Discourse / Editorials / January 22, 2020

Thoughts from the Embers: Using the power of education off campus

There is a recognition across many fields in the humanities that college students, regardless of where they come from, are particularly poised to act, intervene and volunteer in the world.

Helping others with knowledge gained is one of the central tenets of a liberal arts education. Fields that may at first seem impractical can be important and have huge effects on others’ lives.

Of course, interpreting and translation are not fields that are generally written off. Moreover, last week students brought home a very real and very powerful application of those skills with life saving potential.

With newfound knowledge and resources, it is now easier than ever to find a way to help out or fight back. Even miles away, students at Knox College were still able to find the means and the might to aid in helping asylum-seekers at the distant U.S-Mexico border.

The ever shifting and often narrowing landscape of immigration policies in our country has brought the lives and struggles of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees to the forefront of American political thought.

It felt necessary for many to act, but who weren’t sure how. Illinois is by no means close to Texas or California. It is not simple and clear sometimes what options exist for action.

But rather than be held back by “what ifs” and “hows,” Professor Robin Ragan and her fellow student volunteers – Alexis Ramirez, Natalie Juarez, Ellis Staton, Maika Padilla, Montse Cancino and Stephanie Martinez-Caldero – moved their passion past uncertainty and into vital action. We at TKS couldn’t be prouder for this continued act of humanity, love and solidarity.

On its face, this certainly highlights the value of an education you can take on the ground and into the lives of others. Knox doesn’t emphasize the importance of experience in learning because it looks cool or kills time. Ideally, it is not even because it is a central part of the act of learning (even though it is).

Rather, this service goes far beyond a graduation requirement or a chance to learn. It helps others in a clear and tangible way and should serve as a model for the good we can do as students. It is easy and necessary to take what Knox has taught us out into the world to make it better.

Education is a tool we can use to bend, break and remake the world around us. It is a new lens through which we see what lies outside Knox as well as within. It is a resource we can extend to others, to build bridges and create new ways of being.

We also benefit from and are sobered by them bringing their experiences back and sharing with us. We cannot understand what they or the migrants they served go through in the rooms but we can start to learn about them. It is another chance to give spread stories that need to be heard more widely.

On a deeper level, this is yet another clear indictment of inaction. If there is a need in this world and a desire within you to help, you can use what power and what support college gives you to act.

Colleges, institutionally, give a financial structure and a number of transportation, educational and human resources to get things done. They give us a handful of like-minded people that want to act as much as we do. If you are lucky, like we are, it also gives you quite a few faculty and staff that want to help.

It has never been easier to make change in this world. It will likely never be easier than it is in your time in college. And, looking at the world before us, it may never be more important than it is today.

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  asylum asylum-seekers immigrant rights immigration immigration reform spanish

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