"I hate school"

I’m troubled by the high percentage of my peers who frequently proclaim those three words: “I hate school.” Admittedly, I used to share this viewpoint. Most of us have been attending class for as long as we can remember. Between the early wakeups, hours of mindless activities, and evenings filled with homework, I’m not surprised that so many of us have grown to despise school.

In the past, I had only a mild appreciation for my education. I dreaded my classes on a daily basis and wished I could spend my time doing something else. However, my perspective changed a few years ago when I heard the story of an extraordinary girl. In many countries, like my native America, school attendance is required by law for children and adolescents. Living in a place where truancy is illegal, it’s easy to forget that education is not guaranteed or even considered a right in many parts of the world. Spin your globe to Pakistan.

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When the Taliban took control of her home of Swat Valley and began attacking girls’ schools, Malala Yousafzai did not back down. At the age of 12, she agreed to blog anonymously for the BBC about her life in that region. Since attending school actually endangers the lives of students, it’s no wonder that many drop out. However, Yousafzai and many of her classmates risked their lives for their education, standing up to the Taliban. I can’t even begin to fathom the choice that these girls were forced to make: continue to attend school at the risk of being harmed, or drop out for your own safety. When Malala Yousafzai was revealed to be the popular blogger for the BBC, the militant group issued a death threat against her.

The Charlie Hebdo attack serves as a reminder that printing controversial content can have unjust and disastrous consequences too. However, threatening a teenager because she spoke out for the rights of girls to obtain an education is simply unthinkable. Unfortunately, the Taliban’s message was not only a statement. On October 12, 2012, a gunman boarded Yousafzai’s bus and shot her in the head. Thankfully, this brave girl’s story didn’t end there.

Yousafzai not only recovered but became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate. She has remained an outspoken advocate for education, and continues to attend school. Malala Yousafzai risked her life for something that many of us take for granted. I’m extremely privileged to have a free, public, quality education that I can enjoy without fear. Though I’m well versed in the stresses of school, I can’t imagine trading it for anything. Life is all about perspective.

If we aren’t conscious of and grateful for our blessings, what do we have?