3 Life Lessons College Won’t Teach You
This fall, many students will be entering college for the first time, or returning to continue their pursuit of a degree. The college formula is pretty straightforward: two years of general education courses, two years of courses in your major, a commencement ceremony — and just like that, you’re a college graduate, supposedly equipped for the “real world.”
While this may be somewhat true, this formula is oversimplified. While college can teach you a great many things to prepare you for success in the workforce, civic engagement, and service to others, there are some lessons too delicate for the classroom that many African American students learn the hard way:
1) The Value of Living Debt Free – In December 2013, hip-hop producer Damon “Dame” Dash shared comments he claimed were made by a Jewish businessman that referred to Black spending habits as “liquid money”, meaning that money seeps through the hands of Blacks like water and that on payday, African Americans will spend money in every community but their own. A report furnished by the Washington Post showed U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicating that in the last 50 years, the wealth gap between whites and African Americans has only widened. Despite increases in annual income, financial giant, Prudential, reports that 94 percent of African Americans still carry some sort of debt. Debt-free living is one of the first steps towards wealth accumulation. Unfortunately, with so many African Americans leaving college with student loan debt, the wealth disparity continues to persist.
2) Social Consequences – I remember being in the first year of my master’s program and one of my classmates, intending to pay me a compliment, said, “I just love listening to you. You remind me of Oprah! You know…you’re Black, but you’re not ‘Black-b=Black.’” The irony of sitting in a room full of “educated” people, yet subject to such ignorance, was not lost on me. What she was really saying was, “I like you… you’re not like “the others”. This was a hard lesson to learn, but one that certainly escaped the classroom teachings of NIU (Northern Illinois University). The hard truth is that there are social consequences for the stereotypes enacted on mainstream and social media. The actions of a few can bring ramifications for the many. As such, it is absolutely essential to always be mindful of what stereotypes might be reinforced through social media posts, jokes, and other forms of “entertainment” that can lead to cultural backlash down the road.
3) The Value of the Vote: During the 2012 Presidential Election, Twitter exploded with tweets from voters in largely African-American areas urging voters to “stay in line.” “They can’t deny your right to vote,” people tweeted. “Your voice matters.” In 2012, African-American voter turnout hit record levels. This was due in part to support for President Obama, but it also stemmed from understanding what can happen when citizens don’t exercise their rights to vote. Issues such as voter discrimination, controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws, and policy decisions that impact the economy and quality of life are at stake. Sadly, voters aged 18 to 29, college students and recent grads, account for only 29 percent of voter turnout. Be it lack of concern, or lack of knowledge about the issues, youth voter turnout has historically been a disappointment.
College can teach you the ins and outs of political science, the sociological impact of crime in the community, or the economic breakdown of wealth and poverty in America. However, it can’t teach you what it’s like to experience the consequences of social policy decisions that deny access to basic freedoms, and confines communities to cycles of poverty and violence. A college education is a valuable commodity, but it can’t take the place of learning how to strengthen our culture and our community.
Getting TO college is one thing; Getting THROUGH college is quite another. That’s why Dr. Shante’ Bishop offers strategic advice on being successful both in and out of the classroom. From catalogs to cap and gown, Professor Bishop shares what it takes to ‘Stomp the Yard” with confidence and clarity! You can follow Dr. Bishop on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.