I sit here and think about how different my life would be if I hadn’t gone to school. Let’s face it, school is like that boyfriend that you love and hate at the same time. At one moment, he has your attention, the next, he just babbles about something you could care less about. Still, you, as the amazingly loving girlfriend, must put up with… everything. This boyfriend is a part of you. He pushes you to be better, teaches you things you’ve never known, and provides perspective on ideas that are other than your own. Education is the boyfriend any father wouldn’t mind you taking home (primarily because it really isn’t something you can make out with and most importantly, he wouldn’t need to worry about his little girl being with something useless). In Zitkala-sa’s American Indian Stories, we get a glimpse of a young American-Indian girl’s life. She sets out to do chores with her mother, spends time with her playmates, and learns the ways of her people. The one thing absent, is access to a proper education. She is obviously a curious child. She likes to hear the stories about Legends and tries to figure out its meaning. She questions the role of the “palefaces” and their relationship to her people. When the missionaries came, she wanted to learn more of what they are saying. All this curiosity comes from a fire within her to want to be more than what she is. When she was given the opportunity to go East with the missionaries, her mother was hesitant. Letting her go will mean that her beloved daughter would have to face hardships on her own. But the mother knows how valuable education is.
“She will need an education when she is grown, for then there will be fewer real Dakotas, and many more palefaces. This tearing her away, so young, from her mother is necessary, if I would have her an educated woman. The palefaces, who owe us a large debt for stolen lands, have begun to pay a tardy justice in offering some education to our children. But I know my daughter must suffer keenly in this experiment. For her sake, I dread to tell you my reply to the missionaries. Go, tell them that they may take my little daughter, and that the Great Spirit shall not fail to reward them according to their hearts.”
Education provides us with a foundation. It gives us information that is connected to just about all corners of the Earth. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned, is that everything in the world is always changing. It’s proven in history books and reality. That is why the mother sends her daughter off because there will be “fewer real Dakotas, and many more palefaces.” Education will provide her with the knowledge and strength to both adapt to the changing world we live in, as well as allow her to trace back to the land that birthed her. Education is empowering. Girls were expected to follow the footsteps of their mother. They are taught domestic duties and are expected to abide by these “womanly roles.” As we see in the beginning of Zitkala-sa’s novel, women are seen as the home-bodies. But when education becomes accessible it shows that women are able to rise above this stereotype and prove they are capable to be so much better. Education is a human right. It should be provided for, no matter the gender or status of a person. And a woman’s education should go beyond the home setting. Let the world be her classroom.
The thought of not having the education I am so thankfully provided with, hits pretty hard. I was always eager to learn. I was the bookworm. I was the one who looked forward to journal entries. I’m part of the few who actually really like school. But liking school was not the first thing that came to my mind. I went for my friends and the whole social aspect of it. Had I not been taught to sit in a chair and actually pay attention, I wouldn’t have done so. If my teachers never introduced me to certain books, I wouldn’t have picked them up to read. Education goes far beyond textbooks and lectures. It really does prepare you for life. However, the lessons outside of a classroom is what tests you on how strong you use your education. Let this Education Boyfriend be your companion in life, but never forget to follow your own voice. Use his lessons about basketball stats and playbook rules, and apply them to your own situation. Also, be brave enough to create rules of your own.