By Valerie Kazarian, Staff Writer

As students, we all have a lot on our minds right now. The start of the school year is exciting and nerve-wracking for the new and returning students alike and we have lots of questions. What room will I be in? What books do I need? Do I really have the patience to stand in this line? But there is one questions that we too often forget to consider and that is, “Why am I here?”

I do not mean by this, “What is the meaning of life?” What I mean is something more pragmatic, such as “What is my education for?” There is not just one reasonable response to this question. For the past several decades the dominant public theory has been that education is for job training. 60 years ago, the predominant feeling was that education was to prepare the student to participate in a democratic society. For some, higher education is the door to the “American Dream” and a better life and for some, it is supposed to level the socio-economic playing field. There are now and there have been for centuries a lot of reasonable responses to this very large question. Remember Plato’s Republic?

However, it is our responsibility to think about this question not only as a philosophical exercise but also for practical life planning. We, each of us, need not select one purpose of education in response to the question. Instead, we should realize that education is for all of these purposes. It is not an either/or prospect but rather is a both/and one.

Each of us should be preparing not just for a job – as important as that is – but we should also strengthen our citizenship skills, our thinking abilities and our awareness of the world around us. Most of us will one day get married and raise children and we may find that at least as important as any employment we may obtain. So, while internships are great and part-time jobs are helpful, we need to also sharpen our people skills, our awareness of the world around us and the plight of our neighbors.

We need to be informed and aware as we prepare for the November elections. Go to a play or a concert. Take a class outside of your major – not just because you need the credits, but because you think it would be fun and interesting. Go to a ballgame or go to the art museum. Ever been to the planetarium?

In a couple of weeks, we’ll all be settled into our routines and our semester will be underway. While you have the chance now, take some time to think about how your time at USM will affect the rest of your life. You should let your education shape you but also realize that you should shape your education. Have a plan, have some fun and have a great year.


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