By which I mean it’s the beginning of the year. I’ve moved to a new city–with all the hassles that come from being the good tenant who follows those disastrous ones you see on HGTV who left the place a god-forsaken wreck–and I’ve begun a new job.
I like my job. In fact, so far, I love it. My coworkers are awesome people. They subscribe to a growth mindset not only for our students, not only for ourselves as teachers, but also for our school and for our entire school network. I cannot think of any place I would be happier to be. I am still getting to know most of the other faculty and staff, but I can foresee a friendship with each of them, especially those with whom I work most closely.
By which I mean the students are starting to come back to school. For the last three days I’ve been inundated by teenage boys: a small plethora of kids with as much spark and flare as any given Pokemon Gym in any given park in any given populated city.
Because even in Pokemon Go, things seem stratified by class, by race, by inner city bounds and broken dreams or parental-obtained opportunities, by the ills of inequity.
By which I mean, every day, it’s becoming more and more apparent just how many arbitrary bounds we live within–and just how many of them were built to uphold the power, the prestige, the privilege of forebears who never deserved what they got, who got what they had because the stole it from others–from the fathers and mothers of the bright-eyed boys sitting in a circle every morning as the breeze rifles through their hair, tepid air sticking around their necklines, bound taut by their hastily-tied ties, even in the morning rain, listening to the splattering of cars and lawnmowers and the ringing bells of paleteria bringing ice cream to the neighborhoods without air conditioning.
Why should they be forced to wear a uniform? Why should our task of preparing them for success mean stripping away their individuality and teaching them to conform?
Why can the girls have earrings, but my boys cannot?
Why do we have to separate the boys and girls in the first place?
What about those kids that don’t see themselves as either?
I understand the logic–but the logic here is not the problem. The problem is this system we sit within, this game we’re only able to change by winning in it, this story that is only ever written by those who are already said to be the main protagonists. Where’s a new author supposed to make a name? Where are all my brown- and black-skinned boys supposed to break in, when all these walls say clearly, “Change or stay out”?
By which I mean they will be boys. By which I mean they have girls or they’re gonna get girls, by which I mean they say she’s supposed to be under his control, by which I mean they don’t refer to girls by name, but as “my girl,” because it’s all gotta be kept low-key.
Surely there is no fault in their genes that says this machismo, this chauvinism is their only allowed operation. Surely it cannot be a fact of biology that the girls in our school are only just barely the same species when they were all born from the same families, the same houses, the same communities and schools.
Surely this is not nature but nurture, and why must it be my nature to nurture them otherwise, to tell them everything society has told them is, in fact, not fact?
And how do I know what I know, that there is gender equity, that women aren’t property, that openness is preferable to a low-key lifestyle? Is it my own privilege that blinds me to the way the world is really meant to be? Or is it the hand of oppression taking their hands and moving their lips like marionettes to make them say and think these things?
And if it is, how am I to know that what I think I know is, in fact, the better path for them to follow? Am I molding them to meet the norms of a world they are not from, or am I helping them to see the world is wider than what our stratified world has shown them?
By which I mean, boy, it’s been a long week, and it’s only Wednesday.