School Rant & Bayard Rustin

Today was the first day of Spring semester. After maintaining my rigid 8am class go-to-bed-at-10-pm schedule last semester, it was pretty tragic how my 10am class this morning felt way too early. Staying up all night playing Fable 2 over break unraveled all that diligent sleep schedule work FAST.

I barely remember my morning class. I sipped water while recovering from the shell shock of returning to school. What I do remember is positive, at least. Then I worked. And then I had my night time Adolescent Development class. Which, by that point, I was finally awake and alert for. I have the same fun and genuinely educational instructor for this class as I did in last semester's Brain & Behavior, so I'm confident it will be oodles of actual learning and being entirely captivated by the information.

Which, to be honest, is quite literally the first time in my entire life of education that I've really felt like I'm learning something in a class. A rant will now ensue. You've been warned:

The Tale o' Schooling Woe

Throughout high school I never once felt challenged or encouraged to genuinely learn anything. From what I can recall, pretty much every.single.class was torture - including one of my favorite subjects, art. Which, in my mind, takes some talent to morph into torture.

Drawing with a little 0.7mm mechanical pencil or pen has forever been my prime outlet for expression and exploring. Here are a couple of excerpts from my 1995-1998 (i.e. age 13-16) sketchbook:




Emo as it was, I used sketching as a kid to really explore my imagination and experiences and as A means to privately express myself. My parents were incredibly supportive of my art and constantly praised me for it, never once judging the darker themes or worrying about me because of it. They knew that it was just fantasy, creativity, expression, and fun.

However, in high school, I finally decided to take an art class. Our first assignment? Draw in our sketchbooks for two weeks and then turn them in. When it came time to pick up our graded sketchbooks, I couldn't find mine in the pile. When I asked the teacher about it, he told me that he had a bad day and my sketchbook had made it worse. He then offered to either give it to the principal or throw it in the garbage for me to pick up on my way out of his class forever.

Surprised, disappointed, and hurt, I asked him what, exactly, had upset him so much about my sketchbook. He told me the entire thing had. He walked to the garbage can and dropped my sketchbook in. I dug it out and left his class forever.

In my history class, the questions that I asked about what we were being taught about Christopher Columbus upset the teacher so much that she would have me sit at a desk in the classroom closet with the door shut in the dark.

And these are just two examples of many (like the time when the entire class consisted of the teacher not being present while students threw tools at me and, when brought up to said teacher, I was told to deal with it) that made my high school experience an incredibly discouraging one. Not to say, of course, that these are the worst experiences someone could have in high school, but I felt pretty sucky about the whole thing. I ultimately dropped out.

At that point, I genuinely believed that education was a sham constructed to punish genuine thought and foster mindless obedience. I came to believe that I was better off without it and actually learning through other means.

After dropping out, I immediately went to a recruiter to find out about joining the Air Force. At the time, I felt that I'd have no future prospects without joining the military. Thing is, I'd just become vegan and realized that boot camp would be the most vegan-unfriendly environment on Earth outside of a steak house, and, based on that, decided against joining the Air Force. Just a few months later, George Bush became President.

So then I spent most of my time working, reading, and volunteering. It wasn't until I stumbled across Gene Sharp's 3-part trilogy called The Politics of Nonviolent Action and inspiring, encouraging writings from activists like Bayard Rustin that I decided to go back to school in 2005. And even then I felt that, even though I may not learn anything, I had to play the game and endure it so I could be a more effective activist in regards to the issue I'm passionate about.
Clip from Brother Outsider: The Life Of Bayard Rustin (who organized the March on Washington, brought nonviolence to the civil rights movement, and was essentially erased and forgotten due to being gay):


What I learned, fast, was that my college experience was a radically different one than my high school experience was. I can ask questions. I can actually think about the material being presented without it being seen as some awful, delinquent behavior. Now, I realize this was due to the low-income environment I grew up in and factors like the dubious hidden curriculum, where instead of prospects for college, our school was littered with army recruiters. I became filled with resentment and pessimism about education. I now know that, though there are a slew of structural problems, ridiculous costs, and so on. At least I know now that I can learn and do well. And last semester was, quite honestly, the first time that really happened.

And it was refreshing and I'm looking forward to more. And won't stop, even after school does. Because, on the same hand, while there's a lot to learn in school, there's a lot more to learn outside of school.

Anyway, long rant aside, in this Adolescent Development course we're expected to spend 35 hours volunteering somewhere with adolescents. And, perfect for me, I'm betting that I can spend that 35 hours with LGBQT adolescents at the Utah Pride Center, which I've done before and will love to do again!

~ FIN ~

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