If it was up to me, I'd shut off the cable. There are a few shows I enjoy, but several of them have been canceled, and the rest are in danger of being overtaken by IQ-point-sucking dribble like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and "The View."

Every time I turn on the television, I spend half my time flipping past shows highlighting other people's stupidity and embarrassing moments. Reality TV is all the rage, but there's nothing real about it. Not that it matters; people don't watch the Kardashians to learn how to run a clothing boutique or get along in a blended family. People watch to see them make complete backsides of themselves, pun intended.

With all this nonsense on TV, I'm surprised the Taliban hates the western world as much as they do. I would think they'd use America's embarrassing television schedule to set an example of what not to do:

"If you embrace the infidel world, you will be forced to wear badly fitting clothes, paint yourself orange in a tanning salon and act like an idiot for the world to see."

Yet, they hate us. Frankly, I don't care; my self-worth is not tied to anyone's opinion, especially that of a group proudly taking credit for shooting a 14-year-old girl.

Malala Yousafzai, of Pakistan, was shot in the head Oct. 9 while returning home from school; a school mate was also wounded. Malala was targeted because she started writing a blog in 2009 for BBC Urdu describing how life changed when the Taliban came to her town. She was 11 at the time, and her perspective was typically pre-teen: school, friends, clothes, family trips. But it was tinged with fear and sadness: women were not allowed to go out in public, girls were not allowed to go to school or even read at home and the streets were thick with a new eerie silence, thanks to curfews and death threats. She's won several awards for her writing and has been described as a "symbol of resistance to the Taliban."

And all she wanted to do was learn.

Education is taken so badly for granted in the United States. There was a time when education was banned for certain Americans and, not so long ago, equal education for women and girls was deemed unnecessary.

I remember reading my mom's yearbook when I was a child. She graduated in 1969, and her ambition said she wanted to be a secretary. Even at the tender age of 7, I knew my mom had always wanted to be a veterinarian, so I asked about her out-of-character career aspiration.

"The only choices for girls were secretary, nurse or teacher," she said.

How the United States has changed, thank goodness. Certainly, becoming a secretary, nurse or teacher is an admirable decision, but what if a girl in 1969 wanted to become a CEO, a neurologist or a superintendent?

Fast forward to my high school years in the '90s, when college was simply a given for those of us, girls and boys, who wanted to pursue higher education. We didn't have to convince anyone that girls are smart enough or worthy enough for a college degree; we didn't have to bear guilt for supposedly taking a seat from a man who had to support a family someday; we didn't have to hide our faces from terrorists to get to class. Education was, and still is, available for anyone who wants it, whether it's at a university, trade school or public or private schoolhouse or on the shelves of the neighborhood library.

Unfortunately, we don't know just how good we have it. I hope Malala's story (and stations like PBS, History and Discovery that encourage viewers to do more than guffaw at the unfortunate lives of others) inspire today's generation to learn as much as they can about something more important than Kate Gosselin losing her job or the latest cat fight on "American Idol." You may not realize it now, but you'll miss a thorough education if someone takes it away at gunpoint.

(Nicolov is an assistant editor at The News-Item and writes "Don't Get Me Started" for each Friday edition. Contact her at julie_n@newsitem.com)