This I Believe

Keith - Clayton, Ohio
Entered on September 13, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: race

Title: Education Leads to Success, Opportunity and Choice

I believe formal and informal educational opportunity leads to success. I believe success is not defined in dollars and cents but as opportunity and choice. There is the opportunity to advance from one level to another and to be trained, learned, and educated and to have even more options. However, what is formal and informal educational opportunity?

I believe many of us know about formal educational opportunity. While a student in engineering school, I was formally educated by taking courses such as calculus, physics, mechanics, and electronics.

However, I believe informal education is equally important. All things being equal, your competitive opportunistic advantage comes from your having better informally educated yourself versus someone else. I define informal education as self-directed learning and understanding of the connections between subjects and professions.

My belief in informal education began when I was a poorly educated high school student who was already a father, husband and R&B musician.

Informally, I studied why I have a Gullah-Ebonics accent versus other people not having one. I studied Black history and history of science. I studied grammar. I studied basic mathematics and science. I studied how there are three levels of conversation: gossip, events and happenings, and ideation and conception. I thought and studied about why, as a child, it was suggested to me I should consider becoming a scientist. I studied the philosophy of existence, learning, and classification. I studied organizational behavior and its sociology.

For 9 years I formally and informally educated myself while working as an airman, student worker, and technician to one day make a living in my chosen profession of engineering, and during those difficult years I had a family to support. And, before I knew the words existed I was an autodidact (a self-teacher of subjects) and an andragogic (self-directed) learner.

As a teenage parent and husband, I received many breaks. Because I was striving for something positive, I have had successes, opportunities and choices. During the Vietnam War Era, I served in the United States Air Force. I traveled to Texas, Mississippi, Thailand, and Okinawa. After my discharge, I attended and graduated from engineering school. I attained master degrees in management and engineering. I remarried and became a father of seven. I attained a doctor of philosophy degree; and I am now a grandfather of 9. As an electronic warfare and avionics engineer, I have been nominated for a National Society of Black Engineers Award, and I received awards such as Black Engineer of the Year, Association of Old Crows, and Inventor and Scientific Achievement Awards.

For these reasons, I personally know that education leads to success, opportunity and choice. I believe the ‘required’ education of 21st-Century Black children (and other people of color) should include information about people like themselves in the text. I believe we should place more emphasis on the importance of informal education. I believe if we’d consider the abovementioned, we’d produce more minority scientists and engineers and we’d produce more invention, innovation and creativity.