Is a good education a sure path to happiness and success? Maybe, maybe not.


The Tribune news apps team has put together an easily searchable and pleasantly displayed way to see how any Illinois school is faring. By the way, I might never have known about it if not for one of the team posting it on Windy Citizen. Thanks again Joe.

Like a lot of people I’m sure, I promptly searched for the schools I attended and here are the results:

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – better than 90% of all schools in Illinois

JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL – better than 94% of all schools in Illinois

HIGH SCHOOL – better than 98% of all schools in Illinois 

So you see, my schools actually improved as I went along. I should be happy, successful and brilliant, right? Yes, no and… I’ll leave that to others to judge. 

If being happy is the most important thing in life, then I’m all set, but I hardly needed these top notch schools to achieve happiness. Plenty of people are happy who went to bad or mediocre schools. And by the way, my happiness is greatly tempered by the lack of professional success as I’ve entered the third decade of my life this past August, but I digress.

Time and time again we are told that a good education is the path to all that is good and wonderful in this world. It is the path to a good job, a solid career and a positive economic outlook, one that will enable us to hopefully get married, have children, buy a home, travel and do it all in style. These things are not untrue, but might not such an outlook place too much value on education and too little on other things? It’s time to start asking tough questions like: does everyone really need to go to college? Under the current economic conditions, will people with college degrees continue to make more money? Will this generation of Americans end up, for the first time in history, worse off than their parents? And how much of this can be blamed on the constant dictum we heard growing up, that a good education is the answer to everything. Is it really?

Just while writing this post, I gave a preview of it to someone who follows me on Twitter. I said the short version was that all my highfalutin education hasn’t amounted to much in practice. The response was: “join the club!” This reminded me of the title someone I know gave to their website. I could just tell you what it is, but it’ll be more fun if you click over to it yourself.

This is not strictly anecdotal. In a world in which even Master’s Degrees can be seen as poor economic investments, maybe we truly need to rethink the way we view education.

I could go on, but I’m more interested in what all of you think. Do you think the quality of education, after a certain point, is overvalued? Do you think your education has paid off?

Image credit: UniKeep


  1. Anonymous September 17, 2010

    I think an education is what you make of it. You need to do two things: 1.) pay attention, no matter what school(s) you attend; and 2.) play fair with people in the real world once you get that education. That way, if no. 1 breaks down because of the economy, no. 2 and the good graces you’ve earned there can help balance things out–and keep you on the radar screen and employed.

  2. Anna Tarkov September 17, 2010

    Very good points. However, these things don’t seem to be emphasized as much by parents or educators. Is there a college class on networking? Maybe for business school majors, but probably nowhere else. Is there a high school class for it, more importantly? Many don’t go to college so… Is there a class to learn how to freelance without having a job? Is there a class to learn personal finance? My point is, these things aren’t taught enough, if at all. People say “Study hard and go to a good school Suzy and you’ll make something of yourself!” No one tells Suzy that she’ll have to temp and/or waitress after her fancy college education while she cobbles together contacts and work experience to make her eligible for the job she actually wants. It used to be that you started out on the bottom of your chosen field and worked your way up. Nowadays you have to start out lower than the bottom because there’s such high demand for certain jobs and too many people to fill them. And all these people are, fairly uniformly, Gen-Y kids who went to college and now feel entitled to a job. I’m including myself in this group (though I don’t feel entitled to much anymore).

  3. Kim Silerio December 1, 2013

    May I use your image above as an illustration to my quote in my blog. I will put your link as a related article. thanks.

    • December 18, 2013

      Sure, no problem.

Comments are Disabled