May 21, 1536 may be an unfamiliar date. All in all, it is one of the most important in human history because the first public, free and compulsory school in history was established there.
The place of that event was the Protestant city of Geneva, in Switzerland. The Genevans simply followed the totally reformed principle of reading the Bible daily, and of course they had to become literate to do so. Since they knew how to read and write, why not learn some math, history, foreign languages or natural sciences? They couldn’t imagine it then, surely, but with that step they were laying the foundation for their future progress.
It was an unthinkable step in the Catholic world where, for example, one could become a saint, like Fray Escoba, without knowing how to read and write. Switzerland soon reached an enviable level of literacy and, despite not having natural wealth, went on to become one of the most prosperous nations on the planet.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the various republics of Latin America became emancipated and had, unlike Switzerland, enormous natural wealth, but alas! its population, like that of Spain, was made up of more than ninety percent illiterate.
It was not difficult but impossible that they could compete with other countries where education had already led to the Scientific Revolution. To this day, that abyss of difference has not been overcome. Perhaps some consider that I am speaking only of historical anecdotes. Quite the contrary! I am referring to the future of the people who live in California.
As I write these lines, California has the lowest literacy rate in the United States. Nearly 25 per cent of its inhabitants over the age of 15 lack the ability to understand a single sentence and – once again serious – only 77 per cent of its adult population have an ability to read from a medium level upwards.
The data – in case you want to check it out – is from the WorldPopulation Review. I am more than sure that the readers of this column yearn for the best for themselves and theirs.
I have no doubt that they do not want to stagnate but to progress. Therefore, I must warn you that it is practically impossible for you to achieve it without education.
A couple of days ago, the cashier of a supermarket I went to was in serious difficulty when it came to serving an Anglo for the simple reason that she only spoke Spanish. I have no doubt that working as a cashier is decent, but as I told that woman, “if you want to be nothing more than a cashier, all you have to do is not learn English.”
In other words, you should not waste the opportunities you have to advance and for this you have to improve your education. The reality is that education is the key to social advancement for the vast majority of people. It’s never too late to learn. Seek education, cultivate it, take advantage of it unless you want for yourselves and your children to remain limited at the bottom of the social scale, something that can be totally honest, but not the best that can be found in this country. The proof is in that Geneva of the 16th century where the first public, compulsory and free school in History was opened.