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Learning at its Best

Taking Education for Granted

I remember the moment that I fell in love with my host father.

I had been working with the Land Reform Community for a couple of weeks at this point.  It was the project period for my globalization and development program in Thailand, and I had decided to work with a community of scavengers.  Working together, we created a two-fold project: a survey about the people living in their community and a documentary highlighting some of the individuals.

The morning of the survey, around ten of us gathered together and created a plan for the day.  We broke up, going house to house, shack to shack, asking questions about occupation, family life, and education.  And when the day was done, we came back together to discuss what the day brought.  Lead by the community organizer who worked in the community, we talked about what’d we’d learned from the survey.  There were the general reactions such as being glad to get to know those who live so close better.  Everyone was glad that they had done it, and were excited about the prospect of using it in the future.

My host father isn’t one who will speak up often in a crowd.  He is not a leader.  But, when he speaks, you know his words have meaning.  He speaks with his heart.  And his words that day were so simple, but meant so much to me.

“I didn’t know how many other people in our community didn’t get an education.  It makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one.”

I wonder if he’s ever understand how much he’s taught me.  A man who doesn’t know how to read or write, a man who’s occupation is to dig through the trash, yet he has been more influential in my life that most teachers I’ve had.

It’s so easy for those of us in more developed countries to take education for granted.  I know that I fall victim to it often.  I complain about how I wish my $160,000 university education (which I received for free) was better.  And of course, we shouldn’t stop trying to improve education here simply because there are others out there who have it worse off than we do.  But, I think perspective is important to keep in the back of our minds.

As it turned out, one of the highlights of the film was education.  The older scavengers in the community were the ones who worked eight hours a day of hard labor because of their lack of education.  They could see how much the lack of education had impacted their lives for the worse.

And once again, my host fathers’ gentle brilliance came through in the film.  “I want children from every country all over the world to receive education,” he said.

Every time I hear those words, no matter how often, it breaks my heart.  You can sense his sadness.  You can sense the years of pain and hard work.  But, most of all, you can sense his sincerity.   He is not asking for his life to be better, but for the lives of the future to have more than he did.   He so truly wants better for the children of the world.  He is a man who takes nearly nothing for granted.

What do you take for granted as an educator?  As a student?  As a person?

Here is a clip of the film discussing education

For more information and to help make this project a reality, please check out The Khon Kaen Scavenging Project on Indiegogo.

About aliciarice

I spent a year working with Khon Kaen Education Initiative, an alternative education program in Northeastern Thailand. I have a B.A. in Communication with an emphasis in video production. My main interests is documentary film making.


5 thoughts on “Taking Education for Granted

  1. There seems to be more bitterness in the urban areas than what is so eloquently written about in this commentary. But the operative word is “seems” in this case. That certainly exists; but there are also many others I’m sure so aware of the importance of education.

    That’s why, to me, what make no sense are the two most prevalent approaches to the problem: throwing money at the problem and closing the “failing” schools. Einstein’s definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results) comes to mind for the first approach. Both bring to mind the mindlessness of mandates!

    Again, as I see it, there is one clear option: there need to be LOCAL Education Communities convened involving those interested parents, teachers, organization representatives, and general citizens (and, YES, I do believe they are there) to identify, understand, and deal with the LOCAL issues. This will improve local education, improve the community economy and mindset, and increase the engaged and motivated community members – making sustainability a non-issue.

    Finally, if enough discussion occurs, the successes will assist with success in other communities and eventually reach a point where the mandates will be seen for what they really are – USELESS. It starts with those (maybe) few dedicated and motivated local citizens ( AND they do exist; we read about some of them regularly – the ones bucking the prevailing malaise, the ones like to scavenger in this commentary!

    Posted by John Bennett | June 9, 2012, 9:29 am
    • Local is definitely a good direction to go in. In some ways, I think Thailand might have an easier time doing it, as many places in the country still have educational systems that are weak, and therefore can be changed easier. At the same time, there is more resistance to change there than in the US, which is saying a lot because it’s not easy in the US to get an alternative, local program off the ground either.

      Posted by aliciarice | June 17, 2012, 2:25 am
  2. For me, this is so sad because here you see that the people that have so much knowledge about certain things name themselve “not educated”, what does this tell us about our education system: if you don´t learn what some people define as common education (as spelling, …writing, reading) you are not educated? I really know a lot of people who know that and I would name them not educated! And I also know a lot of people which don´t know riding and reading and I name them really well educated. But what does education mean? I ask myselfe: is there a posibility to be non-educated? Maybe this is imposible! But: I think we use the word “eduacten” as “love” and as many others so generaly that we most not even know what we are talking about – and this happens to us although we can read and write and have studied. For me one of a must seen is: first: Ken Robinson “changing paradigms” (TED, youtube) and right after that the movie “schooling the world” ( both brillant, together for me: eyeopeners!

    Posted by Vivian Breucker | June 17, 2012, 7:02 pm
    • I definitely agree. My boyfriend stopped going to school when he was 12. He didn’t have the time or ability to continue, though he did want to. Now, he believes that he can’t get a job, or that he can’t go back to school. However, I see so much talent and wisdom in him. He knows things that were taught out of me in school, and have taken me years of self-exploration to relearn.

      However, it seems that whether or not it’s right, it’s very hard to support yourself without a traditional education. So, it is up to all of us to show the world what real wisdom is!

      Ken Robinson is great!

      Posted by aliciarice | June 26, 2012, 6:22 pm


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