For years I believed that knowledge was the safeguard against people getting the wrong impression about my Cerebral Palsy. I believed that if I learned enough, read enough, studied enough, and contributed enough, people would give me a break. I kept coaching myself through the mental abuse.
I told myself like a mantra: Read, write. Show everyone that you can think with the best of them. But denial does not die so easily. I was born in the 80s, at a time when Cerebral Palsy was new. I grew up in the 90s and became an adult after the millennium.
So, when I came upon an episode of Law and Order involving autistic, bright, and disabled people, my heart paused. The story focused on a mentally-handicapped person sent away by his family. The father of the family told his wife and investigators why sending his son away was “the best thing”. Even for a noticeably mentally-challenged person, the pain of denial is not easily remedied. Even after having two college degrees, I have to forgive the denial of those around me.
It’s as though knowledge cannot save or fix the gap that human connection should fill. So I devour books and I am honored to work in a learning institution, the public library.
My mother taught me. My father taught me. Several women gave me tough love.
But sometimes even these disciplined few had knowledge make them arrogant, deceptive people.
I often read Martin Luther’s King’s “The Purpose of Education.” And I reflect upon that essay accepting that people have gotten more ignorant as more information circulates.
Cutting through the crud of data thrown at every one of us, is getting harder. King says “it’s hard to think for yourself and guard against the swamp of propaganda.” (The Purpose of Education, 1947)
It difficult now because knowledge can be manufactured to suit the biases of others.
All it takes is a small seed of dis-content to spoil a progressive idea that might save a small group of humans from a confused world.
And if people are not judging me for my major (ENGLISH), a knowledge that few care to understand the science behind… they malign me for continuing to read and write.
But my education isn’t about exploiting people. Because the mind is limited, I’ve realized that no matter how much I learn, so people are just permanently lost.
Knowledge can inflame hostility to change. And this is how we got to where we are in my nation. Some of us want to change or progress, but only when the change cannot threaten our security. Humans are creatures of habit and when habits get too comfortable, people get scared. And fear paralyzes options that can be new opportunities.
My grandfather said: You never stop learning. All my kids graduated and I still don’t know everything. I lost him in 2009. I can be arrogant. I can be stubborn but my education hasn’t taken my focus away from building good character.
I am continually mournful when I see businesspersons, layman, educators, and academics using their knowledge to justify poor character decisions. I had to understand personally the consequences of knowledge without character, degrees without commitments, consistency without compassion.
I think knowledge loses value if we cannot point to growing better people as a product of it.
I’m still healing myself from learning that even knowledge can make one sick. If my personal gain is just for the sake a lampooning those that I think are better than me, I should have never gone to school.
Humanity is limited on accomplishment and potential. Education is important, but education with balanced perspective is knowledge’s true path. I’ll never stop missing my grandfather because he had peace, understanding that EDUCATION shouldn’t be a license to attack and disparage.
With the skills I have, I care about people. I’ll never let a love for information stop me from deliver respect to all people. Education isn’t everything. And there are different kinds of education. They all have some value. But we all are motivated by good and evil. Information and education can never blight the toxicity of factions. Even educated, disabled, people like me face prejudice. Were it not for my education, it would not be half as focused on what voices to edit out of my mental computer. And that is a skill education teaches us. We’ve got to survive, and it’s easier to survive with a healthy, working thought process.