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.