Teach the Children of the World
When I was in junior high, Anthony Newley had a song that he toured the talk shows with, and which had some modest success on the radio. It was titled “Teach the Children of the World”:
Teach the children of the world
Teach them before its just too late
Teach the parents of tomorrow
They are the children of today
I haven’t been able to find a video of it online, but I remembered its chorus through my education, and now through my children’s. I bring it up now because a brave educator and his family are facing the ultimate terror, because of their devotion to education: the loss of their daughter.
Malala Yousafzai is a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for standing up for the right of women and girls to be educated. According to the Taliban’s spokesman, there is no doubt why:
A Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, confirmed by phone that Ms. Yousafzai had been the target, calling her crusade for education rights an “obscenity.”
Malala was incredibly brave to advocate for education, but I do not need to exclaim her virtues when others, like a former First Lady of the United States, can do it so much better. Her father, Zaiuddin, is an educational activist in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where actions have consequences. He has consistently fought for the right of girls to an education, to his peril and that of his family.
Education wasn’t an obscenity to me, but a lifeline. We all know teachers that have made the difference in our lives: my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Dorothy Mason; my English and US History teachers in junior high, Ms. Deborah Malm, and Mr. Peter Booz; my social studies teacher in high school, Ed Burke — I am leaving out so many more. I count myself lucky to be the son-in-law of a teacher who spent 38 years working with the handicapped, with infinite patience and good cheer.
Great teachers deserve all the respect we can give them. In Japan, where I taught English for two years, teachers are given the honorific sensei, just as doctors are. Great teachers open up the world, one child at a time — but for all time. The very best teach you to think, which is what the Taliban fear. Zaiuddin Yousafzai belongs in the Teacher’s Hall of Fame for making education available where it is most needed. Our prayers are with him and his family, and especially his daughter, Malala. I am glad that Zaiuddin is teaching the parents of tomorrow – the children of today.
10/17/2012 Update: Malala Yousafzai (see the link to a great political cartoon) was flown to Britain after having a bullet removed, and is now out of a coma. The early word is that she seems to have feeling in all her limbs. Just as good, it seems that Pakistan has woken to protest the Taliban’s barbarism.