Schools Keep Us From Ourselves
"Schools did not reveal truths. They hid the truths." Ta-Nehisi Coates
I was at a reading in The Bronx a year ago. I did the open mic with other poets, then one of the features went up. After he did a few poems--which were done brilliantly and energetically--he looked for me in the audience, called out my name, and told the venue that I was his English teacher in high school. My thoughts:
1) Wow!! He is doing great things!!
2) Wow! I'm mad old!!
We spoke after the event ended. I could not remember him, but he swore that I was his teacher. He admitted to not really being interested in school at that time, but he remembered me because I gave a lesson on Lil' Wayne.
I could not even remember that lesson, but I had taught for so long and experimented with different lessons that the Lil' Wayne lesson was plausible. Also, I was always hip-hopitizing my lessons, so much so that I used to make connections between Shakespeare and Nas.
My point is, as long as truths are kept from us, as long as we continue to teach our children in a way that is completely unrelated to who they are as individuals, we will continue to fail our children.
When I say "us" and "we", I am talking, specifically, about children of color.
As long as teachers are not taught how to make lessons directly connect to the culture of the neighborhoods our children live in, we will continue to fail our children. As long as education continues to white-wash our education, without revealing truths about who they are, our children will have nothing to hold on to. They will feel as if they are not, in any way, valuable or connected to the creation and development of the world.
I felt honored that this young man remembered me. I had not taught for six years by that moment I connected with my former student, so I missed teaching high school for those few minutes we talked. I always did my best to "keep it real" with my students of color, 'cuz I already knew--as they had not yet realized--that this world is a tough world, and it was created to destroy them. But, as long as they knew how this world was built, they could devise the appropriate plans to excel, and stomp on all who try to stomp them out of existence.