So, this is going to be a bit of a divergence from my normal topic. Going into a bit of my personal life. I have a son. To be completely corny, he is the light of my life. (No offense honey.) There are many things that make him special to me but the one thing that really stands-out is that he is so loving and caring. He really seems to notice the wrongs in the world and it seems to really resonate with him. (I’m very possibly over-inflating my image of him. But, if you have kids, you get it.) I have seen him on the verge of tears when watching a nature show that, just briefly, covers the topic of poachers and he asks his mom and I what poachers are, why they do what they do and why people don’t stop them. Anyway, enough of my parental glowing. Onto the what I really want to discuss.
Over the past few months we have had several events happen that have been disappointing to me regarding my son at school. He had less-than-stellar reports from is teacher. He has since improved significantly because we cracked-down a bit on him. But, then I have a discussion with him and he tells me he didn’t tell me about a homework assignment because, in his words “I wanted to play instead.” Well, that set me off. And the following is my speech, slightly edited, to him…
You need to get serious about your schoolwork and how you act in school. I realize you don’t see it now, but your actions today will impact your entire future. You talk to me all the time about how sad it makes you to see things like animals being hurt for bad reasons or see someone that doesn’t have a home or food. You can change those things! Doing well at school is the how you prepare yourself to be able to make that change!
His response? A blank stare. Did I mention my son is only 5? Yeah. Chill-out right? So, I spent the next 10 minutes explaining to him what I meant and why it’s so important to me. Then I promised him a donut and all was good with the world again.
So, what did I say to him? The following is, more-or-less, a grown-up adaptation of my speech.
I truly, deeply believe getting a good education is the best solution we have to solving all the worlds problems that make you sad. You have the benefit of living in a good, safe neighborhood and go to a school that your mom and I hand-picked due to its reputation as one of the best in our area. Most children in the world do not have anywhere near this opportunity. Don’t waste what you have.
Why is it so important to me?
I realize a lot of people have this view. And a lot do not share this view. Neither is wrong. Certainly not at the moment. Nobody has been able to execute on this view well-enough, or at a large enough scale to make a huge difference. But, even the smallest impact, ultimately makes a difference. And I, at least, believe that when we get to the point where every single person in this world, old or young, rich or poor, has access to a top-notch education, the world will unleash such a tremendous untapped resource, it will be like the unleashing of the energy contained in an atom. and from that will begin to flow ideas never before conceived of. Ideas that can truly change the world. End world hunger. End war. End the bigotry and narrow-mindedness that plagues our world.
How do we get there?
I don’t have the answer to this question. Nobody does. Yet. But, many people have dedicated their lives to figuring out the answer to this question. I’m one of those people. I am in technology so that is the angle of attack I take. But everyone has their own approach and the ultimate answer will likely involve a mix of many or all of them.
But, it all starts by getting people to care. And, if I have one goal in my life above all else, it is to get every person I meet, to at least understand why I care. If they choose to care and believe what I do is completely their choice. If I can in my lifetime, even get one person to believe and start down the path of contributing, I will be happy.
A couple disclaimers
There are many questions, comments, complaints I hear whenever I start talking about this. I understand them all and, honestly, do not have answers for them all. But, I do to a few.
- No, I do not believe that everyone should work to improve education. My point is that I believe that educating those that do not currently have access to a quality education, is something that can make a difference in all areas. So, to that point, I believe there are many areas that need improvement and need people to care about them. Find something that resonates with you. In fact, I have many causes that I care about and contribute to when I can. If we all just care and make an effort to improve the world, it will make a difference.
- Do I really believe education can solve all of the worlds problems? I’m an optimist. So yes, I do. But to qualify, solving the worlds problems in my view may not be the same as yours. For instance, I do not believe, unfortunately, that an education can stop people from seeing the color of someone’s skin or the accent in their voice. However, I do believe that it can be an equalizer. So, as a result, we will ultimately begin seeing our classrooms and our boardrooms begin to reflect the true make-up of our country and out world. And, I believe, the more this happens, the more everyone is exposed to other races and cultures on a day-to-day basis, the more people will learn that, while we have differences, those differences are what make us strong. And, ultimately, no matter your race, religion or culture, we all want the same thing. The basest of all human needs is safety. So, if we all realize that, why wouldn’t we attempt to solve our differences peacefully?
I realize I may come-off as some kook idealist. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not crazy. Not really. Just crazily optimistic.
Ok, now I need to go get a donut with my son…