I just finished one of the saddest books I’ve read in a while. The title is Educated, a memoir by a woman now in her early thirties named Tara Westover detailing her life growing up in eastern Idaho with little to no attention given to her (and her six siblings’) education.
Math, science, history, English grammar? She was taught nothing beyond basic money-counting and how to read. She had never heard of the Holocaust nor the Civil Rights movement. She was not aware of modern philosophers like Kant, Descartes, or Hume (let alone the ancients like Plato or Aristotle) and their influence on the world.
Saddest of all, her parents’ survivalist Mormon faith painted a portrait of God more consistent with her father’s temper than the loving-kindness (or “hesed” in Hebrew) that is the defining characteristic of the Christian God.
While there is some redemption to her story (got into Brigham Young University, earned a PhD from Cambridge, speaking at MSU’s convocation later this month), it is a lot to stomach, particularly as a father and as an educator. Tara’s story is not the way it’s supposed to be.
As we are just weeks away from another school year at Petra Academy, Educated reminds me of the importance of taking nothing for granted with our students. While I do not know any parents as against formal education as Tara’s were, let me encourage all of us to check ourselves and any subtle attitudes we might bring into a new school year. Some examples:
– I’ll be the first to confess I wish tuition was not something families had to deal with, but I’m glad for the teachers it enables to be in our classrooms.
– I wish we didn’t have to ask for Campus Work Day helpers or volunteers to drive for field trips and activities, but I’m glad for the facility and events we have that require them.
– Sure, it’d be nice to not worry about security every day, but I’m glad for the trust and confidence parents place in us that we won’t compromise safety for convenience.
Those are just a few “hassles” I find myself thinking of for which I’m also somehow thankful. Every parent has his or her own list, and you’re always welcome to send me your own versions as you come upon them across the year, but maybe offer a positive with a negative?
This school year, let’s work hard together to take nothing for granted at Petra. May our students see in and learn from us a genuine appreciation for each other and for the One making their education possible. All is gift (including even Cottonwood Road, the closure of which is a royal mess, but at least it’s keeping the big trailer trucks from making the west lane potholes worse)!