Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Schooling,Education And The Difference Between Ignorance And Apathy

                    It needed to happen when it did. In June of last year,this art installation of over 800 empty classroom desks were placed on the lawn of the nations capital to symbolize the drop out rate in America's public schools. Personally? Its an idea I wish I'd followed through on because as with many American's,its crossed my mind on more than one occasion to do something of this sort. Despite what some people might think,I really am a very positive person. That being said even the most positive of people can still be haunted by ghosts of their past. What is about to be said is not a ranting,angry tirade about modern public education. So many people in so many places are already aware of the politics of that. And the difference between ignorance and apathy is implied,not necessarily literal,in this case either.  Its about the reasons that I myself came extremely close to dropping out of school.

                   Before going into this it's important to reinforce: this blog is often self oriented and is an adult (if not profane) topic. Many of the blog posts I've done are sprinkled with references to troubles in school with the local Board Of Education and some of the most severe forms of bullying. Now the time may be ideal to tell this story to hopefully inspire others to bravery of their character and to do so to others as well.  To start with,from the day I entered kindergarten,
something about the atmosphere of everything didn't seem right. While it was exciting to meet other people in my age group,none of them were truly relatable to me. Even from that age it seemed I'd unwittingly entered a world where apathy,a word I didn't even know at that time,was the accepted way to think. Teachers and students seemed to be going through the motions of everything. Often I was inwardly sad about this.
                   As time went on there were moments of sometimes extreme happiness. Though I noticed many of them happened off the school grounds. When people are in preadolescence, they are likely no more aware than I was about the actual sociopolitical complexities of what happens around them with cliques and such. And I kept being told this was a normal part of growing up. Heard it all from "toughen up" to "kids can be cruel". No matter how often this viewpoint was reinforced,it somehow seemed less and less reasonable each time it occurred. One thing I remember during my 4th and 5th grade year in particular was me diving headlong into what many described as a fantasy world. It included cartoon characters and people-some fictional. I started having dreams about them. In these dreams and fantasy's,there were friends and adults to handled life events well,cooperated and understood about life.

                    Typical of how many would react to such behavior,many people seemed to assume I was developing a mental disorder. They did everything from coaxing to outright counseling to try to discourage this emphasis on fantasy and enforce the need to deal with reality. What they didn't know then was that to me that fantasy world felt like it was torn and ripped away from me,as if it'd been a second skin. It actually hurt on many levels. I dislike reality around me. And couldn't seem to genuinely change it for the better. Even though there was a world of literature and music that was encouraged,it was out of step with reality again. And now I knew what people called it-being a geek. It does seem unthinkable to see myself that way today-compared literally to a circus sideshow whose act might include sticking rusty nails into their nostrils. 

                  By the summer of 1992 it was almost time for junior high. A member of my family painted a freeing picture of an intellectually stimulating world with a broader social climate that bought my fantasy world of before into reality. It was a beautiful idea. Still is. Yet the moment I arrived I stepped onto the grounds of Garland Street Middle School in September of 1992,it was a shock to my system that even today effects my life. Day after day passed seeing a vision of entropy before my eyes. Young people my own age wandering about-proudly flaunting every manner of dysfunctional pop culture before my eyes-from alternative rock to sports bar culture far beyond their understanding,let alone mine. Minor bullying led to the more severe variety-being beaten physically and one occasion being called a heretic-over a pair of faded jeans. 

                I remember not so vitally the pain I was experiencing,but watching my own family fight tirelessly against the bullying of my supposed peers and the racial bigotry of the school's administration. I felt the need for their help so badly as I was doing horribly in my studies,lacked any particular ambitions besides retreating into a new fantasy world of artistic ventures and tended to talk to my family for hours every day. Now I felt as if I was about to break down and lose it. This wasn't being a kid. This was growing up faster than anyone needs to. Finally I told my mother at least that I couldn't take it and wanted to drop out of school. She knew I wanted an education badly,and she was dead on right. But could no longer bare public school without basically losing my grip on reality.

                 Than a miracle occurred. We discovered this idea of homeschooling. We'd have to report to a certified teacher yearly. And some segments of society came down on me in particular that I'd lose out on the social aspect of public school. Personally seeing how everything has turned out since that time? With peers like that as friends,who needed enemies? There were kinder people out there,and now I could choose them. And in truth my studies and grades improved immeasurably during my homeschooling. Admittedly the events in my final year of public school had drained away much of my ambition. On the other hand,my interest in creative ventures bought many acquaintances in and out of my life who encouraged me in pursuing those visions I had in a productive and healthy way.

                Anyway,that's the story of what happened to me. Adult life of course has presented,and continues to present,both challenges and many barriers that are flat out hard to overcome. People close to me today are often puzzled and even roll their eyes at the notion that two decades later I could still be so deeply effected by...those final four months of 1992 that forever changed my life.
Its even been recently suggested that I myself am a negative person in much the same manner as that 1990's generation of people who once tormented and criticized people like me. My answer to that is that I always play a balancing act between the realism of the world and my own instincts in being a dreamer. Adding to that conundrum is that by definition dreamers are almost always discouraged and disappointed by the realities of even their own existence. 

               To paraphrase the rather philosophical vocal legend Chaka Khan from her own autobiography I'm often forced to ask myself a similar question as she did when she felt let down by life in different ways: what are you contributing? Its a worthwhile question to ask oneself now and then. You can walk around with a dirty look on your face,feeling ashamed because you have so many good ideas locked inside of you. Or you can choose those have to feelings and still do what you have to do anyway-because its the right thing. These are noble words that are not as easy as one might think to say. And all the same they are even more challenging words to live by. Today I wonder one thing above all: were some of those children whom those empty desks on the Capital lawn represent people much like me who perhaps weren't given the same option and advantage I was? Does that make homeschooler's privileged and pampered somehow?

              From the few other people who took another road same as I did,one of the few things I feel completely happy (and lighter) about was saying so long to the public school system. At the same time I include myself among the group of people who,deep down,am hoping that the situations that make public school so negativism that children fell the need to drop out of it will change drastically in my own lifetime. Today the world needs peace,love and understanding more than ever. And exclusionist social cliques,bigotry and bullying doesn't provide the proper education for young people in public school to begin to achieve that goal. Personally I think the world has quite enough hardened,career minded people out of touch with their heart,mind and soul. No church,mosque,temple or synagogue provide instant answers either. Sometimes,to educate ourselves the best way not to be a dropout from society is just being yourself. Even if you cannot easily put it under the heading of a label. Easier said that done? Well,it can be done-truly.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story with me! I loved reading your story!