• Stephen E Arnold

Learning at Gunpoint

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

 I grew up unable to sit still in class.  Like most boys, this was a rule given of me that I had no comprehensible reason to follow.  Why should I sit still in class if I don't want to? And besides, my mind is somewhere else anyways.  And that is how I spent my early childhood education up into my high school years, daydreaming. It was nice, to daydream, because whatever was going on in my head was far more interesting than whatever was being written on the board.  Of course this made for some very difficult

tests and quizzes, and the often asked for homework was rushed through to be done on time.  School was never hard, but education was tough.  


I was reading a recent article from the New York Times about the growing threat of the Taliban against what else but; girl's education.  They will set schools on fire and destroy precious and expensive resources for learning. I can't tell you how many schools were set on fire, but one is too many.  This article reminded me of the girl who was shot in the face by a Taliban agent for fighting for girl's rights to an education, and that really made me realize what I had; a safe school, great education, and with laws preventing me from not getting one.  It made me ponder on the value of education.  


It would help to define it-education-what is it that makes it like gold?  Is it the advanced career opportunities? The chance to go to a school and socialize, or to play on a sports team?  Why learn mathematics, literature, or history? Is it to be better at finances, reading, and undoom yourself from repeating the past?  Maybe those are all byproducts, but they aren't what makes education worth getting shot over.  

What makes education getting shot over is the singular fact that learning is-at its core-THE human experience. Every day we exist is an opportunity to experience something new. Our brain takes what we experience and commits it to memory, or not, and that is essentially what learning is. If you aren’t out experiencing the new, then you are simply not living. Mind you, this may be different things for different people. A chess player gets a little better at chess, a grandmother gets a little more skilled at sewing, a baby takes its first steps; all these are the slight and important experiences that build up our knowledge. Then there are the big pieces of knowledge like math, physics, history, theology, all the things that are a collective treasure trove of humanities little steps chipping away at the mysteries of the question ‘why?’. 

Why are we here? Why was I born this way? Why am I living in America and not Tahiti? The big questions. 

For so long we have accepted that we learn in order to solve the riddle of life, but I declare that we learn in order to live the riddle of life. I base this declaration on two truths. One, I cannot go a day without reading or learning something new. Facts have always fascinated me, and I enjoy acquiring more and more of them. If I went a day without learning or experiencing something new, I am certain I would go crazy. Two, go to a crazy house and stare at the blank white walls of solitary confinement. You get nothing in return. 

If to learn is to live, and to live is to learn, then why are the big endless questions that plague us so haunting? Simply put, they are forever. We may never know for certain why we are here or what the end goal is, but I know for certain we will always fight to get a little closer to the answer. If I am not mistaken, each answer only leads to more questions. Just as soon as we learn why we are here, we may find ourselves asking why that reason. 

Which brings me back to the Afghani girls whose schools are being targeted by men with an agenda. They still go back. Even afraid for their lives they return to what is left of their classroom, and they sit and they learn and they live. These girls are a testament to what makes learning at gunpoint so powerful. They are being denied, not the right to an education, not the right to a better job, but the right to truly live. Such atrocities are no mere criminal act, but an abomination towards humanities true purpose. To deny anyone the right to learn is atrocious. To squander your freedom to learn is pitiful. 

Try as the Taliban might to keep their women in darkness; they have only made them shine brighter.    

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