Growing up poor, in a large urban city to teenage parents, whose primary language was Spanish, presented many challenges in my education. As my parents continued to master their English, they struggled with American culture, such as understanding what should have been their active role in my education and the importance of stability for their children. They likely did not realize the damaging effects it had to my learning as they moved from apartment to apartment, year after year.
I had to endure a highly transient lifestyle and attended seven different schools from Kindergarten through 8th grade. With a fragmented education, I entered high school lacking many critical schools in literacy and math. But, it was not until I attended a major public state university that I really understood the academic gaps that I possessed in comparison to my peers. I had to work particularly hard to not only comprehend the textbooks and lecture, but to catch myself up in basic skills of writing and comprehension. The culture shock I experienced was another layer of university life that I did not anticipate.
Though I attended seven different elementary schools, the racial demographics in each of those schools and my high school were mostly Latino. A sense of family and unspoken connection exists when one is surrounded by people that look like them. I did not awkwardly stand out like I did at my undergraduate university where I clearly represented the minority. This was difficult. Very difficult. I was secure in my abilities and my potential in life, and at a young age, I knew the importance of education, but it was still very challenging to go day-by-day in a world that I felt I did not belong with the additional dynamic of opportunity and academia gaps.
I constantly questioned whether I was working hard enough. I had a full course load, worked three jobs, maintained a 3.5 GPA throughout my undergraduate studies, and still felt nervous about what laid ahead -- a feeling, I would imagine all college kids go through regardless of racial or ethnic background, but one that I am confident is heightened when constantly disenfranchised.
Today, I have multiple degrees, three of them Masters and I am currently in my second year of study for my doctorate in Educational Leadership. I share my story for various reasons, but mainly due to the hope that another young child out there, possibly growing up poor, recognizing the substandard view from others due to their culture, but still having an unbeatable and deep sense of understanding that an education is the ticket to a quality of life is real. It can happen for that child. One can be successful! One can overcome all obstacles.
Some days will be extremely tougher than others and some days those accomplishments will glow, but giving up is not an option. It certainly won't lead to the light at the end of the tunnel. It should make one stronger. It should make one want to reflect on how to beat all the odds. It should foster one's thinking that current challenges have been designed to build upon one's strength, not tear one down. That one's long-term goal can be fulfilled.
Education is my Life.
Many scholars have come up with different definitions for the concept of education. Some motivational speakers call it “the key to success”. Others refer to it as the backbone of our society. Many leaders, especially during the wake of the postcolonial Africa, urged their citizens to pursue education via all means possible. The list of prominent personalities’ opinions regarding education is endless. This factor alone goes to greater lengths to show how education is an important aspect in the life of the modern human being.
To me, education has been a driving force towards the achievement of my life long dreams. During my childhood days, I dreamt of becoming a doctor. I know many people dismiss such dreams as being “invalid” but I think childhood dreams go a long way in motivating a child to attain their goals. All I did during in the lower levels of primary school were all aimed at achieving my dream- to be a doctor. Whenever I excelled in academics, I felt like I was a step closer to achieving my dreams. My dream was to become a doctor and save lives, education drove me to pursue it.
I always had a feeling that education could solve the many problems of this world. I now know that the problems of the world need more than one person to solve them but I still think education is a contributing factor to finding solutions to these shortcomings. Emerging problems such as global warming, human trafficking and drug abuse can be solved using education. Once people get the knowledge regarding the negative impacts of the aforementioned factors, the problems facing us will have been halfway solved. I always think that through education, we can avert most of the problems facing us in this world. Fighting and civil wars in the world are partly to blame for lack of education. If the masses had education on the invaluable significance of peace, most of them would not be up in arms against each other. Although some people may argue that people who know the law are the ones likely to break it (in this context education on importance of peace), I still think that if these people were educated they would not be capable of doing half of the horrible things they are doing right now.
Education was also a place for me to forge life long alliances. I still chat with some of my friends from back in primary school. Some of the friends I have made in the pursuit for education have helped me out when I was in a tight spot. Education thought me the importance of creating a connection with a fellow human being. I got to know what it really meant “to have your friend’s back”. In her article, the unschooled life, Astra Taylor says she preferred home schooling because the kind of education offered in schools did not suit her needs. She sites bullying and insensitivity to her disabled sister in school. I will not refute the incidences of occasional bullying- especially by the big boys- but the contribution of education to my social life outweighs these shortcomings by far.
I had (and still do) a positive attitude towards education. Let’s face it, education is no easy task and neither is it fun as some people pretend it to be. However, we all know that the better things in life are not easy to come by. Apart from working hard, the least a person could do about acquiring an education is developing a positive attitude. As the saying goes, a wrong attitude is like a flat tire- you have to change it first before you can proceed with your journey. I learnt about the importance of a positive attitude towards an objective from my dad. He always told me that nothing good ever came easy, and so did education. His policy was “keep trying always no matter how many times you fail.” I remember this one time he promised to let me own a computer connected with internet if I became position one in my class. Of course I worked extra hard to become the top in my class. When the end of year results came out, it was not a surprise that I was leading in my class because I had worked hard for it. However, when I told my dad about the achievement, I made a mistake by saying, “I hate how hard I had to work for this internet.” He perceived that to be a bad attitude towards education and denied me the computer connected to the internet. I was angry for losing my chance to access adult movies but I learned the valuable lesson of having a positive attitude.
My desire to gain knowledge has also affected my attitude towards education. Unlike before when I thought that education in schools was a tool meant to help us pass in our end-of-term exams, I now know the importance of knowledge. It’s through knowledge (acquired from education) that one gets the eye to observe the world. Without education/knowledge, I used to wonder why the government could not mint enough money to spend it on the beggars and homeless people on the streets. I always thought the president was sitting on his job for not thinking about such a “brilliant” idea. It’s only in secondary school that I realized how dumb the idea. Through education, I learnt that if the government did such a thing, the economy would collapse. Education gave me the eye to observe it from the government’s point of view.
Now that I am in college, I feel like education is not about grades, but how good a person can obtain knowledge and apply it in the appropriate situation. As Astra Taylor says in her article ‘the unschooled life’, she enrolled in school at ninth grade and she felt the change of environment immediately. There were a lot authoritarian practices and most importantly, there was a “ridiculous” system used to determine the success of each student- grading. I am not advocating for laziness in school, but the grading system does not offer a good system for determining the success of an individual. The exams are like a commemoration competition-whoever remembers the most, is the ultimate winner. The education system should come up with a curriculum that tests how an individual can apply the education they acquired. Whoever applies it appropriately and follows the procedure precisely should be declared the winner. This kind of grading system is not appropriate for many subjects. Disciplines like accounting and engineering cannot be graded on one’s ability to remember only. Exams should extend to the workplace. Teachers need to see how well (or poorly) their students are applying the knowledge they bestowed upon them.
In conclusion, my view is that education is the most valuable asset a human could possess. Unlike others, it does not depreciate or go out of style.
Astra Taylor. “The unschooled life; Astra Taylor’s Story”. Popular resistance. January 16th 2014.
Anonymous Student. "Education is my life" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 01 Sep. 2015. Web. 13 Mar. 2018. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/ucla/education-is-my-life/>.