I was born and raised in Lebanon and lived much of my life in Dubai. In 2006, when we moved to Canada, I vowed that I was not going to listen or watch news about the Middle East because it saddened me so much, even though my family was still there. I was able to do that but not for long. Having experienced the civil war my Libyan and Egyptian friends in Dubai used to sympathize with me and now I am constantly on Facebook trying to comfort them.
“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” Albert Camus wrote.
Here in Montreal, however, I am caught up in a different type of news. Being a teacher I am disappointed with the education system, I am shocked to learn about high school dropout rates in Quebec, about school board battles with teachers over books and report cards, with parents over school closures. Bill 101, not having the choice to send your child to an English public school if you or your spouse haven’t attended one, depresses me. Back in Dubai our children studied English, French and Arabic in school, regardless of their mother tongue. It breaks my heart to hear politicians here in Quebec talk about extending Bill 101 to Cegeps, grades 12 and 13, depriving high school graduates of the freedom to choose to study in English or French. While in other parts of the world innocent people are getting killed fighting for democracy, for the simple right to live with some dignity and respect, here we are trying to limit the opportunities for our teenagers and youth, the right to make their own choices. In the Arab world, where in most parts there is no democracy, where people don’t vote to choose their leaders, I was able to educate my kids in the system that I chose. Twenty years ago, I was able to teach them four languages starting as early as when they were three years old. How can you not have a choice, here in this democratic country, in this day and age. Am I missing something?
It is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who wrote:
“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”
Having survived the civil war and being displaced more than once, I know the value of education as my parents knew before me. It is because of our education and knowledge that we were able to succeed and provide a decent living for our children and educate them the best we could. It is our duty as parents and responsibility as adults to leave something to our children, to the generations after us. To provide them with limitless opportunities, to give them the best choices for acquiring education and knowledge, quoting Henry James;
“The right time is any time that one is still so lucky as to have.”
It is upon our shoulders to prepare our youth for the world, that no matter what disaster, economic crisis, or political unrest they face, they can well stand on their feet and start all over again. Let us correct what we are all so guilty of so far.
“We are all so guilty at the way we have allowed the world around us to become more ugly and tasteless every year that we surrender to terror and steep ourselves in it.” Norman Mailer