Tuesday, February 16, 2010

He might not look smart....

but this little bugger did fabulous on his Kindergarten entrance exams! He scored 92%! He confused a rectangle with a diamond (we haven't reviews shapes in like 2 years, since he learned them!) and he didn't know the difference between a quarter, dime, and nickel. Otherwise, his soon-to-be-teacher seemed thrilled, stating Ben is "More then ready to roll!"

Theo and I both went to public school in very different locations.

I grew up in southern California, in San Pedro. I went to 7th St Elementary school until 6th grade. The school was somewhat large, with about 100-120 kids in each grade. The class sizes were about 25-27 kids to class (this is from memory). I learned cursive in 3rd grade, and multiplication in 6th grade. I collected Hello Kitty. I did well in all my classes. Wore stretch pants and layered socks. Had lots of kids who barely spoke English among me. I was good at tetherball, probably because my fat ass didn't have to move around too much. I had a crush on Joe Sias all 6 years I was there. It was what it was. I loved it.

My Middle School was much different. Our town was split by economic standing quiet sharply, and Dana Junoir High, circa 1991, held most of the kids with less money, while Dodson Jr. High was up on the "hill" and had more of the kids with money. Dana had "bus" kids, or kids who were driven in from Compton, yes Compton. With them came rival gangs, as in rival to the gangs pre-existing in San Pedro. Also with them came opportunities of the kids who could not get into the San Pedro gangs to venture out and join gangs from Compton. I knew tons of girls who got pregnant and vanished from class, whose boyfriends were stabbed, shot, or beaten by gangs. I was threatened several times, how dare a white girl date a Mexican guy! There was ample drug use and alcohol at parties. I had my first drink, and drunk, at 12. My favorite (not really) thing? Being made fun of for knowing the words to rap, because, duh, I was white, shouldn't I be listening to Metallica? I once stepped in urine in a stair well. Outside of my time in musical theatre, I don't think I learned anything the whole time I was there. Truly. Not a fucking useful thing.

I went to Dana during the LA Riots (April 1992). I had to stay home for a week. I could see the smoke from the builings in Long Beach and South Central. The month after I stayed home on Cinco De Mayo, too. The racial tension at this time was volatile. Not safe to be out during those times as a white girl. I was in a unique situation, also being a fat and somewhat poor white girl, I could not attract the attention of the elite whites who attended the same school as me, who seemed less subject to mockery and threats. After all, the were blonder California beauties, and I was a lousy dressing fat girl who didn't fit in any one group. I have heard things have lightened up in the neighborhood since then. Still, I am weary of evening setting foot in that part of town when I visit. I wouldn't send my kids to school there for any reason.

Sure, this experience made me tougher than shit. I have an abrasive don't-fuck-with-me side that's never quite gone away. I know it has helped me in my life immensely.

I still can't get over what it felt like the first time I set foot in Carl Sandburg High School in Illinois, in 1995. I was dumbfounded, and speechless. I had never seen so many white people in my life! I felt like we were doing something wrong just walking around being white. The school had so much money, so many resources, and books, and clean hallways. So much fresh white paint, and preppy white boys (I don't think I had ever seen one of those in real life outside of Zach Morris on TV). I tested into the lowest level classes above special education in math and science, no thanks to my delightful California education (I was signed up for honors classes there!) Once I got to know people, I realized most of the girls I knew had yet to kiss a boy! We played spin the bottle at my 12th birthday back in the 'hood! lol. Needless to say, I got to see the public school system at it's very best and very worst.

Meanwhile, my cousins used my grandmother's address to attend a private Lutheran school. I can remember being a young 12-year-old bitch, saying things about how sheltered their lives would be, blah, blah, blah, the mean older cousin I was. But you know, now I am very jealous. There they were getting this quite, safe, Christian education while I felt like I was sometimes fighting for my life. I so wish I was exageratting.

My husband's situation was different. He moved around a bit from Boston, St. Louis, and Peoria during his youth. He was amoong few white kids in his Peoria school, and was sometimes threatened for it also. But he had size, strength, and athleticism on his side. He was also receiving a supreme education. My husband is a genius, literally. Once he and his family settled in a small (population 300) town outside of Peoria, he fit into a nice crowd, had great girlfriends, played vasrity sports early, and soared athletically and scholastically (he even did scholatic bowl!). His overall public school experience was levels better than mine.

When given the opportunity to buy a house, Theo and I jumped at the chance to live in the school district we are in now. We are so lucky! But a new opportunity to send our kids to a private school has surfaced, and we've jumped on it. Ben will be going to Christian school, with a class size of about 5 kids, and a wonderful teacher who will encourage him to love God.

Life has changed so much!

PS: Why all the swearing. Like a good Lutheran, I'm giving up foul language for lent, and I plan on using this as a spring board for getting rid of the potty mouth for good. :)

1 comment:

gina said...

Stand up for Sandburg, the mighty gold and the blue. It was, by all means the whitest school ever. But it was also some of my greatest moments. Eugene and I are still on the fence about public vs. private. You sound so excited for your kids! I'm sure they'll love it. And btw you've come a LONG way since San Pedro!!