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Bargell: Education is a core American value

by Cindy Bargell

We all see the world through the lenses of our own experience. My life view was shaped by education and football, perhaps not in that order. And yours?

A child of the Depression, my father jumped at the chance to enlist for WW II, even before he turned 18. Naturally, I’m here because he came home – although he never let me forget that many did not. Upon his homecoming, he was one of the nearly 7.8 million GIs who went to school, in some form, on the GI Bill. According to the VA website, the World War II GI Bill, signed into law on June 22, 1944, is said to have had more impact on the American way of life than any law since the Homestead Act. This program – and our country’s belief in education for returning vets – changed the course of our family history.

Dad’s dad was a smart man, but as the son of a first-generation immigrant, he left school in fifth grade to work in the coal mine. Grandpa’s dream, like so many others, was for his kids to receive a good education. Pop, however, was not exactly a scholar, although he sure loved his football. The GI Bill got him to college, but sports kept him there. He chuckled recalling a chemistry class where a subpar grade threatened his graduation. With a wife and my older brother on the way, he said he calmly explained to the professor – as he held him dangling outside an upper story window – that all he really needed was a passing grade. Of course, I don’t advocate this type of persuasion (and surely it’s just some family lore), although I could imagine a returning vet taking a bit more aggressive role in the “grade discussion.” These guys fielded one tough football team, too.

If Dad did not have that shot at college, I suspect my plea for a year off after graduating from high school – you know, to find myself – would not have fallen on deaf ears. In our household, however, there was no discussion about not going to college. I don’t recall actually being dangled out of a window, but that likely would have been the alternative had I argued. For Dad, an education for his kids was an expectation. Of course, so was taking on a job and earning the money to make it happen.

So, as I look at the ballot measure to keep our schools funded, I remember that my entire life was shaped by a program that made education available to my father. Naturally, we don’t all agree with every decision, or every program in our public schools. Why, if Dad were alive he would wonder what the heck people were doing playing rugby instead of football. The only reference to soccer in our household was to “that communist sport” – seriously. But, I see our high school girls heading off to Division I schools to play and I harbor some hope one of our girls has inherited Dad’s penchant to tackle. Moreover, I truly believe the people who work in and for our schools want our kids to succeed, and they work hard to make sure everyone who sets foot in the door can achieve their particular potential. And no, I don’t think simply throwing money at any institution makes it better. But the reality is schools must be funded to survive. The federal government believed in education for the greatest generation, and this belief changed my life. Accordingly, when it comes to education I have to take a look through my lenses. Saving $40 or even $100 a year, or making a point about taxes, pales in comparison to my hope that the next generation has its own shot at greatness.

Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at cindy@visanibargell.com.


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