Saturday, February 5, 2011

Intellectual Aristocracy

Want to be part of the new aristocracy? 

The new aristocracy is called the intellectual aristocracy, filled with people who have invested in acquiring knowledge. Some years ago, Jaime Escalante, whose life was depicted in the movie Stand and Deliver, spoke about a poster hanging on a wall in his classroom. It read: “Free, free, free—knowledge. Bring your own containers.” How apropos for high school students on the brink of entering college and transitioning to the new world economy. 

Knowledge is abundant in the new economy, but we have to be willing to obtain it. Since the knowledge-based economy has engulfed us, we must prepare ourselves to not only to survive but to thrive. Unfortunately, mom and dad are not always going to support your habits. 

Soon—for some, sooner than you think—the responsibility will fall to you. Are you ready? At eighteen, I knew I wasn’t ready. After two years in southern Chile and a year of work, I was ready to enter college to gain knowledge. Had I heard about Escalante’s admonition, I would have brought along more containers. 

Consider these suggestions: 

One, understand that going to college should not be an option. It is a must, a prerequisite to being a part of the new intellectual aristocracy. Our family has always focused on the phrase: “Not if you are going to college but where.” 

Two, while in high school, take a rigorous set of courses. If you can, take those that count for dual-credit, credit for high school and college. You will be further ahead when you enroll in college. In fact, some students in other states earn their high school diploma one day, and the next day they receive their associate degree in other states. Invest now in obtaining the best grades and being involved, thus enhancing your chances to earn scholarships. 

Three, when you go to college, take advantage of the most affordable one you can attend, even if it is close to home. Because most college programs require two years of general education, it is more affordable to attend a two-year college. Community colleges offer a wonderful array of core courses taught by extremely gifted professors. 

Four, take a variety of courses, particularly those that require hard work and critical thinking skills. In the global market, most employers seek talented people who can think, adapt to change, and maneuver within the organization. Possessing good skill sets will enable you to succeed. 

And five, think of your education as an investment that should be replenished often. If you don’t reinvest in yourself and upgrade your skills along the way, you will succumb to the plight of dinosaurs who couldn’t adapt to change. Graduating from high school is truly a huge step. But begin strategizing now how you are going to maneuver successfully through our knowledge-based economy. The best part of being part of your lifelong educational investment is that you become part of the new intellectual aristocracy. 

Remember to bring lots of containers.

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