The tension between work and school is a problematic of time and a problematic of commitment. Yet these two problems are closely related. In regards to time, the issue is one of balance. The effort to be placed into work can detract from the effort that may be placed into education. Accordingly, the latter suffers. In this case, the context of the situation is of utmost importance. That an individual works while pursuing an education is often an issue of survival. It is a question of making ends meet: the commitment here is to simply survive.
This is not an altogether uncommon phenomenon in contemporary society. According to Villaverde (2003) »in today’s schools the most prevalent cultures are training for work and survial.« (p. 88) In other words, to partake in work is not an issue of partaking in a task that one enjoys, but rather merely of making ends meet. The paradox is therefore, that if education itself and thus school is merely the training for work and survival, if one must work while going to school, the entire process is contradictory: if school only leads to work, and one already works, why commit to education in the first place? Where is the value in the commitment of time and effort?
In the social sciences, the notion of linking work and survival can be defined in terms of alienation. When a worker is not alienated from his work it means that one finds themselves in a »work situation which elicits job behavior that is perceived to be voluntary.« (Kanungo, 1982, p. 16) In other words, one finds value in their work. However, if work is merely work for survival, namely, a pointless job that is not an end in itself but merely a means to survival and putting food on the table, one becomes alienated from their work.
In this sense, the commitment to education must be a commitment to training for a line of work that breaks the bond between work and survival. One should simply pursue something that one enjoys, irrespective of the economic considerations of mere survival. In this way, life becomes enriched. The commitment to education is a commitment to a better form of life. As Thomdike writes, the meaning of education is that »man changes the world in which he is.« (1) It is not merely an issue of survival, but of radical alteration. It this commitment to education that resolves the problem of the relationship of school and work. One commits to education even though one must work so that one’s eventual work will change the world.
Kanungo, R.N. (1982). Work Alienation: An Integrative Approach. New York: Greenwood.
Thomdike, E.L. (1912). Education: A First Book. London: Macmillan.
Villaverde, L.E. (2003). Secondary Schools: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.