School is a scam. Now we said it.
I caught my first whiff of corruption in the third grade, when a teacher who had no business being so close to my face, leaned aggressively over my desk and barked, “Why aren’t you doing your accelerated reader?”
I guess I’d fallen short of credits. I simply didn’t read the books I was told to, because there were too many that I genuinely wanted to read.
Mrs. Hill took my defiance to the administration, and ran a semester-long campaign to convince them I was autistic and should be placed in special education.
I’m not autistic, but I have a sneaking suspicion that academia always wanted to turn me into something I wasn’t. I’ve never done anything I didn’t want to do, or traded in the learning habits I knew to be valuable for myself for what authority figures said were the rules of education.
Mrs. Hill probably never predicted I’d have signed a book deal with a Big Five publisher fresh out of college, but her relationship to me as a teacher was never about fostering my talents.
Teachers who form relationships with students, who listen to their concerns and sow the seeds of self-worth are the unsung heroes of the school system. And yet public education in service to a government ruled by corporate interests leaves teachers under impossible constraints that keep them from bringing too much individual lesson planning to the classroom. They, too, are pieces in a machine, with their paths routed.
I hated school so much I started working on books with the hopes of getting published at the age of 10. I worked to avoid the trap of monotonous adult routine that I saw rushing toward me from ten years away. I wanted to have a work environment free from toxicity, because it would exist in my bedroom, where I’d dream up worlds of escape for other kids who didn’t belong.
At every corner my efforts felt stalled by naysayers from the school of artistic denigration. “What’s your backup plan?” my parents asked. In early job interviews when I announced I’d like to be an author, I heard, “Don’t we all?”, and “What else?”, which made me question just where the divide existed between American conditioning and the truth of the world.