Education: Worth Fighting For?

YES!

Perhaps my resolve is too strong, but there it is….

In 2008, I attended a weekend course dedicated to teaching how participants can live the life filled with love, and live a life powerfully. One of the questions our instructor first asked was, “What is it in your life that you love the most? Something you really can’t live without? Something that you would fight until your dying day for?” I identified several areas: my family and my religious pursuits being at the forefront. When asked about something besides my family that I was so passionate about, that I would give my lifelong pursuit to, it was not hard for the light bulb to turn on: education. I remember feeling invigorated by this realization. From that time forward, I would be a part of something that helped all students everywhere – I would be part of giving equal education to all students of all abilities. While my journey has been side-lined by the reality of providing for my family, it is still my dream and my hope.

I am not the only one with this endeavor. Nor have I been exposed to life-threatening situations to test my theory. But there are some that have, and I honor them in this post.

Malala: need I say more.

Recap: shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking about a woman’s right to education. The BBC reports her story in the article: Malala: The Girl Who Was Shot For Going to School.

I remember reading Three Cups of Tea about Greg Mortenson’s journey to build schools in Pakistan in order to give the children of these villages an opportunity to learn in the classroom in order to promote peace. While there have been reports and allegations of the false nature of the book (timelines, what is happening with the funding, etc), the writing and the story is still inspiring – regardless of the fiction or non-fiction of Greg Mortenson’s organization. I was enamored with the idea of working tirelessly for the cause of educating children everywhere.

In fact, journalist Nicolas Kristof of the NYTimes said it perfectly in the article Three Cups of Tea, Spilled, that despite the allegations,

“He [Greg Mortenson] was right about the need for American outreach in the Muslim world. He was right that building schools tends to promote stability more than dropping bombs. He was right about the transformative power of education, especially girls’ education. He was right about the need to listen to local people — yes, over cup after cup after cup of tea — rather than just issue instructions.

I worry that scandals like this — or like the disputes about microfinance in India and Bangladesh — will leave Americans disillusioned and cynical. And it’s true that in their struggle to raise money, aid groups sometimes oversell how easy it is to get results. Helping people is more difficult than it seems, and no group of people bicker among themselves more viciously than humanitarians.”

I agree – education is just too important to leave to a country’s own devices without the help and support of families and communities, and something we as parents and citizens of our countries need to start fighting for. I am always amazed that education is the first things that is cut from any governing body budget (including federal and state). While some researchers and activists argue that money is not the answer to giving or receiving a good education, others see the feat of those like Malala and Greg Mortensen types and recognize that monetary resources are important. Some may use it for new technologies, while others may use it to purchase desks or school buildings. We are all at different levels of advancing education, and that is ok.

I had the opportunity to participate in a humanitarian excursion to Kenya to build a schoolhouse. When we arrived at the village, the townspeople welcomed us with singing and dancing that went on for 2-3 hours. Their chief and head school master headed up a welcome presentation for us and was more than honored to receive us as we were helping them do something their community hadn’t been able to do. Their children had been exposed to education by another humanitarian group and they had two school buildings that were falling apart, and needed a new school building that was sturdy and substantially larger since their population had grown significantly. They sacrificed all they had to build the first two schools. Their children proudly wore their school uniforms as their everyday dress. They had tears in their eyes when we came.

I don’t remember our schools shouting for joy when they received their last shipment of books. I don’t remember our students proud that they could go to school everyday in the clothing of their choice. Education is something we take for granted. I am not saying everyone is guilty of this, but most are. What are we willing to do to restore confidence in education? What can we do to continue to provide knowledge to the future leaders of our nation?

Consider the following quote from the BBC article about Malala: “It gave me a lot of courage and strength [a sense] that enough is enough, now is the time to speak against the enemies of education,” he says.

Perhaps we don’t need to pay the price Malala did, but we can do something.

Why is Education So Important

The fact that we can’t clearly define ‘quality education’ is evidence enough that  solutions for the best educational design is hard to find. One thing Americans and folks from other countries agree on is the importance of education. I did a quick search online, and found the following articles on the subject:

For those who are scared that educating women on foreign countries will corrupt their traditions, education does not mean fallen morality! For those who are scared that educating their citizens will impair their citizenship and loyalty to current politicians and leaders, shame on you, perhaps you need to educate yourself on how to become an effective leader. For those of you wondering if education is worth fighting for, I encourage you to read up on it and decide for yourself.

People around the nation are put in situations where they almost die for their education – what are we willing to do?