Dignity of (School) Work

Well, it is just about time to go back to school. I am sure there is a mixture of emotions as the warm summer evenings wane toward fall. I have always loved school. I looked forward to getting my supplies ready and anticipating what my new teachers and classes could be like. Even still, I would get nostalgic about the summer past and the memories I created in my time away from class bells and cafeteria food. As soon as I got back in the classroom, however, I was reminded of the dignity that comes with hard work.

What were the biggest blessings of summer for you?

What are you looking forward to this fall?

There is great dignity in the leisure of summer, but there is also great dignity in the work of school. In fact, the dignity of work is one of the major tenants of Catholic Social Teaching. The Dignity of Work in Catholic Social Teaching declares that all humans have a right to work, safe working conditions and living wages. Workers have a right to organize and form unions. In turn, workers are responsible for contributing a day of fair labor that works toward the common good of the society.

When in history has this principal not been upheld in our country?

What job industries do not pay a fair, living wage?

Are there job industries that you see not working toward the common good of society?

While I was in high school, my friend’s parents ran a food stand at our Minnesota State Fair. In addition to my job coaching six hours a day, I would do eight hour shift everyday at their food stand for the two weeks of the Fair. For those two weeks, I was reminded what the working poor go through in our country. All I did for those two weeks was work, eat and sleep. I was perpetually exhausted, and noticed my daydreaming of the future and philosophizing about the world halted, replaced by thoughts about survival. It helped me be compassionate toward people working two minimum wage jobs to make ends meet for their families.

Many students work to help earn wages for their families during high school, and that makes studying and socializing very difficult. Yet it is exciting to know that we live in a society that values our education enough to make that the main work of young people. There is dignity in schoolwork, in expanding the mind. That is what young people can do, in part, to contribute to the common good of society. As I stated in my last few posts, I spent the summer in Kenya, a country that does not require young people to go to high school. Many countries in the world do not have free options for school available to youth. As we claim our own education this fall, let us also keep in mind the young people, in our country and beyond, who are not getting access to an excellent education.

Do you feel that your school work has dignity?

Do you think that claiming your education is contributing to the common good?

What would it look like to claim your education this school year?


Photo courtesy of DrJohnBullas via Creative Commons License

One thought on “Dignity of (School) Work

  1. […] social teaching also recognizes the dignity of work. As Ellie Roscher described it in her post on “Dignity of (School) Work,” the social teaching on the dignity of work “declares that all humans have a right to work, […]

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