My "education" and
my life have been
so intricately bound together that it's
impossible to separate them and talk
about either in isolation. But I know
that they have been equally important
to me and that the events of both have conspired
to bring me to the place-- intellectual/emotional,
not necessarily geographical/professional--where I am now.
My formal "education" can be summed up in a word: typical. I went to urban ghetto schools during WWII, a standard small-town high school and community college, west coast colleges and universities from the teeming San Francisco Bay area, to the Monterey Peninsula, to the desert of eastern Washington in the Pacific Northwest. Most of what happened to me in those so-called learning experiences wasn't bad, it was simply irrelelvant to anything or anyone. It so happened, however, that a few teachers made contact with me during my passages through those dimly-lit hallways of my early years, and when they did, lightning struck. I never imagined that so much was known, that there were people who knew so much of it, that so much of it was available to me.
My living taught me more, infinitely more, than my "education" ever did.. My blackness was and is a fundamental aspect of my experience. We were committed to a evangelical religion whose spirit was transmitted orally and symbolically. Words, rhythms, images and figures, at once racial and religious invested everything that I did and was with meaning. The fact that my family travelled/migrated, like most of America did during WWII, still counts. I read a lot before I started to school and managed to continue when I got there. I absorbed the protestant ethic and doubt that I'II ever completely survive it. I was fired from my first teaching job for political action that was abhorrent to the power figures I was supposedly working for. On my next job, I was labelled "young Turk" because, though I knew when to say what and to whom, I chose instead to say what I felt, thought and believed.
Somewhere along the way
I made some discoveries of things I had really known all along but had
lacked the balls to admit. My feelings
about myself as "trained" were developed out of the process rather than the content of my "education. " I knew something about how to learn, but I didn't know much. I worked with students for 10 or 12 years, but I always ended up teaching myself much more than I ever taught anyone else. I became convinced that contact and lightning, i.e. process, mattered in learning; institutional bureaucracy didn't. I tempered
that conviction with the belief that unless man fundamentally altered his institutions, any kind of survival that mattered was impossible.
And I am profoundly ambivalent about the likelihood of his doing that, but the great stone has to be pushed back up the hill yet again. So
I had to come to Evergreen.
I came here to teach and to learn
in hopes that I'd find others, regardless of rank or title, who were likeminded.
So far, I've mananged
to find some of them, and I expect to find more. If they and I stop finding each other, if the lightning goes, so will I.