Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Simple ABC

When you set about to make a quilt, you usually have some goal in mind – to recycle those old sewing scraps, decorate the house, welcome a newborn baby, celebrate a wedding, an anniversary, or a life-long friendship.  The end is informed by your intention at the start. 

The same can be said of an education.  What you end up with depends on why you started: to make more money, to improve your mind, to master a skill, or more generally, to succeed in life.
Studies show that a college education increases self-confidence and leads to better pay and more prestigious employment, greater job satisfaction, greater social mobility, a longer life span, improved health care, less chance of incarceration or dependence on government assistance, greater appreciation of the arts and sciences, more volunteer service and higher positions of leadership. 
According to the U.S Department of Education, college graduates typically earn 66 percent more than those with only a high school diploma, earning about $1 million more over the course of their lifetime.  However, higher education is no longer a luxury for the privileged few.  At a time when jobs are going overseas, higher education is now necessary for individual economic opportunity and America’s competitiveness in the global economy.  Education is the best investment a young person can make in his or her future. 
People who have knowledge and skills, who are able to think clearly and to express their thoughts in speech and in writing, make better citizens too.  They are better able to understand themselves and the world around them and thus make more informed decisions.  Educated people also have higher voting rates. In fact, the single most important socio-economic factor affecting voter turnout is education.  The more educated a person is the more likely he or she is to vote. 
Education is good for democracy.
The Founding Fathers understood this.  After the American Revolution (1776), Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and other American patriots saw public education as the most effective means of protecting against tyranny and preserving the democratic ideals the original 13 colonies had fought so hard for and won.
Not long after United States was founded, there was a call for public financing of education.  The aim was to instill civic virtues as much as learning and the advancement of ideas, and it was important that education be universal, non-sectarian – and free.
The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.   - John Adams, U.S. President, 1785
Indeed, the Founding Fathers saw education as a prerequisite for good citizenship.
Among those who have been denied an education, none have written more powerfully as to the power of the simple ABCs as Frederick Douglass, an American slave. 
In his book, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Douglass describes the new life he came to at age seven when he was sold from the plantation where he was born and came to live in Baltimore in 1825: 
Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the A,B,C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three or four letters.  Just at this point of my progress, Mr. Auld found out what was going on and at once forbade Mrs. Auld to instruct me further, telling her, among other things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read.  To use his own words, further, he said "If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master – to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now," said he, "if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him.  It would forever unfit him to be a slave.  He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy." These words sank deep into my heart, stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of thought. It was a new and special revelation, explaining dark and mysterious things, with which my youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled in vain.  I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty – to wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black man.  It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom... Though conscious of the difficulty of learning without a teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read.
It is to the memory of Mr. Douglass and my deep respect for him and his fixed purpose that I have made this ABC quilt.
What purpose is behind your education?
poster available here


Cynthia Wylie said...

My mom is extremely intelligent, but she never received a higher education. She got married when she was eighteen and had her first child ten months later. My father was the breadwinner and very domineering. I hated how he treated my mom and me. He treated us like second class citizens. My three brothers fared better. I was highly motivated to get an education to prove him wrong. Also, I wanted to be able to support myself - always - so that I didn't have to depend on a guy to do so. Inherently I knew that to depend on a man meant to be subservient to him. I became the first and only one in my family to get a college degree. I then went on to earn a graduate degree. I have never had to be dependent on anyone.

The Red Coat Writer said...
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