Robert Barron column: It’s good to see kids excited about education

A travelling salesman banged on our door and showed my parents an encyclopedia set

When I was a kid, June was my favourite month of the year.

It was usually a warm month with the promise of summer in the air and, more importantly, June was when school let out and we’d all get a long break from the classroom.

I talked to some of the graduating Grade 12 students at Cowichan Secondary School earlier this week and many of them excitedly told me of their plans to head to college or university in the fall.

What I was encouraged to see was that the vast majority of the students I talked to, even as the long and lazy days of summer begin, were enthusiastic about learning and understood the opportunities that come with it as they become adults.

I’ve always strived to be a life-long student and, despite my increasing age, I still find myself fascinated to learn as much as I can about everything around me; from starfish to the stars themselves.

It’s hard to believe in these days of instant communication and the internet that there was a time, for many, when learning about the world around us was mostly limited to the resources that were provided by local public schools; and they were sometimes very basic to say the least.

As I’ve mentioned before in this column, I spent a lot of my youth in a small and remote fishing and mining town on the country’s east coast.

I commend the teachers there for doing the best they could to enlighten and educate their students with what they had, but they were never given much in the way of tools.

The town’s library was also very small and had little in the way of reading materials to excite an ever-questioning mind like mine.

Of course, there were no computers in those days and television in that community consisted of a fuzzy CBC channel that would come and go with the weather.

Then, one day, a travelling salesman banged on our door and showed my parents an encyclopedia set that he had in his car.

The set consisted of about 40 volumes and covered every topic you could think of in chronological order, from A to Z.

I was about seven years old at the time and had never encountered such a wealth of knowledge all in one place in my life.

I was gob smacked as I started leafing through the volumes with all their pictures and reams of information and wished really hard that my parents would not send the salesman away without a sale.

With seven kids, however, they obviously saw the value of having the encyclopedias and cut a cheque.

I remember sitting with those encyclopedias and reading them all from cover to cover until I had absorbed all the educational material they had to offer.

To this day, I vividly recall the articles and pictures in those books, and even their smell of fresh ink.

From that point forward, my thirst for learning was unquenchable.

Most of today’s kids don’t know how fortunate they are to have so much knowledge and educational material from all over the world available to them with just a click of a button.

But I was delighted to see that most are still excited to learn and to try to use knowledge to make their lives, and their world, a better place.

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