January 16, 2017
Teachers Talk - A Defence for Education (A Spoken Word)
David Barritt, Teacher, Mamawi Atosketan Native School, Ponoka, AB

(The following was written when David was a senior education student at Burman last year.  He creatively captured, we believe, the reasons most of us continue to devote our lives to education.  Thank you, David!)
 
I heard a university student make a statement that his entire 12 years—from kindergarten to graduation—was a complete waste of time.
 
When asked to elaborate on the statement he’d made, he simply said that he’d taken nothing away.
 
He said gym and recess were fun,
     the teachers were swell,
          he liked show and tell,
              but he couldn’t tell you what he had to show for it.
 
I have to admit, I was masking my emotions;
     trying not to expose this unnerving notion
          that he was irrevocably mistaken.
 
Had he not been acquainted with textbook information?
     Was he not paying adequate attention?
          Had he spent one too many hours in an out of class detention?
 
What was beyond my comprehension is he was sitting right beside me, close to obtaining his B.Ed.
 
So how does someone who plans to teach,
     not believe in its effectiveness
          and the students to be reached?
There was something off indeed, with this student’s philosophy.
 
There seems to be innumerable qualms,
     with the nature of education,
         and where it has gone wrong.
 
I’m sure every person in this room, does not embody such biggity
     that would lead them to assume,
          that there is something we could teach students
               that they couldn’t just as soon learn on their own,
                    from the comfort of their home.
Where the open tabs on their laptop’s glass
     begin to resemble an ocean of information,
          just waiting to be surfed.
 
But as they surf the web,
     do they inherently possess a sense of direction,
          without a map or a compass?
Riding on their surfboards, do they have a sense of balance?
     Do they conceive of the weight that’s pressing on their shoulders,
          threatening to sink their miniature floatation devices?
If left to their own devices,
     do they but garner fragments of data,
          lost in the stratospheres of cyber space and dismal clarity?
And what other malice awaits them?
     Will they become another trophy
          in the trending catastrophe of exploitation,
               of predatory inclination,
                    being misled by a web-conversation?
 
There does exist a disparity.
     Between our esteemed nation, and a third-world country.
If it’s correct the way I’ve checked it,
     education, though neglected, is the most precious of commodities
          in the very nations where it’s found lacking.
We live as though we weren’t,
     but we irrefutably are,
          privileged.
               Aren’t we?
In other countries
     children thirst for knowledge,
          and here we are surfing in it.
 
This is what I believe education can do for a student:
 
     Inspire them to never let learning subside
          simply because the school bell’s clock
               has signaled home time.
 
Teach them to read and never misread.
     Convey without being a con.
          To speak in a rhetoric of persuasion,
               because there’s power in your language,
                   you can speak for those without that advantage.
 
Help students to recognize that grades are not
     the holistic representation of their worth
          or what their capable of.
 
Emulate a love that surpasses hate.
     That some students may or may never demonstrate,
          that extends from God the Father,
               in his charge for us to love each other,
          putting aside all dispositions
               and our xenophobic traditions,
          and just striving to be friends
               who can lend a helping hand
                    when it comes time to feed His lambs.
 
Instill in students an exuberance of purpose
     that no matter what
          their predecessors wrote about them in the preface,
               the ending of their story
                    can make a plot-twist of the mistakes.
 
Train them to work hard
     and pride themselves on every train of thought.
 
Give them the chutzpah to be seekers of the truth,
     to embrace the dreams of youth,
          have respect for rules
     and prove that they were rudely mistook
          for hoodlums and crooks,
               who never read a single book,
                    and gave into haughty looks.
 
So what defense could I possibly mount to convince the hostile critics that education is critical?
 
I have no words.
 
The students are defense enough.
     Their lives are the exemplary paragons in a world gone astray.
     Their actions against affliction and avarice
          serve to actuate their learning.
 
I need not speak further
     or request that they do either.
 
They defend education by simply living—each and every day.