Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Learning value of education from those who missed out

I was raised with the importance of reading and writing drilled into my life by two people who learned the hard way.
My parents, both born in the middle of large families, had to quit school after the 8th grade. My dad had to work full-time on the family farm; my mom was needed at home to help care for younger siblings and to start earning a wage doing housework for others.
Both families were poor in dollars, rich in lessons that my parents passed on to me and my brothers.
Education was a privilege denied them, and that made its value so much greater. As parents, they never let us forget it.
I've seen the emphasis passed on among my cousins, a message strengthened through my parents' generation by the hardship it took to acquire it.
I didn't realize until much later in my life that my parents were fortunate in what they took from those eight years of schooling, in both cases taught in rural one-room schools of the early 1920s.
My dad had flawless spelling and could write a good letter when he needed to; he was quick and adept at math, and served as president and treasurer of nearly every group he joined, including being an elected school board president and the treasurer of the Boyertown Area School Board during the era of expansion that included building the junior high west center.
He was surrounded by people much more learned than he, and yet he was often at the head of the table in clubs, the church consistory and sports teams.
Although he worked at Doehler-Jarvis as his day job, he ran his own taxidermy business in our basement, having learned the trade through distance learning by mail.
My mom's lack of education showed in her spelling, but it didn't stop her from communicating well. She spelled things phonetically, a trait that brings a smile upon reading her handwritten recipes for "punkin" pie or "dumplins."
She had insights and an understanding of people and situations coupled with a desire to keep learning. When my brothers were in college, she borrowed some of their textbooks as leisure reading. She particularly liked psychology courses.
She emphasized always that we have books in our home and in our lives as children. But even more important to her were "educational" toys, as she called them. Of course I had my share of dolls and my brothers had plenty of sports gear, but she made a point of insisting that blocks, puzzles, word games, and books were more important.
We were raised knowing we would go to college. It was a rule that my mother enforced. Although I didn't know it until my parents were in their twilight years and I was settled into my adult life, my dad had at one time thought a college degree wasn't necessary for me because I would "just get married and have a family."
My mother prevailed with her philosophy: "You can lose the people around you; your job can end. But no one can take away your education."
Her strong stand molded my future.
My parents knew from experience that education does not come easily to everyone.That's what the Pottstown adult literacy program is about. It benefits people whose lives did not start easily, and it has the potential to further those opportunities we know come from education.
Pottstown's literacy effort needs your help.
With just a few minutes of your time, you can sign on to support the Adult Literacy Program. A donor will give $1 for every signature as submitted on the following form. 
Those dollars will go a long way to buy materials and help people learning to read. My mother would call this effort "educational;" I call it a second chance.
Sign on to support our program: Pottstown reads.

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