Oped: Education? I dropped out and have no regrets
As a rule, I stay away from the topic of education, mainly because it makes a promise it breaks and fails to deliver on — an equal education for all.
I dropped out of school in the seventh grade and I have never regretted that decision.
I hated everything about school, and I can’t imagine that many of the students these days who are truant don’t feel the same way.
To me, the place we called school was a difficult learning environment with crowded, noisy classrooms and daily confrontations. Every day was a repeat of the last.
I didn’t think much of public education when I was a kid, and I don’t think much of public education now — and to me, charter and magnet schools are mere diversions for the incompetence of the state and some educators to provide a fair and equal education to all children.
It is not a stretch to say there is something very wrong with any educational system that has children for 12 years — but graduates students who still need remedial courses to enter college, can’t differentiate between “ your” and you’re” or “whose” and “who is” and are not able to make change at the cash register without being told the amount to give back.
On Friday, the Register held an editorial board meeting with members of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, an organization of educators and advocates whose mission is “to assist local and regional boards of education in providing high quality public education for all Connecticut children through effective leadership.”
As I listened to them, I thought back to the time I was in grammar and junior high school — and realized not much had changed.
Blacks and other low-income children are still digging in the bins for scraps of an educational system that is broken and in desperate need of a serious fix.
I wondered as they talked how much of a subconscious role not having black teachers and a good learning environment played in me running away from it.
The truth is, it may be well-intentioned, but our educational system pushes through students whether they are prepared or not for that next level — and it has been doing it for decades.
Social issues, social media and other technologies are used as excuses for why teaching and reaching children these days is so difficult. Yet, emerging technology is something every new generation has to deal with and social issues have been with us since people started populating the Earth.
My day-to-day formal education stopped when I was 12 years old. The next three years was spent at war with my mother and staying one step ahead of truant officers.
At 13, I was too young not to be in school, so I was forced to go back and was put in the eighth grade, where about a month later, I dropped out again. I was 15 when truant officers caught up with me and once again, forced me to return to school — but this time, there was a problem.
I had not really completed seventh or eighth grade, therefore had not graduated from what was then called a junior high school — and I was too old to be put back with students two or three years my junior. So educators found a solution: I was asked who the first president of the United States was. I answered and — quicker than a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat — I was sent on to high school.
That lasted about six weeks before I dropped out again and, this time, never returned. Many years later, I obtained a GED while serving in the Navy — and, more than 20 years after starts and stumbles, I finally entered college.
It was definitely not the road most traveled and I admit there was a lot going on in my life during that time.
Readers might remember from my column, “My journey out of domestic violence”, where I spent my time during those troubling three years.
For those who don’t know, it was the public library, where I soaked up the words of James Baldwin and read about presidents, world affairs, American history and British history.
That was how I educated myself — away from the chaos of home and the chaos of school — and I have survived just fine.
I know this is a controversial column and I might get a lot of heat from teachers for it, but I really don’t care.
It is not a knock on them, but an attack on a system that is failing thousands of children — and the arbiters know it. Education is not supposed to be about funding but making the future equal for all. And it is not doing that in the state of Connecticut.