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Education is Important

Ge (Grade 12 / Community of Peace) Originally published May 2004

I was born in Thailand. I lived there for eight years with my family. There were schools but my dad would not allow me to go. He would often say, “Who needs education? It’s not like you are going to grow up to be doctors, lawyers or teachers.” My dad was telling me; “You got better things to do then school.” Even when I was little, I had to do chores to help my family. Chores included cutting down wood from the trees for fire and heat. Another activity was waking up early in the morning and going hunting with my dad until sun set. You can see I had lots of things to do when I was younger. In my family there was little or no education at all. My parent had not attended school.

In my family my dad wore the pants around the house. Whatever he said or did, you just had to follow it. You can’t really say much because that was dad and you don’t want to make it seem like you are not listening to him. As I grew older I questioned him whether I really didn’t need an education. As time went on I would ask him,” How come you won’t let me go to school like the other kids in the village.” He said, “The reason was because we were moving to the U.S. and they don’t teach Thai or speak Thai in the U.S. They are Americans and they speak and write in English only.”

Two years later we finally moved to the U.S. and that was in the early 90s. We lived in California for about three months and then we decided to move to Minnesota. I was about nine years old when we moved to Minnesota, so they put me in second grade instead of third grade because I didn’t speak a word of English. What the school didn’t know was I had never been to a school in my life before and this was my first time. One of the hardest parts about school was understating what the teacher was saying to me. For example, when the teacher asked me to do something, I would just sit and nod my head “yes,” but really she was telling me to get up and join the other kids. As time went on more problems came up that hurt my education.

A student started by asking him about his life. We learned Dennis Banks was born on the Leech Lake Reservation on April 12, 1937. His mother was full Chippewa. When Dennis was four years old, he was taken from his family to one of the many boarding schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (B.I.A.). In these boarding schools almost everything Native American (including their native languages), were forbidden. Dennis tried to escape from his boarding school six times and was punished for each attempt. He finally succeeded in escaping and returned to his parents eleven years after being taken to the school.”

After my first four months of school, my dad decided to leave the family and that was the last time I saw or heard from him. Due to his leaving my education suffered. I did not go to school for about two weeks. I had to stay home and help my mom get over my dad’s leaving. Moving to the U.S. I didn’t know English so I was behind on that, and now I had lost two weeks of school and was behind other students.

Due to the two weeks of missing school, the school decided to put me in an all-day ESL class for six months. The ESL class was full of students whose second language was English. In my opinion the class didn’t really help me because there were Hmong kids there and all day long we spoke in Hmong and there was little or no English, so I did not learn from that. In order for me to learn English I have to be around people who only speak English so I could work on it and become fluent in it.

I have worked hard to get my education but without two people I would have not made it. The first person is my mother who believed in me and told me never to give up no matter what. Even with little knowledge of English, she still helped me with my school work and my alphabet. She helped me pronounce the letters and helped me learn them. The other person is Ms. Fox who was my sixth grade teacher. She told me if I put my mind to studying I would learn. She was the first person outside of my family to have faith in me and that meant a lot to me. She made me want to learn and know more and I truly thank her for that. She was really the first person to introduce me to books. She read to me, read along with me, and picked books at my reading level. I would like to thank her for helping me.

Getting to where I am I have had to deal with a lot of things in my life. Getting the education I wanted has really changed my life for the better and I am happy. At the start, doing the simplest thing like watching T.V., listening to the radio, and looking at books I did not understand a word. Now, I know and understand what I see and read. I have come a long way in my education.

One thing I do know and will not do in the future is telling my kids that education is not important. Yes, my dad did tell me that education will not get me anywhere and look at me now and where I am. I never want to be like my dad and bring my kids down and not give them the education they want and need. Education has done nothing but good things for me.

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