Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Success and Education

A friend and at the same time a student of mine asked me a question this morning. "How do you define success? What's your understanding of success?" she asked.

Since I am thinking about my children's future and for some time I have been contemplating about designing a specific curriculum for them, I want to answer my friend's question in terms of educational perspective.

I see success as obtaining true education. By this, I mean not the popular way of seeing it, finishing a college degree or even attaining a master or a doctoral degree. Though I acknowledge that such academic accomplishment is necessary to enter into the system, I have personally witnessed not a few masters and doctors that in my view of education will not pass and also fewer still who haven't achieved advanced degrees but displayed the real essence of education.

The most important thing in education is the ability to see and understand what's really going on in society and also having the ability to respond to such reality. The problem with current education is that the graduates I happened to talk to feel themselves at a loss and unequipped in facing the challenges of today. In fact, despite their intelligence they fail to see what's really going on out there. "Education" has a lot to do for this blindness.

For humanist educators, education is all about knowing yourself as a man and knowing the world around you. They immediately dismiss the idea that education has something to do with God, man and the world. Removing one of these will distort the entire process. 

In line with this concept of education, I want to design a curriculum for my children that will touch three basic realities of life. This project will be long-term. I don't expect it to be finished in a year or two. This will be a continuing process as I journey with my children. These three basic realities have something to do with the spiritual, intellectual and financial aspects of man. 

The spiritual aspect of education will focus on Christian liberty. The Bible and theology play a significant role in achieving this goal. I see this concept of freedom that includes the spiritual, the economic and the financial freedom of an individual. Spiritual freedom talks about freedom from sin received by grace through faith in King Jesus. That is why any talk of freedom without grace is doomed to fail from the very start. True and genuine freedom starts by grace. 

When it comes to economic freedom, I want to adopt the study of Friedrich Naumann Foundation. There are four variables in FNF's understanding of economic freedom: security of property rights; the size of government; the regulation of credit, labour, and business, and; the freedom to trade internationally. However, I do not want to follow FNF in dropping the fifth variable, but I want to follow the Fraser Institute instead in which I think is the most important variable of all - access to sound money. This concept of economic freedom is closely connected, or it is more proper to say, rooted in the intellectual aspect of education. 

When we approach the concept of financial freedom, we borrow this idea from financial literacy literature. I understand financial freedom as the ability to financially support yourself without relying on anyone. Others see financial freedom as reaching the level where an individual's passive income is bigger than his expenses. Both concepts express the same goal in different words. I just want to keep it that way. 

Except for grace, two other important concepts are inherent in my idea of Christian liberty, peace and prosperity.

Turning from the spiritual aspect into the intellectual aspect of education, basic knowledge of economics equips the person to think, critique, and offer alternative way of viewing the world. Talk about capitalism and socialism is very important at this stage. Interventionism is the most important context at this point. 

Since a lot of advocates of "capitalism" are out there, it is better to distinguish our understanding of capitalism from the popular one. We reject crony capitalism or corporatism. We understand capitalism as synonymous to free market. To grasp this distinction, one must have a basic understanding of how a free society really works. Studying the literature from the Austrian school of economics will help us achieve this intellectual goal.

So far, the first two aspects provide the ideological level of education. In the third and last aspect of education, we are approaching the practical side. This time, we will be dealing with personal finance and investment strategies. In personal finance, the two most important skills are money management and understanding the correlation among the income statement, the balance sheet and cash flow. In investment strategies, four additional skills are needed: stock picking, how to research firms, reading financial corporate statements and stock valuation to determine the financial soundness of a company.