Posted by Wafa K. | Posted on February 2, 2012
By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy – indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self-satisfaction.
Earlier this week, a friend of mine and one of the organizers at the Tutorial Project, Hannah invited me to come to a Baltimore City school initiative. The meeting consisted of parents, teachers, social workers, and community organizers discussing the various campaigns being worked on to address the immediate needs of the BCPS system. The topic of this particular meeting was the bottle tax and property tax initiative that will help raise money in order to ameliorate the issue of crumbing and decrepit infrastructure that is a reality for the majority of schools in Baltimore City. As individuals who spend much of our time working with and for Baltimore youth, Hannah and I were moved by the dedication and passion of those at the meeting. There was a sense of objective understanding that our involvement, despite our desire to be a part of the work and movement, would be that of outsiders. Whether that was a manifestation of our own making or because seeing Hopkins students at these kinds of meeting is such an anomaly is a distinction that is up for interpretation, but it did spark a thought in my mind concerning how Hopkins students interact within our community.
Johns Hopkins’ Homewood campus can feel like an oasis of higher education in a sea of poverty. Baltimore City is not a exceedingly wealthy city, there are parts of the city where graduation rates are lower than you would conceive to be possible, and it struggles to deal with a economy that has not been allowed it to recover from a decline in industry. With all of that said, Baltimore City still stands as a testament to its citizens and its reputation as charm city. To spend four years here, or any city for that matter, and remain apathetic towards is plights is to do a disservice to the opportunities offered by the college experience. Sitting in lecture, learning how to think, articulate, argue and fail are all important to the classroom education in college; however, I believe there are more fundamental lessons that are learned through the independence and immersion into a new community.
That community extends beyond the walkways and lecture halls of a college campus. I know this because I see it every day. I see it in the interactions between our tutors and tutees at the Tutorial project, between families that come to Kennedy Krieger to participate in research and the volunteers, between freshmen during Orientation and the areas they serve during the President’s Day of Service. I have seen in countless times during my four years at Hopkins, but I have never been able to articulate why I find it so particularly important. For the first time, this meeting allowed me the vocabulary to discuss why college students must, on the merit of necessity, be engrained and concerned about the triumphs and tribulations of their adopted city.
My family came to this country for the sole purpose of offering my sisters and myself the opportunity for an amazing education; moreover, I recognize the importance of the schooling part of education. To learn and to expand and to grow, it is all dandy and important. But, almost more consequentially, education should allow you to grow as a whole human. To expand your capability for compassion and involvement. You can gain all the skills in the world, but without the values and experience to apply them they remain stagnant and benefiting nobody. I may not remember how to solve a gravitational potential problem in ten years, but I will value the ability to integrate and contribute to issues that affect my community, wherever that may be.
So it matters to me. It matters that elementary schools in Baltimore do not have heating in the winter, that their walls are crumbling and that their funding is lacking. That is the particular issue that evokes my passions, it may not be the same for everybody, but something (ambiguity intended) should be important enough for you to care. Apathy is limiting, frustrating and fruitless. Caring about BCPS is not included in my curriculum to graduate, but it bears just as much importance to my education. Because this is now my home as well, and to remain disengaged would be an insult to the warmth, opportunities and wealth of support that this city has offered me. That is a lesson that should be taken by all college students, future and present, because the choices we make now about the value we place on issues we care about will be long-lasting and run very deep.