Does the education system discourage kids from chasing their dreams?
We can all remember elementary school teachers asking us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Our young, imaginative minds were never afraid to be honest when answering this question. Whether we wanted to be a doctor or an astronaut, a musician or an actor, a president or a teacher, we were never scared to dream big.
As we grow up, we start to grow out of these dreams. We start making more practical, more secure decisions about our future. But why do so many students sacrifice their passions for comfort? And is this trade-off valid?
“I would probably want to be a chef to be honest,” says Bancy Patel (12), when asked what she would do with her future if money was not a factor. “It’s definitely what I love to do and I would love to pursue it in the future.” But despite her love for cooking, she never considered it as a career. “I wasn’t until recently. I was going to be just like an engineer or a lawyer or something because it pays well, but my friend Alex sat me down and was like ‘Bancy, you are not going to be a good lawyer or engineer.’ I was kinda offended but they had a point, because I suck at math and I don’t really care much for law either. They know that I love to cook because I cook for them all the time, so they were like ‘You should go to culinary school!’ But it was kinda too late at that point because applications were due in like a week.”
Even though Patel applied as a sociology major, she is starting to open up to the idea of chasing her dream, which was heavily influenced by her closest friends and her mother. “My mom owns a restaurant, and she’s doing great. Like she used to work an accounting job that she hated — she told me she’d finish her shift and just sit in her car and cry. But then she opened up her new restaurant, and this is the happiest she’s ever been. So like mother, like daughter, I guess — but I am still going to go to a four year college just to have that as a backup option.”
So what held her back in the first place? Like most people, Patel was mainly concerned about the financial aspects of pursuing a career in the kitchen. Tanisha Jha (12) expands on the mindsets a lot of kids have going into college, “People will never openly admit that they’re doing something just for money. But for people who are applying for majors just for money, they’re probably going to find it harder to apply for colleges, because colleges want to see if you’re really interested and passionate about that major, not if you’re just going to follow the same path everybody else does.”
“Plus, I think people place a lot of importance on colleges and universities more so than their actual future.” Jha adds. “Like they believe that if you’re in this college or that college, you have a set path to the job you want. And that might be true in some cases, but whether it leads to what you’re passionate about or puts you on the same path as everyone else is questionable; so I think people are kind of going into this process forgetting that.”
“I mean, I think everyone should focus on making a living first, but that isn’t to say that we should tell people to stray away from their passion,” says Aditya Gupta (12). “But the way our economy and our country is systemed, we can’t control the salary of an artist compared to the salary of a doctor.” Gupta developed a love for theater when he first performed in the 2021 school play “Pride and Prejudice”, but has found that a lot of his friends in the theater community are not planning on doing anything further with it, despite their passion and talent. “There’s this saying something like ‘there is no manufacturer without the artist’ because artists come up with the ideas that eventually get manufactured in a business sense. So I think that we need a variety in our industry and if there is a need for more STEM fields, you gotta do what you gotta do to keep up with that market. But we need to reinforce that following your passions is not necessarily a bad thing; even if it pays less, you can still pave your own path.”
Mr. Creger, a beloved English teacher here at American for 35 years, has dedicated a lot of his teaching career to helping students find their passions and stay committed to pursuing them. “It’s natural, at the end of high school, to be wondering who you are. At the end of college I was kinda wondering the same thing — it’s just a turning point in your life when it’s natural that you’re going to be doing some soul-searching; but I would like to see the school do a lot more to help [with that].”
Mr. Creger’s biggest project throughout the year is the Creed Project, where students practice journaling about their influences, passions, and life experience before compiling them into an engaging presentation. “[Students] have never had the chance to reflect on themselves and their lives. Just today, my sixth period class, they were describing what it was like, for the first time to bullet point influences and try to write about them; they were talking about how different that felt from anything else they’ve done. You think you know yourself, but when you start writing, you start finding out what you know; you start discovering things. But I don’t think this one Creed project is enough for an entire education, I think the school should do more, especially for seniors.”
In this rat race of a world, it is easy to lose focus of what truly brings us joy. As we all move onto the next chapters of our lives, it is vital that we never lose sight of our passions and dreams, because at the end of the day, those passions are what makes us human.
Bancy Patel (12) loves cooking for her friends even after long, hard days at school. Patel is cooking an authentic Filipino breakfast here. This love for cooking has compelled her to want to go to culinary school in the future.