As a young child, during the hot Idaho summer days, my friends, siblings, and I liked to play school. Funny - out of school, wanting to play school. And yet, when it was time to think about what I would do after high school, I felt like my choices were limited - get married or go to school to become a secretary, teacher, or nurse. I chose marriage.
I began college in 1991, I was 31, no college experience. I began school the year Jenna entered first grade, at Shoals Community College in Tuscumbia, Alabama. My first classes were mythology, sociology, and math (probably math 95).
I had always loved learning, but the day I stepped onto the college campus I fell in love with higher education.
We were in the quarter system, and I went to school there for about 6 quarters - taking math, literature, sociology, and a writing class.
We moved back to Utah one December, and in preparation for continuing my education, I contacted my friend, Merilynn, who put me in touch with her friend, Dawn, who was an academic advisor in the English Dept. at Utah Valley University (UVCC at that time). Merilynn had suggested a couple of her favorite professors, and Dawn helped acquaint me with the college.
After getting Tyler, Jenna, and Clark all in school, I began that journey myself. My first classes at UVU were an Organizational Behavior class, and Women's Lit class, and a Wordperfect class.
And I was off. After taking all the classes I could at UVU, I moved to BYU, where I took 2-3 classes a semester.
I graduated with my BA in English from BYU, and then, still hungry, I traveled to Utah State University weekly, and took summer week-long workshops, until I received my MA in American Studies/Public Sector Folklore in May, 2003.
That's 14 years ago, and I daily count my blessings for a family who supported me on my academic journey. While the kids complained about classes, homework, tests, teachers, I did the same. While the kids studied and wrote papers, I did similarly. When they were figuring out their class schedules, I did as well. And we all saw the value of education.
A year before I graduated from USU, I began teaching Folklore at UVU. Tyler and Jenna both took that class from me - what a blast to have my own children in the classroom. There were many days we drove to school together - and had great conversations as we did so. And thank heavens for Aunty Dawn and others who gave Tyler and Jenna the same great advice they gave me, and they helped them with class schedules just as they did me years earlier.
I never have left the classroom (well, I did take a leave for cancer treatments). I went directly from being a student to being an instructor. And I have loved every minute of it. I love, love, love learning. And the classroom - regardless of age and stage and gender and knowledge, is a tremendous place to learn.
I'm not saying we can't learn in a non-traditional environment - I have my chaplain certification because of a non-traditional classroom-hands-on learning situation, and the online learning world is rich. And I have learned through reading, studying, watching, creating - my entire life.
But there is something about tradition - the classroom, that breeds inquiry, questioning, critical thinking, and an environment rich and ripe with like-minded folks.
Lately I've been thinking about going back to the classroom, as a student. I hunger to be fed, to feed. To a large extent learning has been my sanity. It has kept me happy, functional, at peace with myself. I am a restless soul, and I can't even, don't even want to, imagine where I would be if it hadn't been for the ability to attend college. Learning is something I do well. And because of this, I have some sense of self and some self-confidence.
And as I listened to Eva Witesman's talk about Women and Education, I realized, again, how fortunate I have been to know the classroom, to know professors, to know students, and to be on both sides of the desk. Formal - or traditional, learning is incredible. And it is available to nearly every woman. Even Malala Yousafzai, and her champion father, understand the value of educating a woman.
We, women, MUST be the mirrors for our children, our husbands, or communities. We can speak, not only from a lifetime's worth of experience, but from our knowledge based on stretching our minds in a classroom, from being fed by those whose brilliance is that of a teacher. And we can share - by studying, complaining, writing, choosing, testing, thinking, with our children - by our example, we can teach the world, or at least, inspire our own to continue to learn.
I'm amazed, that in 2017, 27 years since I began my education, there are still men and women who say women don't need a higher education. I am worried that there are women (and men) who believe women are not worthy, capable, financially able, to get into a classroom to learn. Or that there is no need for them to have a higher education. I am saddened that talks such as Eva's are still necessary - and that we applaud them as spectacular.
When will we listen? When will we learn that learning is important for everyone? When will society understand that it's as important to know how to double as recipe as it is to understand the Socratic way of teaching and Kepler's laws of planetary motion? It is important we not only know how to grow tomatoes as it is to understand botany - and the need for healthy soil. We need to know not only what to do when our kids have snot noses, but to understand the respiratory system. We need to understand how the United States government is set-up, and how it can break down - so we can teach and vote and advocate for what is right - we must know our rights. And soooooo much more.
Someday, just as I was, there will be a time when necessity is as important as breathing. Whether that be the intense need, not just desire, to learn, to leave, to work, to find independence. And higher learning is a journey - which means, that just as buying a week's worth of groceries takes budgeting and planning, so does getting on that path to a Higher Education - and don't let anyone tell you there is no money for you to go to school. There are so many many many resources.
Eva - thank you for your talk, it was beautiful. And I'm saddened it was necessary.
(Addendum - I keep thinking of so much more I can say about this topic - never-ending, but one thing I've learned from being in the classroom all these years is this - sometimes you just have to push "print" and be finished.)