Filling in the blanks: Consider the impact of education this holiday season

Filling in the blanks: Consider the impact of education this holiday season
School board chairwoman Karen Graf

By Karen Graf

During this holiday season, take some time to reflect on what you are thankful for. Family and friends are the most obvious recipients of holiday gratitude.

But I also urge you to spend some time this year exploring why we need to be thankful for the power of education.
Everyone can have dissatisfactions about public education. It is easy to take education for granted since it is offered in every community. For Americans, public education is a normal part of life. But it was not always that way
for our grandparents and, in some cases, our parents.

But have you ever stopped to think about how lucky we are to have access to knowledge through our state and local communities? In fact, Virginia offers some of the highest standards in the nation, preparing our youth for many opportunities.

People in other countries may not be so lucky. Many countries consider education a privilege, not a basic right. People living in impoverished nations may never have the chance to read or access the world beyond their station. The basis for the American dream — the belief that anyone can succeed — is attainable when we pre- pare ourselves through education.

At the beginning of the last century, if you didn’t live near a school, you were unlikely to have any access to education. Through policies enacted over the last century, including the G.I Bill and post-World War II infrastructure, public education exists in nearly all of our communities.

Today, we are also more connected to education through various online methods — high school classes, practice tests, online options for traditional college and certificate programs, etc. The Internet gives us access to scholarly journals, video lectures from prominent academics, podcasts and many other educational tools.

At any time of day, a simple online search can bring us to millions of pieces of information on any given topic.

Having access to so much information also extends to improving our chances of making the right personal connections. We can find teachers or mentors outside of the classroom, just as much as inside them.

Since teachers can shape what we learn and who we become, it is imperative that we hold them as the most important focus in educational funding. The quality of training, materials and classrooms helps them pave a quality and equitable road for their students.

So as you reflect on what you are thankful for in your experience in education, think of ways to contribute to the education of another within your own community.

Thankful for the mentor in your life? Consider mentoring someone yourself. Thankful to a friend for organizing a charity drive? Find a way to help when new opportunities arise in your community.

Continue to pursue a thirst for learning by reading, volunteering, or taking up that interest you have always wanted to try. Be inspired and inspire others.

Have a wonderful and appreciative holiday season!

The writer is the chairwoman of the Alexandria City School Board.