It was a Tuesday night. I should have been writing a summary on the ethics of a philosopher, probably on the cynical views of Thomas Hobbes, or on David Hume’s views on morals, but instead I was sitting in the Crowne Plaza hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Why? Simple. I can answer that in a single, solitary word.
Defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the action or process of teaching someone especially in a school, college, or university.” Yet if you care even one whit about learning, about ideation, about information, about knowledge, you will know education is so much more than that simple definition.
What education truly is, what it truly entails, can be subjective depending on who you ask or what major they are studying. It can be subjective, especially if you ask a faculty member as opposed to a student, or if you ask an administrator as opposed to the Dean of Students.
No matter how one defines education, the most salient point they tell you should be that it is supremely important. And if they don’t tell you that, walk the hell away because they are dead wrong.
Education matters to me. It matters to the other members of the Mansfield University Student Government Association’s Executive Board. It matters to SGA Senators, SGA Representatives, student organization leaders, faculty, regular students, and a host of other players in higher education.
When something you care about, when something that matters a great deal to you comes under threat, what do you do?
I like to think students, when their education comes under fire, will make a stand.
Louis L’Amour, the great author of Western novels, was once quoted as saying: “To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” It was not until tonight that I truly understood his meaning. Legislators know that our age group and that of the 22-30 crowd have the lowest voter turnout rates among demographics. Our generation, at least in my eyes, is filled to the brim with apathy. Damon Horowitz, in a TEDTalk filmed in May of 2011 in Silicon Valley, lamented that “we [society as a whole]have stronger opinions about our hand-held devices than about the moral framework we should use to guide our decisions.” While he was discussing ethical “moral operating systems” in his talk, the same analogy can be used to showcase that we tend to be able to brilliantly articulate and argue views on why we hate the iPhone and adore our Android or vice versa. Yet we cannot argue why our education matters to us as students. Which, I ask you, is more important to not only our futures but to the future of the professors who have devoted decades of their professional lives to teaching? Education is infinitely more crucial to our personal lives, or rather it should be infinitely more crucial, than the smartphones we possess but all too often, it is not.
However, education is a vital commodity, especially in this age of widespread ignorance. And for this reason, above all, SGA Treasurer Jason White, myself, Alex Farley, and Travis Hume undertook the trek down to the Pennsylvania capital on this fine October day. We did so for the purpose of attending an “Evening Reception with Legislators and Staff” held at the Ceoltas Irish Pub on 2nd Street in Harrisburg. While we made the rounds and worked the room, so to speak, we were able to have productive conversations with faculty from many of the PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) schools, the president and vice president of APSCUF (Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculty), students from universities such as California University of Pennsylvania (I proudly noticed most were political science majors), and state legislators from both parties. Faculty members, most notably Drs. Timothy Madigan and Robert Clark from the Social Work/Sociology/Anthropology Department, and Dr. Brad Lint (hailing from our own English Department) were among the attendees as well.
Following the reception, we retired back to the hotel room and Jason labored until the wee hours of the morning on a last-minute speech he was apparently going to give the very next day. Why did he sacrifice sleep to do so? Again, the answer is rather simple: because he cares about his education.
6am. Wednesday. Up and ready to face the day. Bleary-eyed and craving caffeine, we journeyed to Ballroom A of the hotel to participate in an APSCUF briefing on the activities of Lobby Day. Throughout the day, we met with various PA state legislators, or their staffers, and explained why the 18% cut in state appropriations to the state system of higher ed cannot be allowed to continue. We joined up with a busload of Mansfield University students who arose at the chilly break of dawn to drive down to Harrisburg, and then watched proudly as the world-renowned Concert Choir performed after a press conference. At this selfsame press conference, not only did APSCUF President Steve Hicks and multiple other state legislators profess their support for the PASSHE system, but Jason himself was asked to give closing remarks, due to his tireless efforts to organize Mansfield student involvement. What prompted this incredible and phenomenal amount of participation from college students?
We care a great deal about our education. As we should. As you should.
I urge all students to separate themselves from apathy. Embrace education. Embrace learning. Fight for your right to an education.
How important is education? Ask the United Nations. On December 10, 1948, in Paris, France, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. By a vote of 0 opposed, 48 in favor, and no abstentions, the UDHR consisted of a preamble and thirty articles spelling out inalienable human rights that are inherent rights for human beings simply by virtue of them being members of Homo sapiens.
Article 26 reads as such:
“(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.”
Although this declaration is non-binding, as it was passed by the U.N. General Assembly and not the Security Council, the fact it was drafted in the first place, with that particular language concerning education, shows the importance the international community places on the subject. How much importance do students, however, place on their own education? What will it take to convert student apathy into action?
These questions should not have to be asked. Your education is your future. Yet so many students fail to understand this. Politicians understand that the college and post-college (22-30) demographics do not vote and thus they don’t feel the need to put forth legislation aimed at supporting higher education or to appease their college-age constituents.
Too many words are spoken and not enough actions follow said words. If we really believe in the words that we speak, it may be time to step off the soapbox and get onto the streets. Words are just words until they are translated into deeds.
Put effort into your education. Become knowledgeable. Get informed. Look at yourself and your education’s future and if you don’t like what you see, change the way you see your education. Change your priorities. Become involved. Sacrifice something for your education and whether that is less time partying, less time sleeping, or less time watching television shows, know that, in the end, it is all worth it. Your education should begin in school. It should not end there.
That choice, however, is in your hands and your hands alone. Welcome to the way the world works. Ready?