Every student considering post-secondary education has one reoccurring question that pressures them to decide on their future: What do I want to be? This traditional mindset of centralizing the economic cycle needs to be shifted as the news reveals ever widening gaps in equality and dire warnings about the planet. For these reasons, students should focus less on their future as a consumer and more on their role in society as a humanitarian.
Society’s beliefs of commercialism and business have been consistently instilled into younger generations to teach them the importance of contributing to a stable economy. Materialism and greed continue to shape adolescents’ views on finding their life purpose and place in the capitalistic system. The pressure to find practical employment and develop a reliable career is heightened for adolescents considering the uncertainty of their futures. Society teaches youth to center their lives on giving back to the economy, but what about pursuing their interests, developing their citizenship, contributing to the community and finding ways to make the world a better place?
Society’s fundamental values need to shift from only an emphasis on economic stability to humanitarianism for the world to thrive. Youth should be encouraged to pursue careers that genuinely interest them (not depending on the income) and help them grow as individuals. They should be encouraged to follow their passions and help make a difference in the world. They should be encouraged to develop their identities and discover ways they can make a positive impact on society.
An example of this phenomenon is 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. She has raised awareness for climate change, by leading a series of climate strikes called “Fridays for Future,” worldwide. Thunberg has pursued justice for this cause relentlessly, an action she wouldn’t have been able to accomplish from a classroom setting. Her role in demanding climate action has had a significant impact on the world and has succeeded in raising awareness for climate change internationally. Her voice and actions have had more meaning and value to the environment than anything she could have been taught. Thunberg has made her impact on the world and other adolescents should be encouraged to follow in her footsteps.
Similarly, 22-year-old human rights activist Malala Yousafzai has played a significant role in advocating for women’s rights in education. After being shot by the Taliban police in retaliation for her activism, Yousafzai was encouraged to share her story and speak up for women worldwide. As a result, she has become the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her humanitarian efforts. Yousafzai has inspired the world internationally and has proved that success and a meaningful life can reside outside of the economic imperative.
Another example is a video called “What If Money Was No Object?” by Professor Alan Watts that explains the importance of students being encouraged to follow their passions. Watts believes that students should not be pressured to pursue careers and futures entirely based on income, falling victim to economic standards. He consistently asks his students to choose their happiness over financial stability when deciding on their careers. “What would you like to do if money was no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?” asks Watts.
Society’s perspective on success needs to be shifted; citizenship, humanitarianism, and personal growth should have more value than contributing to the economic cycle. Although post-secondary education is a noble pursuit, consumerism and materialism cannot continue to be the driving force of our society, as a route to perceived happiness or success. It is time for society to change its values and understand that no amount of money can solve the world’s ever-lasting problems. Young people’s mental health and the planet’s fate depend on it.
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