he way things are today, you'd think it would be easy to sell people on the value of educating themselves.
If you were in Iberville Parish, La., you would be wrong. Apparently, selling adult education there -- in a poorer area of a poor and ill-educated state -- is the kind of losing proposition that drove Willy Loman to despair.
We don't have to, actually. It's what we do, and some do it a lot. What we need, we don't want -- have no interest in.
And what we want . . . well, oftentimes that's the last thing we need.
ENTER the Gret Stet, stage right. Acquiring skills and education never has been so popular as "being well liked." And when folks have a shot at what they need -- as opposed to what they want -- seeing things straight can be a heroic act.
Today's edition of The Advocate lifts the curtain on a little story lying somewhere between drama and farce:
Wildit Jones spends his lunch break — Monday through Wednesday — at the old North Iberville High School building finishing what he started decades ago: his education.
The school has been closed since April after Iberville Parish school system officials determined students in grades seven through 12 would be better served at Plaquemine High School, following years of low test scores and high dropout rates.
Adult education classes have been held in the old high school building since November, but Janet Tassin, the district’s adult education coordinator, said it has been a struggle to get people to attend.
A 30-year veteran of the Iberville Parish Maintenance Department, Jones, 58, of Maringouin, was prodded by an old friend to restart his education after dropping out of school in the fourth grade.
Besides the GED classes offered, the building has more than two dozen computers with Internet access available to the public for free, Tassin said.
To date, a few people have taken advantage of the computer access, and the classes have served only 25, she said.
On Monday, past the school’s deserted common areas and the empty gym, 10 adults occupied two classrooms.
Several feet away, Jones is getting one-on-one instruction as he learns the alphabet.
He said he has been in the program for three weeks.
“I’m proud of what I’m doing,” Jones said. “I’m accomplishing something I didn’t do in my younger days. I appreciate what this is doing for my life.”
ILDIT JONES is a hero. Really and truly.
Really, discerning what's needed and putting it ahead of what's wanted is a heroic act in today's instant-gratification culture. Then there's the matter of overcoming embarrassment . . . and fear . . . and then girding oneself for a long, tough journey. In Jones' case, that journey will lead to literacy.
Truly, literacy will open the door to a world of knowledge -- a world where "working with my hands" is just one skill set out of several.
Well, duh. . . .
But when "well, duh" is anything but, that's where a long and brutal cultural battle awaits a state trying to get from "oblivious" to "obvious." Both start with the letter "O." "O" is the letter that comes between "N" and "P." . . .