Life Tip #39

The most valuable learning usually occurs beyond the classroom.

By taking charge of your own learning, you will discover a world of information that never makes it into the school textbooks, or into the newsroom broadcasts, or even onto mainstream websites.

For example, it took my joining the Peace Corps and living in Paraguay, South America, to learn about a major war where nearly 100,000 people perished. A war in which so many people died right here in the Americas, and less than 100 years ago. I’ll bet you never heard of The Chaco War. Nor had I.

The Chaco War, fought between Paraguay and Bolivia, took place for various reasons, one of which was a dispute over oil interests. You may have heard of Standard Oil and Shell Oil? I thought so. It is argued that those two companies, each partnering with an opposing country in the conflict, encouraged the war because the disputed land was thought to be rich in oil reserves. Imagine that! The only problem was that 100,000 lives later, it turned out they were wrong about the oil reserves.

Scandalous? Yes. Yet you probably never heard about this war until now. I guess too much other news was going on in places like Europe in the early 1930s. This begs the question: How many other big pieces of history do we not know about because the media, our state’s curriculum adoption boards, and the textbook publishers decide that some information is more important than other information? What we learn in school is decided by the powers that be, who think they know best. We learn what they decide is important, regardless of whether their judgment is to be trusted. The end result: There is a lot, lot more history out there to be learned, history that they deemed unimportant.

This is why we must take our own initiative to learn beyond the classroom. If we want an unbiased education, we have to get it ourselves.

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