Students need to learn to value of education

Aug. 11, 2013 at 3:11 a.m.

School begins soon. This seems like a good time to reflect on some blessings that escape the notice of most students in our country.

The fact is that a lot of students don't appreciate what an opportunity it is to attend school. At least, that's been my observation, and I'm quite sure teachers all across our fruity plain will back me up. That's too bad. You don't know what you've got until someone takes it away, or you have to fight for it.

Malala Yousafzai, a girl of 15 from Pakistan, wanted to go to school to learn. Members of the Taliban attempted to kill her because they believe girls belong at home, barefoot and set on fire if they bring dishonor upon the family. Malala was a vocal proponent of education and had a blog openly criticizing the Taliban for its extremist views. She survived a bullet wound to her head while riding a bus to school. A fellow schoolmate, Shazia Ramzan, was also wounded in the attack. Today, Malala is hailed all over the world as a spokeswoman for everyone who wants nothing more than a right to escape ignorance. Oh, and she wants to become a doctor.

Recent events in the Islamic countries suggest future Malalas put off buying a cap and gown. On July 6, militants in Nigeria doused a boarding school dormitory with fuel and set it on fire as students slept, killing at least 30 people. Authorities blamed the violence on Boko Haram, which apparently translated into "Western education is sacrilege." The same group also opened fire on children taking exams in a classroom. No, they weren't taking the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test, and the Texas Education Agency.

They were just trying to get ahead in a country where a dinner plate is tantamount to a gold brick.

Meanwhile, in my neck of the woods, many students can't be bothered to bring so much as a pencil, let alone keep up with notes. They are the ones who may finally push many other teachers out the door with the district under TEA scrutiny. A few bubbles filled in one way or another on statewide tests may very well determine whether or not many teachers will return. We might just as well start boxing up our belongings.

Someone from Austin would be too happy to help us load our stuff in the car trunk.

Our intrepid heroine's birthday was July 12. She turned 16. Sixteen!

Hey, kids. Put down the cellphone, unplug the iPod and ponder for a moment. How many of you have to worry about taking a bullet for wanting to become smarter? If you had to choose between death and escaping provincial prejudices to pursue higher education, what would you do? Can you look up the definition of any of the words I just used in that last sentence? Is there an app for that?

Mark Twain and Shakespeare would appreciate Malala's dedication.

The Bard of England put it thus in "The Tempest":

"But this swift business I must uneasy make, lest too light winning Make the prize light."

The Mississippi riverboat pilot stated the same thing in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer":

"He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it - namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain."

If Western education is as dangerous as the Taliban and Boko Haram and the rest of their counterparts believe, let's make the best of it. Let's make our willing students as dangerous to their antiquated world view as they perceive.

Patrick Hubbell lives in Victoria and is a Spanish teacher in the Victoria school district.



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