Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Shame

Both of my boys are so very smart, that sometimes it still astonishes me. How could I have borne such canny little creatures?

Pre-Pubescent One is interested in Science and Technology. He is a good problem solver. Many of his teachers have remarked upon his ability to "think outside the box". His 5th grade teacher once told me laughingly that Pre-Pubescent One's answers have prompted many a debate between she and her husband when she solicited his opinion about whether a particular answer was wrong or right.

Diminutive One is fantastically creative. He writes epic stories, one after another, scribbling furiously for hours on end. He infuses these tales with with stunning details and rich imagery. He has a skill and an awareness of the craft that is far beyond his years. His vocabulary is vast and he sometimes gets odd looks from adults because of his speech. He is dramatic and colorful and hungry.

Unfortunately, neither of them is terribly jazzed about school. Neither of them will graduate at the top of their class, be given academic scholarships, or be taking calls from Mensa.

I watch them struggle. They hate school. They are not motivated to do well. They think it's stupid and it sucks.

I tell them, I know. I understand. And recently, I let them in on a dirty little secret.

I did not graduate from high school.

Yes.

I grew so demoralized, so frustrated, so apathetic and so filled with hopelessness and...I just stopped going to school. I found much more of interest and value out in the real world. So I ditched class and wandered the streets to watch people, or hide out at the library, hunched into a carrell so nobody would see me and call the truant officer. I read for hours on end, completely absorbed and wholly satisfied. Or I wrote...mostly bad poetry, poring out all the heaviness in my heart.

There is only one class I attended with any regularity, and that of course, was language arts. It was the only thing that gave me any sense of worth. The teacher, Mr. Sandlin, was small, tidy man with a quiet, comfortable scholarship about him. He didn't yell at me when I skipped, he simply asked me if I had written anything new and could he see it. He always, always, always...wrote something positive on my papers. He always made an encouraging remark in his neat, cheery handwriting.

I will always remember him.

Of course, when it was discovered that I had not only failed every single class except language arts, but that I was lacking so many credits that I would have to attend for another entire year....there was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. My parents were displeased, but not, of course, surprised. They had been to the principal's office far too many times, staring at forged excuses and listening to administrators preach the gospel of "not living up to her potential" that they had heard over and over since I entered Jr. High.

I refused to go back. Nothing could make me. I had had it and I was 18, and I informed my parents that it was MY CHOICE. And to their credit, they did not strongarm me into going back. They told me that they loved me, they believed in me, they knew that I was smarter than to let myself be trapped into a life without choices.

I went back. And I graduated. And then I was done. No more school. College was bound to be just another series of disappointments and failures. It was not for me.

In general, I try not to waste too much time on regrets. But I would like to go back in time, take that headstrong girl by the throat and choke her quite senseless.

It's my biggest shame. My only secret. The thing I never tell.

People assume I am an educated woman. I suppose that should be flattering, but it only makes the shame all the more fierce. They speak to me of grad and undergrad and this degree or that, while I nod my head and make noncommital remarks. I change the topic or extricate myself from the conversation before I am forced into a lie or trapped into admission.

It's not something I relish. And I wish it weren't so. But I also think that my regret has strengthened my resolve not to let my boys fall into the same terrible cycle of apathy, disappointment, and resignation. I won't let an inept teacher or a flawed system make them believe they are stupid.

Boys, I tell them...I want you to have choices. Because you are too big to be happy doing something small. Too fantastic to be happy with good enough. You were born for greatness. You are my hope for redemption. Do this for me, so I don't have to spend the rest of my life knowing I failed you as well as myself. Do this so you never have to wonder about what you might have been. It's bitter and it hurts, my dear boys. And I don't want that for you.

And they look at me with astonishment. You? Mom? You?

It helps them I think. It puts us in league with one another. It makes them feel less alone. They are sorry for my regret, they do not want it for themselves. So my shame has come full circle and become somthing I never could have foreseen. A practical thing, an impetus. A tool and a teacher.

So there it is.

I am not an educated woman. I do not possess a degree of any kind. I barely earned my high school diploma.

Sometimes, during periods of great stress in my life...I dream that my former Principal calls me on the phone to tell me, with great, sneering satisfaction, that there has been a mistake, and they must take back my diploma. I will have to go back to high school.

I wake up sweaty and shaking, with dread laying heavy on my heart and the word "NO!!" dying on my lips.

My boys will have no such dreams.

If that is what takes...this telling of secrets...then that's what I will do. I would bleed the rich, hot blood of my body for them...why not the blood of my soul as well?

Shame has it's uses afterall, it seems.

34 Comments:

  • At 11:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am sure you know there are plenty of people out there who never graduated from high school and have gone on to do great things: Heck, you are one of them!

     
  • At 12:36 PM, Blogger bubandpie said…

    I have that dream all the time - the one where I have to go back up and finish high school again, because I've missed some essential credit. The worst part is always the burden of having to RE-DO all those years of education - which is strange, because I fully enjoyed them at the time.

    If I try, I can empathize with the shame you feel. But it takes a lot of effort, because this post changes NOTHING about the way I see you. You are intelligent, well-read, thoughtful...none of that is affected in any way by the letters that come after your name.

    What this post does change is the way I see the handful of students whose grades I submitted yesterday, knowing full well that these students had performed well below their potential. Yesterday, I felt some resentment towards them; I felt irritated that they couldn't be bothered to hand in their essays on time or answer all the questions on the exam. This post is a salutary reminder that these feelings say more about me than about my students.

     
  • At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Antique Mommy said…

    I hated high school and barely graduated. I started college when I was 30 and graduated with a 4.0 I wasn't ready to learn until I was older. Now I love going to school and can't wait to get back. I remember when I was working professionally in my 20s and everyone else had a degree but me and I felt a sense of shame. Now I believe more than anything that education should be a path to enlightement as much as employement. Education is important, but not everyone is one the same schedule. I commend you BA for your honesty.

     
  • At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Antique Mommy said…

    Believe it or not I do know how to spell. It's just harder with a 3YO hanging on your arm.

    And since I'm here, I just wanted to add that one of the reasons I did well in college is not because I'm smart but because a) I learned how to write well (which will cover over a dearth of intellect) and b)I was willing to work hard.

     
  • At 2:38 PM, Blogger Kevin Charnas said…

    But you are an extremely intelligent woman. I'm surrounded by very "educated" people. And I'm an "educated" person myself. But, education is not in any way, synonymous with intelligence. There is a difference. Be proud that you have the later, 'cause I'm proud that you do.

     
  • At 2:48 PM, Blogger In the Trenches of Mommyhood said…

    Nonetheless, you're still my writing and mothering idol.

     
  • At 3:28 PM, Anonymous heather said…

    It's not too late you know. Antique Mommy is not the only thirtysomething student kicking butt with a 4.0.

     
  • At 3:33 PM, Blogger mamatulip said…

    Your posts always get me *right here*.

    I can relate; I barely graduated from college.

     
  • At 4:26 PM, Anonymous kocovnik said…

    I also dropped out of high school with a story similar to yours - hiding out reading when I should have been in class, etc. But I didn't get the diploma and I shared your secret shame for years. People thought I had a B.A. in English and I was torn between pride and shame at how divergent the reality was from their assumption.

    I finally got my B.A. 2 years ago at age 33 with nearly a 4.0 GPA and I'm now a graduate student. I plan to become a university professor. Returning to school as an older student gave me an opportunity to really get something out of it I simply couldn't when I was young.

    I think stories like ours, and that of your children and other commenters here says far more about the educational system's dysfunction than it does about us. I think the we need an overhaul, but I won't even start on that as it would be a post in itself.

     
  • At 4:55 PM, Blogger Natalie said…

    Two of my closest friends who are some of the smartest people i know had round about times graduating from college. One went back and finished like you, the other got a GED. My sister who graduated HS at 16 and college at 20 has a hard time relating to the "real world" and, although book smart, doesn't have the greatest common sense. It doesn't mean as much as people think it does. My mother, who is in her 50s, started grad school last year. If you want to, there is plenty of time but you certainly don't need to.

     
  • At 5:15 PM, Anonymous flybunny said…

    I think Kevin hit it right on the nose - education does not translate into intelligence. I have seen multiple examples of this many times over in the business world. You cannot imagine how many times I have heard, well I have my MBA and you don't so blah blah blah..

    You are so wise and set such great examples for your kids by that alone, they are destined to suceed.

     
  • At 5:48 PM, Blogger deb said…

    I've learned far more out of school than I ever did in school. Life long learning doesn't have to be about degrees, it can be about educating yourself about the things you need to manage your life.

    I figure I've earned my PhD in communication and childhood development, just from all the reading I've done to raise my youngest.

    The only reason I finished high school was because I was too scared not to.

     
  • At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OMG! For yet another day you have amazed me. If it weren't for the facts that one of my 2 kids is female, and my challenging child is my older one, I would think you were channeling me!

    I still love your blog. It's not stupid.

    Mary Istvan

     
  • At 8:13 PM, Blogger jen said…

    degrees and such are the markers of success placed on us by a society set on production and consumption.

    yes, we should all want to learn. but no, we don't all need to do it in the same way.

    i am sure this was tough to write. i hope you know it was an honor to read.

     
  • At 8:21 PM, Blogger WI Mommy said…

    Your skill at finding just the right words and your ability to relate to your children on such an honest level are things that can not be taught. Yet they are so much more valuable than any degree. You have nothing to feel shame about - you are a remarkable person.

     
  • At 7:50 AM, Anonymous pelf said…

    This is such a beautiful piece, and I had to wipe the damn tears off! :) I hope your boys make you proud *hugs*

     
  • At 7:55 AM, Blogger Robin said…

    Diplomas and degrees are a fairly recently developed system for guaging whether a person is 'educated' or not. For centuries, a person's education had nothing to do with these, and was judged solely on their abilities and performance.

    I wouldn't say you were uneducated, just non-degreed.

    Oh, and I work in the public schools.

     
  • At 8:07 AM, Blogger Mamma said…

    You are obviously someone who didn't need college to learn how to think. Some of us just needed more learning to figure out what you already knew.

    Thank you for sharing this with us, but you have no reason to feel shame. Your writing conveys what a beautiful and intelligent person you are.

    I have the same dream about school. It sucks.

    Have you considered non-traditional schools for your boys? In DC we have the School Without Walls. Sounds like they would love something like that.

     
  • At 8:13 AM, Blogger Code Yellow Mom said…

    Antique Mommy is right on - we're all on a different schedule. I've always loved learning, but in school I pretty much just played the game to pull the grades just so I could GET OUT - of the small town that drove me bonkers, the house that drove me even more bonkers, etc. And I didn't LEARN squat. But later, in college, crazy things started happening - I actually could "do" math after all! I started finding teachers who gave me the things to read and do that spurred my interests and touched me and my real desires and interests. And now I'm trying to finish a degree that doesn't give grades - you go and read great works and discuss with other people who read them. Like book club without tests. :) Perfect.

    I've come to really believe there's all sorts of education in this world, and a lot of intelligence that doesn't come from formal curriculum - some of it does come from regret, but a lot of it comes from trying your best, and always looking for the things that really turn you on. (Lots of parents make the mistake of shoving pure academics down their kids' throats when if their kid was led to follow his talents and heart, he could have become a fabulous auto detailer and been thrilled with their vocation the rest of their life, for example).

    You are totally on the right track, and it probably really is refreshing for your kids to know where you're coming from, as painful as it might be to let them in on something that makes you feel ashamed. You're also in a position to be for your kids what your language arts teacher was for you - the one who cares about what they're thinking and interested in, and providing ways at home for them to hone their interests and channel their energy into something that thrills them.

    This is a really brave post and it speaks to all of us, as students and parents...

     
  • At 8:32 AM, Blogger Jen said…

    Wow. Your story is so close to my own that it's almost spooky. Right down to the skipping class to write bad poetry. (You're parents handled it a heck of a lot better than my own though I'm afraid.)

    Beautiful post, thank you so much for sharing that!

     
  • At 8:45 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    But you are an educated woman. College degree or not, you have educated yourself in the best ways possible. You taught yourself. You are teaching your sons. You understand their value far beyond their grades on a report card. You are teaching them by example, while also having the honesty to empathize with them.

    I barely made it out of High School. Pregnant and hopeless at 17. Once my daughter was old enough, I signed myself up for college. I was 29 years old. It took me 5 years to get through, but I got my bachelor's degree at 34.

    Don't ever rule anything out for yourself. And don't ever sell yourself short. You have nothing to be ashamed of and every reason to be proud of what your life has become.

     
  • At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Andrea said…

    How awesome, to be able to turn something that causes you such anguish into something useful to help your children.

    And seriously? I NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS would have guessed you didn't have at the very least an English/Creative Writing degree. You are proof positive that a poor performance in school isn't a measure of the person and their intelligence. I think you're brilliant, regardless of the pieces of paper you've got to your credit. They really are just pieces of paper, and what you're doing now, raising those two awesome boys with aplomb and grace and brains is really just as important as some high powered degreed job with a big paycheck and a lot of social value. One day, the world will thank the mother of those two boys for the contribution of them into existence. I'm already thanking the fact that I found your site and am so inspired by you.

     
  • At 1:48 PM, Blogger J. Denae said…

    There is so much more to being "educated" than institutionalized accolades. You are a reader, a writer and a mother. As much amphasis as I put on my education and my daughter's education, if she decided to not continue on to college but read as much (quantity and variety)as she does right now I would never NOT think of her as fully educated. It's not a sham when people assume you are educated. You ARE.

     
  • At 3:03 PM, Blogger Crunchy Carpets said…

    I hated Hight school and barely scraped by. My dh too..

    Then I waited till I was a 'mature student' and went to Uni without all the pressure..doing it MY way.

    I likened high school to a prison sentence...I will no doubt share this with my borderline add and non conformist kids....

    It does not make us....it is an institution to get through.

     
  • At 3:15 PM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    I am so behind! Ugh. Work. (Sorry).

    I would never have guessed this about you -- and it doesn't change the way I think of you (read: super smart woman!)

    This is a great post B.A.

    p.s. with regard to the visit - I'm thinking we'll be at Feast after 8... call me if you want to come.

     
  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger Terri said…

    I am so glad that I read this post today!

    I did not go to college ... I was busy chasing my gosh darn high school sweetheart around while he went to college and working at a JOB (journey of the broke)..

    then I had a baby ... and we were married until I was 32. After we divorced, I had a young boy to care for ... and could not go back to school...
    I was a single mom that worked a million hours and I was not around family .. I chose to be home w/ my son vs going to school.

    I have been ashamed of this my whole life... NOT that I chose to not spend every waking minute away from my son... but b/c I didn't go to college!! I never want to tell anyone that!!

    You can be sure that my son is now a UNLV college graduate!!

    I feel like I'm the most unsuccessful one in my family and amongst my dearest friends ...

    My sister is a deputy district attorney ... my brother is a lieutenant out at the test site... my husband is a detective ...a couple of my dear friends are judges... yada yada.....

    so, when people ask me what I do...
    I say... "I'm just a stay home mom" Then I crack up because I am actually working harder as a stay home mom than I ever did at my JOB for 25 years....

    Still.. when I go to lunch with my sister and all her friends... I feel like such a loser....all because I am not an educated woman... God, I wish I had gone to college...
    Now I have a baby again.. so...
    I won't be going back to school...

    guess I better get over it!

    But you post helps!!
    Hee hee.. thanks!

     
  • At 8:49 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    Intelligence isn't handed out in schools. You have it in spades, don't worry! And, you are a great example to your boys.

     
  • At 11:54 PM, Blogger Pissed OFF Housewife said…

    If you were a homeschooled co-ed I'd say you've earned at least a bachelors degree in humanities....

    Fuck it, the best stuff I learned came from books that I read after class.

     
  • At 8:46 AM, Blogger Rock the Cradle said…

    "not living up to her potential"

    God, I HATED that phrase. It haunted me throughout my public school career as well. Potential for WHAT? What for?

    True learning only happens when it is fueled with passion. And you, my dear, are a passionate person. And one of the most articulate and intelligent writers I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

     
  • At 12:06 PM, Blogger Jamie said…

    I married the most brilliant man I have ever met and he barely got his GED. He skipped school and went hiking in the mountains, camping out and reading every list of classic literature he could find.

    It has only motivated him to be the most supportive and encourgaing parent he can be with school work.

    He is also embarrassed by his lack of a highschool diploma though, which I think it completely ridiculous.

    :) Jamie

     
  • At 7:05 PM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite said…

    You are a wise, insightful, capable woman with lots to say. This revelation only gives greater weight to your words. It also gives hope to others who may have had similar experiences.

    You can always get a degree, or several. But you don't need one to earn my respect. You've got it, sister.

     
  • At 8:37 PM, Blogger Day said…

    Actually when I read your post, I was like no big deal. My husband was the same way. He did not even go back to finish...just got his GED and has never gone to college.

    Funny thing...He has taught classes on how to take the ACT, SAT etc and he was able to teach them because he scored perfectly on them, but never made the jump himself.

    Don't be ashamed. Be proud.

     
  • At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Gurukarm said…

    Your post resonates for me on so many levels... One, I have a, well, let's call her niece, because that's the closest designation that makes sense - my spiritual sister's daughter, anyway - for whom school never worked either. Since about 5th grade or so (literally!) she just slid through on her amazing intellect. She finally quit outright at age 16, went to work with her incredible energy (highly ADD, very high metabolism) and started saving. Being out in the world showed her she wanted more, so she started classes at a good community college, and is working toward her degree, very motivated... the college atmosphere, where she's responsible for herself and her own results instead of having things shoved down her throat, works great for her. High school is NOT for everyone.

    Second, I myself, while finishing high school at nearly the top of my class, just never got through college to be able to come out with a degree. I have plenty of credits, and have been to several schools, but alas, no degree to show for my troubles. And I know it's had a huge affect on the kinds of jobs I've gotten and more, the kind of respect (or lack thereof) I've gotten over the years. And most particularly, on my own self-respect.

    And another level: I work at a large, very well-known university, whose Dean of Admissions has just been forced to resign after it came out that she had, after working at said university for 28 years, the last 8 or 10 as a highly-placed officer and then Dean in Admissions, falsified her academic background all those 28 years ago when she started in a lowly support staff position. Someone, perhaps a jealous someone? or a parent with a grudge, whose kid didn't get in? or someone sure of their own righteous stand?... someone tipped off the administration anonymously that they should check into her claims. Your paragraph about people believing you to be educated (which you obviously ARE! even with no formal college education) gave me a sudden insight as to how and why Ms. Dean of Admissions might have maintained her fiction all that time.

    And lastly, I was talking with a work colleague the other day about good writing, good use of language, and such thoughts, and she told me that two people who are assistants in her office who both have Masters degrees in areas of English, cannot write a coherent sentence and cannot spell worth beans. A woman in my office is similar - great degree, blathers when she speaks and cannot for the life of her put together and speak a coherent, non-rambling sentence.

    So, take heart! You have proven to the world that you are indeed educated and intelligent. Don't worry about the paper you don't have because it couldn't prove any better than you already do with every post, that you are.

    And continue to give your sons all your love and encouragement! :-)

     
  • At 12:30 AM, Blogger Jaelithe said…

    You are too an educated woman. Clearly you must have gone and educated yourself. Like Bill Gates did after he dropped out of school.

    I went to college for four years, and graduated, and I often wonder what it really did for me, at least in terms of practical life skills.

    (Well, I suppose it taught me to manage working and going to school at the same time while often going weeks at a time on very little sleep and without enough to eat, and then, afterward, it taught me how to manage being in debt. Heh.)

    (I did have a couple of amazing professors who made quite an impression on me. Sadly, those teachers are rare gems at every level of education.)

     

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