Chicago’s Demographic Distraction

education

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

EDUCATION SITUATION: THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO LEARNING

This is the story of a woman who had a fine education and opportunities to learn outside the formal setting of the classroom with its desks, maps, teachers and basic programming.

Her journey in the world of formal education began before “first grade”, when she attended kindergarten on a college campus in Nashville. As she recalls, a lasting memory from that era is being fascinated by a huge magnifying lens set in a wooden housing. But of course there came the time for her to leave that setting and move up in the wonderful world of making a mental map. Soon her parents moved to another part of the city and it was that momentous move that started the changes that, in retrospect, were profound.

When time came to start the graded system, there were schools in the area just fine for being in a “diverse” environment. The arts were offered, as were courses in spelling, the Language Arts, geography, Civics, history, mathematics and foreign languages. “Shop”, home economics, and drama were parts of the curriculum, as was physical education, which rounded out a complete system of learning for body and mind.

During physical education (or P.E. as it was known informally) there were team sports as well as individual instruction in strength training. Teachers would assemble the students for rounds of stretching and jumping jacks, warming them up before participation in the team sports. Every chance for learning the importance of teamwork was given to those classes, and everything was offered from track to basketball.

It was fortunate that her parents were not limiting when it came to the idea of just staying in “the neighborhood” and not branching out. Had that been the case she most likely would not be as happy and eager for learning as she is today. The people she knew were not cookie-cutter types or always the same with regards to “race”, “color”, religion, social-economic backgrounds or the careers their parents held. She was fortunate to get to know every kind of person there is to know, from rich to poor, from brilliant to mentally or developmentally challenged, and from hale and healthy to terminally sick. Some of them were students and others were teachers, and every person encountered presented the maturing citizen with opportunities to, as her grandmother’s mantra puts it, “Learn something”.

Thus she attended five fine schools, four public institutions and one private school for a year, finishing the graded system at a public high school. She moved on to attend a small college which later gained university status. The setting was historic, peaceful, in a residential area and not far from downtown Nashville. After graduating she went on to work in various career fields and is happy in her current position.

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There were fortunately opportunities to expand the gaining of knowledge outside the formal campus. The growing woman now had the chance to travel abroad and experience many of the cultures she had only read about before during hours on campus or in the home library.

Comfortable Seating, Learning Resource Centre,...

Comfortable Seating, Learning Resource Centre, Edge Hill University (Photo credit: jisc_infonet)

Yes, that’s right, an in-home library, stocked with books and a typewriter (and later a computer), with quiet places to read and write, and no noisy televisions or the presence of social media or a telephone. There was an aquarium with Angel fish; there was classical artwork on the walls, a globe to enhance the learning process, the National Geographic subscription, and the encyclopedias and the atlases and the Harvard Classics. There was Shakespeare, there was Beethoven, there was Bach, and for playing on the stereo system in there were cassette tapes detailing the lives of famous people from Isaac Newton to Mao Zedong.

It was in that room with its view of the back yard and quiet gardens that the young woman spent hours looking at books about exotic locations such as Easter Island, India, Japan and Machu Picchu. It was there where books and magazines filled her hands and presented articles about human development, about astronomy, about proper behavior and about architecture and gardening. In that room also, when the urge came to nap, she could close the door and lie back on the couch to take a few minutes for quiet contemplation, undisturbed by media noises or by other people until the time came for a meal, to go out, or to just wake up and resume reading or studying.

When there was the chance to travel, on the radar were England, Switzerland, Italy, France, China, Japan, and Hong Kong, as well as many locations in the United States. Going to these places brought learning to life and life to learning, as she sampled foods, took photos, wrote in journals, sketched the surroundings, and came to appreciate other cultures and their places in the reel of human history. There were the places from which we get some of the aspects of our legal system, our vocabulary, our foods, and our architectural styles and our furnishing styles, and many of our fashions. From these places come fabrics, flowers, antiquities and automobiles and musical instruments. During the hours of flight there was time to settle back and contemplate these places just visited. Such considerations cannot always be put into ordinary words, but as she recalls, these visits were profound, deep, inspiring, and door-opening.

Many say that the South is backwards when education is the issue, that the schools are not good and that standards are poor. That was not so in the era when this fortunate lifelong learner grew up. Thank goodness for teachers who made sure homework was done, who asked questions, who called on students and in some instances requested they stand up to give their answers. Thank goodness for professors who were reachable and fair, who listened when there were problems and offered solutions that challenged the students to expand their horizons.

And thank goodness for parents who were smart enough to realize that a good, complete education takes in every aspect of what the very term “education” means and what the very term “learn” is about. The word “education” comes from roots meaning “draw out, lead out or march out”, and “learn” comes from roots meaning bed, footpath, track, or furrow.

When you learn you make a sort of map, and when you get a real education you prepare for that day when you can march out onto that stage in the cap and gown and with your diploma walk off the stage in the presence of your relatives and peers. There will be a sense of accomplishment and achievement and the knowledge that YOU CAN do something good, something valid, something worthy and excellent.

Hopefully that woman will never stop learning; hopefully every day will bring the chance to meet someone new and experience something fresh and relevant.

Get the drift, Karen Lewis? Get the drift, Mayor Emanuel? Do you think you are acting like educated people, or like people who want others to learn and expand their horizons and think outside the neighborhood box? In the end you are not hurting anyone but the young among us. You might be limited in your thinking, but why do you want them to be?

English: Map (rough) Machu Picchu, own work co...

English: Map (rough) Machu Picchu, own work composed from various mapreferences (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2013.

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