Education is power

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This week, the Nobel Peace Prize was given out to two people: Pakistani child education activist, Malala Yousafzai and Indian child rights campaigner, Kailash Satyarthi “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

While I admittedly have not heard a lot about Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, I have heard about Ms. Malala Yousafzai’s struggle and courage in speaking up for the right to education for children in Pakistan and ultimately the world. She has made her stand against the Taliban and was attacked because of her convictions.

It all started because she wanted to learn. She wanted what was a given for free in America, and she was willing to put her life on the line to get the chance at an education. Due to her very vocal advocacy for the right to education, the Taliban put out an assassination hit against her. A hit man boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, then proceeded to open fire. Malala was hit with a single bullet that went through her head, neck, and shoulder. Two of her friends were also injured.

It was a miracle that she lived.

But, her conviction was so strong, that she refused to be cowed by the Taliban. She continued to speak out regarding the need for all children to have equal access to education. She also continued to attend school.

It got me thinking about how Americans regards our education. We have the ability and the means for every single person in the United States to have a well rounded education. We even offer Running Start where high school students have the option of attending community college for free and so many students don’t use it. They could graduate with their high school diploma and an Associates of Arts degree which would jump start graduate school degrees.

We live in a world where children are being doused with acid on the way to learn their alphabet. We also live in a world where those who have the privilege to get homework, find excuses to never complete it, and accuse the teachers of wanting to sabotage them.

We live in a world where:
66 million girls are out of school worldwide.
Every 3 seconds a girl becomes a child bride.
4 out of 5 Human Trafficking victims are girls (malala.org)

And why is that? Because those women do not have a chance at education. Education is power. That is why Malala was attacked. She had gained power because she was learning the world and her place in it.

I remember going through school and how I struggled for my education. I was surrounded with children who school came rather easy to, but because of my various ‘disabilities’ and ‘IEP’s’ I had to work hard for every good grade I got. I appreciated my schooling. No A needs to be given easily, neither does a B or a C. Grades need to be given out for the work given. The last two years of my high school, I was in a private school, I will admit it freely, I did NOT do the work needed.

At the end of the semester, my parents and I sat in front of the principal and I was asked to give myself a grade. I gave myself a C. The principal said that that was too harsh and that I needed at least a B+. What does that teach a student? How does that prepare them for life? It doesn’t. My parents, but more importantly, I, stood firm that I deserved a C because I didn’t do the work that I was capable of.

Do you know what I regret most in my education? Those wasted months where I didn’t work hard. I had all of this power at my fingertips and I didn’t take advantage of it.

I love school. I love learning. I love education. I wish that love could be instilled in every student who has the privilege of school.

Where we live in a world where students are taught for free under a bridge in India because they can’t afford school fees, American children can’t keep their eyes open through an hour class. What are we missing?

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We have allowed the government to put their fingers in our schools so that history, math, science, literature–all have been affected by their dabbling.  What can happen when a governing body uses their politics to control the populace? Education is always one of the first things suffer. What do we hear during tax hikes? “We can’t afford for this class to continue.” “Music classes need to stop.”

We allow sports to have more money and power in a school than something that can actually further the ability to learn. Music has been scientifically proven to help memory as well as teach retention and problem solving, but it is almost always the first ‘extracurricular’ class to go when money is tight. We always have the money though to fight for our football teams…

There is something very wrong with our priorities.

What can we learn from women like Malala? Can we learn to love our education? Can we learn to give our teachers their power back? Can we learn to protect our schools from greedy politicians? Can we fight for the right to learn as much as we fight and support our rights to throw a ball?

Malala Yousafzai says something that really is struck me, “I want to say to the world. You must try to get an education because it is very important. If the new generation is not given pens they will be given guns by the terrorists.”

How do we break deadly ideologies? How do we create a world where racism, class-ism, and sexism do not have any power? By teaching of the bigger world, by teaching history and science, and the ability to think for ourselves. By giving the power to be able to have both sides of the argument and being able to see them honestly.

Americans are compliant to their own educational downfall. There should be NO reason for such a large number of illiterate children in our nation when we have free schools. If we had to walk ten miles for the chance to learn numbers, would we love school more? If we had to sneak into school to avoid protesters and assassins, would we study harder? Would we stop spending thousands of dollars in college for the chance to party and get drunk, if we had the chance to bring in a little money to our family because we got to learn how to read?

Fight for your right to your free education. There are people out there dying for the chance to learn. Literally.

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