This is Part 9 of my series “Letters from John.” In Part I, I wrote, “I’m in a beautifully loving marriage to John Dukes, a man who is truly one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. My husband is also incarcerated. During our friendship, courtship, and marriage, John and I have spent a lot of time tracing his trajectory from the various schools he attended as a boy in NYC and on Long Island to his current status as an inmate in a New York State correctional facility. Part 2 is here, Part 3 is here, Part 4 is here, Part 5 is here, Part 6 is here, Part 7 is here, and Part 8 is here.
School and education are topics that come up constantly between John and me. He loves my book smarts and level of education. He tells me this just about everyday; yet, although he is very intelligent in his own right, he totally dislikes school. I just don’t understand this mindset. We talk about this often, especially in the context of the school-to-prison-pipeline.
This letter-turned blog post is an extension of a conversation about formal education and learning that he and I had on a date on February 20, 2017. Although John is speaking about his personal views and experiences, I hear this ideology or ones similar to it from other men, both inside and outside of prison. I’m hopeful that by exploring the root of our thinking, we can change the narrative about the importance of education on a larger scale.
Social promotion [the practice of promoting a child to the next grade level regardless of skill mastery in the belief that it will promote self-esteem] has damaged me mentally. Currently, I attend college and I realize the basic education I received wasn’t enough. I truly don’t understand how I managed to go undetected.
For me, having little education causes me to doubt myself. I lack confidence when asked to read on the spot. I doubt my ability to spell or pronounce certain words at times. How could a child like me slip through the cracks of public education? I’m a grown man suffering from getting over on the system, or perhaps the system getting over on me. Sadly, I don’t believe that I am the only child to have gone through this.
Having said that, having little education hindered my growth. In fact, I feel myself being limited (especially around certain individuals). I despise my ways and thoughts concerning education and I understand why I don’t reveal my shortcomings. I’m embarrassed. What frustrates me as an adult is that I feel like it’s too late. Most people don’t had the patience to heal deep wounds. Honestly, I don’t have enough time to repair myself, given my age. I don’t understand why school seems so boring. I try to be into it; yet, I fall right back into being disgusted with school.
I find everything wrong with school. I just don’t agree with forcing people to learn a certain way, or to read specific stories — stories the teacher deems important. I see robots and thoughtless people attending school. Then again, school helps create great people — such conflicted thoughts!
I have read different books due to school and these books changed my thinking; nevertheless, I still feel the same way about school; I’m not interested in it. These are things I want to change about myself. I understand certain people are born with a desire to learn.