The Value of Higher Education

My grandparents on my mom’s side were what my kids would now refer to as ‘old school’. Joseph and Cynthia Pereira, or Mama and Papa as all the grandkids called them, were strict, but in a kind way of strictness, if that makes any sense. They were also clear of their expectations for all of us, as they had been for their own children. One area that we all received guidance on was constant reminders to get a good education. Today I am sure of the smile that must be on their faces looking down on the family as their youngest granddaughter, my cousin, just completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa.  Their legacy has had a lasting impact.  Read on.

Joseph and Cynthia Pereira - 1937 - Wedding Day

Joseph and Cynthia Pereira – 1937 – Wedding Day

It really is a legacy in the true sense of the word.  This is not a legacy born out of being smarter, or being well off, or having a single minded focus on an educational goal. In fact, most if not all of us were the opposite on those points. Across the family in the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Canada I am sure we are perfectly average in terms of natural gifted smarts.  Some brainiacs, some not so much (that would be me), and many in the middle, probably just like your family. Certainly growing up no one would call any of the family wealthy. And, to the last point, there was not that all-pervasive push for academic excellence that you sometimes read about in books like Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.

So what was it, then, that saw four of their six children gaining degrees or certifications in specialist areas like education and nursing? What was it that lead to 12 of their 13 grandchildren having now graduated from college, with, among them, two lawyers, three masters degrees, and a Phd candidate?

I think it was setting clear expectations.

We all do better when the goal is clear don’t we?  We normally don’t know precisely what path we will take, but knowing where we are going keeps us correcting our course as we move forward.

The reality is that as we grow up most of us do not know what we want to do. I certainly did not. There are exceptions of course, but generally as we go through elementary and then high school we often lack a clear vision of what we will do in our future, and the path of education that will get us there. However, my grandparents set a clear overarching context to the lives of their kids, and that was transferred to us.

What was Mama’s secret to driving her kids and grandkids toward the educational goal? Not too complicated really, repeat this often to your kids or grandkids.

“You have to get your piece of paper.”

Mama would repeat this mantra to all of us as we grew up.  It never changed.  There are 23 years age difference between myself as the oldest of the grandkids and the youngest grandchild who just graduated. We all got the mantra drilled into us. This created a common thread between us all, with a clear expectation that we had to get a higher level education, any higher level education.

The what that we were expected to achieve was clearly articulated.  We had to get that piece of paper.

Interestingly, the why was never really spoken, but it was clear.  With that piece of paper you gain more opportunities to shape the life you want.  You have a greater chance of really making a positive difference in the world.  There are probably thousands of reasons ‘why’.  Left unspoken I suppose my grandparents allowed us to create our own.

How were you guided to advance your study by your family?  The simplicity and passive approach that I speak of here contrasts with the more formal and directed approach that others may take.  I don’t think there is a right or a wrong, but I would love your opinion on the blog sharing your thoughts.

I live in the Cayman Islands and I'm married to Christina. We have two incredible children, Ryan, attending Northeastern University in Boston, MA, and Taylor, attending Trinity College School, in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada. I own several businesses in Cayman. My list of 'pasts' include past chairman of the Cayman Islands Special Economic Zone Authority, past president of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, and past president of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce.

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2 thoughts on “The Value of Higher Education

  1. A favourite phrase I learned from my mentor is “PCAV”, or “Principles are Consistent, Applications Vary”.

    David, I love how you are applying what you learn in different areas of your life into expressing yourself and sharing your thoughts and leadership in your blog.

    My own experience, as I experienced it (my parents may not agree) was that I was always supported in my choices, but really never had that much guidance on what those choices would be. I was, however, very self-motivated towards getting the learning and education (not necessarily the same thing) that would help me create the type of career I wanted.

    One thing I did learn from my parents was the power of commitment. As I went through my teens, they did reinforce to me that they would hold me to whatever choices I made, supporting me to maintain commitment to those choices.

    This is something that we now focus on with our three boys. What they choose is up to them, but we do help them focus on being fully committed to whatever they choose.

    Thanks, as always, for being so though provoking. Oh, and you ARE a very, very smart guy, that is my authentic experience of you. Your own of yourself may be different, but is what you posted false modesty or your authentic self, my friend ?