“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
Bumper sticker wisdom
For 50 years or more my father and now I have been on the board of a private foundation in my hometown. The foundation was formed from profits from a public textile company and was the vision of the founder, Mr. Myers. Over the years we’ve watched over the ebb and flow of the investments, fat, happy and generous when markets have been good; cautious, serious and tight when they’ve been as they have for the past 4+ years.
The main purpose of this foundation has been to foster education for the people of Gaston County. The founders knew that the workers in the mills wanted to better the lives of their children and the way out was education.
For 5 years I served on a public board that studied the systemic causes of poverty in North Carolina. The outcome of all our study and discussion? Educating and nurturing children through the first 5 years of life is the way out of poverty. If we don’t feel stimulated and supported during that time, life is going to be an epic struggle rather than Katherine Hepburn’s vision of life as “a grand adventure.”
Scholarship money from the foundation goes to 12 college students each year. The money goes not only for smarts, but also for school and community involvement, and emphasis is placed on need. It’s not a huge amount, but it eases the pain for most of those who receive it. I’ve observed that these students who’ve had some very difficult circumstances and yet who have excelled at school appreciate education more than those for whom education is a paid-for given.
One of the grave injustices we’re doing in this country today is to make quality education less available to highly qualified and motivated student. These are the very people we need to be developing so they are able to give to society the great things they’re capable of. Many of these scholarship students have great passions about something. Certainly our society and the world need the best contributions we can make. Full life is about living passionately and doing things that make us feel alive. One of my favorite quotes says: “Where my great passion and the world’s great need intersect, there lies my right livelihood.”
It is unfortunate and frustrating to see our culture (and I use that term loosely) splitting apart so dramatically. It’s not so much the short term disruption, it’s the long term impact of having to go back and undo much of what has been done. Only then can we move forward again.