How much of a shared value is education in today’s America.  In particular a college education.  Where at one time we led the world in college educated citizens, according to a NYTimes article done in June of 2010, the United States ranks and paltry 12th amongst 36 industrialized nations.  How does this happen?  What does such a lagging statistic say about the most powerful nation in the world’s value of education?  These numbers speak in many ways to a growing conundrum that exists for many single people as they think of finding a suitable mate and some of the shared value that they hope to bring to the table.  Hard work and education are values that have been preached in American since the age of Puritans.  But now many people are faced with the  questions……Should I date or even marry someone who does not have a college degree or any aspiration to attain one?

The role of capitalism plays a huge part in the promotion as well as the dismissiveness of post secondary education.  Capitalism and the free market society, although not promoted in the core of its doctrine, do contribute to American societies idea that money is the most important thing.  And for many years that has always been a mindset that has worked hand in hand with education.  In previous decades, a college education was a pathway to the most lucrative careers.  But as time has gone on we have found short-cuts to the money.  Things like technical and trade schools that lead to high paying careers.   Apprenticeships and skill training opportunities that have grown as the American economy and workforce have gone through cycles.  And for many there can be no profession more secure than the United States Military.  All of these avenues have provided faster and more direct paths to financial success.  Even the emphasis that sports and entertainment have placed on money being the most important factor in our society has cast a dim reflection of the benefit of education.  Athletes reject the idea of going to college before cashing in on their talents at the professional levels.  Actors and music stars promote their lifestyles of flash and opulence and even take subtle digs at the old moral standard of needing college to be a success.  These images are long-lasting in the minds of young impressionable kids who are weighing the option of college or some other road that may lead them to fast money.  It is hard for a parent to promote college as a pathway to success when the more popular icons of pop culture support the idea that college is not going to make you rich, famous and cool like they are.

Women especially have to face the delimma of marrying men without college degrees since it has long been a growing statistic that women outnumber men in college education in every ethnicity.  Contrary to popular belief this is not just the reality of black, hispanic cultures.  This is a gender issue that speaks to the sort of expectations that are placed on both men and women in society.  Men certainly feel a natural pull to be both a protector and provider for women.  Whether that woman is his mother, sister or girlfriend, at some point the urge exists and will eventually show itself.  For many men, the desire to rush to be able to do these things leads them to bypass the long-term benefits of college.  I equate this rush to be a MAN, despite the short-sighted and somewhat foolish decisions that follow, to the same pull that WOMEN feel to be mothers.  It may not make a lot of sense to me as a guy to see a young woman have a baby with a guy who is not her husband and clearly not a responsible person.  But I have no idea what sort of emotional pull a woman faces when her body is screaming to pro-create.  When young guys graduate from high school, many of them are racing to acquire all of the superficial things that make them attractive to women in the most immediate sense.  Often time that equates to a job that may not pay them a lot of money but it is certainly more than they have ever had.  Money provides a car and apartment, which provide privacy and a way to transport a woman to this place of privacy.  On a small-scale it is a manifestation of a desire to be a provider and protector.  And when you are dealing with 18-21 year old women this is definitely enough.  It is pretty imperative for a guy who wants to date a girl when he is really young to be able to bring this sort of stuff to the table.  What I know is this.  A pretty woman who lives at home while working at Target and exploring some school options is not hurting for a date.  On the flip side, a young guy who is in the same spot gets relatively no play.  Nothing cute bout being 21 and living in mom’s basement with a job at the local furniture store.  That guy generally spends his fair share of nights alone.  He has nothing to provide or offer.  And what a man has to offer a woman by way of  being a provider and a protector are in so many situations what is most important for a lot of women. 

For myself and many people in my demographic, education has been held up as a standard of achievement that is not a negotiable task to take on.  It is expected of you.  Promoted as the measure of accomplishment that you cannot do without.  And the endorsement of this standard over time becomes a part of someone’s value system.  And values are not dispelled without a serious internal questioning of your own personal beliefs.  Would you with no deliberation go against a religious conviction that you have held all of your life?  Would you consider cowardly or selfish behavior, when you were raised to be brave and generous?  Would you accept mediocrity in anything you do when excellence has been instilled in you?  The idea of embarking on a relationship with someone who does not share some of your values is more than a notion.  Our values have been preached to us as what is “right”.  So subconsciously, for some of us we view those who did not go to college as “wrong”.  To overcome this mindeset it takes a lot of wrapping your mind around the idea that maybe there is another way to see things and that maybe the values that you have been taught are possibly not absolute.  Or dare I say…..wrong.

Someone not having a college degree is not an insurmountable sort of obstacle in a relationship.  But is does have it’s very serious challenges.  It should not be depicted as someone’s superficial hang-up that is holding you back from getting married.  Shared values are what couples build their life on and what they hope to pass on to their children.  Quite a bit of discussion has to take place to come to an understanding about how a couple moves forward with a conflict in values or in how those values are executed.  The last thing couples need is to have different value systems that they suppress as being not important on the front end only to see these differences turn into major disputes further down the line.

What do you think?  Is education and specifically college education a value that which a couple must be entirely on one accord?