We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time. ~T.S. Eliot Four Quartets

22 October 2006

Half term.

"If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is not a barking dog to be tethered on a ten-foot chain" -Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.

Its half term and my son is home from school for a week. He's doing pretty well, settling into year 1, which is where he'll probably stay for the year. I don't mind, he's only a couple of months older than most kids in the class, rather than a full year younger than some in year 2. I've said it before, I feel kids start school too young; when they leave school here, kids are 16, and left to either go on to college and then university or to make their way in the world... which seems too young to me, as I was 18 when I finished high school, like most Americans. Although I had a job at 16, I did go on to university, which felt like more shelter (until age 21) from the world. Its not surprising to me that many 16 year olds here are delinquents, eager to leave school, but not eager to do much else. When you start pre-school at 3 (in uniform) and kindergarten at 4, where is your childhood?? Institutionalized until 16.

Watching my son enter school, has resulted in the deep recesses of my mind churning up memories of my school experience nearly 30 years ago, when I was entering the second grade. In Chicago, 1977, my elementary school (Stevenson) was a hotbed of protest and anger. The school desegregation busing program was beginning and in my white neighborhood this was not at all popular

"There is a New America every morning when we wake up. It is upon us whether we will it, or not." -Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.

I was one of only 150 of the school's 613 pupils that went to school that first week of boycotting. My mother couldn't afford to stay home with me, and to her credit she also wanted to overcome her prejudices. So off I went, crossing the picket line of white parents, jeering at me with racial epithets. I was spat on that day too. I can't imagine spitting on anyone, especially six or seven year old children. As a seven year old, I learned alot about people in that week. Most of the children had no problem with any of it, their minds were open and fresh. I doubt my son will have to experience anything like that, even though there are other thorny issues going on right now in this country.

My picture appeared a couple of times in the Chicago Tribune that week, along with an african-american girl, Shannon Jackson (she definitely got more press than me!). It was slight vindication in the minds of us children, to appear in the 'big' newspaper. Reading through those old articles, I discovered that Jesse Jackson had also come to our school, in support of the kids being transferred in from other areas. I don't remember that event, but feel proud nonetheless.

If it is true that our first few years form the majority of our character, than I am grateful for having gone through that experience. I learned the value of tolerance which forged my character of keeping an open mind, considering people as individuals, and venturing out into the world, rather than shutting it out.

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