Even though we can and should invest enormously in the social capital required to ensure that our citizenry has access to world-class educational opportunities, we will never be in a position to guarantee individual results. It is the responsibility of the individual to avail themselves of the best that the society has to offer. Self-reliance, stamina, dogged persistence, and desire are the educational pillars that enduring careers will be built of.
The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursuing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings and nowhere else. Not only does education continue when schooling ends, but it is not confined to what may be studied in adult education courses. The world is an incomparable classroom, and life is a memorable teacher for those who aren’t afraid of her.
Jethro Bodine (of Beverly Hillbillies fame) and I, for many years, had one thing in common (in addition to our good looks), our eighth grade education. Leyva you are full shit, didn’t you make it a point to mention in Chapter 1 that you graduated from the University of New Orleans with honors? Well yeah, but only after dropping out of high school in the tenth grade and subsequently getting my GED at the ripe old age of twenty. Well, your math is as good as Jethro’s since you apparently had him beat by one plus years. Not really.
In the summer, after graduating the eighth grade from Central Junior High, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, we moved to New Orleans. I made all A’s in ninth grade without cracking a book or learning a damn thing. I love New Orleans dearly but the LA public school system (at the time) left a lot to be desired. Despite this, it was not the New Orleans school system that caused me to drop out of school in the tenth grade but a true desire to get on with my education (of sorts).
I read Shakespeare and the Bible, and I can shoot dice. That's what I call a liberal education.
Many of my high-tech friends scoff at my street urchin past but its true (mostly) and I have the scars and the stories to prove it, but I digress. I was happy that at the age of twenty, after having worked more odd jobs that I care to remember (including summers at a Green Giant factory in southern Minnesota), I was not locked out of the educational opportunities that I then desperately desired. The reason that I was able to take advantage of the opportunity was the wonderful K-8 education I received in Atlantic City’s public school system.
I am a big believer in public education. It has been the advancement vehicle of choice for lower and middle class Americans for the last hundred years, and will remain so going forward. I owe a special debt of gratitude to one Mrs. Theresa Marsden who was my homeroom and English teacher in junior high. Our class was made up of some of smartest students in the city: Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, Jews, Catholics and we all learned more from her then we could ever repay. She grilled us on the fine points of English grammar and the importance of language in our lives. Her influence has carried me all these years. I believe that I only took one additional English course in college.
The society gave me an opportunity and I worked my ass off in order to take advantage of it. I could not have asked for more.