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The Hawaldar's Tale

Yesterday, I was rejected from Pre-RDC. As I was walking out of camp, a hawaldar I knew asked me where I was going, and I told him I was heading home. His response wasn't the usual hand-holding or the "You'll make it next year" that most people come at you with. Instead, he told me to focus on my education. "I'll probably be a hawaldar for the rest of my life because I joined the army as soon as I finished my 10th. Now that you're out of RDC, go home and study, get a good job." These are sentiments that I've heard echoed many times by other NCOs and JCOs. They also eerily resemble what other people who dropped out before they got a high-school diploma have told me.

The regret for people I've spoken to is that because they dropped out, they lost a great many opportunities that they didn't know they'd even have at 16. It seems like people don't realize that they need a good education - or, come to that, any sort of education - until it's too late. What's worse is that the men and women who guard our borders so that we may sleep at night should have to think along these lines. Honestly, it's sad that anyone should have to think this way. Something struck me, though: these people, because they're aware of what they missed out on, will make sure their own children stay in school. At least for that, we owe it to them to give their kids a good education.

What, though, is a good education?

A few weeks ago, I was at a college interview where my interviewer talked about the importance of "transferable skills". She spoke of a survey of the jobs Harvard alumni have been taking over the past two decades ago. Twenty years ago, the most exciting job Harvard graduates took was "assembly line manager", a job that no longer even exists. Twenty years from today, when we're looking for jobs, who knows how many of the "safe" career paths of today will even exist? The way I see it, we need skills that we can transfer from one job to another more than we need to know how to do one specific job - skills like how to actually go about learning something new, or how to go about problem-solving. Twenty years from now, my meta-learning abilities will probably be more valuable to me than the names of 20 different compounds.

Now, is that an excuse I can give my chemistry teacher, maybe?

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