Without coming right out and asking, the doctor asked me if I was educated. I think I said something about “not formally, but I consider myself educated.” I suppose I could just have said “yes” and left it at that. Or, I could have said “self educated”, which is pretty much what I am. But regardless of my answer, I wasn’t put off by the inquiry because I understand that kids with chronic conditions that require on-going care have a better chance of making out well if their parents are college educated. Right or wrong, it’s just one of those indicators that seem to consistently spell “a better chance” for some kids. Out of concern for his young patient who would be dependent on mom and dad for care, the doctor was feeling out what kind of chance T-Bear had of remaining healthy in spite of his diabetes.
In his book In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan winds things up with a list of things to do if you want to eat better, and thus live better. One of those items is to “be like people who take vitamins”. Pollan cites a study which indicates that taking vitamins does not provide any demonstrable nutritional or health benefit, but demographically people who take vitamins are healthier than those who don’t, probably because they live a healthier lifestyle overall. That’s me with education. I think I live and behave “like people who are educated.” I hang out with college-educated homeschooling moms, I keep piles of books around, read voraciously, read aloud to my kids daily, and when any subject of interest or need arises I dive in and do the research. Just as a healthy lifestyle is an attitude and set of habits that may or may not include taking vitamins, being educated is an attitude and set of habits which may or may not include graduating from college or university. It is a pursuit of knowledge that does not end after you stop attending classes or get a diploma.
When our lovely neighbor, M, came over to check on us the day after we arrived home from Orlando, I told her I was dealing with T-Bear’s diagnosis by diving into learning everything I can about type 1 diabetes and effective management and care. There’s a lot to learn in a pretty short period of time, and some of the detail and subtlety may be out of many people’s mental reach, and definitely out of many people’s comfort zone, but I’m pretty good at stretching myself. I told M I’ve got the type of mind that gets off on gobbling up new data and information. Even when the subject is heartbreaking and living in our home, my mind is happy to be doing its thing. And, it helps soothe my heart by making me feel I have some control over the outcome. If I didn’t feel like I could understand this and make good decisions, I think I would rapidly sink into helplessness and hopelessness. That, for me, is the value of an “educated” mind.
If TJEd has taught me anything, it’s taught me that education is not about sitting in classes and writing papers and making grades and getting a diploma. It’s about feeding your mind, challenging your assumptions, being curious, and beefing up your intelligence. It’s about having a mind that contributes toward making the rest of your life work, and about helping to make the world work. It’s about learning every day of your life, and loving it. It’s about living a rich, deep, full, liberating life, inside and out. And, everyone can have it. It just takes some effort and commitment, and cultivating a joy of learning. And, the best part is, once you have it, you can pass it on to your kids.