It is such a sobering thought, to know that a child’s future is so often pre-determined. To sit at one’s armchair and play the oracle, in possession of full knowledge of this creature’s tomorrow. It makes one feel somewhat powerful, does it not? That by simply looking around the environs of this new member of humanity, by simply observing a few of his intrinsic birthrights, his whole life suddenly blinks into focus. At times it is encouraging; at others it is bleak and despondent. So many times it is bleak and despondent. The factors he cannot change hound him from beyond his knowledge. He is fate-ridden; destiny-bound. His father’s caste and his mother’s station are of no consequence to him at the moment. But in the majority of cases in the game of humanity’s lore, they are determining, efficacious, and occasionally punishing. Is this a natural cycle of life, a cycle we cannot change? Shall we accept this paradigm as truism and maxim? Turn a blind eye to the ever-present fact that some people are born into a future they may have been better equipped to steer, had they been better equipped to navigate?
Victor Hugo’s quote “He who opens a school door closes a prison.” is a tremendously sapient and profound truth in the guise of perhaps a rudimentary one. At first look it imparts a logical analysis of what would occur when society imparts the gift of education upon its citizenry. We see these words, contemplate the enormous benefit that schooling can have on a human being, and naturally deduce, in the simplest of terms, that if a child goes to school, he will most likely lead a productive life, steered away from what could be a life of crime. But there is so much more dynamism and depth after the initial impression. It struck me in a truly thought-provoking way.
Yes, indeed, education has the power to alight the path of good, and to veer away from the path of ill, but to me, the most poignant of points is that education, in whatever form it comes in, has the power to predict. The power to play god, the power to foretell and dictate, aligned with the power to heal virtually all the world’s wounds is the mightiest sword that one could muster. To put the esoteric part of the quote in exoteric terms, education can change the world. As trite as that may sound, what can education not do? Surely, the vast grasp of education knows no bounds, as it transcends circumstances of birth, circumstances of gender, circumstances of social class and circumstances of nationality. Now let us be wary of the limitations of education. Every coin does, after all, have two sides. Just because education CAN save the world and CAN be the answer to most problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean it always DOES.
A child with no education hasn’t a prayer. A child with education is armed with the mightiest tools he will need for the battle of life. But alas, he is still never guaranteed a victory. Another caveat: education doesn’t always come in the form of red brick, mortar and board. It comes in many facets, from the home, to the library, to the streets. The pros and cons of a formal education in a school system is a debate for another day, but what can be categorically asserted is that it is almost always better to have it than not.
What strikes me most about Victor Hugo’s quote is not, like I have stated beforehand, the obvious sentiment concerning a formal education. It is the sheer power that education has in determining one’s destiny. Look upon a child who has been granted, by the machinations of the universe, to have been born in a first world country, in full health of body and mind, into a well-off family, with parents and family that care, love and respect him. Does his future look promising to you? I think we can all agree that when we look upon a child with these characteristics, “oh, how he will struggle” is certainly not our first thought. Our first thought is usually something along the lines of “wow what a lucky kid” or “I wish had had parents like these” or perhaps “his future is as bright as he wants it to be”.
So many of society’s ills can be traced back to a lack of education. If we delve into the root of these ills, we will find that most are of human doing, and most of those are possessors of a feeble educational framework. Would the world be better off if everyone was educated? Surely. Just how much better? We will never know. We look upon the unfortunate child and solemnly hope he will have a chance. We look upon the well-off child and know it is his fortune to lose. Opening a school door goes far beyond simply closing a prison. Opening a school door is akin to giving maps to those who are on the same journey we are on, the journey of life. A journey that is arduous, lonely, at times unforgiving and with no shortcuts. But without a map in their hands, they would be blind sheep travelling in circles, with nary a chance at arriving at any form of destination.