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My Second Writing Assignment

LittleItaly's picture

One or the Other

I grew up in a middle class home with a family who believed that I was destined to be great. With that set predisposition, I was placed on an assembly line of the public education system and before I knew it I was already separated from the other students. My ideas were in more demand than the others and I was marketed to the adult audience as gifted unlike all the other kids who were marketed to their fellow classmates as cool. Luckily, my parents didn’t neglect my artistic side and I didn’t have a problem with making friends unlike all the other nerds. Once again, I was separated from another group of students and I began to be a rare commodity. But I wasn’t the only one transforming; the environment around me was too. Every time I moved onto the next level of education, the student body became more diverse. When I reached high school, all the products of Battle Creek Public Schools collided with each other. We were then packaged and labeled over the four years. This was our last stop before we were all shipped out to the colleges and jobs. 

Once I had entered high school and realized there was more to an education than textbooks, I quickly broke out of my box and explored my neighborhood. I became obsessed with interacting with different people and figuring out people’s actions and responses. I loved the way people could think differently from one another based on how they were raised and I was deeply interested in people’s cultures. My obsession took me outside the classroom and into the streets, where many of the people that I went to school with were raised. And the more I found out about the real world the more I wanted to be in it. My product description suddenly changed and I felt as if I couldn’t concentrate in school anymore because just being there made me feel isolated. I wanted to embrace my community’s culture and I soon cut ties with public school education. 

Ricardo Rodriquez’s story was the opposite of mine. As he progressed through school, he let go of his family ties and his connections to his Hispanic heritage. In his educational autobiography, The Achievement of Desire, he writes “a primary reason for my success in the classroom was that I couldn’t forget that schooling was changing and separating me from the life I enjoyed before becoming a student.” (Rodriquez 45) I desired culture whereas Ricardo desired a school education. In loosing my faith with the education system I once loved, I realized that overly embracing my community and forgetting about school, had its consequences. I lost my spot in top ten of my class and I felt like people judged me because of my choices to look elsewhere for my education. For Ricardo his dive into the textbooks and absence of culture had negative impacts as well. He was embarrassed of his parents and became enamored with the idea of having a scholarly degree. Ricardo and I are polar opposites, he was the scholarship boy while I was the ‘nerd’. Our labels carried us both through the assembly line but we ended up in different ends of the loading dock. We both prized one world over the other.  But both our endeavors in education weren’t fruitless and we both learned a lot through them. I believe that I have gotten a sense of who I am and what I really want in life. I also feel that I’m now more open minded to different people and different ideas. And Ricardo ended up achieving his goal and attaining his degree. We just both believed at the time that we had to drop one world to embody the other.

But why must we drop one for the other? Or do we even have to choose between the two? Can we successfullycombine culture and school and develop our whole ‘whole being?’ Wendy Luttrell believes we can and documents her observations in her book, Becoming Somebody.  Luttrell worked with women from Philadelphia and North Carolina who are considered part of the working class and learned what was valued amongst these women. It was an education. “Joyce, [a woman Luttrell studied], explains she is taking this class to ‘become somebody’ and everybody nods knowingly.” (Luttrell Preface 1) They believe an education makes them someone who is valued in the community. “Doris...wants a high school diploma so she can wave it in her husband’s face and say ‘I know what I am talking about.’” (Luttrell Preface 1) Luttrell believes that people can go to school for an education and carry that education back to the streets to better their community and themselves. (Luttrell 9) Reflecting back on my education, I think that if I would have been given more access to culture at an early age but still pushed in academics, I wouldn’t have dropped everything I knew for the other world. But I believe that it is the community’s and school’s obligation to try to bridge that gap. There is always going to be a lower, middle and upper class in society. But that doesn’t mean schools should only target one of these socioeconomic backgrounds. Schools that envelop the community can learn different approaches that will entice students to stay such as providing more tutor and mentoring programs and improving the lines of communication between the two worlds. Working on the same plane with communities will allow students to become more accepting of a formal education and use it as a tool instead of being hindered by it. Communities also have to pull their weight and open up to schools. Even though the women Luttrell studied did not finish high school initially, they yearned for a GED and believed that that made them a ‘somebody’ in the world. Ricardo took that one step further and thought that having an education required  him to sell his cultural identity. I went to my community but forgot to carry my education with me. If schools and communities proceed to stay isolated units, then the products of the streets and the products of  the school will remain separated. People like Ricardo and I will stay convinced that they are forced to choose one or the other.















Literature Cited

Luttrell, Wendy. Becoming Somebody. Routledge, NY: 1997. Preface 1 - 9. Web. </%7Eadalke/esemf11/Luttrell.pdf>.

Rodriquez, Richard. The Achievement of Desire. Bantam, NY: 1982. 45. Web. </%7Eadalke/esemf11/Rodriguez.pdf>.