Back To School: American Education 101
As a parent, fall means back to school for my child, as it does for so many others around the globe. For me it also means reminiscing about the days past and thinking about the state of education today.
Having taught at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, I looked forward to the positive vibe from the students there, so when this time of the year rolls around, I always feel a great surge of energy, vibrance and excitement, even though I’m an ocean away from my beloved Ann Arbor.
I greatly miss the autumns that I was blessed with experiencing while in the United States. I’d always lived where the trees were full of color, and where the terrain was full of hilltops, rivers and winding bends. As a global citizen living in Dubai for most of the year, now my vista is made of skyscraper mountains and rivers of people bustling around the thriving city.
I’ve been incredibly nostalgic this year and got to thinking about the state of education in America today versus when I was a student. Though much is changing within the system, education is still by far the greatest export that the USA has.
Learning doesn’t always mean getting straight A’s. The most important lessons that I learned were to learn from your mistakes and that the concept of education is always changing-future studies and research are a wonderful component of the US educational system that still lives and breathes, and that I find incredibly wonderful. You never stop learning, they say, and this focus demonstrates the concept perfectly. With future studies, we are planning for what is to come so that we can be prepared, and with research, we are looking at what works and what doesn’t work so that we know how to move forward. It’s a perfect mix.
By far the educational experience that I loved the most was my college years. I never felt more alive or free than when I went off to college and met so many wonderful friends and professors. Only in the United States could the daughter of an immigrant attend such incredible schools that afforded me the opportunity to work with the likes of Harriet Fulbright and Bill Clinton, plus the chance to teach at one of the most renowned educational institutions in the world (Go Blue!)
Though I worked full-time through college, I always had the energy to cram in any new opportunities that I could. I miss those days of my youth, especially now when I’m seeing all of the Facebook and Instagram posts about returning to school or parents sending their children off to college.
Of course, I return to Dubai at the tail end of August after a summer in the states, so nostalgia and the ache of missing home is always strongest this time of year, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite teacher in this post: My mother. It was her love of learning that always inspired me to be humble and to honor my education and the opportunities that it afforded. She also instilled the Boston Strong vibe of being sophisticated without being arrogant. I couldn’t have been blessed with a more wonderful educator or mentor than my mom.
So as you’re packing up lunches for your child, or even thinking of heading back to school yourself, I encourage you to keep an open mind to the lessons that we learn outside of the classroom and to soak in as much knowledge as you can. As Thomas Paine said, “The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”
Here’s to lighting your way and the way for generations to come!