There is something that bothers me. It bothers me so much that I sometimes break down crying just thinking about it. I’m holding back tears as I type this post. You would think at this point in my life something like this would be behind me, but it is not. In fact, as I grow older I realize just how inadequate I feel because of this issue.
I feel stupid sometimes. I mean that literally, and I believe it’s because my formal education was piss poor and inadequate. I stopped learning after the sixth grade and started back learning my freshman year at Spelman College. From grades seventh through twelfth grade I can honestly say I didn’t learn jack shit in school.
My primary education began in an all black elementary school. It didn’t start off all black. In fact, it was intentionally stashed away in a suburban white community to keep it white. That didn’t hold up. Once a black middle class began to form we began to move into the neighborhood and the whites began to move out. By the time we moved into the neighborhood the community had been all black for years.
As stunning as it is to think about now I can say that all my friends, and everyone I knew at this school, came from two parent households where mama and daddy were married. At this point in time my mama had a decent job at the local textile mill that afforded us the opportunity to live in the area.
The most unique thing about my all black elementary school is it ranked number one academically in the district. Looking back now it was pretty damn awesome because we were kicking the majority white elementary school’s ass when it came to academics. Year after year my elementary school was crowned academic bowl champions. We were constantly featured on the local news and we took great pride in our achievements.
At this school I repeated the second grade because I struggled to learn how to read. A white teacher failed me with a 69 average (a 70 was passing) in English. The following year I had a black teacher who took me under her wing. She was the first teacher who demanded I write my REAL government name on my paper. Up until this point I was writing my nickname on my paper, and no one bothered to stop me. As far as I knew my REAL name was something my mama wrote on a piece of paper for me when I was six years old. It was something I would never use. Mrs. Sherman had other plans.
My life changed dramatically the year I started middle school (the 7th grade). My mama left my father and moved me and my two brothers across town to a roached filled apartment where my aunt was our closest known neighbor. Food and money became scarce and I became withdrawn and angry. Rather than send me to the local middle school my mama allowed me to follow my old elementary school friends to the middle school I was bound for if not for my parent’s separation.
The major change with the move to middle school was the influx of all the other kids from surrounding elementary schools. The peers I ended up with in middle school came from broken homes, the hood, single parent homes, etc. These kids were bad as hell, horny as hell, and missing any type of guidance and discipline.
My middle school years were spent listening to rumors of 12 year olds fucking behind the school building, 12 year olds coming to school pregnant, and all kinds of bullshit that 12 year olds have no business talking about or thinking about. When it came to academics the teachers were tired and many just seemed to stop giving a fuck whether we learned or not.
I can honestly say middle school was hell. I never really fit in with my peers. I knew I wanted something more out of life, but I was too young to articulate it. So I became a recluse. If it wasn’t in a book I wasn’t interested. The most memorable thing to happen to me occurred in the seventh grade. I entered, and won, 1st place in a school wide essay contest.
Shortly after finishing middle school, I decided I had enough of coming home to a depressed sickly mother, and no food in the refrigerator. My grumbling stomach and growing pains dictated my emotions. I called my dad (who was living with my grandma) and told him to come get me. I never lived with my mama again.
High school began in the ninth grade. Again, I picked up a new set of teachers, but unfortunately the horny dumb motherfuckers I met in middle school followed me to high school. Again, I was met with teachers who didn’t half teach, administrators who didn’t half care, and peers who gave no fucks. Four years of this nonsense/lack of competition put me at the top of my class. This, coupled with a good SAT score, got me into Spelman College
The only teacher who seemed to care in high school was my English teacher who used to tell us, “Y’all better demand to learn.” I didn’t understand what she meant until I started my freshman year in college and I damn near failed the basic common sense math I was forced to take.
My freshman year at Spelman was straight hell. I was the most depressed I’d ever been having been outed as gay by a bitch I swear I will kill if I ever set eyes on her again. I didn’t know how to study. I’d never been required to write a paper. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life…other than write.
The first time I learned how to do percentages was at Spelman College.
The first time I learned how to calculate interest rates, ratios, medians etc was at Spelman College.
The first time I was FORCED to use a library for research was at Spelman College.
The first time I used a computer for anything other than personal use was at Spelman College.
The first time I was FORCED to get a tutor was at Spelman College.
The first time I learned that people in African countries don’t live in mud huts, and swing from trees like the shit we are shown on American TV was at Spelman College.
My speech and grammar gives away my rural Georgia roots, and at times I find this embarrassing as there are some words I have a problem enunciating.
This list can go on and on, but it brings me to where I am now.
I’m well read….but I still feel like a dumbass sometimes.
There are times when I feel that my vocabulary is inadequate. This bothers me so much that I downloaded a vocabulary app to learn a new word every day.
There are times when I feel stupid because I cannot easily add and subtract numbers in my head. Outside of basic math I cannot do math without a calculator.
There are times when I feel like crying because when I try to read out loud I sound illiterate even though I am an avid reader.
There are times when I ask myself if I could have been a doctor or an engineer if someone would have instilled a love of math in my primary years.
All of this amounts to a feeling I just can’t shake….a feeling of disappointment because I feel (and know) I was cheated out of a quality education.