Friday, February 3, 2017

Celtic Season: Candlemas & Education

Kizette in Pink by Tamara de Lempicka,
1923. Oil.  See it at
Mussee deBeaux-Arts de Nantes, France.

“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” –Confucius

"One of the best ways of enslaving a people is to keep them from education… The second way of enslaving a people is to suppress the sources of information, not only by burning books but by controlling all the other ways in which ideas are transmitted.”
—Eleanor Roosevelt 

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela 

2017 I plan on celebrating the Celtic Season by reflecting on humanitarian issues I am passionate about. Based on my title and quotes, you should figure out I’m focusing on education.

One of my favorite books I used to read to my child was Beatrice’s Goat written by Page McBrier and illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter. It is a true story about Beatrice Biira, a nine year old Ugandan girl, whose family is given a dairy goat. This family’s life is changed by this gift. The goat brings nourishing milk to the family, and the extra milk they are able to sell. With the extra funds Beatrice’s family is able to purchase medicine, and raise enough money for tuition to send her and her siblings to school.

Beatrice’s story doesn’t end with her attending elementary school. She is able to complete high school, and attend college and graduate school in the U.S. Today she is working to help end world poverty at Heifer International.

The book always struck me, Beatrice's family had to pay for her to go to school.  If it wasn't for the gift of the goat, according to UNICEF, Beatrice would join the 
61 million children of primary school age (about 6 to 11 years), 60 million young adolescents of lower secondary school age (about 12 to 14 years), and 142 million youth of upper secondary school age (about 15 to 17 years) who were out of school. She would be one of the estimated 250 million children in the world cannot read, write or do basic math.

UNICEF data indicates that girls are the most marginalized groups, with more than fifty percent being excluded from education. UNICEF also found that most children not attending school were from the poorest of families, from rural areas, and/or from ethnic or linguistic minorities. Other reasons children didn’t attend were the children had disabilities, the children were refugees, or the children needed to help their families provide for the basic survival needs (i.e., food, shelter, clothing...).

The lack of access to education has a rippling effect on an individual and communities. Education has been shown to stop cycles of poverty and improve health outcomes. The World Bank study, 2012, showed that women with six or more years of education were more likely to seek prenatal care, assistance in childbirth, and postnatal care thus reducing the risk of maternal and child mortality. Studies have also shown that that if at least forty percent of the population is literate that there is a rapid economic growth. Additionally, A person’s earning increases by ten percent for each school year they receive. 


1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.


These past couple of weeks, I've heard a lot of people talking about the benefits of paying it forward. I see public education as a way of paying it forward.  It was Thomas Jefferson who argued, after the Revolutionary War, that tax dollars should be used to fund an educational system. However, some ideas take longer to implement.   

It is amazing to learn that Colonial America did have schools often associated with a religious body.  Some states began establishing public schools in the early 1600s (Boston Latin School, 1635) to provide for a separation of church and state.  Mostly boys attended these schools and were taught reading, writing and mathematics. If girls did receive education, they were taught at home the basics.    
Georgia was one of the first states to partially fund public education before the Revolutionary War.  But it was Massachusetts that passed the first compulsory school laws in 1852. New York followed the next year, and by 1918, all American children were required to attend at least elementary school.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, Americans saw public education was more than the basic 3R.  They saw it as a way to establish our countries values (Declaration of Independence and Constitution) and understand the stories and the people that make up this country.  It is through these stories, we understand the struggles our ancestors faced: slavery, broken treaties, prejudice...

Despite this great history of endorsing public education, the US ranks 17th place out of 40 countries in a Pearson Report.  Finland and South Korea are at the top of the list. In an interview with the BBC, Sir Michael Barber, Pearson’s chief education advisor, stated one reason that these countries scored higher for education was the culture at large thought highly of teachers. If this were to be implemented in the U.S., teachers would have the same rock star status as a CEO of a tech company or sports figure.

Another difference found is the U.S. doesn’t have a constitutional, or statutory, guarantee of the right to education. It is up to each state to determine how they educate their children.  

I see the gift of education as an act of kindness shared with the child across the street, a teenager bagging your groceries each week, or a stranger across town, on the other side of the state or maybe in another state. If you get down to the nitty gritty, this act of kindness benefits that child, myself, my community and the future citizens of my
community by increasing our economic and health advantages that come with education.

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Hi all - I really like your comments, but have had a change of heart regarding anonymous comments. My CCWWW beliefs are that you need to stand behind what you say and what you do. Peace out.