• Smarten Up

    For as long as I can remember, my parents had drilled into me the importance of education, whether self-taught or through institutionalized learning. They were always encouraging me to learn in one form or another.

    And like any child with a deep-seated thirst for knowledge I subjected every adult within range to a never-ending barrage of questions (still guilty of this today, I'm afraid). I was like a speeding freight train on the tracks to Knowledgeville.

    It's hard (but not impossible) to teach a child who doesn't want to learn, but what do you do when you have a child with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and the ability to absorb it, but not the funds to support it? You watch that train hit a brick wall, is what.

    My parents were far from well off, and even though they both worked exhaustively, we were always struggling to make ends meet. What they lacked in financial resources, however, they made up for in their commitment to providing a solid foundation for expanding their children's minds.

    My personal edification included a vast array of resources that I didn't fully appreciate as much as I do today:

    • Flash cards (for spelling), puzzles in various forms, musical instruments, etc.
    • Personal accounts of important life lessons learned, providing a one-on-one opportunity for discussion on important topics
    • Various resource books (i.e. dictionary, encyclopedias, atlas) were kept in and around our abode and were supplemented with regular trips to the library
    • I was often encouraged to sit and talk with people from other walks of life to hear and learn from their life stories. On one occasion, it was a homeless man on the bus who wanted to impart some of his knowledge to me. I was about 5 at the time. It had a profound impact on who I am today.
    • As a family unit we were always participating in physical activities, i.e. walking, hiking in the woods, camping, fishing, etc. The exercise was not only beneficial to our bodies, but also our minds, on more than one level.
    • I never ran out of leisure reading material. Ever.

    I could go on, but suffice it to say, where there is a will, there is usually a way. Or at least I'd like to think so.

    Growing up in the 60's and 70's in a diverse multicultural community gave me a unique perspective on the difference education has made in the lives of people who would otherwise be denied it. It seems that no matter where we came from, we were united by common goals and values, and in particular, a desire for a better future for our children. Race, colour, religion didn't matter.

    But like many struggling families, my parents were unable to accommodate the expense of post-secondary education. To make matters worse, our family broke up just as I was entering high school. After high school, I hit the aforementioned brick wall.

    Nearly 2 years later, as a young woman in the early 80's living on my own, I did my best to bear the brunt of financial responsibility for my college education. But I couldn't reconcile the tuition, while attending school on a full-time basis and working near full-time hours. I had to drop out shortly before achieving my diploma. I'm not complaining. Things are as they are, and I was blessed with a strong foundation of knowledge and the ability to learn from every life situation. I did the best I could.

    But I've always had this fire in my belly about education and the positive impact it could have on society in general. After all, it's hard to imagine a world where we wouldn't benefit as a nation of people taught to think for ourselves.

    I can only imagine how much better things would be if we weren't judged based on how much money we made or the job we did, but rather by our core values and common goals. If every one of us strove to lift one another up and didn't worry about suppressing others for financial gain or some false illusion of superiority based on race, religion, or whatever other reason we find to hate one other, we could then focus on exploration and achieving the next step of our evolution.

    As an example of what the world would be like today if certain people were denied education, consider, for a moment, Ralph J. Bunche. This extraordinary individual has participated in and/or influenced such major world-changing events and organizations in his capacity as mediator for peace in Palestine, contributing to the formation and administration of the United Nations, was considered instrumental in the creation and adoption of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. In addition to the many Honors bestowed upon him throughout his lifetime, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 for his mediation in Palestine and was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1963 by John F. Kennedy.

    "And so class will some day supplant race in world affairs. Race war will then be merely a side-show to the gigantic class war which will be waged in the big tent we call the world."
    ~ Ralph Bunche
    Excerpt from a pamphlet entitled "A World View of Race"
    written during the Great Depression (1936)

    If education continues to be a privilege afforded only to those deemed worthy by financial status, what kind of message are we sending to our potential champions of the future? That they shouldn't overshoot their means with lofty aspirations of higher education?

    Everyone should be given the opportunity to soar to new heights -- to explore their potential -- without the tether of financial restraints. This needs to start at home, eventually cascading across the globe. And it needs to start now. Other countries have recognized the merit of free education and have already implemented successful measures to ensure its success.

    What will it take for the rest of the world (including Canada) to get onboard?

    Ralph Bunche ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Bunche
    Free Education ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_education