In a column a few weeks ago, I wrote about my son's reluctance to return to school after summer vacation.
But my son had no choice. Education is compulsory in this country, and everyone, regardless of race, religion, or sex, must go. And so he got up, and he went to school, and he is there now as I write this column.
He is there with about 800 other kids, about half of whom are girls, and many of those girls presumably would rather be somewhere else than sitting at a desk writing a summary of "To Kill a Mockingbird" or listening to their teacher try to explain the American Revolution.
They might feel as though they've been detained from another, more interesting activity, such as playing tetherball or comparing their new Nikes to their best friend's rhinestone-encrusted sneakers. They might even, if asked, say they feel imprisoned.
And yet they are there, learning some things they will forget before dinner and some other things they might remember but will never use, and a few things they will both retain and apply in the future. But we know many of them are not very happy about it.
Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she dared to have a voice, could not imagine the world our children live in.
She could not imagine a world where a girl might not want to go to school but would be forced to do so anyway; a world in which laws were written to require equal access to education for everyone under the age of 18.
She can, however, tell us a lot about a world where girls are banned from school; about Taliban edicts leading to mind-boggling brutality. And that could lead us to conclusions about how lucky our own children are.
Malala's blog was a daily chronicle of her life as a schoolgirl in the Swat Valley of northwestern Pakistan.
The Taliban has gained a strong foothold in her region and has used Sharia law to terrorize children who believe in the power and promise of reading, writing and thinking critically.
Malala wrote about how proud her father was of her popular blog, and how distressed he was that he could not reveal to his friends that it was written by his daughter. She described a trip her family took to Buner, a peaceful region not controlled by the Taliban, and how she longed for tranquility to return to Swat.
But she also mentioned that her friends were tired of hearing her go on and on about Buner, a passage in her blog that conjures groups of girls standing about during break, giggling.
She lamented that she and her parents could no longer enjoy the Sunday picnics that had once been a common outing for them. And she wrote, time and time again, about her fears of the Taliban and her determination to circumvent their ban against girls attending school.
Malala's name itself translates to "grief stricken," but she thought about changing her name to something more optimistic. Her mother, who might have had the privilege in her own childhood of attending school, thought this was a good idea.
After all, the Swat Valley has an established history of educating girls, going back to at least the middle of the 20th century. Once the Taliban is gone -- and people like Malala and her parents must believe that it will be gone in their lifetimes -- the region might again embrace hope.
Malala was shot and is critical condition because she had the audacity to dream and to express those dreams.
The power of her blog rested in its honesty and simplicity. It was merely the journal of a girl who wanted to go to school, and who fathomed somehow that liberty and education are linked.
The girls sitting in a classroom with my son today are there because as a nation we understand that reading, writing and knowing are not impediments to freedom but, instead, are crucial to happiness.
If those girls now dreaming of being anyplace other than Mr. McReddy's history class could speak to Malala, or read her blog, they might come to appreciate their good fortune.
Bowers is a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program at UC Merced.