Saturday, March 08, 2014

International Women's Day

It's been a long week. I filled in for Lynn for four days, taking her (nearly empty) band classes and her full piano lab while she took her band kids to New York. I'm happy to help out, but when you add my own class, my piano lessons, and all of the associated ups and downs of my day-to-day life, it's truly exhausting.

You can imagine, then, perhaps, how much I rolled my eyes when one of my choir girls flounced into my office a few days ago, saying, "I cannot room with ____ and ____ anymore on the Anaheim trip! I want to room with _____ instead." I smiled at her, said, "That's fine, I'll move you, but once the list is finalized, no more moving." She understood, and flounced back out smiling, all right in her world. And I sighed, did the eye-roll thing, and flopped down in my chair to make the change on my computer.

Oh, girls.

My girls--and I love them, drama and all--are so very lucky. Sure, some of them have home lives that are difficult, or self-esteem issues that are perpetuated by society, peers, and just being a teenager. But all of them have one basic right that is uncontested: the right to an education. The right to learn.

And these girls attend a fantastic high school. We are one of "those" schools, you know, the suburban, well-funded, high-scoring, "nice" schools. Not without our problems, but definitely a Very Good School. Our staff works hard to keep it that way.

There are girls in this world who do not have this advantage. Hell, there are girls in our country who miss out on the educational advantages my choir girls enjoy. In inner city schools, there are very few choir tours to Anaheim, band trips to New York, etc. Girls sports are underfunded and under-represented (meanwhile, our girl's volleyball won the State Championship in December, and the trophy and team pics are proudly being displayed in our gym. Half the admin team flew to Southern California to be at the game). I worked in Stockton long enough to know that even in the U.S., there are girls who just slip right out of having their educational needs met.

But worldwide, it can get even more dire. We all know the story of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by Taliban "fighters" (I prefer the word "cowards") because she dared to speak up and demand her right to an education. A grown-up shot a child in the head because he and his cohorts were scared of a child.

Well, it turns out they should be. Cowards ought to be scared of a woman (I refuse to call her a girl because chronologically, she no longer is, and in terms of maturity, Malala is one hell of a mighty woman) who is willing to accept the consequences of speaking up for her rights, and the rights of others. A woman who brought the nearly unflappable comedian/"news anchor" John Stewart to a state of stunned speechlessness when she appeared on his show.

Fighting terror with peace and education. Right on.

Malala brings to light the plight of girls everywhere, and, through her Malala Fund, does something about it. But she doesn't just raise a bunch of money, she acts. She has visited Syrian refugees and helped to set up schools in their camps--this must be a ray of sunlight in the bleakness of being forced from their homes to a new, unfamiliar place, walking across a desert and carrying their worldly possessions on their backs.

All of this is on my mind right now because it is International Women's Day, and because of what I do every day; but also because of this article I saw last night, detailing why a very disturbing photo of a young Syrian girl injured by shrapnel. In the photo, it is hard to determine if she is in shock, or deceased. Happily, she is alive, and survived her wounds, but the photo brings to light the horrific conditions Syrian children are facing, and how, through circumstances they never asked for, they, too, are now facing being a "lost generation" of uneducated children. It's heartbreaking to think that while my girls, every day, have the luxury of being bored in English class or having their petty dramas in choir, there are children who literally get hit by shrapnel in their own neighborhood. Girls who get shot in the head for daring to demand they have a right to an education.

Education is obviously a cause close to my own heart. I spend a lot of time and energy defending it here on the home front, but I also believe that all children, everywhere, deserve a chance to learn. In safety and peace. It doesn't matter what their gender is, all children deserve an education. Now I'm toying with an idea to get my own students involved in an effort to raise money for The Malala Fund. The students at my school are pretty with-it and awesome about these, why not?

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