When asked to inventory my educational experiences and identify what has been valuable in preparing me to fulfill the roles I outlined in my first assignment, although I realize that the syllabus is asking for formal classes, I suggest that education outside the classroom is equally important if not more.
However, I will list the formal courses to meet the direction before I go into what I consider of greater value.
FORMAL COURSES OF VALUE
Sunday School – Although not accredited by any college, it taught me the teachings of Jesus at an early age in stories written for young minds to be loving, forgiving, and caring. I know Sunday School was a big influence because even though I attended it more than 50 years ago, I can still remember many of the teachings and events from that time to include the first Bible verse I ever memorized “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature in favor of God and Man.” (Luke 2:52)
Who would have thought that fifty years later it would become a talking point about service to others at university for a reflection paper? Off the top of my head I cannot think of a more appropriate verse to speak of service than this one. As Jesus grew up he increased not only in height but also in wisdom in order to better serve God and man.
Catechism – Although I had been attending church all of my life at that point, we moved from the Quaker Church to a town that had none. My parents started sending us to the local Methodist Church where at the age of thirteen I attended Catechism. In Catechism, I was taught to be a good Christian citizen. Although by this time, entering my teenage years I was less affected than by this than I was by Sunday school when I was younger.
Naval Basic Training – Basic military training at the age of 17 taught me that I should not an autonomous individual but rather a functioning part of a team. Once you leave the thinking of what is good for me to what is good for we (I know, not proper English grammar, but it was taught this way), you learn to be insightful as to what is good for all.
Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer’s Course – This academy teaches non-commissioned officers how to be effective leaders by emulating the core values of the Air Force: integrity first; service before self; and excellence in all we do. Although I knew the values, they were greatly tested while I was at the academy.
Before leaving for the academy, my father who was terminally ill with cancer asked me to promise him that I would stay and finish the course no matter what. I knew he was dying and had already spoken with his physician who assured me that he would be fine until I got back in five weeks. So, I gave my word that I would not quit the course.
On the first day of classes, I was called to the commandant’s office in the early afternoon. When I entered his office I noticed the chaplain sitting off to the side. I knew what they were going to say before it was said. Although the commandant wanted to send me home, I declined his suggestion as I had given my word. The majority of the other 120 plus students rallied around to give me support. I in turn used that as the catalyst to continue my own studies and help those in my class who were struggling with the academic load.
On the fifth day of class, my classmate Technical Sergeant Scott Maciboba dropped over dead while we were doing physical training. Again the commandant wanted to send me home, and I declined. The Air Force had paid large sums of money to get me this training and I had given my word to my father; I was not going to disappoint either. When I graduated from the course, the general who handed out the diplomas stopped me and said he was honored to meet the sergeant who emulated the core values to that extent. I was humbled as I did not think I was doing what I was doing for anyone but myself. What I later realized is by working through my tribulations during that period, I showed others that challenges can be overcome if you set your mind to it.
Introduction to Sociology – In this course, the professor who claimed to be a devout socialist and a dedicated student of Karl Marx told us on day one that this was going to be a class on why America should be a socialist or communist state. Since I was still in the military I had issues with her comments and knew I could approach this situation in one of two ways. One, confront her head on; or two, debate it in a civil manner and show the younger students why the professor might be wrong. By addressing it civilly and using human imperfections to make my point, I was able to not only get the professor to reconsider, but swayed several students to reconsider their point of view.
Introduction to Ethics – This class prepares students who are willing to have an open mind, for a vocation after leaving school. The study of philosophies on ethics allows students to know which philosophy best resembles their own mindset. My final presentation on teaching religion in public schools and that in turn inspired me to do more research, which in turn inspired me to work on “An Inconvenient God”.
LIFE CLASSES OF VALUE
Student of Life – The first experiences in life often are great courses of learning for a future vocation. Outside the structures of formal schooling many lessons are taught through interaction with adults and peers.
My father always wanted a son and a daughter. After my eldest brother was born, my next eldest brother and I were failed attempts at a daughter. After my eldest brother died at the age of five, my next eldest brother took the position of “son” and I was left to be the failure. After me he got his daughter and then another son which he considered a mistake and blamed on my mother. Anyway, I punished for all the ill deeds of my siblings did. Once my father got heavy into drinking, the punishments grew into physical beatings.
At a very early age I had already decided that when I became a father I would never beat my children with a belt, much less the buckle end of the belt. I also decided that if my younger brother got blamed for anything, I would take the blame on myself to keep him from the experience.
Another incident was when I was eleven years old. My father’s boss had a son who suffered from Down’s syndrome. At the time they blamed his developmental problems on the belief that since he never crawled and went straight from scooting to walking. Anyway, there was a promotion open at Maytag in my father’s department and the boss was the promotion authority. When Dad heard that his boss was looking for someone to help his son with exercises that they hoped would magically make the child “normal”, he volunteered me for the job and I was soon helping Robbie. When he found out he didn’t get the promotion, he told me to quit helping the boy. I didn’t and would either walk across Newton to their house to help or ride my bike when the weather was nice. The story of Robbie is a lengthy one and I will not bore you with the details.
My mother always called me her sunshine boy because whenever someone was depressed, I would do things to make them laugh. Also, I was constantly trying to keep peace between Mom and Dad, and between my siblings. Mom always stood up for me when I was getting the blame for what my older brother and sister did.
What I learned as a student of life from my father was how not to treat others including my own children someday. My mother taught me how to stand up for what is right no matter what because there were times that Dad beat her instead of me when she tried to intervene. Robbie taught me so much. In the time I knew him he never raised his voice, gave up on trying something, or had ill will towards anyone. All of these lessons very important for the vocation of life that a classroom cannot teach.
Student of Citizenship – After graduating from high school, I entered the military where my very first act was a very important lesson for giving back to the community. That act was taking the oath of enlistment for the very first time. When it came to the part that I will defend the nation against all enemies both foreign and domestic, I was not naïve enough to think I wasn’t putting my life on the line for this nation. This happened at the end of the Vietnam War and voluntary enlistment in the military was at a low. However, I also knew that America needed a military to protect our rights and freedoms. I originally thought I would just serve four years and then go to college for something, but after four years I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and reenlisted. After eight years I was still not inclined to a civilian career and again reenlisted. After that, I had too much time invested in the military to walk away from it.
Student of Employment – No matter where a person works, they are in a vocation of serving others, or they should be. When a person takes a job, by accepting the position, they are agreeing to do their best to assist their employer in being successful. An employee must learn to give 100% while at times dealing with difficult coworkers or customers. The whole time you are employed, you are being taught how to improve yourself to better serve your employer.
Student of Marriage – People who marry are in for what can turn out to be a very difficult class to attend. I don’t know of anyone who at the time they got married did not think that marriage was going to be anything more than a walk with their spouse in the garden. Being in a marriage means both parties continuously giving to each other to keep the bond strong. Of all the life classes to take, this one I consider the second most difficult to pass.
Parent/Mentor – This is the most difficult of life’s classes to pass with a good grade. This class requires the student to objectively reflect on their own life and identify how to teach their child the lessons the parents had to learn the hard way to keep the child from having to learn the lesson the same way. It also requires the student (parent) to continuously adjust the lesson plan to address ever evolving situations for their children.
For those who do not have children but are a mentor to others, the same obstacles apply but usually not to the same extent as a parent and child situation.
Student of Example – The final stage is the student of example. This is like the PhD course of vocational learning. Although students have learned a lot throughout their life, after all their other responsibilities of giving have been fulfilled, a person still has to continuously reflect on their life and actions and adjust them to become a better example for future generations.
In conclusion, a person’s both formal and informal education in order to be able to give back to their community is a life long journey that starts at birth and ends at death. The journey is an ever changing one and the lessons to be learned along the way are too numerous to address them all.
A good student will not give up though and will spend their life making positive changes in other’s lives by giving.
If you want to read more about Scott Maciboba – https://ruraliowegian.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/so-you-think-youre-having-a-bad-week/
If you would like to know more about Robbie –