Education, Compassion, and Ignorance
Sitting in the library as I write this essay, I see dozens of students taking their education for granted, walking to and from our cafeteria and wandering around the hallways to avoid returning to class. While I believe that we have been conditioned to dislike our education system, in today’s political climate it is more important than ever to be active, engaged students. The January 6th attack on the Capitol Building is a dark reminder of the necessity of education.
Images of thousands of rioters draped in anti-Semitic clothing parading confederate flags and nooses through Capitol Hill are a powerful indication of these terrorists’ ignorance of historical events and their contexts. I wonder whether this hate is rooted in a lack of understanding or a lack of compassion. I question if the rioters ever learned about the racist systems on which our country was founded and still operates. Although the rioters’ actions were inexcusable, a piece of me feels empathetic towards them. I want to believe that all humans are good and hold belief systems that are molded by their environments. Socioeconomic background, community, and education are integral in defining morals and personal understandings of right and wrong. The American education system failed these rioters.
I’d like to believe that if all people received an equal education and accompanying opportunities to engage in honest conversation, our world would be filled with more accepting humans. Perhaps the rioters grew up in fish tanks, in communities surrounded by people who look and act like themselves. Perhaps exposure to different cultures and ideas could have prevented their profound display of hatred at our country’s Capitol. As indicated by their racist and anti-Semitic symbols, the rioters adhered to a deep-seated belief in inequality that marks non-white, non-Christian, non-cis heterosexual people as “others.” Do they reject the fact that all humans are humans? That skin color, sexual orientation, and gender are no indication of a person’s worth? There should be no “others.” There should only be us. We are all in this life together; learning, growing, and living. I believe that education is rooted in exposure to new ideas and new ways of thinking. In going to college I not only hope to embrace unfamiliar ideas but also seek to discover and ask more questions to better understand the world around me.
Now more than ever, education is vital in understanding what is true and false. Donald Trump haphazardly blasted Tweets and people immediately believed every word. The rioters accepted our President’s 140 characters as truth, culminating in the attack on the Capitol. When we do not know who or what to follow, it is easy to believe false information. Insufficient education has stripped thousands of Americans of the ability to question the president’s statements and have faith in our democracy. I believe that that education is key to empathy, collaboration, and a stepping stone to peace. It is a human right that should be equally available to everyone.
If we consider all that we’ve learned and created in the past 200 years, it is evident that what we believed 200 years ago has evolved significantly. Thus, what we believe today is likely to change in the future. Learning and education are the foundation of that change. Education provides a broader perspective of the world that helps us build connections that bridge our differences. Next year, I will be surrounded by a diverse group of students engaged in discussion, debate, and learning, broadening my own perspective of the world.
While knowledge is never finite, college is the best starting point for me on my path towards understanding other beliefs, cultures, and mindsets. My understanding that there is always more to learn defines my approach to communicating with others and gives me the confidence to question the world around me. I hope to be challenged, pushed out of my comfort zone, and forced to question what I know as “true.” I plan to use my education not only to further my curiosity and desire to learn but also as a tool to help others. The storming of the Capitol is a reminder of the sharp division in our country. Whatever my profession may be, I would like to apply my broadened perspective on the world to lessen this divide and play a role in guiding our country to a brighter, safer future.