Glenn Tucker | Ian a reminder that passion fuels intelligence
"My mother said that I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more intelligent than college professors. She encouraged me to listen carefully to what people called 'mother wit'. That in those homely sayings was couched the collective wisdom of generations.
- Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
On the morning of December 18, news of the passing of veteran journalist, Ian Boyne, brought a dark cloud on what was otherwise, a bright sunny day. The collective gasp of despair I heard in the meeting I was attending reflected the feeling of the entire country.
The real surprise came when it was stated that Ian, whose deep, wide intellect, was an inspiration to so many, built his reputation through an education that had not gone beyond Pembroke Hall Junior High School.
There are, of course, those who have accumulated great wealth though they did not spend much time in school. Like Henry Ford and John. D. Rockefeller, who - correcting for inflation - is the richest man who ever lived.
But I would like to introduce readers to some of the persons who Ian admired:
1. The Wright Brothers who, as youngsters, launched a weekly newspaper before they built and flew the first airplane, did not finish high school.
2. Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the United States. He helped establish libraries and universities, helped make advances in science especially electricity, helped draft the Declaration of Independence, and is a published author, left school and was a 'working man' by the age of 10.
3. Mark Twain, creator of characters like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and perhaps the most beloved writer and humorist in history spent most of his time wondering around his village and landed his first job at 11. But he had a passion for reading and spent all his spare time in the public library.
4, William Shakespeare, whose formal education ended at 13, wrote 37 plays, 154 sonnets (poems) and is credited with inventing 1,700 words.
5. Winston Churchill, spent four years in First Form and always found education "difficult". Yet he became one of the most towering political figures of the 20th century while writing a few best sellers.
6. Sequoyah, born a Cherokee Indian, spent most of his life as a self taught silversmith. In 1821, he became the first and only person to independently develop an entire writing system - developed for the Cherokee language -. After his system was completed, the literacy rates of his people rose higher than that of the white settlers in less than five years
7. The name Horace Greeley may not be known to many Jamaicans, but was admired by Ian. He had no education to speak of. By 15 he had left home in search of work. But his passion for issues led him to become one of the founding members of the Republican party and founder of the New York Tribune. He was about Ian's age when he died and is remembered as one of the most influential journalists in history.
For me, the most important lesson from Ian's life is one to mothers - particularly those whose child didn't pass for 'a good school'. Education is the passport out of poverty. But maybe we are relying too much on the classroom to live in the world. Find your child's passion and nurture it. Even if it is making trucks from empty juice boxes. Every successful person in life began by pursuing a passion. For it is passion, that compelling enthusiasm, that seems to feed intelligence. Trust me when I say Ian would want you to know that - more than education, more than intelligence - it is passion that is pointing their lives in the right direction.
- Glenn Tucker is an educator and a sociologist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org