In the grand scheme of things, I try very hard to be one with the world. I go with the flow, and let bygones be bygones. The one thing that has bothered me for a very long time though is speech and grammar, because mine was so horrible as a child and teenager. This was no fault of my parents, they were standard middle class parents that wanted the best for their kids. They didn’t hound my sister and I about our speech or writing, but they did the best in their ability to help educate us, teach us about the world around us, about the things that matter, and to show us the things that do not. They both graduated high school, but their education was still limited by our terms today. Neither of my parents went on to college, but my Dad went on to the school of hard knocks, also known as the Navy, where his education was vastly expanded by the world he was immersed in.
In the 70’s and 80’s every school I went to was mixed between the white neighborhoods and black neighborhoods. Hallandale Boulevard in unincorporated south Broward county was the dividing line between “white town” – Hallandale and “black town” – Carver’s Ranches. The Hallandale kids had gone to Hallandale Middle, the white school, and the Carver’s Ranches kids had gone to McNicole Middle. Things were changing a lot at the time, but being a kid, I never realized how closely my education related to the changes that were still taking place. I saw the late 60’s as a long time ago, even when I started elementary school in the mid 70’s. I suppose some realizations take longer than others.
We moved around a lot when I was growing up, a new school for almost every grade until high school, sometimes moving back to our original neighborhood and schools. While in elementary school, we had a standard education. Tasks were challenging, and expectations were set. We moved the summer before my 6th grade year, and I went to Perry Middle school, a predominately white school. Kids were expected to dress out for PE, participate in Science Fairs, etc. It was a standard suburban school. The classes were challenging and fun to learn in. I did well in that school. When I was in 7th grade, we moved once again, and this time it was back to our original neighborhood where I was to be bussed to McNicole Middle School, along with the rest of the kids in my neighborhood. They closed Hallandale Middle the year I was to start attending, and everyone went to McNicole Middle. In 7th grade, we moved back to our old neighborhood, which meant I would attend McNicole Middle. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal at the time, but looking back, I became lazy and complacent while I was there for 2 years. I was in advanced classes that required no homework or extra effort, yet when I went to high school, I was behind. I still didn’t understand the difference between a verb, adverb, and adjective, and my speech patterns were horrible. I sounded like I was straight out of the hood.
So why is this a problem? For one thing, the way we speak is the way we write. If you speak like you’re uneducated, you will also write like you are uneducated. The only job you will get if you act and sound uneducated is as a McDonalds burger flipper or fry cook. Yet right now, our kids think this is cool, and the media plays it up, trying to be cool like the kids.
In 8th grade my family got our first personal computer. I was the only kid that I knew of that had one at home, and my parent and I taught each other DOS and programming BASIC over the summer. From there we got a modem, and I was able to connect with other kids that had computers. Most of those kids were from upper middle class families and took pride in their education. I was picked on relentlessly for my less than stellar spelling, grammar and my lack of english language skills. It was at this point that I started to see the opportunities that were open to me, and then ones that I was turning away. The opportunity to do better than my GPA suggested was there. I dated in this group, and never dated anyone from my high school, and as time moved on, I began to look down on my high school peers. I would talk with my friends about the cool things I was doing, but most including my best friend had no interest in computers at the time. I moved on to high school, trying to go to the same school my sister was about to graduate from, but I was pulled out because it wasn’t in my district, even though the kids across the highway in Carver’s Ranches could go, I could not. The way I saw it, I had a way to get to school, it had the classes I wanted to take, so why not allow me to go? So half way through the year, I was pulled from my sister’s high school and put into Hallandale HS. The reputation of the school was much worse than the school itself, probably because those kids that caused the reputation had already graduated and left the school. I had plenty of people I knew, people that would ensure nothing would happen to me, and we had all been in Girl Scouts together, with me being the annoying little sister that was finally growing up. The two great things that the school had going for it were math and programming. The BASIC teacher was a full on geek to the core. He had us using flow charts to map out our programs before we were allowed to write a line of code. I remember mapping out the program, writing it in Apple ][c BASIC, then taking it home, translating it to IBM BASIC, taking that print out back to school and finishing the program there. The teacher made the class fun and interesting, and he made me want to be better than I was. I suppose the company I kept outside of school helped too. Never the less, I didn’t want to go to the school, so my parents traded custody so I could go to yet another high school.
It was this last school where I was truly an outcast. I lived in my grandmother’s house and everyone knew my family and our skeletons. Yeah, everyone knew of me, but the kids from my grandma’s neighborhood never took the time to get to know me again. For me, I took on a better-than-thou air just to get through the days, and concentrated on where I was going, rather than where I was. I made the decision to take charge of my life. I continued taking programming classes, where the students were better teachers than the football coach. I had a group of friends from our programming class that would hang out and talk about the merit of Windows/DOS compared to Macintosh, and the benefits of each. Luke, if you could see me now, typing this up on my MBP, I think you would know that in the end you won the hot debate. It was while I was at this school, and still hanging out with my BBS* friends that I realized I could do anything with my life. I could start my own company, and be successful. It was also at this point that I realized I had no idea how to run a company, and be successful. In 11th and 12th grades, I dropped all of the fun extra curricular activities and went straight for the business track, taking accounting, business english, business math and everything else that would help me reach my goal of running my company out of high school. I had no intention of going to college because my GPA just didn’t allow for getting scholarships, and I was on my own to pay for college. I couldn’t see being able to afford it… All through high school, I worked to improve myself, because as I looked around me, I saw that the people who were successful were not people that sounded like they were straight out of the hood. They were the business people, the great speakers, and the people who took charge. They were the 15 year old kid that started his own BBS, learned to program in C so he could write games and extensions for the BBS. He was the same kid that I would talk to on the phone, and as we would talk, he would have to define words he was using as he went along. He was the person who made me realize how poor my vocabulary really was, and how much I wanted to be able to communicate with him as an equal. He too changed my life, just by showing me some of what I didn’t know.
It took me a while, but I figured out for myself that you can’t win a fight with your fists, but you can with knowledge. It was then that I turned my back on where I came from, and looked ahead, to the future, to what I would later become. Did I know then that I would finally be who I am today? No, but I did know that the small changes I was making would help me get here.
The story is full of tangents as I’ve never really figured out how to keep a story focused. I have so many thoughts that putting them together in a completely cohesive manner is difficult at best. The point though should be somewhat clear as mud. Acting ignorant, when you are educated is a disservice to yourself and everyone around you. If everyone around you is acting ignorant, why not help them become more educated so that they too can succeed. It’s great to have a good time, laugh and be merry, everyone wants to. But for the media, what service are you doing for your listeners? Are you helping the dream, or are you helping forget the dream?
We had a holiday this week to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He had a dream that everyone would be equal. His dream was that his brethren would be lifted up. How do your actions affect his dream, and future generations? How does acting ignorant when you are educated help your community, and society? I choose to be around people who want to be educated, or are educated. What choice will you make?