Frank McCourt died over the weekend at the age of 78. As the millions of readers of his memoir know, just surviving a childhood of poverty, constant hunger, illness, indifferent institutions, and criminally irresponsible adults was his first remarkable accomplishment. That he told his story with humor and forgiveness is truly astonishing.
We should also take a moment to remember that it was education that gave him both hope to imagine someplace better and the ticket to get himself there. There are many things society should do for its youngest citizens, including making sure they are fed, healthy, and well cared for. But McCourt reminded us of education’s power to lift children up. Perhaps not surprisingly he spent 30 years as a New York City English teacher before writing his best-seller. So thanks, Frank McCourt, for an inspiring life and a good yarn. Patte Barth