Last week’s discussion brought back a lot of memories for me. The discussion of the book Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates started with the author’s experience of the education system. Reading this section made me reflect on the experiences I faced during my primary education. As a military brat, I moved a lot. Not only did I have to deal with different states’ learning standards, but also attend four different high schools in two different states. What people do not think about with enlisted military families is the education system the children are placed in–what are called “brat schools.” These are public education schools that are located outside military bases and are used to students coming and going on a moment’s notice. These schools are located more times than not in low-income areas where the children of these communities share the space with the military brats. Reflecting on my experiences, these schools allowed me to grow up with a diverse population and understand cultural differences.
However there were also pitfalls within this system. Growing in these areas left me open to see violence in these areas. By the time I had moved into middle school, I already had a number of friends who were joining gangs as they saw as their only option. I have had friends mugged and have been mugged myself by those seeking approve of their new peers. Teens carrying knives and guns and ere not afraid to wave it in your face to prove a point. In one of the places, I lived was housing outside the base and situated with one gang on one side and one on another side. Luckily, I spent most of my time in the local Girls and Boys club which helped me stay out of trouble. Nevertheless, it was a part of life.
However, things changed drastically when we moved to my final high school in Connecticut. By this time my family had save enough money to buy a house away from the military project housing (which we had lived before) in an area far away from brat schools for the first time. What struck walking into the new school the first thing that struck me was how there was almost no diversity in the school. Looking back, I was kind of shocked and scared by this aspect of the school. Not only that, this place allowed me to plan for college. Before this time, brat schools provide little career guidance since the students move so much and it is generally assumed that their will join the military once the graduate. I will admit that was the path I was on and I felt it was a tradition I must follow. This new school started asking me question about colleges and scholarship when I arrived halfway through my junior year. I was baffled since no one had asked me about college or even thought I could even get into a college. My adviser worked hard for me to improve my grades and soon I was accepted into a private liberal arts school with a scholarship that covered half of my tuition. There I truly found out what learning was. The range ideas and acceptance was something I could not even imagine four years before. It allowed me to grow and thin for myself rather then follow the prescribed path.
Sometimes I reflex back and think I was lucky. But the main reason was the changing of areas of schools. By literally crossing a bridge, my education experience changed drastically. Going from a brat school that gave no motivation to break out to a school were the norm was to go off to college showcases the current problem with education. Schools reflect the economic situation of the community. How is it we can allow education, the foundation of our future to be so vastly different. How can we expect teachers to be motivated if they are paid so little? Instead promoting this failing system, there has to be reform in order for those who want to break the mold to do so.
Much like the author for this week’s reading, I did not start off with the best education but in the end, when I went to college and was allowed to expand my own identity. While the author faced more difficult situations than myself, it made me reflect on my own experience that lead me to the point that I would I would have the opportunity to read this book.
To learn more about the experiences of military brats, check out the links below: