When I was in high school, I would often spend my Christmas breaks working on submitting articles to essay contests. While my friends and families went to the movies or the mall, I travelled to India, learning about child labor. I loved to learn and write, especially persuasive essays. I could get buried in doing research for hours. I tried to tell myself not to go overboard, but it was like a disease and I couldn’t stop until I had picked away at every possible tangent of the subject. But with all of my enthusiasm for learning, I often had to ask myself if it was worth it. Why not just slide by like everyone else?
At first I was determined to learn in order to get those coveted A’s. And for the most part I did; I ended up fourth in my class. (I knew for a fact that the valedictorian had cheated his way to the top because he bragged about it.) But it all began to change the night of graduation. As I sat waiting for my turn to stand as they read off the list of students with the top 25 GPA’s in the class, I thought to myself, “Now everyone will finally see how brilliant I am.” But to my shock and utter dismay, somehow the principal went from the number five person to the number three person. They skipped me. Instead of going out and celebrating after, I went home and cried myself to sleep. All those A’s for nothing. At least I thought so.
Now I am a senior in college and will be graduating in a semester. I haven’t gotten as many A’s. But it no longer bothers me. What bothers me is that it took me so long to figure out why I believe in education. And here it is. I believe in education for the simple pleasure of learning. Recently, I have had an epiphany, or what Flannery O’Connor calls a “revelation.” In one of my college classes, my teacher showed a picture that I instantly recognized. He couldn’t remember the author’s entire name, but I could. It was a picture I had come across while studying about child labor in high school. The author was Lewis Hine. To some, this may seem like a small coincidence but to me it was an inspiring teaching moment.
I believe that learning is worth it. Even though you may not use the knowledge for a long time, for me it was six years, that knowledge will be there when you need it. And although I may not graduate with the highest GPA or any other stick by which educational success is often measured, I believe that I am smart. I believe that education is personal. I believe education is a lifelong process. I believe that the truly educated man or woman is one who simply loves to learn.
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