A Billion Flavors
I don’t think that we realize how limited we are as adults, or rather how limited we have been conditioned to be. When I really attempt to step back and get some perspective on my own education as a child, I can pretty clearly see that I was losing just as much as I was gaining in education. I was being groomed. They were giving me some facts and teaching me some skills, all the while quietly limiting my options and sculpting my direction.
I sound a little bitter here, I guess I am. I certainly know that I should be. I had a public school education for the most part. I have a type of dyslexia that wasn’t diagnosed until I was in fifth grade, after I was seeing a psychologist for my anger issues. (Thank you Mrs. Barrett, for noticing me.) I was bored beyond belief through middle school and most of high school. Nothing that was being taught was really engaging me. I went to books and started learning on my own.
I graduated high school a semester early after spending a year as a foreign exchange student. I had no interest in going to college then. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I had the idea in my head that a higher education would equate to working hard for four years and putting myself in debt so that someone could judge me on how much they agreed with the opinion I presented in the papers that I wrote. I find that really funny now. At the end, the best education I ever got in school was in floral design. I attended my parent’s school in Portland.
After just finishing my first novel, it suddenly occurred to me that I could have been doing this for the past twenty years. It took me three years to write the first one. I started out slow because it was just a silly notion in the beginning. I didn’t believe that I could really write, because I had always been taught that I couldn’t. It’s probably a miracle that I didn’t go to college, because if my high school teachers intimidated me about my ability to write, I can’t even fathom what a bunch of professors would have done to me.
Sure, they encouraged me about my poetry, which there is little to no market for whatsoever. It’s sort of like a pat on the head, not many people are able to make a living as a poet. Otherwise, I was taught over and over and over again, that unless I could write the most amazing story ever told I might as well not even try. They postulated about how writers write what they know. I knew I couldn’t write a Hemmingway, or a Vonnegut, or a Bradbury. Those were the authors that I loved. That was what I knew. So I followed their advice and I never even tried.
And I’m actually good at it. My teachers dissuaded me from doing something that I’m actually very good at. I’m not even as bothered about it for myself as I am for all of the other minds out there. My teachers did not offer me enough flavors. They were all about subtracting and not about adding. It’s very possible that I just didn’t happen to have the right teachers, and it’s just as possible that teachers are teaching kids better now than they were when I was a kid. I do not mean to put teachers down here. I know what a very difficult job they have and how hard they work. I don’t think it is even the teachers themselves that led me to believe I was incapable of something that I was good at. I believe that it was the system and the way in which the system operates.Kids need to be offered the world. They need to be presented with as many different ideas, cultures, flavors, colors, and genres as possible. We only have that little window of eighteen years to show them that one special thing that is going to get them excited. Every person can find something that lights them up and inspires them to excel in life. If the structure of our school systems is going to continue to try to take all of the possibilities but just a boring few away from our kids, we need to give them back. We need to offer up as many options to our kids as we can. We seriously need to demand that this be taught to kids in schools, but in the meantime we need to be teaching it ourselves. I don’t want for my kids to be limited. I don’t want for them to miss out on a life changing opportunity because someone tells them that it isn’t possible for them. I want for my kids to taste a billion flavors and find the one that they love!