On the road to schoolBy KHANT MINN
May has walked this road many times. No, it is not a road. It is not even a lane. It is a track made by the bare feet that have walked on the dykes separating one plot of paddy field from another. At some places, the track is disrupted by the irrigation canals. There are so many canals crossing the track at different spots that the task of building bridges over them for pedestrians is simply infeasible. Around such spots, the track is covered in mud.
May knows every twist and turn, every small bush of sensitive plants and reeds, every canal and pond on this track. Although she does not have a watch on her, she knows exactly for how long she needs to walk to reach school just by looking at the surrounding field of rice and figuring who owns it. She knows everyone working in the field. She knows what they are doing and why they are there. What she does not know is why she is walking on the track surrounded by the life she is familiar with to get to an unfamiliar place called school where all she does is copy the notes her teacher writes on the blackboard onto her book and memorize them. Her teachers tell her that if she does not study well, she will end up living a hard life like her parents. But no one has told her that less than one percent of the students in her school taking the national university entrance exam make it to college each year and that even a college degree is no longer able to better one’s life, let alone a high school diploma.
May’s school is in a village about four miles from a small town. Lack of experienced teachers and inadequate teaching aid materials are the main reasons why the school has very little success. Teachers do not want to come to schools in the countryside because they cannot live on the minuscule salary. They have to give private tuition off school hours but children living in those villages cannot afford private tuition. What is worse than not having enough teachers is not having textbooks, the only type of teaching aid material available in most schools in the country.
It is not surprising that an average student who has only one set of uniform—white shirt and green longyi—to wear to school has no money to buy textbooks. May is not a cent richer than the average student. She shares textbooks with six other students. But she studies hard. Under the dim light of a kerosene lamp, she reads, she memorizes. As hard as she studies, without textbooks and with no one to turn to when she does not understand a concept, complex mathematical ideas and scientific theories elude her. She cannot write one single English sentence of her own. But she tries using the only learning tool that she knows how to use—memorization.
The future is grim for her and many other young people who make up more than half of the entire student population in Myanmar. It is a sad thing when schools fail to provide decent education. It is a sad thing when young people are forced out of school through no fault of their own. It is a sad thing when those who make it to college and get a degree find their education cannot provide them with proper living. It is a sad thing when, through years of corruption, education is not valued anymore. But the saddest thing is when the problem is right in front of you but there is little you can do about it.
A Comical Moment:
DADA means nothing
Students in Professor Emma Bolden’s 20th Century Poetry class completed a DADA writing exercise in which they cut out words from a piece of writing, placed them in a bag, and copied the words down in order as they drew them from the bag. Here are some of the results.
(1913)By Lauren Martin
Adds stack plastic in reach
depending on weather
The Avers Judgment
Theology staff include both
#2 Me wince
close friendships touring
partner concert violinist
music asked system of microspeech
Old collaboration considerably
UntitledBy Timothy Burgess
rapid prior monastery
imprisonedBy Tori Bachman-Johnson
The historical reality denies
elevated determined and treatise
the moral mystical
the illuminated meaning between
has spiritual bible
and two He’s to avoid
Loving your enemies…even the disturbed onesBy ERNIE HEAVIN
One of my favorite times of the year on campus is the fall. The freshmen are filled with excitement because for the first time they are on their own, somewhat anyway. The upperclassmen have most likely already moved in and if they’re anything like my daughter and her roommate, they have been planning this event for the past month as the parents begin to notice certain items missing from the house (for one, my John Wayne glass). However, the fall of 2008 is a time I hope never to have to relive again.
Until August 2008 I had never had a personal enemy that I can recall. Certainly there were those I disliked and those who cared less for me, but until I received that phone call at home from my daughter on that late evening I cannot remember ever being so afraid and full of rage simultaneously. When the nightmare finally came to an end in October and we all felt normalcy could return to life I wrote the following about the experience: The media has preached “Thou shall have tolerance for everything and everyone” for the past ten years and yet my experience has been the ones who cry out for tolerance the most tolerate those who differ from them the least. I don’t believe as Christians we can tolerate all things and all people if tolerance means we accept behaviors or values that are in opposition to the very core principles of Scripture. However, if tolerance means loving our enemies and praying for them, that is a whole different matter.
Yesterday hopefully ended a long three-month roller coaster ride of anxiety in which the man who had been calling, intimidating and threatening one of my daughters finally had been identified and charged with harassment. In the investigation, the police discovered, not only had my daughter been a victim of his twisted routine of phoning her early in the morning, but other women had as well. He is 42 years old. I thought about that for quite some time last night and this morning. I thought about calling him or showing up to his place of employment and letting him experience the wrath of an angry and protective dad who wanted to put a few exclamation points (!!!!!!!) on whatever the police would have to say to him. I thought about how pathetic and disgusting it was for a 42-year-old man to receive so much pleasure frightening young women. And then I thought about Matthew 5:43-48 and those unnerving words of Jesus, “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”
I’m preaching through Matthew. I’m in the process of writing a devotional book on Matthew. What will I have to say to my congregation or readers when I address this passage? Certainly Jesus didn’t mean sick perverted people like this 42-yearold? Certainly Jesus would understand a father’s protective instinct for his daughter? Certainly my congregation would sympathize with my disgust with the perpetrator and excuse me from this isolated incident. But Jesus says, “Certainly not. If you are only kind to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” So I will pray for him. Beginning today, I will pray he gets help. I will pray he changes. I will pray he comes to Christ. I will pray I can let it go. Because one of the things my Father in Heaven will not tolerate is a pagan-minded way of life.
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