Full Hearts Fill Empty Chalkboards

130410 Chalkboard-01During graduation season, millions of American kids are deservedly focused on the challenges and opportunities afforded them because of their education. But an op-ed in The New York Times reminds us that there’s no universally recognized right to be educated — especially for girls in certain parts of the world. Simply titled “Girls Who Risk Their Lives for Education,” the piece details the horrible backlash facing not only advocates fighting for universal girls’ education, but also the young female students on the front lines.

Despite systemic problems faced by many students in Western nations, most don’t risk life and limb for the privilege of learning their multiplication tables. And while poor, immigrant and minority students are vastly underserved by an American school system that does more to stymy upward mobility than assist it, large swaths of the education policy sector have dedicated themselves to making the system work better. Here, factions argue vociferously about the best way to educate marginalized populations, not whether they should be educated at all.

Contrast that with the 15-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot and nearly killed for exercising her right to attend school. Or the other young women profiled in the article who have pledged to stand with each another in staunch refusal to be intimidated back into silence.

This year, once spring gives way to summer and our educational machinery begins to gear up again — in the midst of the old debates and the new fights — let’s take some time out to reflect on the life and death consequences that far too many students, teachers and advocates face for doing something we often take for granted. And remember that an opportunity, no matter how limited, should never be squandered.

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