I’ve been following this college scam with a bit of wry interest. Some of you know that I taught at the university level for a few years. I’d be doing it still except that the pay for adjuncts is abysmal. Not to mention the benefits. I can make more money as a substitute teacher in Oregon than I can as a college lecturer. I don’t know for sure, but the reports I have received from many of my friends who teach indicate that this is a nationwide trend. The pay for adjuncts and lecturers is pathetic.
I didn’t teach at the university level for the money, however. Nobody does. I did it because I love learning and being in an environment with others who love it. Our classroom discussions were dynamic. Students were engaged and curious and oftentimes challenged. One of the things we always spent time on in First Amendment Rights – one of the several classes I taught but the primary one I taught – was the likelihood of White Nationalism rising the way it did in Nazi Germany.
This was the era of Obama. It felt like our country was changing in significant ways – all of them good, all of them hopeful. The students were mortified by a film I would show each term about the white racists of Alabama. They saw racism primarily as a problem of the South and Southerners. When I would suggest that this wasn’t the case and show them the clusters of hate groups in the Pacific Northwest, in Seattle, in Spokane, they were always surprised. We had great discussions about the root causes of racism and how a country can easily fall into the trap that Germany did.
Now that they are living under the tyranny of a racist, I hear from those students. They tell me how grateful they were for that class. How it made them think beyond the comforts of their own environs. Now in their late 20s and early 30s, they are mortified to see the things we talked about in class coming to fruition. The attacks on the First Amendment. The rise of White Nationalism. The erosion of a democratic system of governing. Somedays it feels like our class was more one in prophecy than in legalities.
I miss teaching at the university level, especially during times such as these. But there is one thing I know without any doubt, not even $6.5 million can buy your kid an education. It might buy that kid entrance into an overrated and overpriced university, but education isn’t something that can be bought. It can only be experienced. I don’t care how much money parents of low moral fiber use to bribe university officials, no amount of money will ensure a student an education. Being educated is a choice we have to make individually.
One writer I have a great deal of admiration for is Donald Ray Pollock. A Ohio boy, Pollock grew up in a household void of books. Education wasn’t a priority in his family. He worked in a mill until middle age struck. By then Pollock had taken a few licks in life, including a battle with alcoholism.
He was the most unlikely of writers. Yet, when he hit 50, Pollock decided he would return to school, get the education that had eluded him in his early years. He taught himself to write by typing out the works of other authors – people like Hemingway, Faulkner, O’Connor. He did that to teach himself how dialogue works in a story. A major New York publisher printed his short story – Knockemstiff – when he was still enrolled at Ohio State. I happened upon his work when his book The Devil All The Time was published. I was blown away by his writing.
Education is a choice.
You can bribe your kids way into the most elite colleges or prep schools or universities but if your student isn’t interested in learning, they will never be educated. Access to the best libraries in the world will not make a person educated if they have no interest in learning.
Just take a look at our current president and administration. Trump may have accumulated wealth of a certain sort, but he is not a learned man. He is without question the most illiterate of all our presidents in the modern age. He is the very definition of ignorant.
No amount of money will help anyone overcome willful ignorance.
Not even a bribe of $6.5 million.
Learning is a personal choice.
An education cannot be bought – it must be sought.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ‘cause I need more room for my plasma TV (Zondervan).