Letter to Our Youth at the Start of a New School Year

Dear Friends:

May I presume to call you that. I love having friends, and the younger the better (I’m 83).
I write to share with you some things I’ve “learned” in the hopes that if you take in just a little bit you may in some way be encouraged to learn a whole lot more than I have.
Like most boys and girls whose parents were of “The Greatest Generation,” the grand value of education was instilled in me from an early age, and not just its value through high school but well beyond, into college and onward, to wherever there were things to learn—such was the goal mom and dad set.
I am so very grateful to my parents for having done that for me and my sister, who sailed rather smoothly through college before settling down to raise four daughters. I stumbled a little my first years of college but as a junior and senior found my groove and then continued through several years of graduate study.
But looking back over the years, desiring at this point to sum it all up, it’s not formal education I have come to value the most: It’s the Grand Discovery that can take place anytime, anyplace to anyone with an open and exploring mind. What a joy it is to learn a new thing about this vast universe and an even greater joy to have unfolded to oneself a secret about how to get along with other human beings. Yes, when and where often matters, but not as much as the sheer joy that comes with  gaining new insight and understanding, wherever and whenever.
Several of my classroom teachers I considered brilliant (most are deceased)—so erudite, so knowledgeable about their discipline, so superbly able to communicate their knowledge while encouraging us students to emulate their examples. How fortunate  I was to have sat in their classrooms.
But I’ve known many other exceptional human beings who’ve had relatively little formal education whom I consider equally brilliant.
I don’t know how they did it. But somehow these informally educated opened themselves to the excitement in discovery. Several, I have come to admire greatly. They stand at the top of my “Most Respected”— like Doris, the 65 year old widow who had leaned how to comfort and care better than anyone I’ve known; like Jim, the degreeless master mechanic who just may be the “most looked up to” man I’ve come across; like Johnny, the oil field superintendent who could do one thing as well as anyone could in his profession, which was simply to get the job done with finesse; like my Aunt Stella who could always make me smile and feel good about myself; and perhaps #1 on my “best educated” list, like Joe, that little 5th grader when I was a senior in high school who had already read all the books in our school libraries, then went on, bypassing college, to achieve great acclaim as a war correspondent.
I could go on. My list of those from whom I’ve learned is endless.
But there’s the other side I must not hide. I’ve known way too many people who’ve never learned. Oh, yes, they’ve done their jobs, they’ve survived, but they’ve acquired neither a rich awareness of the unity of the humankind nor an abiding appreciation for of the incomparable joy it is to live in this fantastically diverse world.
I forgive those I’ve known who’ve chosen to stay “uneducated.” But I do not respect them. They had their chance, but they chose to close themselves off to life’s most splendid lessons.
Avoid these losers, dear friends. Please, never try to be like them.
ALWAYS LOVE LEARNING. For if you do, your life’s ending will truly be a celebration.

A Lidden Pate
August 21, 2018

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