Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Education? Priceless!

Remember those old Visa commercials that listed several material items and their prices? Then they’d name one final non-material item that cannot be bought and deemed it priceless?   This is how I would do that commercial:  Pencils- $3.00, paper- $4.50, backpack- $15.00, education- Priceless. I’d show people of every age heading off to school.  Little kindergarteners holding their parents’ hands, teenagers goofing on each other on their way through the school doors, college students getting hugs goodbye as their parents drive away, moms dropping kids off at school then heading to college, dads at the computer after tucking their kids in bed for the night, night school people working toward their GED, and older folks who have a need to continue to learn walking through those doors of higher education.  It would be a pretty cool commercial, don’t you think?

Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States, who happens to be from the great state of Iowa, understood the importance of education.  Through his life’s work, knew that not every country had the same educational expectations and benefits of its citizenry as the USA does.

“My country owes me nothing. It gave me, as it gives every boy and girl, a chance. It gave me schooling, independence of action, opportunity for service and honor. In no other land could a boy from a county village, without inheritance or influential friends, look forward with unbounded hope.”

 – Herbert Hoover

I read the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson a few years back. Greg, a mountain climber, nearly died in his attempt to climb in the Karakoram mountains of Pakistan.  He wandered incoherently into a remote mountain village, where the residents graciously cared for him.  When he regained his health and was preparing to leave, he noticed that the village children were scratching letters into the dirt with sticks. It was because they had no school. He vowed to the elders of the village that he would come back and build them a school, and he did.  This book was an interesting read for another reason too; and that was the cultural differences between Greg, an American, and his host village. The book is called Three Cups of Tea for a reason. This leads me to my final point…

I have been given the opportunity to teach English Language Learner classes at a local community college to adults who are immigrants and refugees.  These people are from all over the world and have left their homeland for a better life in America.  My students are on average, about forty years old. Some a little older, some a little younger. None of them have had formal education in their home countries.  I teach the very first level class called Basic.  I’m teaching these people the alphabet.  I’m teaching them the sounds that letters make and how to put the sounds together into words, and the words into sentences.  It’s very humbling for me to see them work so hard for what so many of us take for granted. These people are the epitome of Hoover’s quote. They didn’t have connections; therefore they didn’t have an education.

And they’re all so happy to be here and to be learning.

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