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Teen Health 411

The Importance Of Education

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When you think about it, after unconditional love and attention, there may be nothing more powerful a parent can give a child than education. Education brings with it adult mentors who care about kids, knowledge about health, the world, character-building experiences, a responsibility to participate in government, and a sense of unity with the world. Truly exceptional education impacts the whole person, body, mind and soul, instills in a child a love of learning that will guide an entire life, and inspires creativity as well as passion!

On a more practical note, research shows us that a perceived connection to school is a powerful predictor of resilience for all children, providing a safety net of sorts, no matter what family or community they are growing up in. Teens who are connected to school are also less likely to be participating in high risk activities, like drinking, smoking, and early sexual activity.

Giving a child an education not only keeps them busy, it opens up their world and helps them understand the interconnectivity of systems - the earth, human bodies, families, neighborhoods, communities, countries, and the universe. I truly believe that it is hard for a well-educated person to fail in life - because there are always new ways to approach problems.

Providing an education can be as simple as finding a great school that brings out the best in your child, but being involved with that education is also important. Making time to spend time at school volunteering and connecting with your children around educational activities, like reading, shows your child that education and s/he are your priorities.

Other things you can do to support that education include:
Thinking back on my own life growing up in a pretty dysfunctional family, I have always believed I "made it" because although I could not change my family, I could be successful in school and found adults who believed I was smart and worthwhile, which kept me doing well in school. I remember several moments quite clearly: 1) in 7th grade Mr. Rayburn, a social sciences teacher told me I should go to college because I was really smart (this is in a rural community in the early 70's when few people went to college); 2) sitting in new student orientation at SJSU, a professor suggested those of us who believed in interdisciplinary education and social change should consider a program called New College; and 3) sitting in my first graduate class at Stanford wondering how I would ever fit in with my classmates, and deciding that reading all the "classics" (they had read in their ivy league educations) might help.

Education cannot be taken away - it becomes a part of the person learning something and transforms that person as it happens, bringing self-confidence, curiosity, joy, creativity, and yes, responsibility.

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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