Education: Investing in the Future
The desire for knowledge brings different people together, but they all share the same goal: to improve their quality of life through education. These people are connected by the determination to succeed and make a good living for themselves. The ones that work hard to achieve this goal become successful, while the ones that give up or feel sorry for themselves go nowhere in their lives.
One’s attitude towards education directly correlates to whether or not one succeeds. Sherman Alexie’s novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and modern sources use the desire for education to explore sacrifice for life improvement. The Native American population faces many challenges when it comes to education, and this impedes even those with a desire for a quality way of learning. Without education, students cannot become successful and leave their reservation. Because so few individuals leave the “rez,” the students have no role models and little incentive to work hard, and the same goes for the teachers.
The schools lack resources that are needed for better educational success. A scene from the novel that demonstrates this issue is when Arnold gets his textbook on the first day of school and looks at the names printed inside. He states, “So that means my mother was born in Adams and she was still an Adams when she wrote her name in that book. And she was thirty when she gave birth to me. Yep, so that means I was staring at a geometry book that was at least thirty years older than I was” (Alexie 31). This quote shows that the schools cannot afford the proper materials, like modern day textbooks, needed in order for the students to thrive.
It also shows that the school does not care about the students’ education because they are using thirty year old textbooks! They cannot expect their students to do well in school if they are forced to use the same textbooks as their parents, because the materials and teaching methods change over the years.In reality, Native American schools suffer from similar issues because the poor conditions in these schools hinder the students from learning effectively. An example of this can be seen from an editorial in the Star Tribune, which reads, “Barta’s classroom is housed in a rodent-infested building with a shockingly long list of problems: a roof that caves in under heavy snowfall, a failing heat system that has many students wearing coats and blankets in class… and a sewer system that backs up during extreme cold” (“Separate and Unequal” 1). These distractions make it very difficult for the students to focus on learning. This inhibits their ability to thrive in the classroom and is a major factor in their struggle when it comes to school.
Native American students face many problems out of their control that negatively affect their education, and although many are resigned to this situation, others desire better circumstances. In order to access a quality education, students and families may need to make sacrifices. Some people will do almost anything to attend a good school, and this goal often requires significant resources. Sometimes students choose to travel far outside their districts to attend the best school they can access. Especially for children in lower socioeconomic brackets, the desire for education can require investments of time, money, travel, etc.
In the novel, Arnold does not have it easy: he is poor, his father is an alcoholic, his sister has run away, and he suffers from disabilities incurred at birth; however, he is driven to pursue an education off the rez. In one scene, Arnold is discussing changing high schools with his parents: “‘It’s going to be hard to get you to Reardan,’ dad said. ‘We can’t afford to move there. And there ain’t no school bus going to come out here.’ ‘You’ll be the first one to ever leave the rez this way,’ mom said. ‘The Indians around here are going to be angry with you.
‘” (Alexie 47). Arnold knows he will be sacrificing his friendships on the reservation to go to Reardan. Just getting to school 22 miles away will be a challenge – sometimes he will need to walk miles or try to catch a ride. This shows Arnold’s determination and true character: he is willing to make significant sacrifices for his education. In today’s society people are making similar concessions, hoping they will pay off in the long run. An article from the Targeted News Service states: “While Jones never let being the only person of color in social or academic settings define her, the experience of being the other continued throughout her academic life.
After high school, she attended Ohio University where, as is the case with many colleges, there were still relatively few African American students” (“Monica Jones: an Advocate for Education and Sacrifice” 1). Monica accepted being the only person with dark skin in her school, because she knew it would be worth it later. She sacrificed and worked hard to get an education that would help her later in life. Notable forfeiture may have to be made in order to receive access to a high caliber education. A quality education is a critical ingredient in improving one’s quality of life. The ultimate goal for most people is to achieve success and fulfillment in their lives, and one way to recognize this dream is to go to college and get a degree.
This will give people a good chance to become successful and live the “American Dream” that everyone desires. In the novel, Arnold realizes that in order to become successful he has to leave the Indian reservation. His sister Mary thought the same, and she inspires him to follow in her footsteps. “[My sister] went searching for her dreams, and didn’t find them, but she made the attempt. And I was making the attempt, too. And maybe it would kill me, too, but I knew staying on the rez would have killed me, too.
” (Alexie 216). Arnold recognizes the fact that he needs to leave the reservation to make something out of his life as he observes the lives of the adults in his community. If he stays, he knows he will end up there forever, abusing alcohol and never achieving anything. It will kill him, mentally and physically, because he wants more than that out of life. Arnold wants a different future where he can go somewhere else and have the chance to do something important and special.
Modern sources agree with the fact that a college degree increases the number of opportunities one can have in the future. A study from the U.S. Federal News Service notes that “20 million more workers with postsecondary education will be needed by 2025. Even workers in occupations that don’t require college degrees benefit economically from having them. A college education prepares them to do higher level work, get jobs with better wages and benefits, and open their own businesses, according to the study” (“New Studies Validate Benefits Of College Degrees” 1).
College degrees can drastically improve people’s lives. Today, without a college degree, economic achievement is limited. When one succeeds in school and gets a college degree, one has a better chance for a more desirable life than those without that degree. Both modern sources and the novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, show that the desire for knowledge often requires sacrifice in the quest for a better quality of life. The aspiration for a solid education may require people to give up important things in their lives, both personally and financially. Some people know they need to leave the community where they grow up in order to succeed, and attending college can open new doors for them.
This determination fuels people to work vigorously and make difficult sacrifices. Everyone wants to be successful, but the way to increase one’s odds of achieving success and fulfillment is to earn a solid education.