By Mary Arczynski, Colorado Vincentian Volunteer
In school I discovered my passion for improving our societal structures, but by my senior year, I felt dissatisfied with pure discussion and felt a pull to act, to “do” something about all of the societal injustices that I was learning about. Especially in my economics courses, many discussions on the right policies for social safety nets, for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, etc. seemed so overwhelming in terms of my inability to help everyone. So many of these programs feel like putting a Band-Aid on a deep wound that needs stitches, stitches that no one is willing or able to pay for. Learning about injustice, and not knowing how to help the marginalized, many times left me with a deep feeling of despair. This study led me to my passion for education equality. The more I studied economics, the more I realized the self-agency that improving the education or “worker’s skill” of a person that knowledge and experience provides.
There are many factors that play into the education of a child outside of the public institution of school—to include supportive parents or guardians, presence or lack-thereof of traumatic events in childhood, safety, nutrition, the amount of education received by a child’s parents, etc, and arguably those are factors that society does not have to “pay for” in terms of education. But, when you really think about it, education is everything when it comes to preventing a deep wound from ever forming so that a Band-Aid never has to be used in the first place, and school systems are not equal in terms of funding, nor are they equitable. Education is supposed to give everyone a chance and in addition, when done correctly, it gives people the awareness to advocate for themselves. A beneficial education allows the marginalized to improve their situations and to become contributing members of society who can interact with pride and mutual self-respect.
Education is what turns anger, violence and despair towards a situation into a burning hope for something better. Truly, think of the first time you learned to read a word, your first book and your first scholarly essay that opened a portal into an entirely new perspective on life. An education allows an individual to do that many times over during the course of ONE day. Imagine the impact of a successful countrywide educational structure on our country. One in which each student and school had adequate staffing, textbooks, technology and opportunity.
Anyone working in a profession that directly advocates for the marginalized knows that many social justice issues are intertwined. One cannot talk about education injustice without talking about poverty, and one cannot talk about poverty without talking about racial injustice. But, I truly believe that the first pragmatic step to long-term positive improvement of the many social justice issues in our country begins with providing equitable education to children.
Mary Arczynski is a graduate of James Madison University with a dual degree in English and Economics. She is currently volunteering with the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers.
This post is part of our new Justice Matters series, in which volunteers reflect on the social justice issues that have become an important part of their service experience.