I just finished listening to a program on St. Louis’ NPR affiliate (@stlonair) where they talked about chronic absenteeism in public schools. The guests mentioned that most chronically absent students fall into three groups: The ones who can’t get to school (elder or family care keeps them away), those who won’t (kids who get bullied or feel unnoticed), and those who don’t (ones who feel like school isn’t for them). I listened and felt sad. I went to public school for all of my elementary and secondary education, and I always wanted to go to school (except for that bit in high school, but I think most people encounter mean folks at some point in their schooling, and mine wasn’t that bad). I can fully understand those who can’t make it to school, be it that they are helping care for family members, or they can’t find a ride, or they have to work to support their family. I understand those who feel the only way to avoid bullying is to just not show up. But school was always fun for me. I liked to learn. And I just wish that those who don’t want to go, who feel like they will never get anything out of education, that they would discover that one thing that makes school fun, whatever it is for them.
Of course, I realize that not everyone had the upbringing that I did–my parents cared about my education and did whatever they had to do to make sure I was doing well–and I was able to come home to a stable environment every night, and these are powerful tools in schooling. But what makes one person love learning, and another one shake it off? Sure there were boring days in history class, and trigonometry still gives me headaches. But for every unfathomable bit of esoteric and useless trivia I encountered, there was a new phrase in English class or a new artistic skill, or those silly clocks in Geometry class and the lathed chess pieces from Shop.
Education is so important. The folks on the program talked about the need for mentors, someone kids can go to if they have questions or to be the stable force to advocate for them. One of my biggest fears is that my future kid won’t want to read or learn, and there will be this great gap between what makes me indescribably happy and what makes him or her smile. I can only hope that I can be a mentor to my kid, and any that I come across. I benefited from my education, and I hope we as a culture can find a way to make sure that all kids enjoy (and are able to go to) school.