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Educational Autobiography- Leah

lkahler's picture

January 30, 2013

Table of Contents

Chapter 1- Summer Camps

Chapter 2- Teacher’s Pet and its Stigmas

Chapter 3- My Parents’ Emphasis on School

Chapter 4- Realizing that I Wanted to Be at School

Chapter 5- “Mom, Dad, Why Aren’t I in Public School?”

Chapter 6- Dialogue on Race

Chapter 7- Obsessive College Applications

Chapter 8- Higher Standards and For the Right Reasons


I don’t think I ever really understood why everyone was so excited when school let out. Ever since I can remember, I haven’t been able to do nothing with my summers. This feeling started with my parents putting me in academic-minded and engaging summer camps while they went to work. I was always busy with many different types of these camps, but the experiences to which they lent themselves made me a better student and harvested my childish curiosity. In Dewey’s terms, the experience of the summer camps offered me a continuity of experience so that I wouldn’t ever really stop the whole learning process, nor have to code switch between a more lax summer code of conduct and schedule and a more rigorous, strict school year schedule.


A great example is Camp Challenge, a camp put on by Louisiana State University that I remember being like school, but with cooler classes. I have really fond memories of looking at what I would now call a course catalog with my mom before we’d have to register for classes for Camp Challenge. It granted me a sense of ownership in what I was taking and was a fun model for what was to come in high school and college settings. I took a class on tessellations, Harry Potter, and math. I enjoyed it, and it kept me curious and ready to go to class. I developed patterns of positive and educative behavior that carried into the school year.


Camp Challenge also widened my world view within my own city. Instead of going to swim at the country club every day, like many of my classmates did, I learned alongside students of color, students of public schools, students with disabilities, and students with less material resources as me. It was a sort of discontinuity of experience from the school year to summer in terms of the people I was surrounded by, but the experience was an educative one.


My friend from UPenn recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post about summer learning loss, and it forced me to face the privileges that I enjoyed as a child. The link to his article is at the bottom of this page.


He writes, “Summer learning loss is essentially the loss of academic knowledge over a student's summer vacation. It's not that poor children are any less intelligent than their wealthier counterparts, but rather that summer learning loss unfairly sets them up for underachievement throughout their educational career. Low-income children, by the end of fifth grade, are about 2.5 years behind their more affluent peers, primarily due to summer learning loss. During the summer, high and middle-income students increase their reading performance, while low-income students experience a two-month setback.”


I had parents who held PhDs, wanted me to succeed, had money to pay for private summer camps and private school, and were willing to sacrifice life, limb, and sleep for my education. Here, I don’t mean education in the traditional schooling sense, but in the sense of furthering of my exposure to new people and ideas, which is, in my interpretation of Dewey at least, how Dewey saw an educative experience.


So part of this is structural privilege: socioeconomic, female, educational, and white. My parents had educational privilege and passed it on to me by prioritizing my learning. We benefited from socioeconomic privilege in that my parents were able to pay for summer camps while they were at work. A less obvious, one that I have just realized, privilege that allowed me to succeed in and benefit from summer camps was my gender. It is more socially acceptable, even encouraged for girls to be good at school, to like to school, and to want to please their female role models- the teacher. Access to summer camps was vehicles of white privilege because it was normative for me to go to summer camp. I did not have the burden of my race on my shoulders if I wasn’t a well-behaved camper or answered a question wrong.


But the other half of my privilege was that I had parents who prioritized educative experiences, not just school itself. This is not classified as a structural, or hierarchical privilege in the sense of the Oakes reading, but I think I actually just lucked out.


Summer Learning Loss: -loss_b_