An Education


Today, the school would tell my parents I had an Attention Deficit or other learning problem. A plan for my education would unfold. In those days the teacher or principal would inform my parents I was lazy, dumb, or deviously hiding my talents. This led to being “warehoused” in high school. The schools told my parents I could never finish anything. 

No one noticed around age twelve, I began self tuition on guitar, and by sixteen, I started performing at coffeehouses. The guitar became an act of revenge on my teachers; they’d say: “look how good you are on the guitar. If only you’d put this effort into ( insert subject name here).” My sneer became a trademark method of communicating my disdain for them and their education methods. 

High school’s stress guaranteed I was too ill for years to eat anything substantial till noontime. When they expelled me, I promptly relocated to New York’s Greenwich Village and the Beat and Folkie scene flourishing there. I did not look back.

Life in the Village was not just about playing at the coffeehouses. It was about understanding the intellectual and artistic background of life. You’d be sitting with a fellow habituate listening to a discourse on Proust one day, Aristotle the next, and Steinbeck the day succeeding. As a performer, there were intense daily sessions with peers practicing and exchanging techniques. It was a free eclectic university. I carried around two things: the book I was reading and my guitar—every day.

The next year was a compressed “hello/goodbye” whirlwind of greeting the new and leaving the old – A self-renewal pattern. Education became more of a matter of community involvement than teachers in a classroom.

I went back to school about five years later but perversely skipped the high school diploma for bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. work. One potential employer asked why I listed no high school diploma. I asked, ” does it matter?” his reply? “Yes.” ” But you can see that was I was cum laude with honors in undergrad and did extensive grad work?” ” We require a high school diploma.” I unearthed my high school sneer for him and quickly left.

6 Replies to “An Education”

  1. The old recordings seem to be lost, and the inhalers for asthma ruined what little voice I have left. Don’t play too much anymore but the methods of self tuition remain.

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  2. It is sad how traditional schooling systems fail to meet the needs of all the students, but remote and forced home schooling might have opened new ways this year for the diversity of learning paths. What gives me hope is that I have seen how resilient children make it through in the end, and some get to say the last word (or the last sneer, as in your case, LOL)

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  3. Being raised to be independent help. I taught media ( mostly videography and television production) to middle schoolers for about 14 years as a part-time gig. Education is not a one model fits all thing. But most school systems are limited in their flexibility. Until we change that we are bound to fail a significant number of students. Of those systemic failures, only those with autodidactic skills will make it out of the maze.

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