I Was a Teenage Student
I may be in the minority, or, more sadly, the majority, but I have never seen anything horribly wrong with my schooling. This may be because I have attended private schools for most of my life, and only attended a public, state-run institution for three years, or it may be because the effect Jonathan Kozol talks about in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home has been so subtle that I do not notice it. I do have some criticisms of my schooling, however.
When I think of my education as a whole, I think of it divided in to two parts, private and public. As I said before, I have spent most of my life--pre-school through the eighth grade--attending private schools.
In pre-school through the lower grades we were taught the basics--writing and spelling--along with some more important lessons some people take for granted. We were taught to share, to clean up after ourselves, and to be nice to other children. Of course, we took those lessons on Authority, no child in my class objected--they seemed like good ideas to us. Pre-school, I believe, is a good place to teach children the most important lessons, but I do not think enough is done in the early days of children's education to teach them compassion for their fellow human beings. I do not think that that is too young an age to show them the injustice, and the ugly things in this society that they are going to grow up in. I agree with Kozol's attitude towards teachers who say that we should not "bring in... rage and pain" into our children's lives at such a young age. Indeed, "what shall we do when rage walks in the door?"
The next stage of my education I seem to remember is middle school. I went to a private middle school affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh, where my father is a professor. Although I never encountered the fact-deifying teacher described by Charles Dickens in Hard Times for These Times, we did get filled with our share of "peninsulas," and other seemingly useless facts. Middle school is also where I was introduced to Science--more facts, but applications for those facts as well.
The bulk of what I remember of my schooling is from high school, and I feel I should explain a little about the school I attended, because it is rather unique. Woodland Hills Senior High School, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was one of the last cases of forced integration in the country. What is now one school district, once was several. Of the former schools, three were populated entirely by White students. The other two, by Blacks. The state court, in it's infinite wisdom, decided to take the five school districts, and make one, in the interest of diversity--I often liked to point out that our school was not diverse at all, it had only White and Black students. While it was easy enough to order everyone to attend the same high school, it was less so to build an entirely new building. What we ended up with was one thousand students crammed in to an...