As a young boy, before the age of smartphones, video games, DVDs, CDs or even cassette tape players in automobiles, my mother used to keep my brother and I occupied on our annual summer vacation pilgrimages by reading books to us. For some reason her presentation was more captivating than sitting in the backseat reading ourselves. These were road trips from Florida up to New England, before the interstate highway system seamlessly crisscrossed the nation, (i.e., the trips were very long).
She was good about giving us a wide palette that varied from To Kill a Mockingbird to John Carter of Mars. One book I distinctly remember was Harold Bell Wright’s story of a man seeking solace from personal tragedy and the restlessness of urban life called Shepherd of the Hills. If you happened to have seen the 1941 film version staring John Wayne on AMC, it is as far from the book as the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird or Lord of the Rings were faithful and authentic interpretations of those literary works.
Though the book would be considered by some melodramatic, it celebrated the dignity of a simple life, yet drew attention to the vacuum and the darkness that covers a person or group that has no exposure to new ideas, to books, to opportunity and to culture. It describes a kind of renaissance that came to a family when the borders of their knowledge and understanding expanded, while the Sheperd himself finds personal redemption.
That type of awakening is what education is designed to do. It should be revelatory. The Koine Greek word for revelation is “apakalupsis;” it means to remove the veil, not how the transliteration “apocalypse” is popularly defined as global disaster. Education is not only to prepare people for a vocation, but to help individuals see their potential and discover what they are designed for. It removes that vision-obscuring veil to see the “what if” beyond the horizon of their own experience or culture.
I have known very successful individuals who arrived at that type of realization both on and off a campus, but either way it generated a passion and purpose for learning.
For Maria Vazquez, our Publisher’s Profile this month, it happened while working with disadvantaged children at a summer camp. For Adam Broadway, a successful general contractor I know, he started working construction as a laborer and thought, “I could be a carpenter.”
After becoming a carpenter, later he decided, “I could be a job superintendent.” Then, “I could be a general contractor” and finally “I could be the CEO of my own company.” For my cousin who was pondering where to go with an MS in physics, it happened when he took the MCAT exam on a dare from some friends and out-scored the whole class of pre-med students.
￼Education is not only to prepare people for a vocation, but to help individuals discover what they are designed for.
Sadly, for many that awakening opportunity may never come. Instead of their uniqueness and abilities being discovered and celebrated, they are suppressed or hijacked. I think of one of the most brilliant men I have been able to call a friend. He was a true “rocket scientist,” who spent his career with NASA and earned dozens of patents during the Apollo and Space
Shuttle era. Yet, he struggled with a sense of inferiority, because when it was discovered that he scored at a Mensa level on his school exams, the administrators advised his parents to tell him he was “dumb,” so he wouldn’t be arrogant.
The talent pipeline ends at a successful job, but it begins with an “ah-ha.”