical point of view, then see it aesthetically. From music I mastered the ideas of rhythm and balance. From sports, I learned how to achieve the ideal physical status to free up the mind. From Asian languages, I learned variations in how the human brain can operate. Each discipline taught me ways to deepen my thinking and expand my existence.
I concede that my education, particularly my advanced degrees, brought me a good income and, more important to me today, a substantial retirement that allows me to write full time. But the more crucial benefit was teaching me to think.
Today it is my mind, not my income, that enriches me.