Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lean. Mean. Homophobic. Machines.

While I have spent some time in private school, I've majorly spent my educational career in the good old public school system, and I happen to think that I turned out okay. As a matter of fact, my high school was semi-new (I was the fourth or fifth graduating class) when I was enrolled, and it was one of the highest ranked schools in the country for most of its programs, though recently there has been debate about whether it should have it's magnet status pulled. In the last ten years, it's gone from the perceived public Ivy League to Dangerous Minds. As a matter of fact, I'm very good friends with a teacher there, and a student recently interrupted her class and beat a girl with a hammer. Yes, a hammer.

I started elementary in private school, and when my parents became dissatisfied with that, I switched to public school (and ultimately repeated kindergarden because of accredidation issues -- but since I was early, it wasn't a major set back). I was an early learner, always aced spelling tests and began reading novels at an early age because my dad made me begin reading newspaper articles before school when I was 6 or so. Third grade they were interested in skipping me but my mother was more interested in my being properly socialized, and as such was certainly in no hurry to move me toward the awkward time known in everyone's life as middle school. My parents made into a machine: school, leisure reading, basketball, ballet, tap-dancing, writing, reading Romeo and Juliet for school in the fourth grade, learning religion, excelling in foreign language, breaking me out of my shyness by appearing in talent shows and theatre productions, and having my school friends and my neightborhood friends. I loved my parents for this push to become a prodigy, but eventually the pressure that I was under became very much ingrained in the way I perceived myself and success.

Middle school I began at a private school and, again, transferred to public school. High school, I was publicly schooled all four years as a result of my being wait-listed for the prestigious science and math private school my junior year; this devastated me, especially because another girl in my school actually got into the school but would later transfer back to our public high school as a result of the other kids having back-alley abortions and taking drugs in order to feel successful. I eventually became grateful for staying at my school, and very proud of every opportunity I had, including being in the top two highest ranked choirs in the school, performing in state-wide competitions, being invited to sing at Carnegie Hall...and most importantly, I felt educated and unafraid to opine toward my teachers since a few of them felt as if I were too smart and active for my own good (smirk). I eventually decided to repeat the cycle of my education one more time and begin at a private school (since I was given scholarships), and I ended up transferring twice and graduating from a public university on time.

At any rate, I know that not every where is as lucky or successful as the public school system in which I was raised. Especially in relatively big cities and metropolitan areas. I do believe my cousins have spent the majority of their upbringing in private schooling, and in a sense I am grateful for that; I am semi-close with some people that were locally raised and I've heard horror stories of their upbringing in school both directly from them, and indirectly through their abilities to maintain a healthy, and "smart" conversation.

I think that private school provides a certain sense of social elitism, and that is a downside. However, I hope and pray(?) that kids enrolled in private academies learn what they need in order to grow appropriately socialized first, and secondly (but equally important) a lover of education. I don't have kids, and I often emphasize that fact when sharing my opinions about them. I think it's very easy for me to say what I would or wouldn't do in terms of parenting, and maybe that isn't fair.

Last night, my twelve-year-old cousin and I were sitting around being silly, and in our mindless banter, she asked if I would rather be one thing, or gay. I asked her if gay was supposed to be a pejorative, and I told her that she shouldn't use it negatively. I felt like this was my duty as the cool older cousin (and just someone who believes in doing the right thing). She replied, "well, all the gay people and lesbians and bisexuals aren't going to heaven. Did you know that? Because God says it's Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve." My cousins don't know that I am a mostly non-theist because while living under my aunt and uncle's roof, I think that the respectful thing to do is to allow them to raise their children the way that they see fit. It isn't a closeted thing with me; as a matter of fact, my aunt and I discussed religion just yesterday. I have no qualms discussing what I believe with people, but having two pre-teen girls is difficult enough in their adolescent rebellion and I think that I'd rather aid the transition than encourage deliberate disobedience when they don't even know why they believe what they believe.

I responded with my adult authority and plainly said, "Stop repeating things that you hear people say and do your chores." She responded with, "I didn't hear anyone say it, I read it. In the Bible."

I had to take a deep breath and woosa. It's saddening to me. Is she learning this in private school? Does she think that this is right? Has she researched anything beyond the surface? I'm afraid that private school is turning my little cousins into lean, mean, homophobic machines. I know better than to engage and argument with a child, but I wish I had thought of something clever, like "did you know your new-found celebrity idol claims to be openly bisexual?" but I felt like this would create detriment in my point since I don't believe they should listen to Nicki Minaj, just for the sake of her explicit lyrics and the ditsy-white-girl imagery that she intends to create in the hearts of the little girls that are following her.

I wish I could reach them without feeling as though I'm stepping on anyone's toes. I think that the subtle pushes I'm giving them toward a more progressive mindset is a start, but is it enough?

If she were a little more mature, we could have had a more in depth and open discussion. Because I might not believe in virgin births or magical powers (beyond time travel..heh), but if Jesus were forrealforreal in my mind, I'd be in line with Sir Elton John. Oh, and he was Black.

Be Righteous.

1 comment:

  1. First off: you have to come join this weeks radio show on education. You raised some excellent points on education and child development.

    Funny you touched on religion and kids. My mother is a super-christian, and she always talks to me about taking the girls to church and stuff. Like you, I am a non-theist, and of course she doesn't know that so I ignore what she says and aften run off to do my chores (lol).

    The last thing I wanna do is raise my kids the way I was raised having to be in church 8 days a week n' shit. This was extremely painful(?)for me going from being christened catholic and attending mass once a week. To my mother becoming saved - saved from what iono - and her becoming Pentecostal and my dad being catholic. You know how hard that was having to give up being an altar boy because mom said it wasn't cool anymore?