By: Marielle McCloud
There’s a short list of things that I choose to identify as, and I can say these things without hesitation; I am black, I am female, and I am hardworking. I’m currently a high school student with a part time job, and have always been self motivated in school. With that self validation out of the way, I want to discuss how I feel the education system has failed me.
Over the past year or so, the most frequent questions I’ve received from family, friends, teachers, acquaintances, etc. have been “What are your plans for college? Where do you want to go? Are you planning on staying home or going out of state?.” When faced with these questions I robotically reply with, “I’m not sure, I’m still deciding!” or “I’d love to go out of state!” or my most used line, “I’ll probably start at a community college, and then transfer.”
I’ve gotten into the habit of telling people these lies because I was either uncomfortable telling them the truth, I didn’t want them to shove their opinions about how important college is down my throat because I’ve heard it enough times, or I’m just tired of explaining myself. I guess this could be considered an open letter about my feelings towards college.
To give a little background on myself and clear any misconceptions, My parents, a doctor and a lawyer, are two of the most hardworking people I know, and have always been great examples of what hard work looks like. They’ve shown me perseverance, dedication, determination, and strength in their work ethic every day for as long as I can remember.
Even when they probably didn’t feel up to it, they did it all, and they raised three extremely intelligent children at the same time. I look at them and I know that I can do anything I set my mind to, as long as I’m confident in my ability and driven by my own desire to do well. They gave me everything I need to be successful, by my own definition, and although I’m aware that as a young black woman, the people around me won’t always look at me and see strength, I’ll continue to project that on to everything I choose to do.
As a young black woman, I worry that I’ll be seen as lazy or incapable if I make the choice not to go to college, but at what point is it appropriate to say I feel restricted in school? I feel ignored, like less is expected from me because of what I look like on the outside. I feel like school has never measured my intelligence, but rather has only it’s measured my obedience. I also feel like over these past 4 years of high school, the only growth related to school that I’ve had is the development of anxiety that I’ve felt over tests, and classes.
I’ve gotten anxiety attacks from test taking environments and from the way that teachers discipline their students. On the other hand, I’ve been able to fully bullsh*t an entire project, and get a good grade, fully because I made it seem like I actually knew what I was talking about. Throughout my thirteen years in the education system, I feel like the most growth I’ve seen in myself stems more from my encounters outside of class, taking it upon myself to read, write, and have real life experiences with what may interest me in the moment.
During my time in school I’ve come to see that a huge component of the educational system is the use of fear to scare students. One of the tactics is to tell students what will happen to them if they don’t excel in school. This understanding that fear will train young minds not to fail, the ignorance towards mental health issues, and prioritizing doing well in school over maintaining a healthy mind state is not for me. The notion that failure is a negative thing is also not for me.
I’ve failed, and I’ve learned more about myself from my mistakes than I’ve learned from my successes. When I get up to go to school, I don’t wake up excited to learn new things, I wake up, and prepare to hear about how white people brought good into the country, and black was bad. Our history classes teach us from a young age that to be black was to be the lowest of the low, and white supremacy is what our country was built, and continues to thrive on.
Colleges are asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars to teach us what we’ve been learning since we first got to school; to follow the rules, to be obedient, and not to color outside the lines. I’m tired of feeling restricted by the boundaries set by the education system- read this, learn this, it doesn’t matter if you’re not interested, it’ll get you a good job. I can’t continue put myself through something that has caused me so much unhappiness and frustration over the past 13 years.
Black women are some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever encountered, simply because of our resilience in the face of obstacles. We’ve been forced to go through so much adversity, that for many of us, we have no choice but to be aware and to educate ourselves.
In choosing to not further educate myself in the traditional manner, becoming a statistic (of a black woman not attending college) has definitely crossed my mind more than once, but I can’t consciously allow myself to be suppressed anymore; being black and being a woman has made me bite my tongue and shrink myself for far too long and it’s time for me to end that.
I’m choosing to be free of the education system, to stop feeling like I only have one option, which is college. So, as of now, I am choosing to become certified to teach English as a foreign/second language in different countries. I want to see the world and to learn about myself throughout that process.
In my decision to not attend college, my parents have been the biggest cheerleaders, and although it may not be what they envisioned for me, they know my work ethic and that I strive to do well. To the people that remain skeptical, you probably don’t know me well enough to know that in my eyes, failure isn’t an option.
I want to see how other people live compared to me, and indulge in someone else’s little corner of life, that I otherwise wouldn’t have been introduced to. I want to have a lasting affect on other people’s lives, whether it is physically or emotionally, I want them to be better off when I leave them. And I want to continue this journey and see where it takes me.
At the end of the day, I want to be excited to explore, curious, and much more empathetic to the people of the parts of the world I haven’t yet seen, who go through things unimaginable to me.
Right now and for the past couple of years, this is how I’ve felt, but I can’t prematurely speak for my feelings in the future. As time goes on, and as I continue to grow, my mind may change, but I fully hold the belief that I’m where I need to be in this moment, and everything will eventually fall into place the way it was meant to.
Being scrutinized and judged is such a driving force behind every individuals actions, whether we care to acknowledge it or not. In doing this, we tend to shrink ourselves down, and suppress who we are. As hard as it is, if you let yourself be free of others expectations of you, and free of pressures that you put on yourself to meet these expectations, your entire state of being will be improved. I feel so much lighter, so much more comfortable with myself, and it’s a feeling that I wish more people could experience.