My long journey back to Eugene began at 4:00 this morning (DC time) as I was picked up 3 hours before my departure. The wait in line to get through security seemed longer than the ride to the airport. After I got my boarding pass, I entered a long line that waited have boarding passes checked. After the boarding pass and your identity is verified, one can pick any of about 10 scanning lines to follow. At Dulles, the full body scanner is used. It takes just a few seconds longer. Actually the lines moved rather quickly. I was pleasantly surprised. Even the likes of Donald Rumsfeld, who walked past me, was entering the same security screening as everyone else.
The flight from DC to San Francisco was a direct one lasting almost 6 hours. I was lucky to sit in the same row as a gentleman from Argentina. We talked for almost two hours. He was on his way to China. His travel time is approximately 30 hours. We talked about families and how we grew up. I found that there was a fundamental similarity in his parents’ and my parents’ philosophy on child rearing. One of the key points that we both grew up with was the value of education. This gentleman said that it is also one of the vast differences in our countries today. In Argentina today, parents try to get their children into school at 2 years old. The first level of schooling is ages 2-5, called Kindergarten. The second level is ages 6-14 which is called middle or secondary school. The third level was a little unclear. He did stress that by the age of 15 a student knows what schooling they need to fulfill the requirements for their career. It is more of a junior college level. Parents have to pay for their children to go to private school as the public school system is not very good. Apparently there is very little oversight, the teachers are not consistent with what they teach, and the quality of teaching is very low. Parents pay whatever they have to for their children to go to the private schools. This means that families live on a very tight budget. He said he had trouble understanding the view on education in our country. In his country education is highly sought. His opinion is that in America, it is taken for granted.
We talked about the poverty issue and the lack of nutritional education that the rural areas have. In some of the upper regions of the country, there is a high child mortality rate as families do not properly feed the children. Apparently there is a popular drink that is much like a tea. Parents are raising the children on that tea instead of on milk, formula, or other nutritionally rich food. The tea holds little nutritional value. It was a sad situation to hear about.
I did ask him about the Perrons, perhaps Argentina’s most famous ruler. What he had to say was that most of the today’s problems stem from Perron’s reign. It was interesting to hear as he was able to speak freely.
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to him. It was refreshing to hear the impression of our educational system from another side. We need to celebrate our educational opportunities and remember that others do not have the same opportunities as we do.